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Story about Calum Cille [St Columba] and his travels around the islands of Scotland and Blàr na Cuigeal, September 1872

Identifier: Coll-97/CW90/131

Scope and Contents

Story about Calum Cille [St Columba] and his travels around the islands of Scotland probably collected from James Campbell, fisherman, Ceanntangabhal/Kentangval, Barraigh/Isle of Barra. The story notes that the castle on Loch Tangasdail was built by St Clair [Dùn Mhic Leòid, Loch Tangasdale, Barraigh/Isle of Barra], that St Clair married a woman from Kintail [Ceann Tàile, Ros is Cromba/Ross and Cromarty] and that he had eight hundred men who fought for him, although none of the men were from Vatersay [Bhatarsaigh]. The story tells of a battle at Hornaig [Bàgh Chornaig] on Vatersay in which an Irish captain set his dog to fight MacNeil of Barra's dog but MacNeil's dog killed it and the captain vowed revenge within the year. A year later MacNeil saw the sea was full of skiffs and sent all his men and women with stones and 'cuigeal cholach' to protect the island. The cuigeal was a staff blessed by Calum Cille. The tale tells how Calum Cille decreed that no seaweed should leave the country except in women's hands and that Pabbay [Pabaigh] was the first island he reached after leaving Carrickfergus [Northern Ireland]. He did not like Pabbay and commanded that no rats would ever live there, which is the case. The informant states that rats die when they touch earth from Pabbay. The story describes how Calum Cille and his brother Oran [sometimes Odhran or Dòbhran] arrived at Lismore [Lios Mòr] and Oran cut his foot on a stone when he jumped out of the boat. He took a dislike to the island and on seeing another island [Ì Chaluim Chille/Iona] at daybreak they decided to go there and begin churches instead. Oran's last words are quoted and the story tells how Calum Cille buried Oran at the first church he built, which was Roilig [Reilig Oran/St Oran's Chapel, Ì Chaluim Chille/Iona], where sixteen kings were buried. Calum Cille was buried in the sand and the kist was discovered later by a cow and subsequently buried in Ireland. The story then returns to the battle on Vatersay, when women fought the Irish with the cuigeal gholach [a staff with three prongs]. The cuigeal gholach was said to make men impotent so when the Irish raiders turned their backs to the women presenting their cuigeal gholach, they were killed. The story concludes by telling how, a year and a day after they were killed, the Irishman's sister came to the island and 'knew his bones' and took them back to Ireland to his mother. Some text relating to 'Blàr nan Cuigeal' has been written transversely over other text on folio 54v.


  • Creation: September 1872

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

This material is unrestricted.


From the Series: 72 folios ; 12.7 x 20 cm

Physical Location


Physical Location

folio 52v, line 18 to folio 56r, line 6


Carmichael, Alexander, Carmina Gadelica, vol. IV (Edinburgh, 1971), p. 55
Banks, M. Macleod, 'A Hebridean Version of Colum Cille and St Oran', Folklore, vol. 42, no. 1 (march 31, 1931), pp. 55-60.
McDonald, Fr. Allan, 'Calum Cille agus Dòbhran a Bhràthair', The Celtic Review, vol V (1908-1909), pp. 107-109.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Edinburgh Library Heritage Collections Repository

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