Bhí sé an-fhurast fearg a chur air: Colm Cille’s Short Temper in Irish and Gaelic Folklore

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Since his founding of Iona, Colum Cille has been known as an illustrious leader of insular Christianity and viewed by his followers as an absolute model of perfection with regard to asceticism and penance. This can be seen not only in Adomnán’s Vita Columbae, but also in the poetry composed about the abbot following his death, as well as within the Middle Irish and early modern lives of Colum Cille, both of which adapt the character of the saint and more closely associate him with Derry. Despite this, within hagiography, saints often exhibit traits and participate in activities that may not automatically be associated with “saintly” behaviour – as one example, punishing their followers or individuals. Some representations of Colum Cille in folklore deriving from Donegal and the Scottish Hebrides seem to exemplify this ‘darker’ side of the saint. One example of this may be seen in a story collected from Na Cruacha (Donegal), “Comhra Cholm Cille,” in which Colum Cille, spurned by a man who pretends to be asleep so as to not to speak to him, responds by punishing him so that he remains asleep for seven years. Another story from the same area describes Colum Cille as having an extremely short temper and lashing out at those responsible for angering him - “Bhí sé an-fhurast fearg a chur air agus nuair a bheadh an fhearg sin air bhéarfadh sé a mhallacht do achan seort.” This paper will compare the characterization and adaption of Colum Cille within medieval literature and modern folklore from Donegal and the Hebrides; and consider how these examples reflect his role in the cultural identity of these areas.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 22 Jul 2019
EventXVI International Congress of Celtic Studies - Bangor University, Bangor, Wales, United Kingdom
Duration: 22 Jul 201926 Jul 2019


ConferenceXVI International Congress of Celtic Studies
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
CityBangor, Wales


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