My visit to Church Island has been delayed due to a family illness.
I had intended to say a prayer for the final between Dublin and Mayo but was cruelly denied. The result was desperately close, with Dublin prevailing by 1 point.
There is talk of a curse but I believe positive thoughts can prevail. I believe prayer starts a “ripple” and with a certain momentum, great things can be achieved. All you have to do is believe !!!
I met Father Fahey in “Ballintubber Abbey” and spent a hour chatting over tea and biscuits, about the church in St Patricks time. I hope I am not blaspheming Father Fahy, but this is what I felt he was trying to convey.
There were a lot of similarities in the two belief systems. The beauty of nature, the bounty of the world, the gifts given to us, individuals being good or bad, the appreciation of the Sun and the planets. This led in a simplistic sense, over a period of time, to the slow marriage of the two.
I am sure this process was not easy and would have led to violent disputes, but there must have been enough common ground, to be able to move forward. Of course this is only conjecture, as the Celtic people did not have a written tradition.
Most of what we know of the Celtic history and traditions has been recorded by the Christian church. I am sure they deeply influenced each other, as priests from “Lindisfarne” were centuries later removed, for not following the Roman calendar.
It seems the Celtic king in “Lindisfarne” was celebrating Easter and fasting from both food and carnal pleasures in accordance with the Roman calendar. However his Queen was celebrating the Celtic way ( a bit later). The King was not pleased and duly dispensed with the Celtic priests, as the Queen was not available for her marital duties.
I thought Father Fahy, was going to point me in the direction of Church Island. However he asked me to follow him by car and he said he would give me a guided tour and leave me to peruse at my pleasure.
The land surrounding Church Island was given to local farmers by the Land Commission in 1926. It remained under the stewardship of a local family, until Father Fahy re-discovered it, early in his tenure at “Ballintubber” Abbey.
Realising its significance to the history of the abbey, he immediately set about acquiring the rights to the island. This was in the “nick of time” as there had been some talk of clearing it with a bulldozer. A cultural calamity had been averted !!!
Church Island though now under the ownership of “Ballintubber” Abbey, is not readily accessible. To reach it you have to cross private land and this requires permission of the landowner and of course Father Fahy. There is also a bull in one of the fields, so beware !!!
The entrance is just off the N84 to Galway and follows a leafy lane, before passing through a couple of gates to the lake shore.The lake is very shallow in parts and a small section has been filled in, to make a small causeway to the Island.
Lough Corrib is very peaceful and beautiful and one can understand why monks might build a hermitage on the island. I took a photo from the causeway showing the lake.
Father Fahy walked with me around the perimeter of the island, which is about 8 acres in total. It is quite heavily wooded mainly with hazel and ash, with the odd scattering of oak, holly and blackthorn.
The remains of a heavily “mossed” perimeter wall can still be clearly seen in certain parts. It has pretty much collapsed but judging by the mounds was quite substantial at the time.
Father Fahy explained to me this island has quite a history as it is believed to be sacred to Druids and also is believed to be the burial place of the ancient Kings of “Partee”. St Patrick is also believed to have banished the 9 Goblins “Silva Godelica” to it
St Finan set up a monastery here in the 6th century but a dispute apparently arose between him and another monk St Cormac. St Cormac is said to have predicted or cursed, that St Finan`s monastery would never flourish.
The church of St Finan still stands, though it has been re-built at least 5 times. The last re-building under the stewardship of Father Fahy.
An archeological survey during the re-building revealed evidence a number of remains. These are yet to be analysed, but are believed to be mainly victims of the famine era.
Father Fahy also pointed out what he believed to be the remains of a number of stone “beehive” structures which were used by monks to illustrate books and scrolls from the abbey.
One of these monks Cummin MacFiachra lived here for 50 years with his faithful servant Seanach.
When Father Fahy left, I wondered the island for an hour or two. It was very peaceful walking the wooded paths, but I did feel a huge sense of sadness attached to it. I think great tragedies have happened here.
Just before I left, I took a photo of the resident lawn mowers. They monitor the central area of the Island, which Father Fahy has set up as a retreat centre.
The Celtic cross radiates out to wooden chalets which are used for individual meditation. They are a bit run down, but I think there are plans to revitalise the area.