Today is the feast day of St Columba (in Irish, variously: Colamcille, Columcille, Colm Cille etc).
To mark the occasion, I present a(n in)famous episode (pdfs here and here; image here, purchase here) in his life, retold – under the above title – by my Trinity colleague Dr Eoin O’Neill, who says that his tale below is most effectively delivered in the accents of Chicago of the 1930s, as interpreted by Hollywood:
The Monks had a corner on the market
In the early days of the monastic age in Ireland, (it only lasted for ~1,000 years),
the faithful were attracted to regional monasteries by various marketing techniques such as the sight of rare and sacred objects eg finely worked gold vessels and rare books.
Rivalry between monasteries was rife, and when the renowned monk Colamcille (a scion of the house of Uí Néill, the ruling dynasty) went to visit the abbot Finian at his monastery (possibly Moville or Clonard), he noted that Finian had a fine book in the scriptorium, (a copy of the Psalms: the recording media used normally was the skin of a calf). Finian had diligently procured this copy abroad through his network, no small feat in the early part of the sixth century, given the firewalls that were then in vogue.…