Cuairt Chaluim Chille // Touring St Columba Tour Launch at Campbeltown Museum 9 June 2023 (14)

Mysterious Colm Cille

On 9 June, CHARTS hosted a trilingual celebration of the arrival of the St Columba exhibition at Campbeltown Museum; find out what happened in poet and writer Ciarán Ó Maitiú’s blog.


Four minutes into my Thursday flight to Scotland, I checked the time, out of habit. 10.30am, roughly. After mulling over my potential Campbeltown contribution, however, my tired eyes returned to the timekeeping device twice in rapid succession, slightly uneasy now. Strange. My senses told me that about ten minutes had elapsed, but the instrument contradicted this. Time, in fact, seemed to have stood still. Was this some sort of sign? I hastened back to my folded page of newly composed verses in my pocket about the power of prayer. Paidir. Yes. The Irish saint was therein mentioned. Paidir, to be recited, quietly, three times, religiously, kept close to the heart, just in case.

Skipping ahead, many hours later, having happily surveyed the pleasant sights of southwest Argyll, I arrived in Campbeltown from Glasgow, also buoyed up by the encouraging words of the driver about the legendary kindness and hospitality of the people of the Western Isles. The town is known as Ceann Loch Chill Chiaráin, in Gaelic. A good omen, for sure, I thought to myself, as my first name happens to be Ciarán. Nestling down to supper with some other enthusiasts of St Columba, and with CHARTS, we happily discussed our journeys thus far and our hopes for the following day, Friday, 9 June. A feast of music, poetry and storytelling beckoned.

The following morning, cheered on by the good weather, I noticed that my watch had started to resonate with 2023 again, but that I was still half a day late, or was it in fact half a day forward. No matter, the hands were dutifully returned to the commonly accepted time order restored, Kintyre wise. Revived by the gentle sea air, all guest speakers and musicians walked to the venue of the concert, Campbeltown Museum and Garden, to soak in the atmosphere, and to immerse ourselves in the St Columba Exhibition, kindly lent by Donegal Museum. Preconcert New Age disciples we, connected to St. Columba on his Feast Day, while also enjoying the stillness and serenity of Linda McCartney’s Garden, close by.

Gwen Màiri’s magical harp playing preceded the event at 6pm; Àdhamh Ó Broin, our host, initiated the concert itself with a stunning performance of a Gaelic song about Loch Giorra; Dr Rosemary Power, an expert on the history of Iona, majestically enthralled us with her subtle account of medieval poetry linked with Colm Cille; Diane Cannon’s beautiful rendition of two Donegal songs was strongly evocative of that region’s rich tradition; Archie McAllister played the fiddle with his customary fire, panache and good humour, Campbeltown style. What a privilege for me to be reading my newly composed poetry, dedicated to Colm Cille, in their unique company. Special thanks to all the individuals, organisations & audience members who collectively, air an aon ràmh, made this event possible, thus enhancing many cultural links.

Time had perhaps stood still for everybody then, artists and guest speakers, organisers and audience alike, as we collectively, momentarily, blossomed in the company of one of the greatest independent patrons: the somewhat mysterious Colm Cille.

Account by Ciarán Ó Maitiú.


Cuairt Chaluim Chille // Touring St Columba is currently on display at Campbeltown Museums until August 2023.