A cloak fit for St Columba himself- exceptionally rare art piece part of open air pageant

Posted on: 2nd June 2011

An extraordinary piece of art will be on show as St Columba's cloak in the Columba Then & Now Open Air Pageant this month.

The exceptionally rare and thoroughly researched cloak, with Gartan clay and a stone from Columba holy well in Glencolmcille spun into the hem, will be worn by principal actor Shaun Coyle in the colorful pageant based on the life of Derry- Londonderry's patron.

Originally an exhibition piece, the historically correct cloak is made by Kilcar designer Mary O'Donell, who is satisfied Columba would have worn a cloak just like it. The wool in the cloak was hand-spun and the wool edging on the cloak is made from black sheep and given its green colouring from a dying process using lichen from rocks.

The street pageant will come to Derry's Guildhall square this June to mark the 30th anniversary of Columba Community of Prayer and Reconciliation.

The Community has joined forces with the Playhouse Theatre and the University of Ulster choir to bring over 200 local schoolchildren and local actors to the outdoor stage on Thursday June 9 from 4pm - 6pm.

The pageant, ‘Columba Then & Now', depicts aspects of the life of the saint from his legendary battle with the Loch Ness monster to his journey in reconciliation and his missionary work in Iona.

The pageant is the brainchild of the Director of the Columba Community, Fr Neal Carlin, who said the pageant offered a great means of honouring the city's patron.

‘'For many years we have neglected to really pay tribute to a great patron and founder of this city, Columba,'' said Fr Carlin. ‘'Columba was the first of the great pilgrim monks to leave Ireland and evangelise Britain and Europe during the golden age of Ireland (6th to 9th century)" he said.

"In him we have a common Christian heritage and as Roman Catholic, Celtic Irish, Presbyterian, Celtic Scottish or from the Anglican tradition we owe a great deal to the vibrant Christian monastic tradition which once earned us the title the Island of Saints and Scholars. Ideally the entire community of Derry/ Londonderry/ Doire Colmcille and of course Donegal can come together on June 9th to celebrate our great patron.''

Director Mary Murphy said: "It is a joy and a privilege working with the most creative bunch of people. There is something so appropriate about producing a pageant based on the life of Columba: our foundational saint. A sixth century man, he is also a man for our times: a poet, a saint, an academic; a man who, through pride and arrogance, was instrumental in engendering a war, but was also capable of experiencing devastating remorse. This pageant is a must-see for June 9th. It will provide spectacle, drama, music and dance!"

Pauline Ross director of the Playhouse Theatre paid tribute to the schools taking part in the pageant, ‘'It will be great to see such a cross community event taking centre stage in the city.''

Dr Shaun Ryan, Music Director at the University of Ulster, said: "All are welcome. Be in Guildhall Square just before 4pm, for an experience which will charm, enthrall, excite and uplift the audience!"

All members of the public are invited to celebrate with the Columba Community and enjoy the pageant at Guildhall Square Thursday 9th June 4pm.

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