Baithen was a man of tender soul, of whom we would fain speak at greater length, if it were not needful to circumscribe the wide and confused records of Celtic hagiography. Columba compared him to St John the Evangelist; he said that his beloved disciple resembled him who was the beloved disciple of Christ, by his exquisite purity, his penetrating simplicity, and his love of perfection. And Columba was not alone in doing justice to the man who, after having been his chief lieutenant in his work, was to become his first successor. One day, in an assembly of learned monks, probably held in Ireland, Fintan, a very learned and very wise man, and also one of the twelve companions of Columba’s exile, was questioned upon the qualities of Baithen. “Know,” he answered, “that there is no one on this side of the Alps who is equal to him in knowledge of the Scriptures, and in the greatness of his learning.” “What!” said his questioners — “not even his master, Columba?” “I do not compare the disciple with the master,” answered Fintan. “Columba is not to be compared with philosophers and learned men, but with patriarchs, prophets, and apostles. The Holy Ghost reigns in him; he has been chosen by God for the good of all. He is a sage among all sages, a king among kings, an anchorite with anchorites, a monk of monks; and in order to bring himself to the level even of laymen, he knows how to be poor of heart among the poor; thanks to the apostolic charity which inspires him, he can rejoice with the joyful, and weep with the unfortunate. And amid all the gifts which God’s generosity has lavished on him, the true humility of Christ is so royally rooted in his soul, that it seems to have been born with him.” It is added that all the learned hearers assented unanimously to this enthusiastic eulogium. Charles Forbes René, comte de Montalembert, The Conversion of England, Being a Sequel to the Monks of the West, Volume 1, Edinburgh (1872).
I recently stumbled upon this wonderful resource for Gàidhlig toponyms in Nova Scotia, Na Gàidheil Agus an Ainmean-Àite an Albainn Nuaidh (The Gaels and Their Place Names in Nova Scotia), a project of the Gaelic Affairs office of the Province of Nova Scotia.
[T]he Catholic religion differs from most other religions, differs even from most other denominations of Christianity, in that it was not merely cradled in an atmosphere of the miraculous, but lives and breathes in an atmosphere of the miraculous. Miracles are not always equally abundant, but the faith is always there; when the deacon Peter asks St Gregory in his dialogues why it is that miracles don’t happen nowadays, St Gregory first of all gives reasons why they shouldn’t happen, and then points out that they do. All the discoveries of science about the nature of diseases and so on have not lessened our faith in the possibility of miracle; rather, they have increased it. For, in proportion as medicine grows more exact in its methods and more careful in its habits of observation, in that proportion we can feel more certain, when such and such a cure is effected, that the finger of God was really there. When you hear doctors doubting about the miracles at Lourdes, you will find that the complaint they are making is not one against religion; diagnosis, they say; some ass of a French G.P. didn’t know his own business. If that is so, we can only hope that doctors will get more and more scientific; then the miracles at Lourdes will be more manifest than ever. Ronald Knox, In Soft Garments, A Collection of Oxford Conferences (1953).
[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).
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.
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).
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.