The Story OF Colmcille

St. Colmcille's story begins in Gartan, Co Donegal, where he is born into the northern branch of the O'Neills in 521. His mother, Eithne, is a princess from Leinster, and his father, Fedelmidh, is the great grandson of Niall of the Nine Hostages, the pagan king who brought Saint Patrick to bondage in Ireland. Colmcille bridges two worlds. 


He is originally christened Crimhthann (meaning 'Fox'), and baptised at Templedouglas in Donegal. As with other princes, he is sent for fosterage in his youth, and spends some years at the house of Cruithnechan, a holy man. Crimhthann converts to Christianity and the prince spends many  hours in prayer and meditatiion and from this time onwards he is known as Colmcille 'Dove of the Church'. 


Colmcille's education is an odyssey, beginning in Movilla on Strangford Lough, under the tutelage of a Saint Finnian, he then moves to Leinster, where he studies under the bard, Gemman. From here, Colmcille journeys to Clonard monastery in Co Meath, under the famous Saint Finnian. The final stop in Colmcille's education is at Saint Mobhí's school in Glasnevin. 



Colmcille is granted a portion of land in a place called Daire Calgach, on the west bank of the Foyle. He builds a church here called Dubh Regles or the ‘Bkack Abbey or church’. The island of 'Daire' is the old Irish word for oak grove, which eventually lends its name to the city of Derry. Although Derry is the place most associated with Colmcille in Ireland, he travels far and wide in Ireland, founding monasteries and churches, travelling to such areas as Moone in South Kildare, Swords in Dublin and the Burren in County Clare. 


Leaving Derry is a painful leave-taking for Colmcille, and the night before departure is spent lying on Leac na Cumha (the flagstone of loneliness) in his birthplace of Gartan. Colmcille arrives in Argyll, where he makes contact with king Conall MacComhgall of Dal Riada, a territory incorporating southwest Scotland and northeast of Ireland. Although he doe not convert him to Christianity King Conall grants him the island of Iona in the Western isles of Scotland, on which to found his monastery. From here Colmcille spreads the word of Christianity in Scotland, Northern England and aslo in to Europe. 


Although living in Scotland, he makes occasional journeys home, taking part in a convention of kings at Drum Ceat near Limavady, Co Derry, in 574, and founding a monastery at Durrow, Co Offaly in 585. Rest, when it comes, is of the permanent kind. Just after Easter in 597, in his 76th year, Colmcille dies at his monastery in Iona.His monks buried him in the grounds of his monastery on Iona and many years later his bones were disinterred and are thought to be buried in Downpatrick, County Down, with St. Patrick and St. Brigid.