Thursday, September 25, 1997

Eddie Delahunt

Eddie Delahunt now in his 72nd year enjoys his retirement in St. Joseph’s Terrace after a most interesting and varied work career stretching back nearly sixty years. Son of local postman the late Patsy Delahunt and Kathleen Wright of Castledermot Eddie or ““Neddy”” as he is generally known took up his first job with Flemings sawmills after leaving school. Jim Fleming was a sawmiller whose timber yard and sawmills were located off Chapel Lane immediately to the rear of what was Hickey’s pub now known as Lanagan’s Well. He spent the first eight years of his long working life with Jim in what was one of the last sawmills in the town. How many people remember Blanchfields sawmills at the top of Leinster Street which in its time was one of the largest and most extensive in the area. It was Flemings sawmills however which is perhaps best remembered today as it remained in business up to the 1960’s.

“Neddy” had five brothers and sisters one of whom Paddy, died at a very young age. His sister Kathleen known to everybody as “Tal” married Paddy Davis of Plewman’s Terrace and they now live in Luton, England. His sister Bridie married Martin Short while Lila married Eamon Bambrick and lives in the adjoining County Laois. His remaining brother Billy is the well known caretaker of the Courthouse and lives in St. Patrick’s Avenue.

After eight years with Flemings sawmills “Neddy” crossed to the other side of Chapel Lane where he began to work with Duthie Large’s. They were very substantial employers in Athy with agricultural equipment sale and repairs, foundry works and bicycle sales and repairs. Spending three years with this old established firm “Neddy” next joined the Asbestos factory where another three years were to pass before a machinery shut down and cost him his job. In the years immediately following the second World War electricity cut backs were an inevitable consequence of the Nation’s limited fuel supplies. Manufacturing concerns such as the asbestos factory in Athy without adequate electricity supply had no option but to shut down a number of machines leaving men off with no real prospect of alternative employment.

Neddy was one of the lucky ones and was able to escape the beckoning emigrant ship which offered the only real escape for most of the unemployed local men and women of the time. He later started work in Bowaters newly opened factory in Barrowford and was to stay there until it closed down in the mid 1970’s. He eventually retired in 1990 on reaching his 65th year after working for eight years in Canada Dry.

Looking back over his working life it is remarkable to note that so many of his past employers no longer provide employment in Athy. Flemings sawmills is now long closed and the Wallboard factory as Bowaters was known closed down with devastating affect for the Athy people in 1977. Duthie Larges so long a landmark in Athy was to close in the mid 1980’s years after the foundry and repair shops had closed down. It is a salutary lesson to realise how inexorably and how quickly change is noted in the employment patterns of an Irish provincial town. The only constants on the employment scene in Athy over the last 60 years have been Minch Nortons and Tegral formerly the Asbestos factory. But even they have changed as increased mechanisation leads to greater productivity and fewer workers.

“Neddy” married Kathleen Walsh of Nelson Street in 1947 and they had eight children. Throughout his working life “Neddy” has been known for his unswerving loyalty to the Labour party whose political fortunes he has helped shape since the days of the late Bill Norton. His first involvement was on the day of his confirmation when he joined the welcoming party for Bill Norton then a local TD. “Neddy”’s father Patsy was secretary of the Labour party in Athy and at a very young age “Neddy” was pressed into service to deliver notices for party meetings. He was to formally join the Labour party on reaching his majority and has continued to play his part in the party which Bill Norton dominated for so many years in the 1940’s and 1950’s.

“Neddy” remembers the Labour party members in Athy who kept faith with their party through thick and thin. Jack and Mark Dalton and “Sticker” Ryan all of Foxhill, Jim Maher of Geraldine, Bill Cranny, Paddy Rowan, Lar Doyle, Bill Hoare, Mick Rowan and John McEvoy another postman like Patsy Delahunt who also lived in St. Joseph’s Terrace. Labour party public representatives recalled include Chevitt Doyle, UDC, Jim Fleming, UDC of sawmill fame, Tom Fleming, UDC, John Norman, UDC and possibly the most famous of all, the legendary Tom Carbery a member of the local Urban Council and a member of Kildare County Council. Tom did a lot of good work for the people of Athy and in the opinion of many people was one of the best public representatives in the Labour party.

Neddy’s involvement in politics paralleled his work for the local community. He was a member of the swimming pool committee which collected the local contribution required to build the swimming pool in the People’s park. In his younger days he was a useful gaelic footballer playing for Athy in the minor championship finals of 1942 and 1943. To his great regret Athy were beaten in both finals. He also played for St. Joseph’s in the street league competitions of the early 1940’s. St. Joseph’s had the unique record of playing at every final during the four years of the street league competition winning in the last two years but losing out in the previous years to Barrack Street and to Starlights.

Heavily committed to St. Joseph’s social club founded to help families living in the terrace “Neddy” was later to become a committee member of the group which built The Marian Shrine in 1954. In fact “Neddy” is the only surviving member of that committee. Strongly committed both in politics and to the community Neddy has made a major contribution over the years to the life of Athy where he was born 72 years ago.

Last Saturday Neddy and Kathleen were guests of honour at a surprise party held in the local GAA Centre to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. There was a huge attendance of friends and neighbours all gathered together to celebrate with the happy couple. It was a proud day for Neddy and Kathleen both of whom have lived all of their lives in Athy. There to join with their parents were their children Patrick, Katie who is married to Emmanuel Kennedy, Christy a former Urban Councillor, Christine married in Newbridge, Eamon, Bridie married and living in Ballina, Co. Mayo, Gerard and Caroline married to Colm Walsh.

May I add my congratulations and best wishes to Neddy and Kathleen.

Thursday, September 18, 1997

Fire Brigade

One of the many happy memories I have of the late 1950’s in Athy is that of the Fireman’s competitions which were held in the back square. In those simple pre television days the sight of Tom Langton with Christy “Bluebeard” Dunne and their colleagues running to connect water hoses to the Fire Brigade pump and then knocking down a target with a jet of water was always assured to generate a cheering response from the bystanders. These were the men who manned Athy’s Fire Brigade and they pushed back the advancing years every time they bent themselves to be faster at their tasks than their neighbouring fire brigade personnel.

Their names came flooding back to me as I talked last week to “Neddie” Delahunt who joined the Fire Brigade in 1957. As a youngster of 32 years “Neddie” was the junior in an eight man team which was headed up by Bob Webster of Offaly Street. Bob was the station officer and he lived in Offaly Street almost opposite the cinema where at one time he had been manager. Bob was a brother of Fireman Jack Webster who lived in Butler’s Row. Both had been painters and decorators in their time and indeed Jack continued as such long after his brother Bob took on the management of the local cinema.

The station sub officer was Matt McHugh of McDonnell Drive who had operated the foundry in Meeting Lane with his brother Mick of St. Michael’s Terrace. Mick was also a fireman and the McHughs were the second set of brothers in the local Fire Brigade.

The men who stick out in my memory more than anyone else were the earlier mentioned Tom Langton and Christy “Bluebeard” Dunne. Tom’s laughing face with the fireman’s helmet jauntily pushed back on his head is fixed in my memory. He was a most popular man who lived then in one of the small houses, now gone, near Jacob’s present shop in Leinster Street. In his day job Tom was a postman and both Tom and his wife Marie are remembered as wonderful ballroom dancers.

I knew “Bluebeard” better than I did any of the other fireman as like myself he was a member of the CYMS. While I played snooker under the watchful eye of Mattie Brennan in the hall in St. John’s “Bluebeard” was inside in the card room playing cards with the likes of Ned Cranny and Tom Moore. Several years were to pass before I was able to join them at the card table and a sharper shrewder card player I cannot recall. He had an uncanny instinct for “seeing” the bluff in a game of poker and a never unfailing knack of increasing the ante on anyone who waivered. He was a great friend of the CYMS and enlivened the place with his quick wit which was sharpened in the smoke filled room in St. John’s Lane. Christy worked in the Asbestos factory and was to pass away long before his time as did his colleagues Jack Webster, Tom Langton and Mick McHugh.

When Jack Webster died his son Tom replaced him in the Fire Brigade. Tom was a good friend of mine during our young days in Offaly Street and is now station officer in Athlone where he has lived for many years. By a happy coincidence Jack’s widow Cecilia Webster who lived for so long in Butler’s Row at a time when it was a terrace of small houses has recently returned there to live in one of the beautiful houses built for the local Council.

Christy Dunne Junior joined his father as a member of Athy Fire Brigade and when Christy “Bluebeard” died his place was taken by his second son Tim. He is now the full time station officer based in Athy. Another man who later joined the local Fire Brigade was the late Jack Webster’s son Robbie.

“Neddie” Delahunt recalls the days when the local firefighting equipment consisted of a trailer pump which was hauled to each fire by either Mick Finn’s or Mick Rowan’s lorry. It was not until 1959 or thereabouts that Kildare County Council purchased the first purpose built fire tender for Athy and it was around the same time that the ground floor of the Town Hall was used as the Fire Station. Prior to that the trailer pump was kept in the Council yard at Meeting Lane.

The ready availability of Finn’s or Rowan’s lorry could not always be guaranteed and Neddie recalls one occasion which the volunteer firemen were never to forget. Responding quickly to the fire siren they togged out and stood ready with the trailer pump awaiting the arrival of one of the lorries. As they waited on the Square the saw the Curragh fire tender race through the town on the way to the fire in Ballylinan. Another one and a half hours were to pass as they waited in vain for their transport to arrive. The Athy firemen were marooned that day and stood crestfallen and somewhat bemused as their Curragh colleagues later passed through Athy on their way home from the fire. It was soon afterwards that Athy got its first fire tender.

The local fire brigade has a very proud record of service to the local community. Whether called upon to attend at fires, road traffic accidents or to render assistance in any situation the fire brigade personnel always perform their duties with enormous dedication and skill.

Thursday, September 11, 1997

Plewmans Terrace

Sixty-one years after the houses at Plewman’s Terrace were built it is surprising to find so many members of the original families of the Terrace still living there. The first tenant of No. 12 was Christy Rochford, who with his wife Katie had five children. Sons Paddy and Christy are still living there while their sisters Katie, Bridie and Ena are married and living in England.

Christy’s brother Jack lived next door, having also transferred in November 1936 from the small cottages at Canal Side. Jack was a footballer of note and was better known in Athy as “Bird Ratchie”. He was on the Athy team which won the Kildare Senior Football Championship in 1937 and 1942. The only surviving members of the 1937 team are Johnny McEvoy, formerly of St. Joseph’s Terrace now living in Dublin and Barney Dunne, still going strong in Duke Street. Jack played on the County Senior team in 1939 with two of his Club mates, Tommy Mulhall and Johnny McEvoy. He later went to live in Dublin, leaving in No. 13 his sister “Mame” who reared her nephew John Minahan. John, late of the Evening Standard, is a photographer of world renown whose most recent book of photographs “Shadows from the Pale” featured people and scenes from Athy.

Appointed tenant of No. 14 in 1936 was Billy Walsh who worked as an outdoor assistant for McHugh’s Chemist. He was married to Mary-Ann Chanders, a sister of Cuddy Chanders, whose name is still associated with the All Ireland Football Final of 1935. This was the last occasion Kildare featured in the Senior Football Final. Billy and Mary had three children, Noel recently retired from Minch Nortons and still living in No. 14, May who has since died and Ann married to Noel Wright who lives in No. 24.

The original tenant of No. 15 was C. Cummins of the Bleach. I don’t have any knowledge of him, but “Sconny” Connell lived there before Stephen Bolger was appointed tenant on transfer from Dooley’s Terrace. In his younger days Stephen was a boatman on the Grand Canal. When he was eleven years of age he was one of the crew of Jack Rooney’s Canal Boat which set off from the Canal basin in Athy for Dublin. Jack Rooney who lived in Woodstock Street steered the boat, while Stephen and another crewman took turns in leading the two horses, which traced together, pulled the boat on the journey from Athy to Dublin. The outbreak of the Easter Rising of 1916 coincided with the arrival of Rooney’s Boat at Inchicore where boat and crew were obliged to wait for a week until the Rebellion was over. Stephen died last year and the house is now occupied by his Grand-son, Sean Bolger.

William Day of Canal Side was allocated No. 16 Plewman’s Terrace in October 1936. What connection he had with the next tenant “Major” Toomey is uncertain. The “Major” was in the Irish Army and married Molly Day whom I understand was from James’ Place. Was she perhaps a daughter or a niece of the original tenant, William Day? Their two children are now believed to be in England. The house is now occupied by Mary Mulhall, the widow of Paddy “Whack” Mulhall.

Mary Brien of Canal Side was the original tenant of No. 17 and her niece Angela Brien is now in the house. Another Canal Side tenant Pat Morrin was given the key to No. 18. A canal boat worker, Pat who was married to Mary Nolan, a sister of Katie Kelly of The Bleach, later worked in England. Their daughter Winifred who married Jim Byrne of Leixlip now lives in her father’s house. The other six members of the family, John, May, Kathleen, June, Paddy and Sheila all emigrated to England. Kathleen and her husband, John Murphy, formerly of Offaly Street return each year to Athy.

Hannah Campion’s house at No. 19 is one of the few terraced houses which has not remained in the same family. Mick Kane and family now live there. Hannah’s daughter Molly married a Moran of Meeting Lane and her two sons emigrated to England.

Tom Holligan, a widower, lived in No. 20 with his daughter Nan, both of whom are now deceased. Catherine Byrne, daughter of Winifred Byrne of No. 18, now lives there with her husband, Patsy Campion. Next door was Matt Kennedy, another former Canal Side tenant who died unmarried and apparently unremembered. Paddy and Lil Murphy later lived there with Lil’s sister, but they too have passed on. It is now owned by Mrs. Redmond.

James Byrne, known locally as “Shopboy” lived in No. 22 and his daughter Agnes married Pat Carthy. The family nickname has passed down the generations to James’ Grand-son.

The second last terraced house in the area, previously known as Beggar’s End was given by Athy Urban Council to T. Power. The initial “T.” hides from us the knowledge of whether the tenant was male or female and now no-one can tell me of the Power family. Biddy Davis is remembered as living here with her daughter Maria who married Christy Donnelly of Rockfield and her son Paddy who married Patsy Delahunt’s daughter, “Tal”.

Another tenant allocated No. 24 and noted in the Council records simply as “J. Lambe” is not recalled. Winnie Ryan later lived there with her children Patsy, Johnny, Toss and Maire, the last of whom married one of the Keyes of William Street. Toss Ryan was a very good footballer who played in two County Championship Finals for Athy in 1941 and 1942, winning a senior medal in the latter year with his friend and neighbour, “Bird” Rochford. Toss was one of several Athy Club players who figured on the County Kildare Senior Team in the early 1940’s. He later emigrated to England where he died. Noel Wright, married to Ann Walsh, formerly of No. 14 now lives in the last house in the Terrace.
Family and kinship have been the focus of many scholarly sociological studies in the past. I have often felt that a similar study of Athy would be an interesting addition to the literature of the town I was reminded of this when recently reviewing the names of the first tenants appointed to the then newly built houses on the Kilkenny Road in November 1936. The twenty four house scheme was later called Plewman’s Terrace in recognition of the long service of Thomas Plewman as a Member and Chairman of Athy Urban District Council.. Plewman’s Terrace was one of several new housing schemes provided in the 1930’s specifically to accommodate families who required to be re-housed from the old lanes and alleyways of the town.

Once such area cleared of substandard housing was Canal Side from where twelve families were re-housed in Plewman’s Terrace. The previous year Mullery’s field bordering on the canal side houses was chosen as the site for the new asbestos factory. Presumably the demolition of these houses and the consequent site clearance facilitated the factory layout. Another area from where many of the new tenants were relocated was Blackparks.

The first tenants of Plewman’s Terrace moved into their houses before Christmas 1936. Martin Timpson of the Bleach was tenant of number 1. Nicknamed “Nashie”, he worked on Plewman’s farm and was married to “Polly” Byrne. Their son Martin worked as a Porter in the Hibernian Bank, another son Al in Minch’s Terrace and a daughter Julia was married in England. All are now dead and the house is now occupied by Kieran Bergin whose grandfather was one of the original tenants in Plewman’s Terrace.

Martin Doogue of Blackparks was appointed tenant of number 2 but apparently moved out in the early stage to number 11. “Essie” Power is remembered as living in number 2 and her daughter Kitty lives there today with her own daughter Eithne and son in law Johnny Moore. Kitty’s late husband, “Rambler” Byrne worked in Doyle’s pawn shop and other members of the family who lived in number 2 were her brothers Paddy who worked in Plewman’s and Andy both of whom have since died. Her sister May is married and living abroad.

Pat Leonard of Upper William Street was tenant of number 3 where he lived with his wife Katie and six children. Pat worked in Minch Nortons and of his six children, Mary who married Jack Murphy of St. Joseph’s Terrace is still happily with us. Jack, Stephen, Jimmy and Maggie died unmarried at relatively young ages while Paddy the only married son is also deceased. The house is now occupied by the Kelly family who have connections with the terrace but this is one of the few houses in Plewman’s Terrace where is there is no continuing link with the original tenant of 61 years ago.

The tenancy of number 4 went to Christopher Lammon of Blackparks who was married to Chrissie Kelly. Christopher worked in the Asbestos factory before emigrating to England. Their eldest son John, known locally as “Big John” also worked for a while in the Asbestos factory and has since died. Christopher married Lily Prendergast of Gouleyduff while Jim, Martin and “Sonny” emigrated to England. The remaining members of the family also took the emigrant boat but subsequently returned. Mary married John Neill of Offaly Street while Bridie married Jimmy O’Leary but later returned to live in number 4. In number 5 lived Elizabeth Lammon who was mother of Christopher her next door neighbour. Elizabeth’s other children included “Babe” Lammon who married Tom Morrin and their son Billy is now living in number 5. Another daughter was Lizzie who went to England to work and who is still remembered in the terrace for the wireless set she brought home for her mother. Everyone in Plewman’s Terrace crowded into number 5 to hear the news on Lizzie’s wireless, at a time when it was the only one on the terrace.

Darby Delaney of Blackparks was allocated number 6. He was a tailor who married Nanny Daly and their children included Paddy and Mary who went abroad, and Biddy who is now in Cork. Other family members included Annie Whelan of Pairc Bhride and Betty who now lives in the house in the Bleach to which the Delaney Family subsequently transferred. Kitty Scully, mother of Noel Scully now lives in number 6.

The Urban Council allocated number 7 Plewman’s Terrace to Charles Delaney although I am assured his correct name was Christy. A farm worker in Minch’s, Christy married “Mag” Bolger and their four children are all still living in the Athy area. Sarah who married Matt Davis lives in number 7 while her sister Mary who married P.J. O’Rourke lives in Geraldine. Nan married Mick Hopkins who worked in Cunninghams Pub in William Street and now lives in Ballylinan. Not far away is Christy who married Maura Maher from Monasterevin and after spending some years in England, they are now living in Gouleyduff.

The Urban Council’s Minute book discloses that J. Bolger junior was appointed tenant of number 8 Plewman’s Terrace. His full name was Johnny “Nailer” Bolger who worked for a while in England before joining D. & J. Carbery’s, Building Contractors. He married Molly Delaney of Ballylinan and of their eight children, all but three were living in Athy. Sadie who married Jim Moore of Dooley’s Terrace died last year, while Patsy, John and Kate are in England. Josie who recently retired from St. Vincent’s hospital still lives in number 8 while her brother Frank is in Forest Park and her sister Rita Ward lives in Castle Park.

James Grant of Blackparks lived next door and his son Peter is still living there today. James worked in Minch’s and he and his wife Bridget had five children, four of whom sadly were to die at a very young age in the 1940’s. James “Twinnie” Byrne lived next door to the Grants. Described as a small man and a dandy dresser, “Twinnie” married Marie Leonard who was a sister of Pat Leonard in number 3. Their daughter Julia married Paddy Rochford who worked in Minch Nortons and their only son Pat, today lives in number 10 and like his father is employed in Minch’s.

Number 11 Minch’s Terrace was originally allocated to Willie Holligan of the Bleach but for as long as anyone can remember Joseph Doogue lived there. Joseph had been appointed Tenant of number 2 but presumably he transferred to the higher numbered house at an early date. He worked with the Barrow Drainage and was married to Nan Timpson, sister of Martin Timpson who lived in number 1 Plewman’s Terrace. Their daughter, Sheila Bergin is now living in the house.

Thursday, September 4, 1997

Derry and St. Colmcille

Last weekend I visited Derry and completed a journey of pilgrimage which I had first embarked upon earlier this Summer. My visit to Derry followed on an earlier trip to the Island of Iona and the common link was St. Columba or St. Columcille as he is known in Ireland.

The recorded history of the city located on the river Foyle goes back to 546 when a Monastery was established there by Columba who was later to leave Ireland to found a monastic settlement in Iona. The Town and later city of Derry was to develop from Columba’s first Monastery which was known as the Black Church. Derry takes its name from the Irish “Doire” which means “place of the oaks” after the oak forests which were once to be found in the area. Nowadays the name Derry is synonymous with Bloody Sunday, Apprentice Boy marches and perhaps most significantly the seige of Derry which still serves to excite some minds even though more than three hundred years have passed since the Jacobites and Williamites squared up to each other.

I had never before visited Derry but this year’s 1400 Anniversary commemoration of the death of St. Columba afforded the opportunity to see at first hand the city known “so well” in song and so readily identifiable from countless years of television coverage.

The first call was to St. Columba’s Church known as the Long Tower church which although only built in the 1780’s is believed to occupy the site of Columba’s 6th century church . Overlooking the Bogside, the Church is itself overlooked by part of the walls of Derry and the nearby Apprentice boys headquarters. This strange almost eerie juxta positioning, enlivens ones interest in the neo Renaissance style church which was the first catholic church built in Derry after the Reformation. It remains largely unchanged despite the liturgical renewal of Vatican 11 and a certain pride is taken in what is locally referred to as “the commendable restraint exercised following Vatican Council” . The elaborate use of carrara marble throughout the church coupled with the most extensive central gallery I have seen in any Irish Church lends a uniquely appealing aspect to this ecclesiastical treasure. It was here that I came across the first of many links between Derry and Athy as I gazed upon a picture to the left of the baptistry door which serves as a Memorial to the Dominican’s who once had a Monastery in Derry as they also had in Athy.

The next stop was St. Columbs Anglican Cathedral which when built in 1633 was the first specifically Protestant Cathedral built in Ireland following the Reformation. It was one of the new buildings in the City of Derry which was then being laid out on the directions of the Trades Guilds of London. These Guilds as part of the plantation of Ulster were granted the county and the settlement on the River Foyle which in honour of this association was renamed Londonderry.

It was in the Cathedral chancel that I found the next link with my home town when I read the opened pages of the Irish War Memorials laid out in a specially constructed oak case. There amongst the names of the Irish killed in World War 1, I were two Athy men, Edward Stafford Private Dublin Royal Fusiliers died of wounds in France, September 24th 1914 and Thomas Stafford, Lance Corporal, Royal Dublin Fusiliers killed in action in France, 6th September 1916. Strange how it is that in a city synonymous with bigotry and an unquestioning adherence to divisive traditions that these once young men from what could only be regarded as a republican town were still being remembered.

In the Cathedral porch is a metal plinth on which sits a large cannon ball about sixteen inches in diameter which was reputedly fired into the besieged city of Derry in 1689 carrying with it terms for surrender. It was apparently presented to the Cathedral by the Apprentice boys of Derry just before the Great Famine.

The Cathedral bearing Columba’s name is festooned with regimental flags and colours and these with the siege cannonball speaks not of a peaceful Columban heritage but rather of battles and conflicts and emnity between people who in the case of Derry must still serve out their days as one community.

It was with these thoughts that I moved on with my companions to the Guild Hall to meet the Deputy Mayor of Derry. Alderman Miller D.U.P. Member welcomed us to the City of Londonderry whose Guild Hall or Townhall has been bombed on several occasions over the last twenty years. Even the obviously pleasant man with the welcoming words for his “southern neighbours” was himself once the subject of an assassination attack. He survived and was now in a time of a fragile peace extending a hand of friendship to visitors to his city. It was here that I found yet another link with Athy when I noted the name of one of the members of the Irish Society who presented the Guild Hall to the City of Derry at the end of the last Century. It was Sir T. Bowater a name which will be familiar to many of those who worked in the Bowater Wallboard Factory in Athy during the 50’s and 60’s.

There are many contradictions in a City which prides itself on its links with St. Columba. Not least is the almost fastidious observance of traditions which seem to contradict the Christain legacy of the man who was credited with founding Derry or if you prefer Londonderry.

The Columban trail is not confined to the Northern City but extends into neighbouring County Donegal. It was here on the last day of my visit that I ended my pilgrimage to the sites associated with St. Columba. On the shores of Gartan Lough is the Colmcille Heritage Centre which tells the story of the Saint and his association with the area. Not far away is Gartan, some ten miles west of Letterkenny where he was reputed to have been born in 521.

When Columba died, 77 years later on the Island of Iona, he had achieved an importance in the Church which he was never to lose. Ireland’s greatest missionary and his followers have given us the most important illuminated manuscripts in the Christain World. The Book of Durrow, the Book of Lindisfarne and the Book of Kells, all works of Columban missionaries represent, the supreme achievement of Celtic Christian Art.

From the shores of Lough Gartan in Donegal to the Island of Iona off Scotland, the Columban trail afforded me in a unique insight into Saint Columba and his legacy. In the City of Derry, it brought me in to touch with a different type of legacy, the reality of which threatens the very people who inhabit what was the site of the saints first Monastery.