Tuesday, 9 June 2015


You can't really read much about Derry-Londonderry without coming across St Columba, or Colmcille.  Although it isn't entirely clear whether or not he founded a settlement here in the 6th Century, it would seem to be the case that a monastery from that time had Colmcille as its spiritual leader.  St Columba was a busy man, building churches all over the place, including the famous Abbey at Iona in Scotland.  In those days Iona was part of the Irish Kingdom of Dal Riata (Dalriada) and Colmcille is widely acknowledged as being at the forefront of spreading Christianity to the pagan Picts as well as being a spiritual leader to the Gaels.

One of Derry's two cathedrals is St Columba, a Church of Ireland cathedral built in the early 1600s.  Apparently it was the first non-Roman Catholic cathedral built in Europe, no less.  Wouldn't you just know, though - this being Norn Iron and all.

St Columb's Cathedral
Since I didn't have much time on my hands the day I was in Derry I didn't venture into the grounds of the cathedral itself, so we'll have to leave that for another day.  It was built during the early part of the Plantation of Ulster but not on the original site of the diocesan cathedral, which was in Templemore (An Teampall Mor, or Big Church).   The Templemore church was damaged in the late 16th Century in a fire and the ruins were apparently torn down and their stones used to build Derry's Walls and ramparts in 1600 by Sir Henry Docwra.  The plaque above attributes the building of St Columb's to The Hon The Irish Society, as you can see.

Walk a bit further around the walls and you get to the beautiful wee church of St Augustine.  

St Augustine's Church, Derry
Although this present church was erected in 1872 the site itself being that of the original Comcille monastery of 546AD.  Apparently a cannonball containing the terms for surrender during the seige of Derry in 1688/9 fell into the church graveyard.  It was originally called Dub Regles (Black Church). The locals call it the 'wee church on the walls', which seems to sum it up quite nicely - and as we know, folk in these parts are comfortable with places having more than one name, right?

Dub Regles
As you would expect in a place as old as this there are a number of interesting gravestones in the churchyard.  Apparently one of the oldest is that of Richard Carrec, an Elizabethan soldier who died around 1609.  St Augustine's is also where one of the High Kings of Ireland, Muircertach Mac Lochlainn was 'honourably interred' in 1196.  Hopefully I'll get a chance to explore this in a bit more detail, perhaps in the summer when Missy is off school and her real education can start.

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