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22 Jun 2021

The feast day of St Columba

Written by Fiona J Mackenzie, Canna House Archivist
Images and sounds of St Columba on the Isle of Canna


Colm Cille 1500.

St Columba 1500.

A celtic cross on Canna

Laoidh Chaluim Cille – St Columba’s Hymn sung in Canna’s St Columba’s Chapel

The Canna Blessing Stone

St Edward’s Church, Canna

Canna by Margaret Fay Shaw, 1950s

St Columba’s Chapel

The Fisherman’s Shrine on Canna, built in 1954 by Canna Priest Dom. Dennis Rutledge. Stained glass by a Polish artist living in Scotland.

Canna is more closely linked to Iona than has historically been recognised. John Lorne Campbell believed it to be ‘Hinba’, Columba’s summer home.

Margaret Fay Shaw visited Iona in 1926

St Columba Day on Canna, 1963

St Columba Day on Canna, 2018

Colm Cille symposium

‘Cill’ or ‘Keil’ on Canna, a Columban monastery site?

Credits – Images and original film from Margaret Fay Shaw Photographic Collections, Canna House. Additional film and images by Fiona Mackenzie. Sound Archives, the Canna Cuckoo, recorded by John Lorne Campbell, Canna House garden, 1952.

Latha Choluim Cille, St Columba’s Day, falls on 9 June. This year is the 1,500th anniversary of St Columba’s birth. To mark this, our Canna archivist has put together some images and sounds connected to the saint, from the Isle of Canna.

John Lorne Campbell of Canna writes extensively of St Columba’s life in his book Canna. He was of the firm opinion that the Isle of Canna was, indeed, the mysterious island of ‘Hinba’ or ‘Himba’ mentioned in the Columban diaries, and believed that Canna was actually the ‘summer home’ of the saint. In the papers, it mentions that Hinba was inhabited, had a monastic settlement and had a considerable sea inlet; it also mentions the island of Eigg. John wrote that archaeological remains on Canna prove beyond doubt that the island was inhabited before Columba’s mission to the Hebrides. There is a well-known monastic site on the island on the far south-west shore, now usually referred to as the nunnery.

A view from above of a grassy area beside a rocky beach. There are faint outlines of walls or other built structures visible in the grass.
The nunnery, photographed by Margaret Fay Shaw in 1978

This video shows the clear connection between Canna and St Columba – from St Columba’s Chapel to the archaeological remains found at Keill, the most likely site of a Columban monastery. Margaret Fay Shaw writes of the St Columba’s Day celebrations in 1963 in her autobiography From the Alleghenies to the Hebrides. That day was celebrated more recently, in 2018, with the ColmCille Symposium, where keynote speakers Professor Rob Dunbar (University of Edinburgh) and Derek Alexander (National Trust for Scotland archaeologist) presented papers with evidence for John Campbell’s theories.

The video is accompanied by Canna archivist Fiona Mackenzie, singing ‘Laoidh Chaluim Cille’ (‘St Columba’s Hymn’) in St Columba’s Chapel on Canna. She is accompanied by John Lorne Campbell’s recording of the Canna cuckoo, in Canna House Garden in 1952.

Glòir don Athair, don Mhac s don Spiorad ro naomh
Fad shaoghal nan saoghal, Amen

(Glory to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, forever and ever, Amen)

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