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
Columba's saintly ene did
, Beneath Brude's seat of
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
On foamy Iona invents a
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.
Dalriada's Scottic shores,
rounded Alba's amber isles.
footsore traipse down the moors,
where the glen of great Ness lies.
within its crevasse deep,
mountain there could dip,
and plateaus: all so steep,
ne'er its sheeted surface rip.
on Inver's mossy lips,
A victim lies
- the kelpies prey,
While Nessie in
her Loch-lair slips,
And only river
clarsach cries of kinship cut,
the druid from his dun,
Briochan's fairy cult,
upon his stepson's throne.
court awaits you speeding oar."
bodach chides on Columkille,
raft nor curach on you shore?
send ye o'er yon swimmer chiel."
oath to serve as bid,
in the peat pool melts,
have his faith well rid,
water-horses o' the Celts.
craturs silty nest,
elvers there do twist,
But scent now
shifts her natal rest,
To lift and
take protective tryst.
Leeching neck, you trailing worm,
With teeth all Neptune's trident tipped,
Craning at his naked form,
To have the vital spirit stripped.
servant and the serpent mixed,
like Styx, an aqua tomb?
rivals on their shores transfixed,
Hear the echo of his doom.
A Godly muster of their
Swim to dam the hydra's
And on the beast enforce His
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!"
back and back by reins divine,
caged within a mermaid's cell,
fast with knotted cosmic twine,
to the lochy trenches hell.
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.