Columba was born in 521AD at Gartan in County Donegal, his father Phelim McFergus was a relative of Niall of the Nine Hostages and his mother a descendant from the Kings of Leinster. With his family connections he had influence and following which was demonstrated throughout his life.
He was christened Columba ‘Dove’ and was later known as Columcille ‘Dove of the Church’, both names are used to refer to him. His early education was at Kilmacrennan,Donegal, then Moville and finally at Clonard monastery, County Meath where he studied under St. Finian. He was ordained by the Bishop of Clonfad in 546AD aged 25.
After his ordination he was given land by his cousin Aedh on the banks of the Foyle where he established his first monastery which was known as Daire Columcille, this translates to ‘Oak Grove of the Dove of the Church’. Daire became the root of the English word Derry and later Londonderry. The original land he built on was known as Daire Calgach. (Calgac)
Columcille was responsible for establishing over 50 monastic settlements and churches in Ireland. In 563AD he left Ireland went to Iona, one of the Scottish Isles. Here he spent his time converting the Picts to Christianity.
He is believed to have left Ireland due to his involvement in the defeat of King Diarmaid at Ben Bulben, Sligo. The story goes that he was in dispute with St. Finian over a book of psalms (As someone pointed out, this might be the first ever recorded issue of Irish copyright). Columba had borrowed the book and then hand copied it to keep for his own reference, St Finian wanted the copy back as he felt he was the rightful owner.
The issue was taken to the king to decide upon, and he ruled that it should be returned to St. Finian, he quoted ‘ ‘To every cow belongs her calf, therefore to every book belongs its copy’. Columba refused to comply with the king’s ruling and became embroiled in a dispute with both St. Finian and the king.
At the same time Columba had under his protection, the son of the king of Connaght who had murdered one of Diarmaid’s men and then fled to the north. Diarmaid had the sheltered Pirnce seized from Columba protection and executed for his crime. This incensed both Columba, the northern Neill's and the King of Connaght.
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