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St Columba and the loch Ness Monster

St. Columba and the Loch Ness Monster.
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 2013 marks the 1,450th anniversary of St Columba's arrival in 563 AD.

pastel Inchnacardoch
Loch Ness from Inchnacardoch Hotel, Fort Augustus

map Loch Ness



Saint Columba and the Loch Ness Monster

One of the legends about the exploits of Saint Columba in Scotland involves Nessie the Loch Ness Monster. This story comes from a Dark Age biography written by Abbot Adamnan of Iona, and happened probably around 565A.D. Columba was travelled up the Great Glen from the Scots Kingdom of Dalriada towards Inverness: the capital of the Pictish King Brude and his Druid stepfather Broichan who was Columbas sworn enemy. Columba knew he had to overcome opposition from this druid to get the Kings acceptance of the, now famous, monastery at Iona, positioned between the two kingdoms. The druid thought that the extension of Christian ministry into this pagan area would undermine his power and there are a number of stories relating the struggle between them.

Having travelled from Castle Urquhart, where he had converted and baptised a dying but 'Godly heathen', Columba then progressed along Loch Ness toward Inverness. Wanting to cross the water where it narrows to a river at the junction of Loch Ness with Loch Dochfour, someone needed to swim over and get a boat from the other bank. However, at this point the Saint and his entourage encountered a gathering of distressed people still grieving over a recent fatal attack on one of them by a water monster, which was feared to be still lurking nearby. One of the saints followers, a youth called Lugne Mocumin swam over to get the boat. Unfortunately his splashing did not go undetected by the monster, which advanced on him open mouthed. But before Nessie could hurt him, Saint Columba raised his hand and formed the sign of the cross, and in the name of God commanded the monster, shouting "Go no further, nor touch thou that man: go back at once!" The monster retreated swiftly. Both locals and deciples were seriously impressed by this miracle of the Christian God, and by Columba. Legend does not relate whether Mocumin ever did get the boat.



O'er ancient Ness's argent pool,
Columba's saintly ene did skid
, Beneath Brude's seat of pictish rule
In fathomless liquid its beast well hid.

A princely outcast from his clan,
Banished from all save God alone,
From Fingal's causeway his eastward scan,
On foamy Iona invents a home.

The starry cloak of Columkill,
Erin's jewel thrown o'er the sea,
There to roll on heathen hill,
To light iron eons dark century.

From Dalriada's Scottic shores,
He rounded Alba's amber isles.
To footsore traipse down the moors,
To where the glen of great Ness lies.

Drooked within its crevasse deep,
A crystal mountain there could dip,
It's crags and plateaus: all so steep,
Would ne'er its sheeted surface rip.

Dredged on Inver's mossy lips,
A victim lies - the kelpies prey,
While Nessie in her Loch-lair slips,
And only river guardians play.

The clarsach cries of kinship cut,
Tease the druid from his dun,
Where dark Briochan's fairy cult,
Holds sway upon his stepson's throne.

"Our court awaits you speeding oar."
The bodach chides on Columkille,
"Nay raft nor curach on you shore?
Well send ye o'er yon swimmer chiel."

Sworn by oath to serve as bid,
The disciple in the peat pool melts,
There to have his faith well rid,
On water-horses o' the Celts.

Full the craturs silty nest,
Some cradled elvers there do twist,
But scent now shifts her natal rest,
To lift and take protective tryst.

Oh! Leeching neck, you trailing worm,
With teeth all Neptune's trident tipped,
Craning at his naked form,
To have the vital spirit stripped.

The servant and the serpent mixed,
Ness, like Styx, an aqua tomb?
While rivals on their shores transfixed,
Hear the echo of his doom.

Oceanic angels wait,
A Godly muster of their clan,
Swim to dam the hydra's spate,
And on the beast enforce His ban.

Our Lord He grants Colum's wish,
Whose sainted heart's a-flaming mad,
He faces down the demon fish,
"Beastie, dinnae touch yon lad!"

Tugged back and back by reins divine,
And caged within a mermaid's cell,
Held fast with knotted cosmic twine,
Sank to the lochy trenches hell.

You shameful eel, now in yer hole,
Skulking for o'er a thousand year,
'Neath Castle Urquhart's ruined knowle,
You'll yet be caught foretells the seer.


Brude -King Brude of the Picts, stepson of Briochan

Fingal's -causeway Hexagonal basalt pavement
Iona -Scottish Isle where Columba founded a monastery
Columkill - Gaelic name for Columba
Starry cloak - Columba's mother dreamed of him as this before his birth,
Erin -Ireland
Dalriada -Scottish kingdom
Ness -Scottish river and loch
Inver -Gaelic for mouth of the river
Kelpie -Mythical Scottish water spirit.
Nessie -The Loch Ness Monster
Clarsach -Celtic harp
Druid- Pagan priest
Dun - Fort or castle
Briochan - Druid step-father of King Brude
Bodach -Gaelic for old man
Curach - From the word coracle, a type of hide boat.
chiel -Young man
Castle Urquhart -A ruined castle, which was inhabited in Columba's time
Seer - A person who can tell the future.
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