st. columba's

Tales from Ireland - The Dobhar Chu

Although Irish folklore is littered with legendary ghoulish water creatures, few are as scary as the Dobhar Chu (pronounced do-war coo). Considered by some to be Ireland’s version of the famous Loch Ness monster, the Dobhar Chu is a mythical lake monster that has inhabited the lakes of the British Isles since ancient times. The name, roughly translated means ‘water hound’, or ‘hound of the deep’. Thought to be a cross between a giant otter and a hound, the Dobhar Chu is about seven foot long, or about the size of a crocodile. In fact it is also known as the Irish Crocodile.

The Dobhar Chu is a blood-thirsty, gruesome creature that lives deep in the waters of a lake, river or even the sea and is known to be able to travel great distances in water or on land. This monster hound is known for its speed, aggression and appetite for human flesh. There are usually two of these creatures, and when one is killed, its mate will swim up from the depths of the water and avenge the killing by pursuing its attacker, killing him and often eating him. This happens because, when the Dobhar Chu is about to die, it gives off an eerie high-pitched whistle to warn its mate.

Like the legendary Bigfoot, and many other creatures, the Dobhar Chu is known as a cryptid, a term which refers to a creature, or plant whose existence is unrecognized by scientific consensus and is usually regarded as highly unlikely. Yet in Glenade, County Leitrim, in north-west Ireland there is evidence to suggest its existence. Reports of sightings of the Dobhar Chu date back as far as 1684. One was recorded by Miss Walkington in the 1896 edition of The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland. Miss Walkington described it as being ‘half-wolfdog and half-fish’. A few months afterward Mr. H. Chicester Hart responded to Miss Walkington’s letter. He said that he heard rumors about a gruesome creature called the Dobhar Chu which is said to be king of all lakes and father of all otters.

The creature is believed to live in many lakes around Ireland. Sraheens Lough, Achill Island, in County Mayo is where the largest number of, as yet, unsubstantiated modern sightings in Ireland have been. Apparently, a small population of Dobhar Chu live in Sraheens Lough, though it is believed that they are migratory, not living in the lake all the year. As recently as 2000, Irish artist Sean Corcoran and his wife claimed to have witnessed a sighting of a Dobhar Chu in a lake on Omey Island in Connemara, County Galway. Corcoran describes it as large, dark and with orange flippers. “The creature,” reports Corcoran, “swam the width of the lake from west to east in what seemed like a matter of a few seconds.” Corcoran concludes that it finally leapt onto a huge boulder, and before disappearing gave “the most haunting screech”.

More frightening than the Selkies (seals who can take the form of humans), or the famous Kelpies (mythical water horses said to inhabit the rivers and lakes of Scotland and Ireland), the Dobhar Chu is considered to be an immature form of the famous Lough Ness monster, affectionately known as Nessie. There is also a further interesting link between Ireland and these two monsters which continues to this day. The link begins with the first sighting of the Loch Ness monster in Scotland in the seventh century by the Irish missionary St. Columba (see box at bottom of page). Columba was also the first to challenge and overcome the Loch Ness monster; by using his spiritual powers Columba miraculously saved a man from being devoured by the monster. This story leads to another myth that Nessie’s offspring came to the lakes of Ireland to avenge St. Columba’s actions.

Lest you think that the Dobhar Chu is just another imaginary fable, be aware that there is some evidence to suggest it may be real. What is more, another theory suggests that this creature travels extensively. Some researchers for example, connect the famous lake monster Bessie which is said to inhabit Lake Erie in the US with the Irish Dobhar Chu. There have been several sightings of this large serpentine monster which followed Irish emigrants to the heartland of America. An unconfirmed sighting of Bessie describes a terrifying encounter with a huge lake creature that killed three people in 1992. A more elusive but similar, sinister creature has apparently been attacking swimmers in Pump House beach near Port Dover in Canada since August 2001. Other reports document that these creatures inhabit various scattered locations all over New England and as well as all the Great Lakes region.

However, of all the sightings of the Dobhar Chu, it is the account in Glenade, County Leitrim of 1722 of the bestial murder of Grace McGloighlin that is the most famous. Oral tradition in this part of Ireland still holds that the story of The Dobhar Chu of Glenade is true. This is the story as related by local storyteller Owen McGowan of the townland of Ahanlish, Kinlough, Co. Leitrim.

Grace McGloighlin, known as Grace or Gráinne Connolly (the custom at the time was that a woman retains her maiden name after marriage), lived in the town land of Creevelea which is close to the border of Leitrim and Sligo, and on the northwestern part of Glenade Lake. On September 22nd 1722, Grace came down to the lake to bathe and perhaps wash some clothes. While she was doing this a huge monster emerged from the water and savagely attacked, then killed Grace. She was later found by her husband Terence. Terence saw her bloodied body on the side of the lake and to his horror saw the huge beast which had killed his wife lying asleep across her dead body. Heart-broken with grief and furious, Terence knew at once that it was a Dobhar Chu.

Terence immediately found his dagger and killed the monster. However, as is usual with this kind of creature, during its death throes it let out a high-pitched whistle which alerted its mate to what was happening. A second Dobhar Chu emerged at once from the depths of the lake. Terrified, Terence took to his heels and jumping on a horse began to ride for his life as the second Dobhar Chu pursued him. Terence rode for many miles, with the Dobhar Chu close behind him. A local man, Patrick Doherty (now deceased), told historian and folklorist Joe McGowan the story of the chase. It started at Frank McSharry’s of Glenade, faltered and ended close by Cashelgarron stone fort in Co. Sligo at a blacksmith’s forge.

After being chased for miles Terence was obliged to stop to have his horse’s foot re-shod. The blacksmith at Cashelgarron, a wise man, knew the ways of this creature. He gave Terence a sword and told him: “When the creature charges, he’ll put his head right through the horse. As soon as he does this, you be quick and cut his head off.” Terence, still on his horse stood his ground near the forge. The huge beast came at full charge then it put its head right through the horse, as predicted by the blacksmith. This time, however, Terence was ready. Determined to avenge his wife’s murder Terence put his sword through the Dobhar Chu’s head, killing it instantly.

There is further ghoulish detail to back up the story. The grave of Grace Connolly actually exists. What’s more, carved on her tombstone is a detailed depiction of her killer, the Dobhar Chu. It is located in Conwall cemetery in the townland of Drummans. Drummans near the village of Kinlough is part of the approach to the Valley of Glenade. The tomb itself is so old that most of the written details are illegible. However, Grace’s name and that of her husband can be made out. The carved image of the Dobhar Chu is much clearer. The creature is depicted lying down with its head and neck flung backwards so that it lies flat along its back in its death throes. A spear-like weapon is shown piercing the base of the creature’s neck, reemerging below its body, and gripped by a human fist at its upper end. Also and less well known, both the Dobhar Chu and McGloighlin’s horse are buried in Co. Sligo, not far from Cashelgarron stone fort where they were both killed.


Iona cloisters by images@twiston
Via Flickr:
Iona cloisters - The cloisters at Iona Abbey. The abbey is located on the holy Isle of Iona, just off the Isle of Mull on the west coast of Scotland. Iona is considered the birthplace of Christianity in Scotland; St Columba founded the Benedictine monastery on the island in AD 563 and is thus regarded as the most holy place in Scotland.

skatzaa  asked:

I have returned once more to the idea of the origins of Thisby/the races (and the depths of random tags on your blog) and thought, what if women were once a part of the races, but with the arrival of St. Columba/Catholicism and their values, women were relegated to the role of "keeping" the men, in the way the island keeps them all? And it's been long enough that people have forgotten other bits of the Thisby (the old fences, the caves, etc) that they could have forgotten that too over time...

Ooh, I really love the idea of Puck completing the circle of tradition! Although Celtic men still held most of the power, the women had more rights than their contemporaries and participated in just about every sphere of society [x], so I can definitely see the early inhabitants of Thisby being accepting of female riders. I really, really love thinking about Thisby’s history. And I really, really wish Maggie would write a prequel. Barring that, I wish some knowledgable fan-fiction writers would fill the gap! (Hint, hint!)

P.S. I’m really happy you’re falling down the rabbit hole of my tags, but also sorry? It’s like Inception down there. SHOUT IF YOU NEED HELP GETTING OUT! ;)


Chuid eile i síocháin, Saint Columba.  Originally Irish, Saint Columba is credited with spreading Christianity through much of early Scotland, where, it is said, he encountered a “water beast” and subsequently banished it to the depths of the River Ness.  (….)  Columba died on this date in 597 at the age of 75.

Stamp details:
Issued on: March 11, 1997
From: London, England
MC #1684-1685

Scorpio Races Themed Asks
  • Thisby: Have you ever visited an island?
  • Skarmouth: What is your favorite season? Why?
  • Puck Connolly: Do you have any siblings?
  • Sean Kendrick: What is it you want in life?
  • Peg Gratton: Do you fall in love easily?
  • Finn Connolly: Have you ever taken something apart and put it back together again?
  • Jonathan Carroll: Do you talk a lot?
  • Capaill Uisce: Does the sea scare you?
  • Dove: Have you ever wanted to own a horse?
  • Corr: Do you believe in the saying: "If you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you, it was meant to stay."?
  • Gabe Connolly: Do you have the overwhelming urge to live somewhere else?
  • Fathom & Sons: Do you like visiting tourist-y shops?
  • Annie: How good is your vision?
  • The Skarmouth Hotel: Do you like staying in hotels?
  • George Holly: What kind of an accent do you have?
  • Dory Maud: Is your handwriting messy, or neat?
  • The Tea Room: How do you take your tea/coffee?
  • Benjamin Malvern: Have you ever made up fanciful stories for your past?
  • St. Columba's: Are you religious?
  • Palssons Bakery: What was the last thing you ate?
  • Mutt Malvern: What's the worst thing you've ever gotten away with?
  • Gratton's: Does your family have a "family business"?
  • Brian Carroll: Do you have asthma?
  • The Black Eyed Girl: Where do you enjoy going out with your friends?
  • Tommy Falk: Do you have a best friend?
  • Puffin: Do you have any pet cats?
  • Hastaway: Do you live walking distance from anywhere interesting?
  • Father Moonyham: What color is your vehicle?
  • November Cakes: Do you enjoy eating sticky pastries?
  • The Races: What would you want your legacy to be?

May 12 563 The community of Iona was founded by Colum Cille (St Columba) from Ireland.

Columba is undoubtedly the most important saint associated with Celtic churches.

Legends about him grew over the centuries, and many of the stories must be treated with caution. One of the more famous paints him as a sort of Christian sorcerer’s apprentice, naughtily copying his master’s precious psalter by the light of his own hand, and thereby sparking a major battle!

So too, hundreds of poems, some quite romantic in their descriptions of nature, others simple devotional verses, were attributed to the saint long after his death. Nevertheless, through the obscuring mists of his legends have endured and many make the pilgrimage every year to visit Iona. His feast day is on June 9th.


Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh visit St Columba’s Church, Knightsbridge to attend a Service of Thanks giving and Reception to celebrate the Sixtieth anniversary of the re-dedication of the church building on December 3, 2015 in London, England.  

Source: WPA Pool/Getty Images Europe

According to Catholic legend, the first sighting of the Loch Ness Monster actually happened in the year 565. In the legend, Saint Columba addressed the beast, which was attaching a man in the River Ness - a river that flows from the northern part of the Loch. St. Columba said to the Loch Ness Monster, “You will go no further, and won’t touch the man; go back at once.” And according to legend, it fled, seemingly terrified at the man’s voice. 

Patron Saints for Writers

Happy All Saints Day! Need some heavenly intervention during NaNo, someone on the inside whose got your back? Try asking these (official and unofficial) patron saints of writers: 


  • St. Francis de Sales
  • St.Teresa of Avila
  • St. John the Evangelist
  • St. David (patron of poets)
  • St. Columba (patron also of poets)

Unofficial, but they were both writers of sorts, so I think they know what to ask for to intervene on your behalf:

  • St. Paul
  • St. Hildegard of Bingen

On 9 June 597 St Columba died on Iona.

Of all the Dark Age Scottish saints, Columba is the most spectacular star. In 563 AD Columba left Ireland and settled with the Gaels of Dál Riata, where he was granted the Island of Iona to found his monastery.

For the Gaelic warrior kings, Columba was a useful asset. His monastery provided education for their sons, he was a close advisor to the king, and he served as a diplomat to the king’s neighbours in Pictland and Ireland. Columba’s blessing was treasured by kings - a powerful symbol of their authority, and, in return for Columba’s support, the Gaels gave the monastery land and protection.
Columba died in 597, but his monastery’s influence continued to grow, leading to the foundation of new monasteries in Ireland and as far away as Lindisfarne in Northumbria. In Pictland, Columban monks began to spread the word of Christianity in the seventh century.

Iona faced competition from other Irish monastic missions, however, and their religious power was not absolute. St Mael Rhuba at Applecross or St Donnan, who was martyred on the Isle of Eigg, were also contenders as early spiritual leaders of the Church. 

Columba himself would have remained an enigmatic and little-known figure were it not for Adomnán, the ninth Abbot of Iona, and his book, the Vita Colum Cille (Life of Columba), which ensured that the saint’s reputation eclipsed that of the other Scottish saints and spread Iona’s fame across Christendom.

Pilgrimage to Iona increased: kings wished to be buried near to Columba, and a network of Celtic high crosses and processional routes developed around his shrine. At its zenith Iona produced The Book of Kells, a masterpiece of Dark Age European art. Shortly after however, in 794 AD, the Vikings descended on Iona, and, within 50 years, they had extinguished the light which had been Iona. Columba’s relics were finally removed in 849 AD and divided between Alba and Ireland. 

The Monymusk Reliquary, from around 750 AD, probably contained a relic of St Columba. It became a powerful symbol of nationhood, and was carried before the Scots army as it marched into war. 

This reliquary is thought to be the Brechbennoch which was carried by the Scots at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

The picture shows an engraving of the ruined abbey church in 1761

Facts: The Truth Behind the Loch Ness Monster
    • External image
    • It’s said that the first recorded sighting of the Loch Ness monster was in 565 AD, when followers of the missionary St. Columba reportedly saw a monster in the Loch.
    • In 2009, a man claimed he saw the Loch Ness monster via Google Earth satellite images.

    • Since 1987, bookmaker William Hill has paid the Natural History Museum in London an annual fee of £1,000 to ensure that its experts would confirm Nessie’s identity, should the monster ever be found.
    • A 2006 survey named the Loch Ness Monster as the most famous Scot—surpassing both poet Robert Burns and actor Sir Sean Connery.

    • One explanation for Nessie says that, because the Loch is directly over the Great Glen Fault, “sightings” are actually disturbances on the water surface caused by fault activity.
    • It’s been suggested that Nessie died as a result of global warming.

    • In 2005, 100 athletes taking part in Scotland’s biggest triathlon were reportedly each insured for £1 million against bites from the Loch Ness Monster.
    • The Loch Ness is the largest freshwater lake in Great Britain.

    • The Loch Ness is 788 feet deep and about 23 miles long.
    • Besides the Loch Ness, other very deep bodies of water in Scotland and Scandinavia are said to be inhabited by an aquatic monster.

  • Explanations for aquatic monsters are endless, and include theories like large fish, optical illusions, and massive underwater waves.

Iona abbey is located on the Isle of Iona, just off the Isle of Mull on the west coast of Scotland. It is one of the oldest Christian centres in Western Europe. The abbey was a focal point for the spread of Christianity troughout Scotland and marks the foundation of a monastic community by St.Columba, when Iona was part of the kingdom of Dál Riata. Iona Abbey was founded in 563 by Columba with his 12 companions from Ireland. The abbey was abandoned after the Scottish Reformation but was reconstructed in 1938.

hathawayland-deactivated2014041  asked:

ahh, hello there :) i just finished my fourth re-read of the scorpio races and still, it's honestly one of my favourite books in the world. i was just wondering if you have any theories as to where thisby is located (in terms of the 'real' world - some said close to england and ireland? thinking maybe sort of isle of man?) and what time period the book's set in? there's mention of the women's suffrage movement and just, yeah, i'd really like to hear your thoughts!

Welcome, friend! Even I haven’t read it that many times! I bet you have some great insights, and I hope you feeling like sharing them anytime you so desire. And that goes for everyone. I love talking about this magical book! Sometimes I wish Maggie had spelled things out a bit more but she did leave clues in the text, which I am hell-bent on finding and puzzling out. It’s a mountain I have to climb.

So. Location first!

  • It’s in the Atlantic (“shaking…the Atlantic from their hooves”). When Sean looks at the western horizon, he pictures that somewhere out there is “George Holly’s America.”
  • We’ve got Gaeilge words like capaill uisce, and the names of the islanders are primarily Irish (Connolly, Kendrick), with a bit of Scottish (Malvern, Carrick), English (Eaton, Privett) and Scandinavian (Palsson, Skata) sprinkled in.
  • It has chalk cliffs.

I’ve often thought that Thisby seemed similar to the Isle of Man. They’ve got Celtic-Anglo influences (and even some Norse connections). What’s more, there’s the Manx legend of the cabyll-ushtey. However, Maggie did say in an interview that she was going for “quasi-Irish or Scottish,” though I’ll never be able to shake the English connection entirely due to the audiobook and her Yorkshire photos.

Now, I’m not satisfied to leave it at “quasi-Irish or Scottish” because I obsess about things. It’s what I do. This brings us to the issue of chalk. The Chalk Group primarily exists in southern and eastern England, but there is one tiny part of Northern Ireland where similar chalk cliffs can also be found: the Antrim coast. I see Thisby as being somewhere off the coast of Northern Island, betwixt the Atlantic and the North Channel of the Irish Sea, which would account for cultural influences, geography, and geology. The closest real-world equivalent I’ve found is Rathlin Island, which just happens to boast chalk cliffs, sea caves, ferries, and a connection to St. Columba. Too bad it’s home to 100 and not 4,000 people.

And now the time period!

I’ve written a little about fashion, cars, wars, and attitudes here, but I’ll always have more thoughts on the matter. Right now I want to focus on this quote:

  • “I had been to the mainland once with my father, for one of the races there. It was vests and flat caps and bowlers and canes…and wives who looked like dolls.”

Bowler hats found their peak popularity between the mid 1800s and the 1930s. The “wives who looked like dolls” bit is interesting, because the elaborate clothes of the Edwardian period and the 1910s looked ever so doll-like and women’s fashion had seriously relaxed by the 1920s.

This makes me think that this event happened pre-1920s, and as it is before Mr. Kendrick died, Sean can be no older than 10 years old. Flash forward to Thomas Gratton and “his big sheep truck, a Bedford whose headlights and grille make it look like Finn when he’s making his frog face.” The first Bedford was produced in 1931. So, supposing the book takes place in the early 1930s, the timing works out perfectly for Sean to have visited the mainland as a young child in the late 1910s.

This timing also works with the reporter’s question about Puck being inspired by the women’s suffrage movement. Women in Northern Ireland, along with the rest of the UK, didn’t get the unqualified vote until 1928. I can’t really see the reporter saying anything like that any later than the 1930s; soon after, the term “feminism” became more common and then we get into WWII where the landscape of women’s rights changes once again.

So, all that to say, I imagine Thisby is located off the coast of Northern Ireland and that the story takes place in the early 1930s. I might set it slightly earlier if it weren’t for that truck!

A hundred November cakes to anyone who was able to sit through my rambling essay! A hundred more if you’ll tell me your theories!

Irish lose the Faith...

The referendum in Ireland which passed gay marriage is an unmitigated disaster, showing that the Catholic Faith has been lost to the majority of the Irish. St. Patrick, St. Brigid, and St. Columba must be weeping.

This is what we call the Church of Nice. We do not speak with the courage and prophetic utterance of the Pentecostal Spirit. Rather, we manage words, tailor phrases, and buckle under the weight of the culture’s latest mores. It is all very nice. It is appeasement, “Peace in our Times” as Chamberlain once said.

Like in many European countries, the majority of the Irish call themselves Catholics, but have not received the sacraments weekly for many years. And instead of confirming the faith of those who are faithful and battle scarred, we pander to the crowds. I am shocked by these words of the Archbishop of Dublin:  

“We appreciate how gay and lesbian men and women feel on this day and that they feel this is something which is enriching the way they live. I also appreciate the immense effort which went into the campaign, particularly on the no side, which I supported.”

LOL. Not an ounce of outrage or revulsion. It is so sweet, I could use a shot of insulin as I read these words. Unless the Catholic leadership, both bishops and active lay people, become a prophetic Church, standing up to the culture, we will see the Faith lost while we “appreciate” the efforts of those who reverse and undermine 1,000 years of Catholic evangelism in Europe.