In the 1500th anniversary year of St Columba’s birth, Canna House Archivist Fiona used the Canna archive to explore the Columban connections between Canna, the Isle of Lewis and islands of the Irish Gaeltacht. Supported by Bòrd na Gàidhlig (Colmcille) and NTS.
A great number of events have been organised throughout Ireland and Scotland as part of Colmcille 1500. We are delighted to report that the Colmcille programme of Foras na Gaeilge has given commissions to a range of artists in Ireland and Scotland to ensure that the commemoration will have an enduring legacy.
Talking of the the song she composed as part of the series of commissions, Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin said “There is a link between Ireland and Scotland, both arts and work, right and wrong. There are also the themes of peace, exile and his stand with the artists of his day both poets and visual artists”. The song ‘Colm Bán na Síochána’ can be heard as part of the video ‘Coinneal Cholmclle’ Colm Bán na Síochána by Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin
Scottish poet and singer Marcas Mac an Tuairneir will present a series of multimedia poetry videos in Scottish, Irish and Manx Gaelic.
Among the projects coming as part of the Colmcille 1500 series of commissions are:
• A Poster of Ireland and Scotland featuring key places linked to Colmcille produced by Seek Design, which will be avaiable with the Irish Times ón the birthday of Colmcille, the 7th December.
• A Novel for teenagers entitled Colm Cille, by Feargal Ó Bearra.
• A Sculpture based on the Book of Kells by artisit John McCarron, which will be unveiled on the Feast of Colmcille, the 9th June 2022.
• An art film in Scottish and Irish Gaelic by Déirdre Ní Mhathúna on the Gaelic psalm singing tradition in the Western Isles.
• A Multimedia production from the renowned Armagh Rhymers, featuring a bell in the medieval style.
• Radio documentary Colm Cille: Cosantóir na mBan (Protector of Women). Broadcaster Áine Ní Bhreisleáin will discuss a very interesting aspect of the heritage of Colm Cille with historians and folklorists. To be broadcast on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta on the 29 December at 2pm – available here – Protector of Women
• Musician composition and multimedia production by the harper and composer Úna Monaghan in collaboration with some of the best Irish and Scottish artists.
Colmcille Folklore with Gearóidín Breathnach
Colmcille has a special place in the folklore of Ireland and Scotland. For this reason, Foras na Gaeilge asked the renowned storyteller Gearóidín Breathnach and LIGID TV Productions to make a series of short videos, Seanchas Cholmcille, as part of Colmcille 1500. In each video, Gearóidín Breathnach visits a location in Donegal associated with the saint, and she tells a story and local traditions about him:
- The birth of Colmcille
- Eithne’s Well, Termon and the birthplace of Colmcille
- How Colmcille got this name
- Ray Cross and the Great Cross.
- Colmcille’s Turas and Well in Gartán
- How the Leannan River got its name
Subtitles for the videos are available in Irish and Scottish Gaelic and in English, and it is possible to view them without subtitles.
Gearóidín is from a well-known family of storytellers from Rann na Feirste in West Donegal. She has twice won Corn Uí Riada at Oireachtas na Gaeilge, the most important competition for traditional singing in Irish, along with the main prize for story telling. This last prize is named after her father, Neidí Frainc Mac Grianna, who first inspired her love of storytelling. Gearóidín has spent many years promoting storytelling and traditional singing among young people, and has an important place in the traditional singing and storytelling of Donegal.
The signature tune for the series is a piece of the song Ainnir Dheas na gCiabhfholt Donn, sung by Aodh Mac Ruairí, another singer from Rann na Feirste. The verse tells of advice from Colmcille, and it can be heard in its entirety at the beginning of the first video:
Is é ‘dúirt Colm Cille linn go hIfreann nach dtéid fial
Lucht an tsaibhris go gceileann siad a bpáirt mhór le Dia
’S nach mór an tubaiste d’aon duine a ndearnadh riamh
‘Oiread a chruinniú is a choinneodh as Parthas é.
Colmcille said that the generous do not go to Hell.
The rich deny their affinity with God
What a catastrophe for any one ever made
To gather as much as would keep him from Paradise.
The 23 September is the feast-day of St Adhamhnán. A century after the death of St Colmcille, or Columba, Adhamhnán was the 9th abbot of Iona. It was he who wrote the Life of Columba or Vita Columbae and gave an account of how St Colmcille brought the kings of the Cineál Chonaill and Dalriada together at the ‘Convention of Drum Ceat’, making an alliance between them and achieving the release of a prisoner.
Adhamhnán communicated with people from many kingdoms and visited their kings and clergy. Between diplomacy and prayer, he developed a new approach to dealing with violence. It is still relevant over 1400 years since his death. A new book by lawyer and historian James W. Houlihan tells the story and of the similarities with the ‘Geneva Conventions’, which provided a basis for international law after the two world wars of the twentieth century.
In the time of Adhamhnán, kings were still making war. Adhamhnán understood that war could not be ended altogether but wished to restrain violence against women and children and non-combatants.
In 697 Adhamhnán succeeded in bringing kings, abbots, bishops and religious leaders together at Birr in Offaly. He was supported by the king of Tara. The convention of kings and clergy promulgated a new law, ‘Cáin Adhamhnáin‘ or the ‘Law of Innocents’ between kingdoms throughout Ireland and Scotland and even the to the abbey of Lindisfarne in Northumbria. 91 kings and church leaders put their names to the law. Among them were the abbot of Armagh, the king of Tara, the kings of Dalriada in Ireland and Scotland, and Bruide, the king of the Picts. There is no real parallel until the ‘Geneva Conventions’ when nation states came together after the two world wars, over 1400 years later. A similar approach underlies the conventions on climate change. May Adhamhnán’s influence go further still!
James W. Houlihan (2020): Adomnán’s Lex Innocentium and the Laws of War, Dublin, Four Courts Press
As part of the Colmcille 1500 commemorations, a number of commissions will be awarded to artists from Ireland and Scotland, as recently advertised on social media. These awards are for work in any artistic medium addressing an aspect of the heritage of St Colmcille or Columba and the relationship between the Gaelic-speaking communities of Ireland and Scotland. The commissions are for those working in Irish or Scottish Gaelic or, in the case of non-verbal arts, in with communities of Gaelic speakers. It is anticipated that the value of the commissions will be between €2,500 and €15,000 (or the sterling equivalent) depending on the concept, the link with St Colmcille and with Scottish and Irish Gaelic. If you have a project in mind, please contact email@example.com. The deadline for applications from Ireland (north or south) is the 10th September 2021, and for applications from Scotland, the 15 September 2021 An application form is available here.