Columcille on the Foyle..

According to the statement on the Derry City Council website, “The Inner City Trust River Foyle Project is an attempt to create a haven of peace on the centre of the river which divides the city, where both Catholics and Protestants together can meet and appreciate historic shared Christian heritage.” Hmm.. I’m not entirely convinced we need another reminder of that particular historic heritage on this island.. ANYway.. the centre piece of the regeneration project is to be a 160ft high statue of St Columba in the River Foyle – to cost an estimated £16million. According to the BBC report, Tony Candon of Derry City Council said, “Both [versions of Columba’s name] come from the word meaning a dove, which indicates a man of peace, a man of God.”.. which doesn’t quite match all of the traditional versions of the Life of St. ColumbaFrom the introduction to this version at Utah State University

St. Columba was born on December 7, ca. 521 A.D. to Fedhlimidh and Eithne of the Ui Neill clan in Gartan (Donegal). As a young man, Columba soon took an interest in the church, joined the monastery at Moville, and was ordained a deacon by St. Finnian. After studying with a bard called Gemman, Columba was ordained a priest by Etchen, the bishop of Clonfad. Columba entered the monastery of Mobhi Clarainech, and when disease forced the disbanding of that monastery, Columba went north and founded the church of Derry. Tradition has it that after founding several other monasteries, Columba copied St. Finnian’s psalter without the permission of Finnian, and thus devalued the book. When Finnian took the matter to High King Dermott for judgement, Dermott judged in favor of Finnian, stating “to every cow its calf; to every book its copy” (I am borrowing this quote from Cathach Books in Dublin). Columba refused to hand over the copy, and Dermott forced the issue militarily. Columba’s family and clan defeated Dermott at the battle of Cooldrevny in 561. Tradition further holds that St. Molaisi of Devenish, Columba’s spiritual father, ordered Columba to bring the same number of souls to Christ that he had caused to die as pennance. In 563, Columba landed on Iona with 12 disciples, and founded a new monastery. After founding several more monasteries, confounding the local druids, and participating in another battle (this time against St. Comgall over who owned the church of Colethem), Columba died on June 9, 597.

OK so that’s probably taking the claim too literally.. but I’m not convinced we need another reminder of that “historic shared Christian heritage” on this island.. nevermind one that ignores other historic, or emerging, heritages.. although the exiling does have some modern parallels.. probably best not to mention those though..

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  • susan

    Life moved at a slower pace when Columba roamed the glens. From Pete’s last link:

    CHAPTER XVIII.
    Of the Book which fell into the Water-vessel, as the Saint had foretold.
    IN the same way, on another day, as he was sitting by the hearth in the monastery, he saw at some distance Lugbe, of the tribe Mocumin, reading a book, and suddenly said to him, “Take care, my son, take care, for I think that the book thou readest is about to fall into a vessel full of water.” And so it soon happened, for when the same youth rose soon after to perform some duty in the monastery, he forgot the word of the blessed man, and the book which he held negligently under his arm suddenly fell into the water-pot, which was full of water.

    CHAPTER XIX.
    Of the Inkhorn, awkwardly spilled.
    On another day a shout was given on the other side of the Sound of the Iouan island (Sound of Iona); the saint hearing the shout, as he was sitting in his little hut, which was made of planks, said, “The man who is shouting beyond the Sound is not of very sharp wit, for when he is here today he will upset my inkhorn and spill the ink.” Diormit, his minister, hearing this, stood a little in front of the door, and waited for the arrival of this troublesome guest, in order to save the inkhorn. But for some cause or other he had soon to leave his place, and after his departure the unwelcome guest arrived; in his eager haste to kiss the saint, he upset the inkhorn with the hem of his garment and spilled the ink.

  • Pete Baker

    Now susan, you wouldn’t be belittling Saint Columba’s PROPHETIC REVELATIONS.. ;o)

  • susan

    Who, me? I think you’ve unearthed the earliest known example of Bloglaigh na hEireann…..fame and riches await!

  • Pete Baker

    Heh.

    Next post:

    “Of the coffee, awkwardly spilled on the keyboard.”

  • harpo

    ‘where both Catholics and Protestants together can meet and appreciate historic shared Christian heritage’

    I don’t believe that any folks of that thinking need a dirty great statue to meet at. Surely they are all getting along fine and meeting in whatever way suits them at present.

    That would refer to genuine Christians.

    The problem is that most Protestants and Catholics that he refers to are nominal members of those denominations at best. Most don’t actually practice Christianity, never mind ever see the inside of a church.

    I don’t think any of them are going to be drawn to some giant statue to ponder what heritage they supposedly share with the other denomination. Some of them will be much more interested in meting at interfaces to beat the crap out of each other.

    When are politicians in NI going to get over this Catholic and Protestant obsession? Never mind that it’s only for Christians (and thus not for Jews or Muslims or non-believers) – it just isn’t going to appeal to the great mass of nominal Catholics and Protestants. It’s just another half-assed attempt to force the 2 nominal sides together.

    I’m no Wolfe Tone fan, but when is thinking going to move onto one title of ‘citizen’ rather than this constant obsession of herding everyone into one of the 2 ‘Protestant’ and ‘Catholic’ buckets, and then trying to force them together? ‘Dissenters’ don’t even get a look in here.

    I used the word ‘citizen’ instead of ‘Irishman’ to avoid the baggage around what ‘Irishman’ means.

    But you get the point.

    How about something for everyone, instead of a Christian symbol that ignores the dissenters and is still thought of as somewhere that the 2 sides can be brought together? Perpetuating the thinking that there are 2 sides.

    I propose a statue of Darth Vader. Or one of the nice Jedi.

  • aquifer

    Looks like a perfect spot for spides to battle it out with their empty bottles. How about fixing the derry train line with the money. The last time I was on it the train nearly tipped into the sea.

  • The Devil

    If this stupid gimmick is really meant to be representative of the city would they not be better errecting a 160 foot statue of the following.

    A drunken 45 year old apprentice boy with a Rangers scarf

    A pregnant unmarried mother of 4 with tatoos

    A badly made shirt with buttons missing

    A pile of 13 coffins with a millionaire barrister on top of them

    A paratrooper behind a white screen

  • Rory

    I think Harpo is on to something here.

    I have long harboured a most irrational, almost tribal hatred for “Star Warsie” wankers and I defo wanna get them together in a tightly enclosed space for a righteous meeting with my posse, who are much more into excellent music, fine art, high literature and kicking the living shit out of “StarsieWarsie” plonkahs!!

    Right?

    Peace and love and Columwossits, man. Whatever.

  • Crataegus

    I quite like statues and fountains and public spaces but what on earth is a 160ft statue of St. Columba supposed to stand for? What higher principle? It is hardly the Statue of Liberty. Very second rate, they would do well to kick this one around a bit and come up with a really good idea.

    Aquifer

    How about fixing the derry train line with the money.

    I agree; it’s a disgrace.

  • BeardyBoy

    Now then – there is an idea – something similar to Columkille statue at the mouth of Belfast Lough, big statue of Columbanus holding a torch representing Bangor as the light of the world reminding the role played by Christian Ireland in keeping learning and civilisation in Europe alive after the disaster wreaked by pagan invaders.

    Truly one of the greatest episodes of Irish and world history

  • Smilin’ Jim’s Barbary Coast Travel Agency

    Utah State, Pedro?

    Utah State?

  • abucs

    It’s not a bad plan. Apart from being locally relevant and attractive, it also looks outward to a shared European heritage and across the waters to places like the Jesus statue of Rio, Brazil and the Marian statue of Maasin, Philippines and many more i’m sure.

    Of course with any monument, there will be people who say “it’s not for me”. Que Sera Sera.

    Congrats to (London)Derry city council.

  • abucs

    Or should that be the Derry City council of the city of Londonderry ? :o)

  • Comrade Stalin

    This has got to be some sort of sick joke. Derry has plenty of deprived areas and high unemployment, and they’re talking about spending a pile of cash on this flipping monstrosity.

    I’d much rather see a 100x blow-up photograph of JR “Bob” Dobbs.

  • PeaceandJustice

    Londonderry City Council tells us “The Inner City Trust River Foyle Project is an attempt to create a haven of peace on the centre of the river which divides the city, where both Catholics and Protestants together can meet and appreciate historic shared Christian heritage.”

    Protestant and Unionists are not interested in this statue. Good try at spin from the council. Let’s have a more appropriate statue that will really attract tourists and have the support of both communities. We don’t want this pile of rubbish.

  • Alan

    It’ll probably look nothing like him.

  • susan

    This is terrible, but when I first saw the artist’s sketch my immediate concern was trying to count exactly how many fingers Saint Columba was holding up with each hand, and trying to figure what direction he was pointing at. Later I saw it was actually a cross and a Bible he was holding up, but my first panicked reaction was that there would soon be two 160 foot statues on two separate islands squaring off against each other forever more.

    I’m sure the plans were devised with the best will in the world, but a 160 foot colossus glaring down on all seems in the opposite spirit of what they are trying to do. There’s so much creative work being done the world over with new ideas of interactive, public memorial gardens and contemplative green spaces, and as many have pointed out so many more pressing, practical crying out to be addressed right now.

  • It does seem like a colossal waste of money, then again this particular council have been fairly good at that recently. Then again at least it’s only wasting a 10th of the amount of money the white elephant at the Maze is going to cost.

  • P O’Neil

    I for one think that it is a good idea that Columcille is being honoured in this way. However, the only thing that sickens me is how the Brit Prods have attached themselves to St Columcille, especially with him being an Ui Niall Catholic, and if just another example of the Brits cherry-picking history. It wasn’t until I was in St Anne’s Cathedral (to appropriately christen Carson’s gravestone) that I overheard the Proddy spin being relayed to some ignorant tourist. Now, according to this ‘tourguide’ St Columcille followed the ‘true faith’ ie Protestantism, however, because of Irish ineptitude, the true faith had become bastardised into Catholicism. I also discovered the same story in an old book called ‘The Red Hand’ (sorry can’t remember the author) which covered the history of Protestantism is Ulster. According to this book, most Prod Ministers etc seem to believe this as well as their descent from the Lost Tribes of Israel due to the symbolism associated with the Red Hand.

    What is needed from the Irish Nationals etc, is to reclaim our Saints, Patrons, Symbology and History as our own, and has nothing at all to do with filthy British Protestantism. In reality how can the Huns claim these as their own, even more so as the true inheritors contiune to be trampled by British jackboots. For truth be told, if St Columcille was to walk our glens today, the Brits would have him killed.

  • Alan

    And you’ll be able to drape a candy stripe scarf from one hand to the other for home games.

  • donall

    A third bridge across the Foyle would be useful.

    I can’t understand on why 18million is planned to be wasted on a statue that will not become a tourist attraction – and will never pay for itself.

    Could something else be done with this money?
    Do we really need it?

  • iluvni

    “A pile of 13 coffins with a millionaire barrister on top of them”

    ouch.

  • Benn

    On top of all the previous grousing, which I agree with, why mess up a fairly attractive river? There are nice views upstream and downstream, and with half of that money there could be some beautification projects that would really stimulate the city instead of this eyesore. We already have the Foyle bridge to block the view, and the seagulls already have “Hands Across the Divide” to “roost” on, no need for further binding monuments at this time!

  • noel adams

    Not into the prod v mick stuff but 2/11 EU peace money for three interface areas was 3 million over 3 years AN iconic statue would be nice in the city but there are much better uses for 15 million.

  • BeardyBoy

    Yes – money into services would be very welcome, however I feel that building great works of public art – a very Catholic thing – is also wothwhile. What would be better than a statue of Colmcille in the town he established. It would be a tremendous site and something all foylesiders could be proud of, you do not want a dour utilitarian protestant town with no personality?

    Let us celebrate or culture and the great contribution it made not only to Europe but the world in keeping alight the flame of the Gospel when dark clouds of paganism roled over Europe. Colmcille, alongside Colmbanus and many other great Irish Catholic saints are reknowned as great missionaries and their toils are celebrated throughout Christendom.

    Yes – let us have this. This is a great message to announce to the world, we kept civilisation and the faith alive when evil invaded Europe. And also let us have another at Bangor – the Copelands would be good, it could also serve as a lighthouse, symbolising the light of the world, then one on the Blaskets for Brendan the Navigator. Yes we should be shouting this around the world and unashamedlypromoting it.

  • kensei

    I love these types of things. They should have the Hoola Hoop Woman in Belfast 160ft high.

  • bpower

    Jaysus, is that what passed as a miracle back then? No wonder the place was crawling with saints.

  • Sam Brown

    What a waste of money. People have enough statues of saints and other religious kitch in their homes. Spend the money on something the city really needs – like a Metro or a Luas.

  • Benn

    OK, here’s the text from the statue in Thanksgiving Square on the Lagan in Belfast.

    “This female figure respresents various allegorical themes associated with hope and aspiration, peace and reconciliation and is derived from images from Classical and Celtic mythology. Her position on the globe signifies a unified approach to life on this earth. It encompasses oneness, while celebrating the diversity of culture that exists in our global village. The aim of the sculpture is to bring people together and to change hearts and minds; to make bridges across the divides in our community. To work towards a peaceful, happy existence for everyone on this planet by respect for each other, their cultural heritages and all our aspirations. This symbol creates a tangible first statement of our long term objective in bringing people together to foster a happy and fulfilling life for all and a sense of gratefulness for all that life has given us.”

    Ah, so that’s what happens when you put these things up! And at 160 feet, compared to what they have in Belfast, peace will be breaking out all over…. But given how grey things are in Derry (Londonderry, etc etc), can people really afford an extra shadow over the place? If you’re up for that, go live next to the spire of St. Eugene’s, but leave the river alone. Ben(n)

  • Alan

    Maybe we could make it lean – like that place in Italy. Or make its eyes light up.

  • Yer Woman

    Why not stick it on the site of the old Thornhill College on the Culmore Road (before it was moved across the road to its current site.) That’s around about the area where he set off for Iona is it not? I doubt the Sisters of Mercy would give a feck, and it will give the hoods in Strathfoyle something to aim beer cans at after a night on the sauce?

  • patrick

    I often travel travel on the Belfast to Derry road as part of my job. The road from Toome to Derry is a disgrace with litter thrown by scumies from their cars , vans and lorries, everything thing from plastic bags , thousands of soft drink bottles, neatly tied plastic bags with the remains of a take away meal etc etc. I contacted Derry City council to plead with them to have the section of the road under their control , cleaned of litter more often than the the present ten week cycle, and was told they could not afford to clean it more often. Now these same idiots are drawing up plans to waste taxpayers millions on a bloody stupid statue , and they say they have no money to pay a few extra cleaning staff to cover the litter strewn roads within their council area. Someone please tell me this is some kind of sick joke.

  • Doreen

    Whoops, better be careful here. Our shared history: Columba was from the ancient Irish, that is Patrick’s, tradition, pre Roman (Catholic) influence. Name: well there we divide again: usual squabble over name; Columba/Columcille. Did the man ever get to rest in peace?

    A saintly man of peace? Why all the violence? And over a book?

    A statue to him? Well, it would be a representation of everyone here: violence, squabble and let us in no way leave the past behind us. Fitting to us all.

    Doreen.
    St. Columba’s, Knock.

  • harpo

    ‘However, the only thing that sickens me is how the Brit Prods have attached themselves to St Columcille, especially with him being an Ui Niall Catholic, and if just another example of the Brits cherry-picking history.’

    I see that P. O’Neil isn’t going for the shared Christian tradition aspect of the supposed reason for building this.

    And that’s the problem.

    The bigots on the Catholic side (like P. O’Neil) are going to claim this guy as theirs, and as soon as they do that the bigot element of the ‘Brit Prods’ that P.O’Neil doesn’t like are going to see it as not theirs.

    There is no hope of any shared Christian tradition thinking becoming widespread so long as attitudes like that shown by P. O’Neil still exist.

    I say have a statue of Yoda. Neither lot of bigots can claim/disclaim him.

  • Pete Baker

    “I say have a statue of Yoda. Neither lot of bigots can claim/disclaim him.”

    And cheaper too.. 50ft high?

  • Well, no one in Derry is going to argue over his shared Christian heritage, because they are all aware of St Columb’s Cathedral, Western Europe’s first post-reformation (Anglican) Cathedral. Right?
    There are certain posters on here claiming to speak on behalf of one or other community.
    The one claiming to speak on behalf of mine is wrong, and I suspect, so is the other one, but keep the divisions going lads, that is what it is all about, after all.
    Fair play to Paddy Bogside for trying to make a difference, it seems he may be on a hiding to nothing.

  • Darren Mac an Phríora

    I think its a great idea.

  • Crataegus

    BeardyBoy

    Colmcille, alongside Colmbanus and many other great Irish Catholic saints are reknowned as great missionaries and their toils are celebrated throughout Christendom.

    I don’t think that members of the Irish church would recognise the Catholic Church of today!

  • Rory

    Benn,

    Do they really have all that verbiose twaddle on the Thanksgiving woman? Holy Mother, words to explain a sculpture!

    That’s what comes of an artist prostituting their talent for political patrons.

    What next I wonder? Poor imitations of Rodin carved into every paperback reissue of Zola’s La Bete Humaine?

    Mind you it’s not all that out there. I can envisage some poor reader opening a future copy of, say, Tolstoy’s War and Peace only to find Tchaicovsky’s 1812 booming out at him.

    But only as “an aid to understanding”, you understand.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Yes – money into services would be very welcome, however I feel that building great works of public art – a very Catholic thing – is also wothwhile.

    I concur that it is a very Catholic thing to erect huge edifices while the poor struggle on below.

    I’m sure Jesus probably had something to say about people who exalt their faith loudly on the street but fail to love their fellow man, etc. There must be a Christian around here somewhere who could point that part of the bible out.

  • BeardyBoy

    Comrade Stalin – need I point out that atheist dictators, such as Stalin, seems to have a penchant for statues. Not that these were of other people, that would not be much use in boosting the ego , no, better the statue should be of the great leader looking down on the starving proletariat, all the better for them to remember that he saved them from being exploited by the evil capitalist and the nasty priests who would have enslaved them.

    And they would further be reminded that the Party have ensured their freedom by destroying anyone who would say that the revolution is wrong, or even think it.

    Really Comrade can you not see the stupidity of your post?

    It is a good thing to spend money on great works of art and beauty.

    By the way it will provide work and wages for the builders and suppliers which is good as spending money is good it keeps an economy functioning whilst hording slows it down.

  • Wilde Rover

    I suppose there is some merit in these types of statues. After all, images of Rio wouldn’t be the same without JC doin his thang on the mountain.

    However, I think this one merely encourages the dwindling band Jesus Freaks on this island to make even shriller outbursts.

    How about a statue of Fergal Sharkey?

  • Benn

    Rory the words are actually on a sign next to the statue, some help for the clueless like myself who would have just seen it as “art” rather than a commentary on the past and prescription for the future. Without such fuss, for me at least, things like the Mona Lisa would just be… another painting of a renaissance broad. What’s all the fuss? Now as for Hands Across the Divide – are those two coming together or pulling apart? It’s all in the eye of the beholder, I just hope that Paddy Bogside keeps this one in his eyes and not in mine.
    Ben(n)

  • BeardyBoy

    Fergal Sharkey and shriller outbursts in the one post- surely not?

  • Wilde Rover

    A good heart these days is hard to find;)

  • kensei

    “I don’t think that members of the Irish church would recognise the Catholic Church of today!”

    Possibly not, though the same could be said of any nmber of saints, especially post Vatican II. But the Celtic Church never had a break from communion with Rome, and the Celtic Church accepted Rome’s authority reorganised accordingly. The description is therefore accurate.

    I have never actually understood Anglican’s relationship with the Saints, seeing as how they have no formal significance in Protestant theology.

  • páid

    With a cross in one hand, and a bible in the other.

    A kind of early Danny Morrison.

  • Reader

    kensei: I have never actually understood Anglican’s relationship with the Saints, seeing as how they have no formal significance in Protestant theology.
    Role models, ‘great men’, decision makers who shaped the church(es).
    Republicans have the same sort of thing. At least, I hope they don’t expect James Connolly to intercede for them…

  • kensei

    “Role models, ‘great men’, decision makers who shaped the church(es).”

    Ah. Yellow pack Catholicism. Gotcha 😛

  • Cax

    I hear the Rocky statue is no longer in place outside the Art Gallery in Philadelphia.

    I’m sure we could buy it for significantly less than £15million and if he was able to end the cold war in Rocky IV, surely there’s no greater role model currently out there…

  • Benn

    Rocky, I could go for that! It’s a lot shorter than 160 feet, and actually should go on the steps of the Council Building (doen’t have exterior steps I think, but never mind) on the side facing Magee. If you’re going to muck up the river with something huge, shouldn’t it be Elvis at least? Ben(n)

  • abucs

    Rocky XXXVII …… The Legend Continues.

  • darth rumsfeld

    why not make the statue out of wicker, and put the members of the City Council into it, light the match, step back, and enjoy……

  • donall

    But the plan to build and artificial island and put a statue on it is taken as a seriously good thing for the City.

    I thought that the City was established by the City of London Company. And they left us with some quite nice walls – it might be a good idea to do something with them – increase the budget for the walled city festival/Hallowe’en events. These are things that we can be proud of – do we really need a large statue to make Derry worth visiting?

    The idea that people would want to come see this statue is not realistic in my opinion – do many people go out of their way to see the Angel of the North on the Mainland

  • P O’Neil

    “The bigots on the Catholic side (like P. O’Neil) are going to claim this guy as theirs, and as soon as they do that the bigot element of the ‘Brit Prods’ that P.O’Neil doesn’t like are going to see it as not theirs.”

    St Columcille was a Prince of the House of Ui Niall, so I don’t have to claim him as ‘one of mine’ he already is. Can you please explain how the Brits can claim him? Other than the whole he brought the ‘true faith’ (Protestanism) bullshit. This is not bigotry, but rather a statement of fact. The Prods claiming St Columcille as their own is like the Catholics claiming Knox or Clavin as theirs. Protestantism is only just over 400 years old, so how can it claim as Saint from 1500 years ago??

    There is no hope of any shared Christian tradition thinking becoming widespread so long as attitudes like that shown by P. O’Neil still exist.

    How dare you, if it weren’t bad enough that you Prods stole our lands, churches, abbeys etc, now you now want to steal our Saints as well..

    Besides, I always thought veneration of Saints was prohibited by the Protestant churches (idolitory), or is this just as selective as your perspective on history?

  • darth rumsfeld

    the truth , of course pee, is that Protestants don’t venerate saints because so many of us come into that category

  • StarHound

    It’s all a bit tragic that we are trying to decide which side of the house Colmcille was on, or should that be which side of the river…He was from a time when their was only one brand of Christianity and he can only be called Irish.

    Paddy ‘Bogside’ Doherty’s latest vanity project has at least got Derry’s humour muscles working.
    Some I’ve heard:

    Column Cille

    The Greek in the Creek

    The Million Dollar Scholar

    The Giver in the River

    “Saint to reside with pride in the tide” – Derry Journal

  • P O’Neil

    “the truth , of course pee, is that Protestants don’t venerate saints because so many of us come into that category.”

    In order to first become a Saint, you have to be dead.

  • darth rumsfeld

    Meanwhile, good to see the mayor of Londonderry SDLP’s Helen Quigley, receiving the freedom of the City of London and commenting “it signifies the strong historic, cultural, and economic links that exist between our two cities”.
    As she proudly fondles her ceremonial scroll and contemplates the perks appending thereto , she will no doubt reflect on the waste of ratepayers’ money on attempting to remove the most obvious manifestation of that link…er, heartily supported by the SDLP

  • Has anyone ever read a picture book called ‘The Tin Pot Foreign General and The Old Iron Woman’ by Raymond Briggs?
    There is a great bit where they fight about which one ‘bagsied’ the (Falkland)islands first and they shout ‘mine!’ at each other.
    It reminds me a bit of the debate going on here now.
    Darth, I thought that was a bit ironic too ;P