Celebrating Colmcille, the Saint of the Gaels

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Brian Ó hEadhra

MANY readers will know of St Columba (Colmcille) and his legacy across Ireland, Scotland and further afield.  This year we are celebrating Colmcille’s 1500th birthday through various religious, community, academic and cultural events, and projects.  These activities were originally planned to be held in person but, like so many other events, most are now being held online. Whilst this is not ideal, it does allow a wider audience to learn about this influential saint and how his teachings and legacy are still relevant to our lives today.

Collaborating on Colmcille
We at Bòrd na Gàidhlig—Scotland’s national Gaelic language body—work closely with Foras na Gaeilge in Ireland in delivering the Colmcille partnership which fosters communication and collaboration between the Scottish Gaelic and Irish Gaelic language communities.

This scheme was one of the outcomes of the Good Friday Agreement and has, over the years, assisted in cross border working between the Gaelic speaking communities of Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland.

Every year we assist in funding projects which have seen community groups, schools, sports clubs, and individuals engage through the medium of Irish and Scottish Gaelic across Scotland and Ireland.

Whilst this funding programme has been going for years, this year is especially exciting as the celebrations of Colmcille’s birthday has led to many more people engaging with cross border projects and events.

Events and engagement
Last year, Bòrd na Gàidhlig and Foras Na Gaeilge refreshed our colmcille.net website and added a subsite dedicated to Colmcille 1500 celebrations. Here, you will find numerous events listed that are taking place in Ireland and Scotland over the year.

Many of these events are happening during the month of June as Colmcille’s feast day is on June 9. Some events are in the Gaelic language and others are in English, but all deal with the life and legacy of Colmcille that has impacted so widely over the past 1500 years.

The site has various news stories on activities, but also contains short stories on the life of Colmcille.

Interest in pilgrimages, eco-tourism and cultural tourism has been growing over recent years and we have been working in partnership in developing the St Columba Trail (Slí Cholmcille)—Colmcille.org.

This route winds through Donegal, Derry and Strabane, Argyll, and the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Currently, it is not a fully mapped out walking route, but rather a series of trails associated with St Colmcille and other early Christian saints.

It has four main elements: heritage, language, community—including Scottish and Irish Gaelic communities—and tourism. Interest groups in both Ireland and Scotland have been scoping out walking routes over the past few years and a new, revamped St Columba Trail website is currently being developed by Foras na Gaeilge, Bòrd na Gàidhlig and other partners.

This website will highlight the many Columban sites across these islands and encourage greater cross-border collaboration and understanding between Gaelic communities.

Growing relationship
In January of this year, the Irish and Scottish Governments published the Ireland-Scotland Joint Bilateral Review Report. At the heart of the Review Report is a shared understanding of the importance of securing the closest possible relationships between Scotland and Ireland, as well as between the UK and Ireland, for the coming years.

There were over 40 recommendations in the review, which included a series of cultural exchanges and collaborations, including joint programming in support of the Colmcille 1500 celebrations, reflecting the international legacy of this pivotal figure in our shared cultural, legal, and ecclesiastical history.

Bòrd na Gàidhlig are happy to contribute to this work and will continue to work with Foras na Gaeilge and other partners and communities to foster greater usage and understanding of our Gaelic languages.

To find out more about our work and how to engage with Colmcille, visit: www.gaidhlig.scot www.colmcille.net

Brian Ó hEadhra is the Partnerships Manager for Bòrd na Gàidhlig

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