Souvenir of St. Columba’s Stone

Calvary group and St. Columba's Stone, St. Columba's Church, Long Tower, Derry, Northern Ireland.

Calvary group and St. Columba’s Stone, St. Columba’s Church, Long Tower, Derry, Northern Ireland.

[Long Tower Church was the first Catholic church constructed in Derry after the Protestant Reformation. The bullaun (Irish: bullán) stone known as St. Columba’s Stone was enshrined here on 9 June 1898, having been moved from its original location by St. Columba’s Well (Tobar Colm Cille) the previous year.]

St. Columba’s Stone. No matter what may have been the actual connection of this stone with St. Columba — whether it was the pillow stone of which the Trias Thaumaturgas speak or the flag stone on which, tradition says, he knelt in the Church — it has been, from time immemorial, associated with his name; and that very association has hallowed it and made it a relic of Derry’s great saint and patron. We venerate it because it bears his name, and was dear to our fathers. We enshrine it in this Calvary, to perpetuate the lessons of prayer and penance Columba taught in his day. He “willed his soul to Derry.” His spirit still hovers over our town. Were he to speak from this stone as a text, he would say, pointing to the Altar or the Calvary:

Remember that the real Memorial of Calvary is the Eucharist. Be often at Mass and Communion.

Remember the agonized cry from the Cross, “I thirst,” and be temperate.

Remember the sorrows of Mary, and spare her Son the pain of sin.

Remember the penitence of Magdalen and the purity of John. Imitate the love of both.

Remember the souls in Purgatory, and go round the Way of the Cross for them.

Remember, above all, that He who died on Calvary now lives on the Altar. Visit Him often.

— Fr. William Doherty, Derry Columbkille, Souvenir of the Centenary Celebrations, in Honour of St. Columba, in the Long Tower Church, Derry, 1897-99, Dublin (1899).

“We shall meet again at Ticonderoga.”

Historic marker near the grave of Major Duncan Campbell, 9th Laird of Inverawe; Union Cemetery, Fort Edward, New York.

Historic marker near the grave of Major Duncan Campbell, 9th Laird of Inverawe; Union Cemetery, Fort Edward, New York.

Inverawe Bonawe, as it is now called, but a very few years ago styled simply Inverawe, is a house the beauty of whose situation will vie with almost any in the Highlands. It is built on a short terrace on the banks of the river Awe, surrounded with trees whose age and beauty are second to none, save those of Inverary.

Inverawe, which is now in the possession of Mrs. Cameron Campbell, Monzie, was then held by a different family of the name Campbell, whose race, alas! has no representative amongst the proprietary of Argyleshire, their estates having passed away into the hands of the stranger; and yet this family held sway equal to that of Breadalbane not much more than two centuries ago, whilst acknowledging the suzerainty of the house of Argyll, from which they sprang. They themselves enjoyed a separate chieftainship of their own, under the name MacDhonnchaidh, a title which, amongst other septs, gave them lordship over part of the Clan Robertson, who held lands in Perth and a small portion of Stirlingshire.

Such were the style, titles, and estate, of the family into which the maid of Callard had entered, of whose grandson the following inexplicable events are recorded. The manners and customs of the Western Highlanders accord with those of their Eastern brothers in Asia, and will account for the code of honour so manfully sustained throughout the following narrative.

In character, Inverawe was what men term highly practical. He held agriculture and horticulture in high esteem, and there yet remains about the grounds many proofs of his taste and judgment in shrubs, trees, and flowers. The oldest larches in Scotland — not I think planted by him, or they could scarcely be so — are in the avenue leading to the house. He was not, therefore, prone to entertain superstitious fears.

There are two versions of the commencement of this tale, though both agree as to middle and end. I shall give both. The second most will agree to be the more reliable and likely. The first, if adopted, would raise a doubt in the mind as to the verity of the vision at all — as fear and sorrow, acting on an already over-excited brain, might easily produce a dream-fever or fever-dream.

In common with all of his order, degree, and country, Mr. Campbell exercised an unbounded hospitality, the fame of which went far, and those near availed themselves of it as often as the laws of courtesy allowed. On one, then, of these festive occasions in the years, or about the year, 1755-56, and some time in the full blaze of an exceptionally fine summer, were assembled in the hall of Inverawe a number of guests, of all degrees, seated at supper, which was eaten about six o’clock. The cloth had been removed, and the wine and spirits, with tankards and a punch bowl, had been laid upon it. Tumblers and glasses were little known, and a tankard served as a drinking-cup for more than one, sometimes circulating round the whole table. Toasts were indispensable to all feasts, even the most ordinary. Some toasts had already been given and responded to, when the host rose to give it fuller honour — to drink to the health, wealth, and prosperity of his cousin and foster-brother, at the mention of whose name a noise like thunder shook the house to the foundation, striking terror to the hearts of the boldest. There was a simultaneous rush to the door to find out the cause,– all was serene and beautiful, not a cloud flecked the horizon, not a breath stirred the leaves. The blistering sun was descending in full radiance with no foreboding look of storm, only speaking of a peaceful resting and assurance of a glorious to-morrow. All returned to the festive chamber in awes-struck silence, the awkwardness of which was broken by numerous guests giving “Deoch-an-Doruis”; all drank and then retired. Our host at once betook himself to his own apartment to rest, meditate, and read. The occurrence above related gave him much to think about. Again and again he revolved the incident in his mind, endeavouring to find a solution of the mystery. Despite his better reason, old tales of forewarnings and mysterious visitations occurred to his mind, and he endeavoured in vain to banish them. His son’s absence with his regiment, to which he himself was also attached, in Holland, a natural cause of anxiety to a parent at any time, became now agonising, and he groaned aloud in his distress. Suddenly a noise of rushing footsteps is heard. Campbell sprang to his feet, thinking the worst forebodings of his heart were about to be realised, and that the messenger of evil had already come. His door was roughly thrown open. A man, dirty, dishevelled, panting, and terror-stricken, entered the apartment, throwing himself down on his knees and imploring protection, saying, “The avengers of blood are on my track.” The rebound from the anxious terror from which Inverawe had suffered, filled his heart with such gratitude that, with even more of the generous alacrity to succour the needy than was usual to him, he bade the suppliant rise, saying, “By the word of an Inverawe, which never failed friend or foe yet, I will, should you have slain my brother.” He then led the man across the room, opened a concealed door, and thrust the fugitive in. Scarcely had he done so, when his presence was again invaded by an eager, panting throng of people, who called out, “Should M’Niven come praying for shelter, do not give it to him, for he has slain your foster-brother.” On saying which, they rushed out as suddenly as they had entered, to resume their fruitless pursuit, leaving Inverawe in a state of perturbation more easily imagined than described. With unequal tread he paced the floor, his head bent within his hands to stay the throbbing of his burning temples. When he had attained sufiicient calmness, he pushed aside the panel, and saw crouching in the furthest corner the being he had promised to protect, whom he now loathed with the deepest hatred of his soul, and whose attitude of cringing cowardice quickened the feeling to almost the outward manifestation of violence. In cold, measured tones he bade him rise and follow him, at the same time taking with him some of the coverings of his bed.

The other and simpler edition is, that whilst Inverawe was in the fields looking over some work which had been finished the day before, he was startled by the sight of a man, with clothes torn, dishevelled hair, bleeding feet, and gasping for breath, crouching at his feet, and craving in earnest tones of agonising entreaty for protection. Listening to the prompting of his generous nature, and obeying the laws of Highland honour, he at once assured the man by the word of an Inverawe that he would save him; and lest the pursuers should come up before he had time to keep his promise, he bade the suppliant follow him to a cave on the side of Ben Cruachan, the secret of the locality of which was handed down from father to son as an heirloom to be kept hidden even from his bosom friend. It could only be approached from one side. The entrance was small, looking much like a tod-hole; but it contained two or more good-sized rooms which were dry and airy, though in one there is, I believe, a well, remarkable alike for the purity, coolness, and sweetness of its water. It is more than probable that this is the cave which was used by The Bruce and Wallace when they found shelter and peace for a time in Argyleshire. To this cave, then, Inverawe led his guest. When about to leave him within its safe recesses, the wretched being, the gnawings of whose terror-stricken conscience were almost unendurable, implored him not to leave him alone. Inverawe’s honest, courageous soul recoiled at such a show of cowardice; he spurned the man from him with disgust, though he gave assurance of a speedy return with food and warm coverings.

Inverawe was wending his way homewards, when he espied a number of men and boys running about in search of something. The foremost, looking up and recognising Mr. Campbell, at once went up to him and said, “If M’Niven comes later to ask you for a safe-conduct, do not give it to him; he has slain your foster-brother.” Mr. Campbell was thunderstruck, and could give no reply. His informant, knowing well the tender attachment that had subsisted between the two brethren, with that intuitive tact which is one of the most distinctive attributes of a true-born Highlander, and which gives to even the untaught amongst them the grace and breeding of gentlemen, touched his hat in respectful silence and withdrew, to let him weep unseen. Weary, heavy, worn, and feeling suddenly aged and forlorn, he sought the quiet of his own home. Bitter thoughts of angry hate and contempt mingled strangely together with his plighted troth and compassion for the misguided wrong-doer. The code of honour prevailed over his natural desire for revenge, so he returned as soon as he safely could with wrappings and a little food, telling him he would come back with more shortly after dawn. On Inverawe’s return home he betook himself at once to bed. He generally read for some hours ere sleeping, and on this night he followed out his usual rule. He had not been reading long when his book became slightly overshadowed. On looking up to ascertain the cause, to his surprise and almost horror, he saw standing close by the bed the form of his foster-brother, who looked ghastly pale. His locks were matted together and his garments blood-stained. In pleading tones the vision uttered the words, “lnverawe, give up the murderer; blood must flow for blood. I have warned you once.” Inverawe replied, “You know I cannot. I have sworn by the honour of an Inverawe, which never failed friend nor foe yet, and I cannot dishonour it, nor will I.” With almost menacing gesture the vision withdrew, Inverawe could not see how or where. To affirm that Inverawe experienced no sensation of fear, would be to deprive him of an honour rather than confer one. But that he successfully combated it, and rose to see whether it were possible for any one to have entered the apartment or to be lingering within it still, is argument conclusive that his courage was that of a man, not that of a brute or bully. Finding nothing within the room, he went over the whole house, carefully scrutinising every corner, bolt and bar — still finding no possible mode of egress or ingress for any one in bodily form. That the word pledged to bring food was faithfully kept on the morrow, goes without saying. Next evening, after all others had retired to rest, he subjected the house to a keen and searching quest for any trace of others than those he knew having found an asylum within its walls, and it is said he locked every door — after which he went to his room, and as far as he knew, he secured every avenue to it; but in vain. The vision again appeared, and saying the same words, save that this time he said, “I have warned you twice,” to which Inverawe undauntedly replied, “I can and will not.” On repairing to the scene, however, next day, he thought he would guard himself as much as possible from such disagreeable visits. He told the murderer he feared he could not protect him much longer — that he must seek another hiding-place. During the whole day all within the house of Inverawe observed how moody and dejected he was, and that his usual composed bearing had given place to a startled feverishness, and all thought it the outcome of sorrow alone. On this evening he again shut up the house, carefully examining each lock — in vain, for neither bolt nor bar could keep out this visitor. True to the time and the hour, he again appeared, adjuring Inverawe more solemnly than ever to give up the murderer. Mr. Campbell again refused. On the instant the whole manner of the spectre changed, and in tones which made the proud heart of Inverawe quail, said, “You cannot now. You have suffered him to escape. We shall meet again at Ticonderoga” (a fortress of the French in America as yet unknown in Britain). As soon as daylight broke, Inverawe was far on his way to the cavern, which to his dismay he found tenantless. To describe even feebly his agitation would be impossible. He hastened home, and then detailed the events just recorded to his family. Much discussion and wonderment took place on the subject, especially with regard to the threatened rendezvous, until at last it passed, as things of the kind often do, into a joke.

Grave marker of Major Duncan Campbell, 9th Laird of Inverawe. Campbell, second-in-command of The Black Watch at Ticonderoga, died nine days after the battle and was buried in a relative's plot at Fort Edward. His remains were later removed to Union Cemetery, and are now located in the Jane McCrea plot.

Grave marker of Major Duncan Campbell, 9th Laird of Inverawe. Campbell, second-in-command of The Black Watch at Ticonderoga, died nine days after the battle and was buried in a relative’s plot at Fort Edward. His remains were later removed to Union Cemetery, and are now located in the Jane McCrea plot.

A year or two after this, when one of the Anglo-French wars was at its height, the contest having been carried by Britain to America, Inverawe and his son were instructed to join their regiment, the 42d, which was ordered to the scene of action. On their arrival in America and their first exploits there, I will not dwell as the story has nothing to do with these events; so I shall at once bring it to an end by taking the reader to an encampment amidst the clearings of a huge forest, within easy distance of a strongly fortified town. Officers and men are seated in gay converse round their various camp-fires. Round the fire specially dedicated to the Staff are some favourite officers of superior rank or station, and amongst them Campbell of Inverawe and his son. Story has succeeded story in rotation, and now it is Mr. Campbell’s turn. He, his mind revolving on many things at home, tells the tale of his visitations. After he had finished, and the remarks on the mysterious threat had become general, Campbell turned suddenly to the Colonel, and said, “By the way, Colonel, you have not told us what fort we are to storm to-morrow.” “No,” said the Colonel; “it is St Louis. But come, gentlemen, to bed — we have had enough of this.”

How gallantly our brave fellows endeavoured to gain the town is a matter of history, especially the conduct of the 42d, who in vain endeavoured to scale the mud rampart — that formidable barrier of defence which has become familiarly dreadful to our modern ears, but which was then slightly if at all known to our soldiery. Again and again they assailed the rampart, to be defeated, but not beaten — Inverawe and his son leading the force, with their example and voice encouraging the men, until first the son and then the father were cut down, with many a brave and loving heart beating its own funeral drum by their side. General Amherst, seeing the losses he had sustained, beat the recall. Having asked and obtained a truce, the English army proceeded to gather up their dead, dying, and wounded. The Colonel, who had known the name of the town was Ticonderoga, but who had withheld the knowledge from Campbell in case of the effect on his nerve, having been much impressed with the coincidence, had seen him and his son fall, and hastened to the spot. The son was already dead, the father’s life was ebbing fast. The Colonel urged him to speak, in case he should wish some message transmitted to Scotland. Slowly Inverawe opened his eyes, and recognising the Colonel, he said in accents of deep reproach — “You have deceived me, Gordon! I have seen it again, and this is Ticonderoga.” It is said that the Colonel kept a record of the story in his commonplace-book. The father and son were buried together, and the Colonel raised a monument to their memory on the spot some years after the second siege, when their death was so signally revenged.

And now I must again cross the Atlantic to record one of those curious sky-pictures which have baffled so successfully the skill of philosophers. Whilst the engagement at Ticonderoga was in progress, two ladies — the Misses Campbell of the old house of Ederlin — were walking from Kilmalieu, and had reached the top of the new bridge, Inverary, when they were attracted by some unusual appearance in the sky. They at once recognised it as a siege, and could distinctly trace the different regiments with their colours, and even recognised many of the men. They saw Inverawe and his son cut down, and others whom they mentioned as they fell one by one. They told the circumstance to all their friends, and noted down the names of each — the ‘Gazette’ weeks afterwards corroborating their whole statements by the details there given of the siege and the number of killed and wounded. A physician, who was a Danish knight and an Englishman, was with his body servant enjoying a walk round the castle when their eyes were also attracted by the phenomenon; and they established the testimony of the two ladies. The physician’s name was Sir William Hart.

— Lord Archibald Campbell’s Records of Argyll (1885).

Periet Regnante Diluvio

Saint Jerome in His Study by Antonio da Fabriano II (1451), tempera, oil (?), and gold leaf on wood panel, H: 34 13/16" x W: 20 13/16", Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

Saint Jerome in His Study by Antonio da Fabriano II (1451), tempera, oil (?), and gold leaf on wood panel, H: 34 13/16″ x W: 20 13/16″, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

The voice of Jerome summons those Christian nations which have unhappily fallen away from Mother Church to turn once more to her in whom lies all hope of eternal salvation. Would, too, that the Eastern Churches, so long in opposition to the See of Peter, would listen to Jerome’s voice. When he lived in the East and sat at the feet of Gregory and Didymus, he said only what the Christians of the East thought in his time when he declared that “If anyone is outside the Ark of Noë he will perish in the overwhelming flood.” Today this flood seems on the verge of sweeping away all human institutions — unless God steps in to prevent it. And surely this calamity must come if men persist in sweeping on one side God the Creator and Conserver of all things! Surely whatever cuts itself off from Christ must perish! Yet He Who at His disciples’ prayer calmed the raging sea can restore peace to the tottering fabric of society. May Jerome, who so loved God’s Church and so strenuously defended it against its enemies, win for us the removal of every element of discord, in accordance with Christ’s prayer, so that there may be “one fold and one shepherd.” Encyclical Letter Spiritus Paraclitus of Pope Benedict XV.

The Maid of Lochnell

View of the Falls of Lora at Connel Bridge, and across Loch Etive with Ben Cruachan in the distance.

View of the Falls of Lora at Connel Bridge, and across Loch Etive with Ben Cruachan in the distance.

There is an old tradition that one of the Campbells of Lochnell had a daughter who fell in love with a young chieftain of the clan MacDonald, whose love she had in return. At the time, there was feud between the two clans, and her father forbade her to countenance him in any way. One day in trying to escape from her father to join him, she was drowned in Connell Rapids.

The following verses, composed on the occasion, have been handed down orally for some generations, but their author is unknown:–

The wintry winds howled round the towers of Dunstaffnage;
The tempest-winged spirit shrieked wildly on high;
The thunderbolts ploughed up the heathy mount’s high ridge,
And the blue forked lightning illumined the sky.
The storm-laden black clouds were heavily low’ring;
The sea-billows heaved up with mountain-like swell;
The cold roaring blast swept the brow of Ben Fuirean,
And kissed the white breasts of the maid of Lochnell.

She sprung in her curragh to meet her MacDonald,
While her soul-breathing love sighs were mingled with fear;
For the tempest-beat billows roared wildly in Connell,
And the fiery warm lightning hissed dolefully near.
Her long flowing hair to the rude blast was waving,
While the labouring curragh, wave-tossed, rose and fell;
The spray wet the wings of the storm-loving raven,
And chilled the sweet form of the maid of Lochnell.

Ah! ne’er more, lovely maid, wilt thou meet thy MacDonald–
No more in the strath will ye arm-and-arm rove;
For the angel of death’s on the dark wave of Connell,
And waits for the mandate preparing above.
Three times a loud voice was heard sobbing and wailing
Above roaring Connell with sad mournful spell,
And three times a voice was heard plaintively sailing
With sighs round the mansions of lofty Lochnell.

Ne’er again, lovely maid, wilt thou stray through the wild wood;
Ne’er again wilt thou rove through the sweet of the glen;
Ne’er again wilt thou tread in the haunts of thy childhood,
Or rouse the red deer from its rock covered den.
Sad, sad will thy lot be, ill-fated MacDonald!
No more on thy love’s ruby lips shalt thou dwell;
For low in the oozy green caverns of Connell
Lies the pride of thy heart, the sweet maid of Lochnell.

— Lord Archibald Campbell’s Records of Argyll (1885).

Colla Ciotach and Dunstaffnage

The site of Dunaverty Castle, Southend, Kintyre.

The site of Dunaverty Castle, Southend, Kintyre.

After the defeat and murder of Sir Alexander MacDonald’s (Colla Ciotach’s son) followers at Dunaverty (Dunàbhartaidh) in Kintyre, General Leslie and the Earl of Argyll crossed over to Islay (Ile) and besieged Dun-naomhaig, held by Colla Ciotach. After a short resistance, Colla consented to surrender on certain conditions, to which Leslie agreed. While the terms of surrender were being drawn out, Colla thinking that all was settled, went out of the fort to speak to MacAonghais an Duin (MacAngus of the Fort, the patronymic of the Dunstaffnage  (Dun-staidh-innis) family), a gentleman for whom he had a great regard. No sooner was Colla out of the fort than he was made prisoner, taken to Dunstaffnage, and placed in irons, but received every kindness and leniency that Dunstaffnage could afford him, and was allowed to roam about as he pleased. Dunstaffnage having occasion to go to Inverary (Ionaraora), was asked by the Earl of Argyll if he had Colla in irons. MacAonghais answered that he had. The Earl swore that if he found out that he allowed Colla to be at large he would make him suffer for it. A man on horseback, with orders to change horses at every stage, was at once despatched to Dunstaffnage to see if it was true what he was hearing. Dunstaffnage gave a sign to his foster brother (Comhalta) MacKillop, who was along with him, and who set off at once, taking all the by-paths between Inverary and Dunstaffnage, and outran the rider. When they both took the road by Port Sonachan (Port Shonachain), the footman arrived first at the ferry; consequently the Earl’s horseman had to wait till the boat came back. When the Earl’s messenger was at Connel (A’ Chonaill), the man on foot was on the hill above the road south of Tigh-na-h-uallaraich, and seeing the reapers in a field over opposite, and Colla binding sheaves after them, he cried, “Colla fo gheimhlibh!  Colla fo gheimhlibh!” (Colla in fetters). Colla himself was the first to hear the cry; he understood how things were, ran into his prison, and placed himself in irons.

Shortly after this he was sentenced to be hanged. He was hanged from the mast of his own galley, which was placed across a cleft of the rock on a hill called Tom a’ chrochaidh (hill of hanging). He met his fate without fear or dismay, entreating that they would bury him so near to the place where MacAonghais would be buried that they might take a snuff from each other in the grave. When his request was told to Dunstaffnage, the latter ordered him to be buried under the second step at the door of the burying-place, and when they would be burying him, that they would step over Colla’s grave. Colla Ciotach was carried prisoner to Dunstaffnage after the fall of Dun-naomhaig in 1647.

— Lord Archibald Campbell’s Records of Argyll (1885).

 

 

Christ Was Victor in the North

A fanciful, 19th century depiction of St. Columba converting the Pictish King Bridei, a mural painting by William Brassey Hole, in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

A fanciful, 19th century depiction of St. Columba converting the Pictish King Bridei, a mural painting by William Brassey Hole, in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

Of the manner in which St. Columba overcame Broichan the Druid and sailed against the wind.

On a certain day after the events recorded in the foregoing chapters, Broichan, whilst conversing with the saint, said to him: “Tell me, Columba, when dost thou propose to set sail?” The saint replied, “I intend to begin my voyage after three days, if God permits me, and preserves my life.” Broichan said, “On the contrary, thou shalt not be able, for I can make the winds unfavourable to thy voyage, and cause a great darkness to envelop you in its shade.” Upon this the saint observed: “The almighty power of God ruleth all things, and in His name and under His guiding providence all our movements are directed.” What more need I say? That same day, the saint, accompanied by a large number of followers, went to the long lake of the river Nesa (Loch Ness), as he had determined. Then the Druids began to exult, seeing that it had become very dark, and that the wind was very violent and contrary. Nor should we wonder, that God sometimes allows them, with the aid of evil spirits, to raise tempests and agitate the sea. For thus legions of demons once met in the midst of the sea the holy bishop Germanus, whilst on his voyage through the Gallican channel to Britain, whither he was going from zeal for the salvation of souls, and exposed him to great dangers, by raising a violent storm and causing great darkness whilst it was yet day. But all these things were dissipated by the prayers of St. Germanus more rapidly than his words were uttered, and the darkness passed away.

Our Columba, therefore, seeing that the sea was violently agitated, and that the wind was most unfavourable for his voyage, called on Christ the Lord and embarked in his small boat; and whilst the sailors hesitated, he the more confidently ordered them to raise the sails against the wind. No sooner was this order executed, while the whole crowd was looking on, than the vessel ran against the wind with extraordinary speed. And after a short time, the wind, which hitherto had been against them, veered round to help them on their voyage, to the intense astonishment of all. And thus throughout the remainder of that day the light breeze continued most favourable, and the skiff of blessed man was carried safely to the wished-for haven.

Let the reader therefore consider how great and eminent this venerable man must have been, upon whom God Almighty, for the purpose of manifesting His illustrious name before a heathen people, bestowed the gift of working such miracles as those we have recorded.

Vita Columbæ, Lib. II., Cap. xxxv.

THE DRUID.

Our Colum’s bark was in the bay,
But sore our oarsmen were dismayed,
The Druid Brochan barred our way,
And shouted to his gods for aid;
And swore by earth and sea and sun
No Christian hound should sail upon
The lake that he forbade.

His old grey hair hung loose and long
About his shoulders bowed with age,
He poured to heaven the piercing song
(Men said) of some old Pictish sage.
His eyeballs gleamed unearthly fire,
And, as his song rose ever higher,
He shook with palsied rage.

I swear his mountain demon heard,
Who knew not that our Saint was nigh,
Nor that a bearer of the Word
Was come beneath his own wild sky,
Where, king of all men’s hopes and fears,
Himself, they said, a thousand years,
Had ruled as God on high.

He heard, I swear, his priest’s distress,
And launched himself in one black cloud
Upon the bosom of Loch Ness,
While Pict and Scot in terror bowed,
And like a fiery thunder-snake
Came tearing down the long dark lake,
We heard him roar aloud.

Upon the wings of one wild storm,
Rushing with furious haste, he came;
I hardly saw his dragon form,
Through sheets and tongues of forkèd flame.
Unceasing thunder crashed behind
The rushing of the mighty wind,
Men trembled at his name.

But through the howling of the gale
More shrill arose the Druid’s cry,
“Now wretched Christian wilt thou sail?
Down on thy knees, adore and die,
And thinkest thou to cope with me?
Ye Picts and Scots, at last ye see
I am his master, I.”

And all men on their faces fell,
Only St. Colum, meek and pale,
Rising against the Druid’s spell,
Passed in the teeth of that wild gale,
Down to his bark, nor blenched with fear,
But bade us cross ourselves and rear
His mast and span his sail.

We strained the aching mast on high,
The raving sail we scarcely reared,
The screaming cordage lashed the sky,
We trembled while the Pagans jeered,
For there was never human oar
Could push that wind-caught bark from shore,
When such a tempest neared.

While Colum signed the cross above
Our floundering boat with outstretched hand,
The howling whirlwind burst and drove
Enormous breakers roods on land.
Yet, lo, our vessel put about,
And through the storm went up their shout,
“His boat has left the land.”

There in the teeth of that great wind,
Through blinding clouds of driving spray,
They saw us sail and leave behind
Themselves and their accursèd bay.
Our boat sailed on with even keel,
The billows could not make us reel,
The tempest could not stay.

Old Brochan cursed his powerless god,
His starting eyeballs wild with fear,
His demon, like a monstrous clod,
Dropped in the lake to disappear.
But far and wide the word went forth
That Christ was victor in the north,
And Colum was His seer.

— Douglas Hyde (ed.), The Three Sorrows of Storytelling and Ballads of St. Columkille, London, 1895.

Confidimus

Apse of Santa Maria de Taüll, Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, Barcelona.

Apse of Santa Maria de Taüll, Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona.

Sancta Dei genitrix, semper Virgo beata, benedicta, gloriosa, et generosa, intacta et intemerata, casta et incontaminata, Maria immaculata, electa, et a Deo dilecta, singulari sanctitate praedita, atque omni laude digna, quae es interpellatrix pro totius mundi discrimine, exaudi, exaudi, exaudi nos, sancta Maria. Ora pro nobis, et intercede, et auxiliare ne dedigneris. Confidimus enim et pro certo scimus quia omne quod uis potes impetrare a Filio tuo Domino nostro Iesu Christo, Deo omnipotenti, omnium saeculorum rege, qui uiuit cum Patre, &c.

Holy Mother of God, Virgin ever blest, glorious and noble, chaste and inviolate, Mary Immaculate, chosen and beloved of God, endowed with singular sanctity, worthy of all praise, you are the advocate for the sins (peril) of the whole world; listen, listen, listen to us, holy Mary. Pray for us, intercede for us, disdain not to help us. For we are confident and know for certain that you can obtain all you will from your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, God Almighty, the King of Ages, who lives with the Father and the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen. Book of Cerne, Cambridge University Library, MS Ll. 1. 10.

Of Columcille and Pope Gregory

The Holy Ghost, depicted as a dove (columba), inspiring Pope St. Gregory the Great's dictation of the Gregorian Chant, Antiphonary of Hartker of the monastery of Saint Gall (Cod. Sang. 390, p. 13).

The Holy Ghost, depicted as a dove (columba), inspiring Pope St. Gregory the Great’s dictation of the Gregorian Chant, Antiphonary of Hartker of the monastery of Saint Gall (Cod. Sang. 390, p. 13).

Brandubh was killed on the morrow, and demons carried off his soul into the air. And Maedhog [abbot of Ferns] heard the wail of his soul as it was undergoing pain, while he was with the reapers. And he went into the air, and began to battle with the demons. And they passed over Hy; and Columkille heard them while he was writing; and he stuck the style [graib, graphium] into his cloak, and went to the battle to the aid of Maedhog, in defence of Brandubh’s soul. And the battle passed over Rome, and the style fell out of Columkille s cloak, and dropped in front of Gregory, who took it up in his hand. Columkille followed the soul of Brandubh to heaven. When he reached it, the congregation of heaven were at Celebration, namely, Te decet hymnus, and Benedic anima mea, and Laudate pueri Dominum; and this is the beginning of the Celebration of heaven. Columbkille did the same as the people of heaven. And they brought Brandubh’s soul back to his body again. Columbkille tarried with Gregory; and brought away Gregory’s brooch [dealc] with him, and it is the hereditary brooch [delg aidechta, literally testamentary brooch, being an heirloom in Hy, as the clog an eadhachta, or testamentary boll, was in Armagh] of the coarb of Columkille to this day. And he left his style with Gregory. ” Lib. Lecan, fol. 183 a., quoted in Reeves’ Life of St. Columba, 1874.

The legend is transferred from the Irish original in Manus O’Donnell’s Life:

By reason of that curse and of the promise that Columcille had made them that whoever misprized them, he would cut off his life, it befell that Brandubh came not further into Leth Cuinn, and in that same hosting was slain, and devils bare his soul up into the air with them, and they were tormenting it there.

And in that time Maedhog was with the reapers that were cutting corn for him. And he heard the cry of the soul in torment, and by the power of God he went up into the air after the demons. And he was battling with them for the soul of Brandubh.

And they came above Iona of Columcille in Alba. Columcille was writing at that time, and an angel of God revealed the thing to him. And he grieved for the soul in torment, albeit he it was himself that had obtained from God that the life of Brandubh should be cut off because he had not taken the counsel of the holy men of his household forementioned touching the making of peace with Leth Cuinn. And he fastened his cloak with his brooch, and leaped into the air to aid Maedhog to save the soul of Brandubh from the demons. And they were struggling thus until they came above Rome. The brooch of Columcille fell out of his mantle, and dropped to the ground before Pope Gregory. Gregory lifted it and recognized it. Soon the devils rose passing high into the air, fleeing before Columcille. Columcille followed them and went higher above into the ether, so that he heard the singing of the heavenly household. And these were the first words of the psalms they were singing in praise of the Lord: “Te decet u.,” and “Benedic a. m.,” and “Laudate pueri.

And Columcille caused his holy men and monks to recite them at the beginning of their office and singing from that time on. And Columcille obtained from God that the soul of Brandubh, that was all that time in torment from the demons, should be restored to his body again, and that he should repent of his crime, and be a good servant to God and to Columcille thenceforth, and should receive the sacrament from the hands of Maedhog Ferna in the hour of his death as he had promised him.

Columcille went to Gregory for his brooch. But the Pope kept it for himself and left his own brooch to Columcille afterward. And right marvelous were to Gregory the height of gifts, and the wealth of graces, and the multitude of miracles that God granted Columcille to do in that time. And afterward Columcille went back to Iona, and there he left that brooch of Pope Gregory’s to his successor in Iona in witness and in sign of these great miracles.

— Betha Colaim Chille, 219.

Towards Alba of the Ravens

Drawing from H. D. M. Spence-Jones' The Church of England, A History for the People, London, c. 1897.

Drawing from H. D. M. Spence-Jones’ The Church of England, A History for the People, London, c. 1897.

This is a poem of Columkille’s, or at least ascribed to him. It is in very irregular metre, or rather changes its metre several times. The literal translation of the first few verses is as follows:–

Delightful to be on Ben Edar (the Hill of Howth) before going over the sea, white, white; the dashing of the wave against its face, the bareness of its shore and its border.

Delightful to be on Ben Edar after coming over the white-bosomed sea, to be rowing one’s little coracle, ochone! on the swift-waved shore.

How rapid the speed of my coracle, and its back turned to Derry! It is misery to me, my errand over the high-sea, travelling towards Alba of the ravens.

My foot in my musical little coracle, my heart pitiable, sorrowful. Weak is the man that cannot lead. Blind totally is every ignorant one.

There is a grey eye that looks back upon Erin, but it shall not see during life the men of Erin nor her women.

My sight over the brine I stretch, from the planking of stout oak. Large is the tear of my soft grey eye, when I look back towards Erin, etc.

Part of this poem may very well be Columkille’s own, but part is as evidently not his. The end of it was probably written by one of the monks of Derry, whose monastery, in after times, almost equalled in fame that of Iona itself.

The verse about the soft grey eye is found in the Leabhar na h’Uidhre in the preface to the Amra of Columkille which shows its antiquity.

Moleesha was the Saint who imposed it as a penalty upon Columkille that he should go into exile and there convert as many souls as there were men slain in the battle of Cooldrevna [Cúl Dreimhne] fought on his account.

Columcille Sang.
(From the Irish.)

Delightful it is on Ben-Édar to rest
Before going over the white, white sea;
The dash of the wave as it launches its crest
On the wind-beaten shore is delight to me.

Delightful it is on Ben-Édar to rest
When safely come over the white sea foam;
The coracle cleaving her way to the West
Through the sport of the waves as she beats for home.

Too swiftly my coracle flies on her way,
From Derry I mournfully turned her prow;
I grieve at the errand which sends me to-day
To the land of the ravens, to Alba, now.

In my good little coracle, tuneful and light,
I have planted my foot, but my heart is sore,
For blind are the ignorant, blind as the night,
And weak is the man who shall lead no more.

How swiftly we travel, there is a grey eye
Looks back upon Erin, but it no more
Shall see, while the stars shall endure in the sky,
Her women, her men, or her stainless shore.

From the plank of the oak where in sorrow I lie
I am straining my sight through the water and wind;
And large is the tear from the soft grey eye
Looking back on the land that it leaves behind.

To Erin alone is my memory given,
To Meath and to Munster my wild thoughts flow,
To the shores of Moy-linny, the plains of Loch Levin,
And the beautiful land the Ultonians know.

In the East there is many a warrior tall,
But many a sickness and plague and care,
And many a heart that is hardened to all,
With scantness of raiment and food, to bear

But ah! in the West how the apple is fair,
How many a tanist, how many a king,
How many a sloe does the thorn-tree bear,
In the acorned oaks how the young birds sing!

Melodious her clerics, melodious her birds,
Her children are gentle, her seniors wise;
Her men are illustrious, truthful in words,
Her women have virtues for love to prize.

And Brendan the truthful is there in the West,
And Colom, descendant of Crivhan is he;
And there in the West shall be Baithin the blest,
And there in the West shall Adamnan be.

Go carry my words to the men that I name,
Unto Comgall the priest of eternal life,
And carry my thoughts upon wings of flame
To the king of Emania the bold in strife.

I give thee my blessing to carry from here,
Take this benediction over the sea,
One seven-fold half upon Erin the dear,
One half upon Alba the same to be.

To the nobles that gem the bright Isle of the Gael
Carry this benediction over the sea;
And bid them not credit Moleesha’s tale,
And bid them not credit his words of me.

Were it not for the word of Moleesha’s mouth,
At the cross of Ahamlish that sorrowful day,
I now should be warding from north and from south,
Disease and distemper from Erin away.

Oh, carry my blessing away to the West,
For my heart in my bosom is broken, I fail;
Should death of a sudden now pierce my breast,
I should die of the love that I bear the Gael.

The Gael, oh! the Gael, how the sound of that name
When I speak it can banish my ruth and my rue;
Belovèd is Cuimin of fair-haired fame,
Beloved are Cainneach and Comgall too.

And, oh! were the tributes of Alba mine,
From shore unto centre, from centre to sea,
The site of one house, to be marked by a line,
In the midst of fair Derry were dearer to me.

That spot is the dearest on Erin’s ground,
For the treasures that peace and that purity lend;
For the hosts of bright angels that circle it round,
Protecting its borders from end to end.

That spot is the dearest on Erin’s ground,
For its peace and its beauty I gave it my love;
Each leaf of the oaks around Derry is found
To be crowded with angels from heaven above.

My Derry, my Derry, my little oak grove,
My dwelling, my home, and my own little cell;
May God the Eternal, in heaven above,
Send woe to thy foes and defend thee well.

Belovèd are Durrow and Derry to me,
And Drumhome of the fruits of the rich ripe hue
Belovèd Raphoe in its purity,
And Surd and Cenannas, I love them too.

And dear to my heart in the western land,
Is the thought of Loch Foyle where the cool waves pour,
And the Bay of Drumcliff on Cúlcinné’s strand,
Delightful the form of its sloping shore.

Delightful it is, and the salt salt main,
Where the sea-birds scream o’er the water blue,
On my coming from Derry afar in pain,
How quiet it is, and delightful too.

— Douglas Hyde (ed.), The Three Sorrows of Storytelling and Ballads of St. Columkille, London, 1895.

“St. Quhalme”

St. Columba.

St. Columba.

The three names [SS. Patrick, Brigid, and Columba] have remained since that time inseparably united in the dauntless heart and fervent tenacious memory of the Irish people. It is to Columba that the oppressed and impoverished Irish seem to have appealed with the greatest confidence in the first English conquest in the twelfth century. The conquerors themselves feared him, not without reason, for they had learned to know his vengeance. John de Courcy, a warlike Anglo-Norman baron, he who was called the Conqueror (Conquestor) of Ulster, as William of Normandy of England, carried always with him the volume of Columba’s prophecies; and when the bodies of the three saints were found in his new possessions in 1180, he prayed the Holy See to celebrate their translation by the appointment of a solemn festival. Richard Strongbow, the famous Earl of Pembroke, who had been the first chief of the invasion, died of an uleer in the foot which had been inflicted upon him, according to the Irish narrative, at the prayer of St Bridget, St Columba, and other saints, whose churches he had destroyed. He himself said, when at the point of death, that he saw the sweet and noble Bridget lift her arm to pierce him to the heart. Hugh de Lacy, another Anglo-Norman chief of great lineage, perished at Durrow, “by the vengeance of Columb-cille,” says a chronicler, while he was engaged in building a castle to the injury of the abbey which Columba had founded and loved so much. A century after, this vengeance was still popularly dreaded, and some English pirates who had pillaged his church in the island of Inchcolm, having sunk like lead in sight of land, their countrymen said that he should be called not St. Columba but St. Quhalme — that is to say the saint of Sudden Death.

A nation has special need to believe in these vengeances of God, always so tardy and infrequent, and which, in Ireland, above all, have scarcely sufficed to light with a fugitive gleam the long night of the conquest, with all its iniquities and crimes. Happy are the people among whom the everlasting justice of the appeal against falsehood and evil is placed under the shadow of God and the saints; and blessed also the saints who have left to posterity the memory of their indignation against all injustice.

— Charles Forbes René, comte de Montalembert, The Conversion of England, Being a Sequel to the Monks of the West, Volume 1, Edinburgh (1872).

Stanislaus of Szczepanów

St. Stanislaus of Szczepanów by Stanisław Samostrzelnik.

St. Stanislaus of Szczepanów by Stanisław Samostrzelnik.

Stanisláus, apud Cracóviam nóbili génere natus, quem piis paréntibus, per trigínta annos stériles, a Deo précibus impetrárunt, ab ineúnte ætáte futúræ sanctitátis spécimen dedit. Adoléscens in sacra cánonum et theologíæ doctrína multum profécit. Paréntibus mórtuis, amplum patrimónium paupéribus distríbuit, vitæ monásticæ desidério. Sed, Deo áliter disponénte, canónicus Cracoviénsis et concionátor factus a Lampérto epíscopo, in eius póstea locum, quamvis invítus, sufféctus est. Quo in múnere ómnium pastorálium virtútum laude, et præcípue misericórdia in páuperes enítuit. Bolesláum Polóniæ regem, sæpius ob mores corrúptos frustra admónitum, a fidélium communióne remóvit. Qui idcírco iracúndia furens, mílites in ecclésiam immíttit, ut sanctum epíscopum confódiant; sed cum divínitus fuíssent depúlsi, ímpius rex sacerdótem Dei, Hóstiam immaculátam ad altáre offeréntem, sua manu obtrúncat. Multis miráculis Servi sui sanctitátem Deus declarávit post eius mortem, quibus permótus Innocéntius quartus illum in Sanctórum númerum rétulit.

Breviarium Romanum.