On the feasts of our two other national patrons, Saint Brigid
and Saint Patrick
, I posted accounts of their lives from a nineteenth-century American writer. Here to complete the series is John O'Kane Murray's account of The Apostle of Caledonia, on this the feast day of our tertiary patron, Saint Colum Cille. As before he uses the hagiographical sources to good effect, including many of the best-known stories associated with the saint and ends on a lovely note from Saint Adamnán's Life of Columba
THE APOSTLE OF CALEDONIA.
DIED A.D. 597.
ST. COLUMBKILLE,  whose glory is embalmed in legend and history, was born
at Gartan, in the county of Donegal, Ireland, on December 7, A.D. 521.  His father was
descended from the famous King Niall of the
Nine Hostages,  supreme monarch of Ireland at
the close of the fourth century. Before the child's
birth his mother, who also belonged to a distinguished Irish family, had a dream which posterity has accepted as a graceful and poetical symbol of
her son's career.
An angel appeared to the lady, bringing her a
veil covered with flowers of rare beauty and wonderful variety of colors; but all at once she saw
it carried away by the wind, and rolling out as it
fled over plain and wood and mountain. "Woman," said the bright spirit, "you are
about to become the mother of a son who will
blossom for heaven, who will be reckoned among
the prophets of God, and who will lead numberless souls to the celestial country."
St. Bute, one of those holy monks whose lives
light up the pages of Erin's ancient history, died
on the day of Columbkille's birth. He spoke of
the event. "To-day," said the departing old
saint, "a child is born, whose name is Columbkille. He shall be glorious in the sight of God
The good priest who baptized the child was his
first instructor. It is recounted that from his
earliest years Columbkille was accustomed to
heavenly visions. Often, when his guardian angel appeared to him, the happy boy would ask if
all the angels in heaven were as young and shining as he.
Later on the same sweet spirit invited him to
choose among all the virtues those which he
would like best to possess. " I choose," said the youth, "chastity and wisdom." And immediately
three young girls of dazzling beauty appeared
and threw themselves on his neck, embracing
him. The pious youth frowned and repulsed
them with indignation.
"What!" they exclaimed, "do you, then, not
"No," he replied, " not the least in the world."
"We are three sisters," said the lovely visitors,
" whom our Father betroths to you."
"Who is your Father?" enquired Columbkille.
"Our Father," they gracefully answered, "is
" Ah ! " said he, " you have indeed an illustrious
Father. But what are your names? "
"Our names," replied the sisters, "are Virginity, Wisdom, and Prophecy. We come to
leave you no more, but to love you with a love
pure and everlasting."
Columbkille passed into the great monastic
schools, which were nurseries not only for the
clergy of Ireland, but also for young laymen of
all conditions. Here manual labor was joined to
study and prayer. Like all his young companions, he had to grind over night the corn for the
next day's food ; but when his turn came the
work was so well and quickly done that his companions suspected him of having been assisted by
an angel. On completing his course of studies and monastic training he was ordained priest by
his reverend master, the Abbot St. Finnian,
founder of the renowned monastic school of
A remarkable incident is related of the royal
Saint's student career at Clonard, when he was
only a deacon. A famous old bard named Gemman came to live near the monastery. Columbkille, who was at all times in life a poet and
passionate admirer of Irish poetry, determined to
join the bard's school, and to share his labors and
his studies. One day the two were reading together, at a little distance apart, out of doors. A
young girl ran toward them, pursued by a ro ber. She hoped, no doubt, to find safety in the
authority of the venerable bard. Scarcely, however, had the poor girl reached the spot than her
hard-hearted pursuer, running up, struck her with
his lance, and she fell mortally wounded.
Gemman called to his pupil for assistance.
"How long" he exclaimed in accents of horror,
"shall God leave unpunished this crime which
"Only for this moment," replied the indignant
young monk. "At this very hour, as the soul
of this innocent creature ascends to heaven, the
soul of the murderer shall go down to hell!"
The words were hardly uttered when the wretched assassin fell dead.
Soon, far and wide, Columbkille's name became
famous. As he was closely allied to the reigning
monarch of all Ireland, and, indeed, eligible him-
self to the same high office, it was very natural
that his influence increased with his years.  Before reaching the age of twenty-five he had presided over the erection of a crowd of monasteries.
As many as thirty-five in Ireland honored him as
the founder. Of these the chief were Derry and
The young Columbkille was especially attached
to Derry, where he habitually lived. He superintended with care not only the discipline and
studies of his community, but also external matters — even so far as to watch over the preservation of the neighboring forest. He would never
permit an oak to be cut down. Those that fell
by natural decay, or were struck down by the
wind, were alone made use of for the fire which
was lighted on the arrival of strangers, or distributed to the neighboring poor. The poor had a
first right in Ireland — as everywhere else — to the
goods of the monks; and the monastery of Derry fed a hundred applicants every day with the most
careful regularity. 
Derry was the spot that Columbkille loved best.
In the poem attributed to his old age he says so
"Were all the tribute of Scotia mine,
From its midland to its borders,
I would give all for one little cell
In my beautiful Derry.
"For its peace and for its purity,
For the white angels that go
In crowds from one end to the other,
I love my beautiful Derry."
Columbkille, it may be noted, was as much a bard as a monk during the first part of his life;
and he had the roving, ardent, and somewhat
quarrelsome character of the race. He had a
passion for travelling, but a still greater one for
books. It must be said, in truth, that his intense
love of books brought him into more than one
misadventure. The poet-monk went everywhere
in search of rare works, which he would borrow
or copy; but occasionally he met with refusals,
which he sharply resented.
At the time of which we write there was in
Ossory a holy recluse, very learned doctor in
laws and philosophy, named Longarad. Columbkille paid him a visit and asked leave to
examine his books. The uncourteous old scholar
gave a direct refusal. Columbkille was indignant.
" May your books," he said, "no longer do you
any good — neither you nor those who come after
you — since you have taken occasion by them to
show your inhospitality." The curse was heard, according to the legend. As soon as Longarad
died his books became unintelligible. " They
still exist," wrote an author of the ninth century, "but no man can read them."
But another event in the career of our Saint
leads us to that turning-point in life which for
ever changed his destiny and transformed hims
from a wandering poet-monk and ardent student into a glorious missionary. While visiting his
old master, the Abbot Finnian, Columbkille found
means to make a secret and hurried copy of the
abbot's Psalter by shutting himself up at night
in the church where it was deposited, and illuminating his work by the light which escaped from
his left hand while he wrote with the right.
Finnian, however, discovered what was going
on by means of a curious wanderer, who, attracted by the singular light, looked in through the
keyhole. But the poor fellow's curiosity met
with swift punishment. While his face was
pressed against the door he had his eye suddenly plucked out by a crane, one of those familiar birds that were permitted by the Irish monks
to seek a home in their churches.
The abbot, for some reason or other, was much
displeased, and declared that Columbkille had
taken an unwarranted liberty with his book. He
even claimed the copy when it was finished, on
the ground that a copy made without permission
ought to belong to the owner of the original.
But the poet-monk refused to give up his work,
and the question was referred to the king at
King Diarmid, at that time supreme monarch
of Ireland, was related to Columbkille, but he
pronounced against his kinsman. Diarmid's decision was given in a rustic phrase which has become a proverb in Ireland : "To every cow its
calf, and, therefore, to every book its copy." 
Columbkille vigorously protested. "It is an
unjust sentence,'' he exclaimed with indignation.
All parties were hot and prepared for an open
rupture. The occasion soon came. A young
prince, son of the king of Connaught and a hos
tage at Tara, had a dispute, during a game of
hurling, with the son of one of Diarmid's officers.
It ended in a quarrel, and the prince killed the
youth by striking him with his hurley. He fled
at once for sanctuary to our Saint, who was standing in the king's presence.
But King Diarmid — contrary to all precedent — refused to respect the undoubted right of Columbkille to protect his client, and he ordered the
unhappy prince to be torn from the very arms of
his protector and immediately executed.
The noble, fiery nature of the Saint revolted at
this last outrage. " I will denounce your wicked
judgment to my family and my friends," said he
to the king, " and the violation in my person of
the immunity of the Church. My complaint shall
be heard and you will be swiftly punished. No
longer shall you see my face in your province
until the Almighty Judge has subdued your pitiable pride. And as you have humbled me to-day before your friends and nobles, God will humble
you on the battle-day before your enemies!"
Diarmid attempted to retain him by force, but,
evading his guards, the poet-monk escaped by
night from Tara and hastily directed his steps to
his native Tyrconnell. As he pushed along on his
lonely way his agitated soul found utterance in
the " Song of Trust": 
" Alone am I upon the mountain.
God of Heaven! prosper my way,
And I shall pass more free and fearless
Than if six thousand were my stay.
My flesh, indeed, might be defended,
But when the time comes life is ended.
If by six thousand I was guarded,
Or placed on an islet in a lake,
Or in a fortress strong protected,
Or in a church my refuge take,
Still God will guard His own with care,
And even in battle safe they fare.
No man can slay me till the day
When God shall take my life away;
And when my earthly time is ended
I die — no matter how defended." 
Columbkille arrived safely in his native province. His words, like a trumpet-blast, aroused the powerful clans of Ulster ; nor was it hard to
procure the aid of the king of Connaught, the
father of the executed young prince. The combined forces marched against Diarmid, who met
them at Cul-Dreimhne.  The battle was short.
Diarmid's army was routed, and he fled, taking refuge at Tara. According to the historian Tighernach, the victory was due to the prayers and
hymns of Columbkille, who for days had fasted
and appealed to heaven for the punishment of
"As to the manuscript," says Montalembert,
" which had been the object of this strange conflict of copyright elevated into a civil war, it was
afterwards venerated as a kind of national, military, and religious palladium. Under the name
of Cathac, or Fighter, the Latin Psalter transcribed
by Columbkille, and enshrined in a kind of portable altar, became the national relic of the O'Donnell clan. For more than a thousand years it was
carried before them to battle as a pledge of victory, on the condition of being supported upon the
breast of a cleric free from all mortal sin. It has
escaped as by miracle from the ravages of which
Ireland has been the victim, and still exists, to the
great joy of all learned Irish patriots." 
Columbkille was victorious; but victory is not
always peace. He soon felt the double reaction
of personal remorse and the condemnation of
many pious souls. In the Synod of Teilte, held
in 562, he was accused of having occasioned the
shedding of Christian blood. Though absent, he
was excommunicated. But our poet-monk knew
not that timidity which draws back before accusers or judges. He suddenly presented himself
to the synod, which had struck without hearing
him. Nor did he fail to find a defender in that
When Columbkille made his appearance the
famous Abbot Brendan arose, met, and embraced him. "How can you," exclaimed the members
of the synod, " give the kiss of peace to an ex-communicated man? "
"You would do as I have done," answered the
noble Brendan, " and you would never have ex-
communicated him, had you seen what I see — a
pillar of fire which goes before him, and the angels that are his companions. I dare not distain
a man predestined by God to be the guide of an
entire people to eternal life." The synod gracefully withdrew the sentence of
excommunication, but Columbkille was charged
to win to Christ, by his preaching, as many pagan souls as the number of Christians who had
fallen in the battle that he had occasioned.
The soul of the Saint was troubled. The voice
of an accusing conscience touched his manly
heart. He wandered from solitude to solitude,
from monastery to monastery, seeking masters of
Christian virtue, and asking them anxiously what
he should do to obtain the full pardon of God for
the blood of those who had fallen on the field of
Cul-Dreimhne. At length he found a holy monk
named Abban, to whorn he poured out the troubles of his sad soul. To Columbkille's earnest
enquiries Abban assured him that those killed in
the battle enjoyed eternal repose; and, as his
soul-friend, or confessor, he condemned him to
perpetual exile from Ireland. It is now that the second and grandest part of
the Saint's life commences. He took a loving
leave of his warlike kindred, to whom he was in-
tensely attached, and directed his course towards
Scotland. The new scene of his toils was to be
among its pagan inhabitants. Twelve of his de-
voted monks accompanied him; and thus, at the
age of forty-two, Columbkille bade a last farewell
to his native land.
The bark of the holy exiles of Erin put in at
that little isle which our Saint immortalized, and
which took from him the name I-Colm-Kill, now,
perhaps, better known as Iona.  On that small
spot, surrounded by foaming, sombre seas, over-
shadowed by the bare and lofty peaks of other
islands, and with a wild, romantic scenery greeting the eye in the far-off distance, Columbkille,
poet, prince, monk, and missionary, founded the
first monastery in Scotland, and began the gigantic labors of a new life more than heroic, more
than apostolic. Over thirteen hundred years
ago this became the monastic capital and centre
of faith, learning, and Christian civilization in
In the midst of his community the Saint inhabited, instead of a cell, a sort of hut built of
planks and placed upon the most elevated spot
within the monastic enclosure. Up to the age
of seventy-six he slept there upon the hard floor
with a stone for his pillow.
This hut was at once his study and his oratory.
It was there that he gave himself up to those prolonged prayers which excited the admiration, and
almost the alarm, of his disciples. It was there
that the princely Abbot retired after sharing the
outdoor labor of his monks, like the least among
them, to consecrate the rest of his time to the
study of Holy Scripture and the transcription of
the sacred text. 
It was in the same hut that he received with un-wearied patience and gentle courtesy the hundreds
of visitors of high and low degree who flocked
to see him. Sometimes, however, he was obliged
to complain mildly, as of that indiscreet stranger
who, desirous of embracing him, awkwardly over-
turned his ink on the border of his robe.
But who shall describe his labors as a great
missionary? For over a third of a century he traversed the wild regions of Caledonia — regions
hitherto inaccessible even to the Roman eagle.
At his preaching and miracles the fierce pagan
Picts  bowed beneath the cross.
Skimming Loch Ness with his little skiff, the
Saint soon penetrated to the chief fortress of the
Pictish king, the site of which is still shown upon
a rock north of the town of Inverness. Brude
was the name of the hardy and powerful ruler.
At first he refused to receive the Catholic missionary, and gave orders that the gates of the fortress should be closed on the unwelcome
But the dauntless Columbkille was not alarmed.
" He went up to the gateway," says Montalembert, "made the sign of the cross upon the two
gates, and then knocked with his hand. Immediately the bars and bolts drew back, the gates
rolled upon their hinges and were thrown wide
open, and the Saint entered like a conqueror.
The king, though surrounded by his council, was
struck with panic; he hastened to meet the missionary, addressed to him pacific and encouraging
words, and from that moment gave him every
honor." Thus obstacles vanished at the very
glance of the illustrious Irish Abbot.
He accomplished the conversion of the entire
Pictish nation, and destroyed for ever the authority of the Druids in that last refuge of Celtic
paganism. Before he closed his glorious career
he had sown their forests, their defiles, their inaccessible mountains, their savage moors and
scarcely-inhabited islands with churches, schools,
and monasteries. Out of the many monasteries
which he founded in Scotland — over which Protestantism afterwards passed its devastating hand
— the remains of fifty-three are to be seen to this
No pen can describe the great, gentle, loving
heart of Columbkille. It is told that a poor man once sheltered him under his roof for the night.
In the morning the Saint enquired what worldly
goods his host possessed. He was informed that
the whole capital was five cows, poor and small ;
"but," added the man, "if you bless them they
will increase." The Saint requested the cows to
be driven into his presence. It was done. "Your
cattle," said he, "will increase to one hundred
and five, and you shall be blessed with many good
children." It happened just as he predicted.
One morning at Iona the Abbot hastily called
a monk. He told him to prepare at once for
a voyage to Ireland. A good young lady named
Mangina, he explained, had fallen in returning from
Mass and broken her thigh-bone. " She is now,"
said he, " calling on me earnestly, hoping that she
may receive some consolation from the Lord."
He then gave the monk a piece of blessed bread
in a little casket of pine wood, and ordered him to
have it dipped in water, and to let the water be
poured on the injured limb. All was done as
commanded, and the injured member was instant-
ly healed. On the cover of the casket the Saint
wrote the words twenty-three years, and to a day
Mangina lived twenty- three years after her cure.
On another occasion he suddenly stopped while
reading, and said with a smile to his monks: " I
must now go and pray for a poor little woman
who is in the pains of childbirth, and who suffers like a true daughter of Eve. She is down yonder
in Ireland, and reckons upon my prayers ; for she
is my cousin and of my mother's family." Whereupon the great priest hastened to the church, and
when his prayer was ended returned to his spiritual sons, saying: "She is delivered. The Lord
Jesus, who deigned to be born of a woman, has
come to her aid, and this time she will not die." 
Another incident is suggestive of Columbkille's
great veneration for the sign of the cross. A cer-
tain youth was carrying home a vessel of new
milk, and on passing the door of the Abbot's little cell, where, as usual, he was writing, he asked a
blessing on his burden. But when the man of
God made the sign of the cross, a strange commo-
tion seemed to move the contents of the vessel ;
the lid was suddenly flung off, and the greater
part of the milk was scattered around.
The youth laid down the pail, and, kneeling, he
began to pray. The Saint, however, desired him
to rise. " To-day you have acted unwisely," he
said, " in not making the sign of the cross of our
Lord on your vessel before you poured in the
milk. It was this omission that caused the demon
to enter there, but, being unable to bear the sign
of the cross, he has now fled away." Columbkille
then asked him to bring the vessel near, that he
might again bless it; and no sooner had he done
so than " the benediction of his holy hand " so in-
creased the little milk which remained that the
pail was once more filled to the brim.
Towards his last days a celestial light was occasionally seen to surround him as a garment.
And once as he prayed his face was first lit up
with beatific joy, which finally gave expression to
a profound sadness. Two of his monks saw the
singular change of countenance. Throwing themselves at the feet of the venerable Abbot, they implored him, with tears in their eyes, to tell them
what he had learned in his prayer.
" Dear children," said he, with gentle kindness," I do not wish to afflict you. But it is thirty
years to-day since I began my pilgrimage in Caledonia. I have long prayed to God to let my exile end with this thirtieth year, and to call me to
His heavenly country. When you saw me so joyous, it was because I could already see the angels
who came to seek my soul. But all at once they
stopped short down there upon that rock at the
farthest limits of the sea which surrounds our
island, as if they would approach to take me and
" And, in truth, the blessed spirits could not,
because the Lord had paid less regard to my
ardent prayer than to that of the many churches
which have prayed for me, and which have obtained, against my will, that I should still dwell
in this body for four years. That is the reason
of my sadness. But in four years I shall die without being sick ; in four years, I know it and see it,
they will come back, these holy angels, and I shall
take my flight with them towards the Lord."
Dear old Saint! his last day on earth came. It
was a Saturday in sunny June. Drawn in a car by
oxen, the venerable Abbot passed through the
fields near the monastery, and blessed his monks at
their labor. Then, rising up in his rustic chariot, he
gave his solemn benediction to the whole island
— a benediction which, according to local tradition, was like that of St. Patrick in Ireland, and drove from that day all vipers and venomous creatures out of Iona.  He then took his way to the granary of the
monastery and gave it his blessing, remarking at the same time to his faithful attendant, Diarmid :
" This very night I shall enter into the path of
my fathers. You weep, dear Diarmid; but console yourself. It is my Lord Jesus who deigns to
invite me to rejoin Him. It is He who has revealed to me that my summons will come to-
The holy Abbot departed from the store-house.
On the road to the monastery he was met by a
good and ancient servant, the old white horse,
which came and put his head upon the shoulder of
his kind master, as if to take a last leave of him. "The eyes of the old horse," says one of the
Saint's biographers, " had an expression so pathetic that they seemed to be bathed in tears."
But caressing the faithful brute, he gave it a
He now retired to his cell and began to work
for the last time. It was at his dearly-loved employment — transcribing the Psalter. When the
great old man had come to the thirty-third Psalm,
and the verse, " Inquirentes autem Domimim non
deficient omni bono" he paused. " I must stop
here," he said; " Baithen  will write the rest."
After some time spent in earnest prayer, he entrusted his only companion with a last message
for his spiritual sons, advising them, like the
Apostle of old, "to love one another." As soon as the midnight bell had rung for the
Matins of the Sunday festival, the noble old Saint
arose from his bed of stone, entered the church,
and knelt down before the altar. Diarmid follow-
ed him, but as the church was not yet lighted he
could only find him by groping and crying out in
sad tones, " My father, where are you ? " He
found Columbkille lying before the altar, and, placing himself at his side, he raised the Abbot's venerable head upon his knees.
The whole community soon arrived with lights,
and wept as one man at the sight of their dying
chief and father. Once more the dear Saint
opened his eyes, and turned them toward his
children on each side with a look full of serene
and radiant joy. Then with Diarmid's aid he
raised, as best he could, his right hand to bless
them all. His hand dropped, the last sigh came
from his lips, and his face remained calm and
sweet like that of a man who in his sleep had
seen a vision of heaven. And thus died, or rather
passed away, at the age of seventy-six, on the 9th
of June, in the year 597, the glorious St. Columb-
kille, Irish prince, poet, monk, and missionary— a
man whose beautiful name and shining deeds will
live for ever and for ever. 
"The countenance of Columbkille," says his
ancient biographer, St. Adamnan, " resembled
that of an angel. In conversation he was brilliant; in work, holy; in disposition, excellent;
and in council, distinguished. Though he lived
on earth, his manners were those of heaven.
Every hour of his life was passed in prayer, reading, writing, or some useful occupation."
1. Columbkille signifies dove of the cell. The name is often written Columba.
2. The birth of our Saint was foretold by St. Patrick. In blessing Fergus, son of Niall, he said, referring to Columbkille : "A youth shall be born of your race, Who will be a sage, prophet, and poet — A glorious, bright, clear light, Who will not utter falsehood." — Tripartite Life of St. Patrick.
3. So named because of the hostages taken from nine powers, which he subdued and made tributary.
4. In the MS. life of St. Columbkille by O'Donnell it is asserted that the Saint in the year 544, being a prince of the royal family, was offered the crown of Ireland, and that Dermod MacCerball, his competitor, succeeded only because our holy abbot preferred the cowl to a diadem. — Butler. This was two years before he was ordained priest.
5. The Saint fed a hundred men daily, but his steward, or dispenser, did not quite appreciate the liberality of his master. He had a fixed time for giving the dole of food, and any one who came late was peremptorily dismissed. A poor man came one day late, and was, as usual, sent away. The next day he came in time, but was told there was nothing for him. For many days he came, but each time he met with some repulse. He then sent a message to Columba to tell him that he advised him for the future to put no limit to his charity while he had alms to give, except what God set on the number of those who came for it. Columba was struck by the message, and came down to the gate of the monastery, not waiting even to put on his cloak. He hastened after the beggar ; but when he had gone some distance he found not the poor man, but Christ, who had taken the form of a beggar. Then, as he fell down and adored his Lord, he obtained from Him a royal alms — new lights, new graces, new and yet more wonderful powers of miracle and prophecy. — Sister Cusack, Life of St. Columba.
6. "Le gach boin a boinin, le gach leabhar a leabhran"
7. The " Song of Trust" may be reckoned among the most authentic relics of the ancient Irish tongue. — Montalembert.
8. St. Columbkille was the author of many hymns and poems, both in Irish and Latin. See " The Prose and Poetry of Ireland," pp. 25-38, and the " Life of St. Columba," by Sister M. F. Clare. One of his celebrated Latin hymns is the Altus. The following is the first stanza as translated by the Nun of Kenmare :
"Ancient of days,
Father most high,
Who art and shall be
As the ages go by,
With Christ and the Spirit,
In glory supernal,
Who art God evermore,
We preach not three Gods,
But the unity, One,
The Father, the Spirit,
And co-equal Son."
The Noli, Pater is also a famous Latin hymn from the gifted pen of our Saint. Colgan says that two graces are believed to be granted to the recital of this hymn : (1) that those who recite it should be preserved from the effects of thunder and lightning ; (2) that those who recite it at night before going to rest and in the morning when they arise shall be preserved from all adversity.
THE NOLI, PATER.
"Father, keep under
The tempest and thunder,
Lest we should be shattered,
By Thy lightning's shafts scattered.
Thy terrors while hearing,
We listen, still fearing,
The resonant song
Of the bright angel throng,
As they wander and praise Thee,
Shouts of honor still raise Thee.
To the King ruling right, Jesus, lover and light,
As with wine and clear mead,
Filled with God's grace indeed,
Precursor John Baptist's words
Told of the coming Lord,
Whom, blessed for evermore,
All men should bow before.
This Saint begot.
May the fire of Thy love live in my heart yet
As jewels of gold in a silver vase set,"
— Nun of Kenmare's translation.
9. Cul-Dreimhne is north of the town of Sligo. The " Annals of the Four Masters " state that " three thousand was the number that fell of Diarmid's people. Only one man fell on the other side."
10. This precious relic is now preserved in the museum of the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin. For a minute description of it see O'Curry's "Lectures on the MS. Materials of Ancient Irish History," p. 327.
11. Iona is only three miles in length by two in. breadth, flat and low, bordered by gray rocks which scarcely rise above the level of the sea. Its highest hill is only 320 feet above the ocean. — Montalembert.
12. For Columbkille the work of transcription remained until his last day the occupation of his old age, as it had been the pas- sion of his youth. It had such an attraction for him, and seemed to him so essential to a knowledge of the truth, that three hundred copies of the Holy Gospel, written by his own hand, have been ascribed to him. — Montalembert, Monks of the West, vol. ii.
13. Butler ("Lives of the Saints," vol. vi.) thinks that the Picts were the original inhabitants of Scotland. Bede (" Eccles. Hist") tells us that they spoke a language different from their Celtic neighbors The original Scots were an Irish colony that conquered a portion of Caledonia and settled there. Ireland, it must be remembered, was called Scotia in early ages, and its inhabitants Scots. King Niall of the Nine Hostages, monarch of Ireland, was the first that gave the name of Scotia Minor, or "Little Scotia," to Scotland. Before tbat "Scotland" went by the name of Alba. The Scots (or Irish) and the Picts lived as good neighbors till about the year 840, when Kenneth II.. King of the Scots, defeated the Picts. About the year goo the Scots became masters of the rest of the country, and from that time all North Britain took the name of Scotland, or land of the Scots. At a somewhat later period Ireland gradually lost the name of Scotia, which was thus wholly transferred to the neighboring country that she had conquered and colonized. Such, in brief, was the origin of the name Scotland. Nearly all the great old Scottish families — as the MacDonalds, Campbells, Murrays, etc. — are lineal descendants of the ancient Irish that colonized and became masters of North Britain.
14. "Prophecies," as they are called, of St. Columbkille have been published at various times and places during this century. They are all silly fictions. No man who respects truth, the memory of the Saint, or his own intelligence, can give any credit to such vile forgeries. The pious and learned O'Curry fully discusses this subject in one of his matchless "Lectures." "It is remarkable," he says, in concluding, "that no reference to any of these long, circumstantially-defined prophecies can be found in any of the many ancient copies of the Saint's life which have come down to us ... I feel it to be a duty I owe to my country, as well as to my creed as a Catholic, to express thus in public the disgust which I feel with every right-minded Irishman in witnessing the dishonest exertions of certain parties of late years in attempting, by various publications, to fasten these disgraceful forgeries on the credulity of honest and sincere Catholics as the undoubted inspired revelations of the ancient saints of Erin ... It is time that this kind of delusion should be put an end to. Our primitive saints never did, according to any reliable authority, pretend to foretell political events of remote occurrence." — Lectures on the MS. Materials of Ancient Irish History, p. 410.
15. After the death of St. Columbkille, Iona became the most famous sanctuary of the Celts. It was the burying-place of kings, princes, and nobles. Seventy kings were buried at the feet of our Saint. Even Shakspeare, in his great tragedy of "Macbeth," does not forget to put the following dialogue into the mouths of his characters:
"Rosse. Where is Duncan buried?
Macduff. Carried to Colmes-Kill,
The sacred storehouse of his predecessors,
And guardian of their bones."
The ravages of the Danes first dimmed the light of Iona. They sacked its famous monastery in 801, and killed sixty-eight people, as is recorded by the " Annals of the Four Masters," vol. i. p. 411. For safety the sacred remains of Columbkille were transferred to Ireland towards the close of the same century.
The ruin and plunder begun by the pagan Danes was completed by Protestant fanaticism in the dark days of the so-called Reformation. All the sacred edifices of Iona were pillaged by a horde of brutal ruffians. It was a desert in the eighteenth century. " The three hundred and sixty crosses which covered the soil of the holy island "had been thrown into the sea. " We are how treading," wrote Dr. Samuel Johnson when he visited this historic spot, '' that illustrious island which was once the luminary of the Caledonian regions, whence savage clans and roving barbarians derived the benefits of knowledge and the blessings of religion." Iona now belongs to the Duke of Argyll. It has a population of about 350 souls— all Presbyterians ! See " The Monks of the West," appendix, note i.
16. Who became the Saint's successor.
17. This great Saint has not been forgotten in the New World. There are churches in Newark, Cleveland, St. Louis, Boston, New York, and various other places, dedicated to divine worship under the patronage of St. Columbkille.