Colm Cille

At a contest between Donegal and Meath,

The saint prayed, “Let Donegal succeed.”

He should have prayed, “Thy Will be done.”

His prayer rose not to Christ, but Krumm.


To atone for his sinful prayer, so vile,

He threw his life into exile,

To spread the loving Word of God

Far away from his native sod.


Coming to Loch Ness, he found,

 A beast spread terror all around.

He called the monster from the bay,

Till, prostate before his feet, it lay.


Then he issued this stern command:

“Be at peace; cause no more harm.”

And ever since that very day,

Men sail safely across Ness Bay.


Then the saint strode across the land

Bringing his word of peace to man.

In response, the Scots gave up their arms

And, living in peace, caused no more harm.


And to make sure

That so they’d stay,

Colm fed them Saint John’s Wort

Every day.




“Colm Cille,” a nickname meaning “Dove of the Oratory,” was one of he most powerful saints of ancient Ireland.


According to legend, when two branches of his O’Neill family were in contest for the High Kingship of Ireland, Colm prayed for the success his own nearest cousin, of the Donegal branch, against his more remote cousin, the Meath man. He soon realised that God should not be asked to show favour between competitors, but a fair and peaceful outcome should always be requested. To ask for favour for one person to the detriment of another, he realised, is to appeal to the pagan God, Crom Cruach, and not a proper prayer to the Christian God. In penance, he condemned himself to exile, and sailed away to spread the word of God in Scotland.


(Actually, his involvement was probably more culpable than I have just described: he seems to have prompted the Donegal branch to take arms against the incumbent High King, belonging to the Meath branch, because of a perceived injustice by the High King, resulting in several thousand deaths in battle, and bitter complaints by other clergy about his interference). 


Even though he called himself a dove, he was a strong character with a loud, commanding voice. Among his miracles, he is credited with taming the Loch Ness monster.  Behind the legend, undoubtedly there lies a true story, which was probably as follows.


At Loch Ness, the ferryman refused to take him across the lake, because he had lost courage. The ferryman’s father, uncle and brother had all been drowned in pursuit of their vocation as ferryman. “There is a monster in the lake,” said the ferryman, “who gobbles up the boatmen.” (In reality, storms could rise up suddenly on the Loch, making it a dangerous place for boats if great care were not taken).


Colm Cille took the matter in hand. He enquired the name of the monster, and then he went down to the lake side and commanded the monster to come forth. His voice was heard, not only by the ferryman and the monster, but by the people all around, since his strong voice carried clearly across the water. Then he was heard chastising the monster for wanton murder of human beings and commanding it henceforth to obey the Word of God, live in peace, and never again attack humans.


He returned to the ferryman and told him: “You need fear no more. The monster will henceforth behave itself.”


The ferryman then took the saint across the lake, and resumed his vocation as ferryman, which he carried out happily for many years.


In effect, he had nothing to fear but fear itself, and Colm Cille had removed that fear.


Colm Cille was a very successful missionary in Scotland, setting up his headquarters on the island of Iona. His monks brought the best farming methods of the time to Scotland, and grew or collected many medicinal herbs, including the herb now known as St. John’s Wort, an inoffensive anti-depressant, which is still associated, in Scotland, with St. Colm Cille’s name.

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