Thursday 16 June 2016

Saint Colum Cille's Blessing of Assaroe

Yesterday we saw how the curse of Colum Cille impacted upon the fishermen of Mulroy Bay, today, by contrast, we see the effect of his blessing on the fish stocks at County Donegal's Assaroe Falls. Assaroe, Eas-Aedha-Ruaidh, the Waterfall of Red Hugh, owed its name to a local king who came to a watery end while attempting to cross by one of the fords. Victorian traveller William Allingham (1824-1889), gave a vivid description of the fishermen and their boats at work on the Falls and of the rich bounty to be gained:
The total take may probably be averaged at 500 salmon a day, during the latter half of the season (which closes in August); but as many as 2,000 have been taken in a day, and above 400 in a single haul.

In the Life of Colum Cille by sixteenth-century Donegal chieftain Manus O'Donnell, these aquatic riches owed their origin to the blessing of our saint:

134. Then Columcille fared onward to Assaroe. And him seemed it great damage to all in general and to his own dear kinsman in especial to the which he bare great love, to wit, the clan of Conall Gulban, that there should not be abundance [of fish] in the waterfall [of Assaroe] and the whole Erne. And he saw there could be none such abundance except the fish be free to go and come across the waterfall from the river to the great sea. And it was by reason of all this that Columcille blessed the waterfall. And he bound the stones and the rocks of the northern side to abase them that the fish might pass, as we have said afore. And these dumb things did obeissance to Columcille and did abase them, as is manifest to those that visit the waterfall [of Assaroe] today, for the south side is high and rugged, and the north side thereof is low. And by reason of that blessing of Columcille's it is the best river for fish in Erin today. And every feast day of Columcille from then till now, his successor hath the fishing of Assaroe in remembrance of that great miracle.

Sadly, the river found itself the subject of a mid-twentieth century hydro-electric scheme but a campaign has been launched to restore the historic salmon leap, so far without success. Read more on that here. Perhaps it too needs Saint Colum Cille's blessing?
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