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columkille) (521-597. The most illustrious Irish churchman of the sixth century, he was born at Gartan, County Donegal; his parents were both of royal lineage. He came to Derry about 546 and built a church, and some years later founded a notable monastery at Durrow. A keen student, his passion for books caused him trouble when his claim to a copy that he had made from a psalter borrowed from Finnian of Movilla was overruled by King Diarmid. His hasty Irish temper led to frequent involvement in quarrels, and his departure from Ireland in 563 is shrouded in mystery. It may have followed excommunication from the Irish Church for his part in civil war, or he may have been seeking both release from a sense of frustration and freedom to propagate the Gospel.

After a perilous journey to Iona Columba found scope for his great talents in establishing a college for the training of young men for the evangelization of the N Picts. He visited Ireland in 574 to attend a convention at Drumceatt, near Limavady in County Derry. He survived for a further twenty-three years and was buried with the kings in his beloved Iona, off the Scottish coast. A man of outstanding gifts as scholar and preacher, Columba commanded attention for courageous leadership. Though his temper was hot, his indignation was often righteous and his spirit just and generous. He set a noble example in prayerfulness, self-discipline, and pastoral concern.