9th of June – St Columba’s Day

St Vincent, martyr, 2nd or 3rd century. Saints Primus and Felicianus, martyrs, 286. St Pelagia, virgin and martyr, 311. St Columba, or Columkille, Abbot and Apostle of the Picts, 597.

Born. – Andrew M. Ramsay, author of Travels of Cyrus, 1686, Ayr; John Howard Payne, American actor and dramatist, 1792, New York; Schamyl, patriotic imaum of Circassia, 1797. 
Died. – Jeanne D’Albret, Queen of Navarre, mother of Henry IV., 1572; Secretary Maitland, 1573, Edinburgh; Benedict Pictet, learned Protestant divine, 1724, Geneva; Louis XVII. of France, 1795, Temple, Paris; Dr Abraham Rees, encyclopædist, 1825, Finsbury.


A short distance from one of the wildest districts of the western coast of Scotland, opposite the mountains of Mull, only three miles to the south of Staffa, so famous for its stately caverns, lies a little island, which is celebrated as the centre from which the knowledge of the Gospel spread over Scotland, and indeed over all the North, and which, rocky and solitary, and now insignificant as it may be, was a seat of what was felt as marvellous learning in the earliest period of mediæval civilization. Its original name appears to have been Hi or I, which was Latinized into the, perhaps, more poetical form of Iona, but it is now commonly called I-com-kill, or I of Columba of the Cells, from the saint who once possessed it, and from the numerous cells or monastic establishments which he founded. 

Columba was an Irish priest and monk of the sixth century, who was earnest in his desire to spread among the ignorant pagans of the North that ascetic form of Christianity which had already taken root in Ireland. According to Bede, from whom we gather nearly all we know of this remarkable man, it was in the year 565 that Columba left his native island to preach to the Picts, the inhabitants of the Scottish Highlands. Encouraged by their chieftain, his mission was attended with success. The chieftain gave him, as a place to establish himself and his companions, the island of I, which Bede describes as in size, ‘only of about five families, according to the calculation of the English,’ or, as this is explained by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, five hides of land. It is now three miles in length, and not quite a mile broad. Here Columba built a church and a monastery, of which he became abbot, and collected around him a body of monks, under a rule which was remarkable chiefly foe the strict enforcement of self-denial and asceticism. Their hours each day were divided between prayer, reading or hearing the Scriptures, and the labours required for producing the necessaries of life, chiefly cultivating the land, and fishing. Others were employed in writing copies of the books of the church service, which were wanted for their own use, or for the religious missions sent out amongst the neighbouring barbarians. The art most cultivated among the early Irish monks appears to have been calligraphy, and Columba himself is said to have been a very skilful penman, and, we may no doubt add, illuminator; and copies of the Psalter and Gospel, still preserved in Ireland, are attributed to him. Such of Columba’s monks at I as were capable, were employed in instructing others, and this employment seems to have best suited their tastes, and education became the great object to which Columba’s successors devoted themselves. For ages youths of noble, and even of royal blood, flocked hither from all parts, not only of Scotland, England, and Ireland, but from Scandinavia, to profit by the teaching 0fo the monks; at the same time, colonies of Columba’s monks went forth to establish themselves in various parts of the Scottish Highlands, and the neighbouring islands, in Iceland, and even in Norway. Bede tells us that, about thirty-two years after he settled in I, or Iona, which would carry us, according to his dates, to the year 597, St Columba died and was buried in his island monastery, being then seventy-seven years old. The 9th of June is usually assigned as the day of his death. The reputation of Iona as a seat of learning, and as a place of extraordinary sanctity, continued to increase after the death of the founder of its religious establishment, and his memory was held in the most affectionate love. His disciples, or we may say the monks of his order, who formed the Pictish church, became known by the name of Culdees, a Celtic word meaning simply monks. Their first religious house of any importance on the mainland was Abernethy, the church of which is said to have been built in Columba’s lifetime, and which became the principal seat of royalty and episcopacy in the Pictish kingdom. St Andrew’s, also, was a foundation of the Culdees, as well as Dunkeld, Dunblane, Brechin, and many other important churches. From the particular position held by Columba towards his disciples in all parts, when Culdee bishoprics were established, all the bishops were considered as placed under the authority of the abbots of Iona, so that these abbots were virtually the Metropolitans of the Scottish church. In the ninth century the Danes, who ravaged with great ferocity the Scottish coasts, repeatedly visited Iona, and so completely destroyed its monks and their monastery, that the island itself disappears from history, until the twelfth century, when, in the reign of William the Lion, it was re-occupied by a convent of Cluniac monks. Long before this the Culdees had lost their character for sanctity and purity of life, and they were now so much degenerated that the Scottish King David I. (who reigned from 1124 to 1153), after an ineffectual attempt to reform them, suppressed the Culdees altogether, and supplied their place with monks and canons of other orders, but chiefly of that of St Augustine.*


An amusing proof of the singular popularity of Mr Payne’s song was afforded, soon after its first appearance, by a Dumbartonshire clergyman of the Established Presbyterian Church. He was preaching upon the domestic affections – he had wrought himself up a good deal – finally, forgetting all the objections of his cloth to stage matters, he recited the whole of the verses of ‘Home, sweet home,’ to the unutterable astonishment of his congregation.

*  For more on Columba see ‘Old GlasgowFirst Bishop, ‘Scots Lore’ article Highland Folklore gives a suggestion of his genealogy, human sacrifice is discussed in connection with Columba in the ‘Scots LoreJournal for April 1895, he’s also discussed in association with St Mungo’s article for 13th of January and the 17th of March associated with St Patrick. 
For the Culdees see the ‘Scots LoreJournal for February 1895 and in ‘Scotland Illustrated’, Plates I. and V, Also ‘Sketches’ chapter for ‘Scone’.

On this Day in Other Sources.

Conal, the fifth king of the Scots in Argyle, the kinsman of St. Columba, and under whose auspices he entered on the work of conversion, and to whom it is said he was indebted for Hy, died in five hundred and seventy-one. His successor Aidan went over to Hyona in five hundred and seventy-four, and was there ordained and inaugurated by the Abbot according to the ceremonial of the liber vitreus, the cover of which is supposed to have been encrusted with chrystal. F. Martene, a learned benedictine, says in his work, De Antiquis Ecclesiæ Ritibus, that this inauguration of Aidan is the most ancient account that, after all his researches, he had found as to the benediction, or inauguration of kings. There can be no doubt, however, that the ceremony was practised long before the time of Aidan. St. Columba died on the 9th of June, five hundred and ninety-seven, after a glorious and well spent life, thirty-four years of which he had devoted to the instruction of the nation he had converted. His influence was very great with the neighbouring princes, and they often applied to him for advice, and submitted to him their differences which he frequently settled by his authority. His memory was long held in reverence by the Scots and Caledonians. 

– History of the Highlands, pp.60-78.

‘That April, right evil weather; and the May, mickle weet and rain; and June, right evil, weet and wind; and the beir-seed right late in all places, while after Sanct Colm’s Day [9th June, 1574].’ – C. F. 

– Domestic Annals, pp.56-80.

   The Convention Parliament, which had subsisted during the whole of the preceding reign, had now lost much of its original popularity. From its unusually protracted duration, the Ministry had found and embraced opportunities of acquiring an undue influence over a majority of the members, and, as the loss of the Darien (William Paterson’s commercial scheme) was universally ascribed to the pernicious influence of English counsels, a powerful opposition party was now formed in Parliament. With this party the Jacobites, who now began to assume the name of Cavaliers, formed a junction, and the Duke of Hamilton became its ostensible leader, instigated, probably, by ambition to supplant the Duke of Queensbery in the administration, rather than by any promptings of patriotic feeling, either for the commercial interests or the national independence of Scotland. Hamilton and his party did their utmost to secure an immediate dissolution of this long-protracted Parliament. Accompanied by the Marquis of Tweeddale, and the Earls Mareschal and Rothes, he made an unavailing personal application to the Queen for this purpose; but her Majesty issued a proclamation for the assembling of Parliament on the 9th of June, 1702, in terms of the statute, and appointed Queensbery to act as her Commissioner.

– Newcastle Chronicle, Saturday 28th August, 1886.

– Treaty of Union Articles, Factions Responsible for the Incorporating Union.

I. The Young King of Easaidh Ruadh.

As told by James Wilson, Blind Fiddler, June 9th, 1859, to Hector MacLean in Islay, Argyll. 

– Popular Tales, Vol. 1, pp.1-11.


Glasgow Evening Citizen, Thursday 9th June 1870, p.2.  

   SINGULAR DEATH OF A BOY NEAR ABERDEEN. – On Tuesday afternoon, as Thomas Williamson, aged eleven years, was proceeding along a turnpike road, leading a cow belonging to his father, Mr. Williamson, farmer, Nether Tertowie, Kinnellar, near Aberdeen, he had tied the end of the rope by which the animal was led round his waist. The cow ran away, dragging the boy along the road for a distance of about 500 yards, whereby he was injured so severely that death resulted. 

Curious and Interesting Deaths.


   At the evening sitting, Mr. MITCHELL HENRY called attention to the inequalities of Irish and English taxation, which he illustrated by copious statistics, showing that the aggregate taxation has increased in 25 years from four to eight and a half millions, and from 9s. 6d. to £1 12s. 2d. per head. This eight and a half millions amounted to one-eighth of the taxable income of Ireland, while the wealth of Great Britain paid only one-seventeenth. Taking imperial and local taxation together, Ireland paid 4s. 5d. in the pound on her annual income of £54,000,000, while Great Britain paid only 2s. in the pound on its annual income of £1,000,000,000. This unfair burden, he contended (moving resolutions to this effect), is out of proportion to her financial ability to bear as compared with England, and in violation of the promises made at the Union, and that permanent improvement is hopeless until the present mode of dealing with Irish revenues is altered. To the argument that a great portion of Irish taxation is voluntary, he replied that the Irish people, though more abstemious than either English or Scotch, regarded alcohol as a necessary, and Mr. Lowe’s argument that individuals, and not countries, were taxed, was a violation of the Treaty of Union. He did not ask that the duties on spirits should be reduced, but he urged that a larger portion of the taxes raised in Ireland should be spent there. 

   The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER replied that this would be an extravagant mode of redressing the inequality, which no prudent finance minister could sanction. As to the argument that Ireland as a poor country could not bear the same amount of taxation as England, it would involve a discrimination between poor and rich counties in England. The bargain at the Union had been modified undoubtedly, but it was in the interest of Ireland, which would have been crushed had the terms been strictly adhered to. He denied that Ireland was unfairly taxed, or that she was crushed by taxation. Property paid exactly the same in both countries, and the taxes on consumption were paid in both countries exactly according to the amount consumed; and as to the duty on spirits he saw no reason why the Irishman should not take his alcohol in the shape of beer. In Ireland the taxation was only £1 8s. per head, but in Great Britain it was £2, and, besides the exemption from imperial taxation which she enjoyed, the grants in aid of local taxation in Ireland were much larger than in other parts of the kingdom. 

   Sir J. McKENNA maintained that while the taxation per head in England had been diminished, in Ireland it had been increased, and Mr. BUTT, remarking on the deserted condition of the front Opposition benches, warned the Liberal party that, if it desired to conciliate the Irish members, it must not neglect this question. He insisted that the eight and a half millions of taxation paid by Ireland ought in justice to be reduced to little more than five millions. 

   Mr. ANDERSON, while willing to support a motion for equalizing the duties on alcohol, maintained that in comparison with Scotland, Ireland received an excessive amount of assistance, and contributed a smaller amount of revenue. 

   Captain NOLAN commented on the neglect of Irish interests in the matter of dockyards and other public works, after which the motion was negatived by 152 to 34.” 

– Yorkshire Gazette, Saturday 9th June, 1877.

   “The Scottish Home Rule Association have issued a protest against the misuse of the terms ‘England’ and ‘English’ for ‘Britain,’ the ‘British Empire,’ its peoples and institutions. All true Scots will sympathise with the position the Association takes up. The protest says:- Of late years a custom has sprung up of applying the names England and English not only to Britain, but also to the whole Empire, its peoples and its institutions – a custom which practically demands that Scotsmen should cease to be Scotsmen and consent to be Englishmen, that Scotland should be blotted from the map and reappear as the Northern Counties of England, and that the Articles of the Treaty of Union, which so carefully provided for the adoption of the common name ‘Britain’ and ‘British,’ should be dishonourably set aside. This practice is a deliberate attempt to defraud our country and countrymen of their Treaty rights and privileges, and to degrade Scotsmen from their proper historical position and make their country a mere province of England. Of late years there has sprung up an evil habit of using both in the press and on the platform the words ‘England’ and ‘English’ for the ‘British Empire’ and the ‘British People.’ This habit is an insult and injury to the Scottish people, and an offensive piece of arrogance on the part of all those who use the terms. Against this insult to the Scottish people we enter our protest. This habit of Englishmen and their imitator, the Anglicised Scot, of speaking of the ‘English Army,’ the ‘English Navy,’ the ‘English Government,’ etc., is both unconstitutional and nonsensical, as no such Army, Navy, or Government exist.” 

– Greenock Telegraph and Clyde Shipping Gazette, Thursday 9th June, 1892.

– Treaty of Union Articles, 1875-1900.

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