St Columba documentary to mark 1,500 year anniversary

BBC Alba and Irish language television channel TG4 are collaborating to create a documentary marking 1,500 years since the birth of St Columba.

Calum Cille: An Naomh Dàna, or Columba: The Bold Saint, will broadcast on 7 December simultaneously on the two channels and is set to explore the various myths surrounding the saint.

The show will include both dramatic reconstructions of the saint’s life as well as expert accounts.

Though St Columba came to be known as the ‘Dove of Peace’, he was at the centre of bloody battles, before founding a monastery on Iona, laying the foundations for the island to become a centre of knowledge in the early Middle Ages.

The saint is even said to have tamed the Loch Ness Monster.

The documentary will cover from Donegal to Iona, exploring the truths and myths surrounding the saint that brought Christianity to Scotland and became one of the most revered figures in Scottish and Irish history.

Dr Duncan Sneddon from the University of Edinburgh, who features in the documentary, said: “There’s a difference between Columba the man who lived on earth and the historical figure who was recreated in the generations after his death – and they all create their own Columba.

“But they all tell us something important. They all put together a Columba who was powerful, brave and important in different ways.”

The documentary is also significant in its collaboration between Scottish and Irish Gaelic television channels.

Margaret Cameron, the commissioning editor and head of Creative Collaborations BBC ALBA, said: “This programme was a very natural fit for co-production, and we’re delighted to see this production and broadcast collaboration result in high-quality content for the BBC ALBA audience.

“Cultural ties between Ireland and Scotland have always been strong and BBC ALBA wanted to commission this documentary to mark 1,500 years since the birth of Calum Cille and to reflect on our linguistic and cultural bonds in a very creative way.”

Chief executive of Northern Ireland Screen’s Irish Language Broadcast Fund, Áine Walsh, said that the documentary was both an opportunity to ‘explore the life of the bold saint’ and also ‘provide another opportunity to strengthen the links between Ireland and Scotland’.

Alan Esslemont, director General of TG4, said: “I am delighted, to mark the 1,500th anniversary of his birth, that TG4 and our Scottish sister channel, BBC ALBA, are bringing a fresh and compelling documentary to screens in both of our countries on the life of this most obstinate, avant-gardist, bold and influential Gael who permanently changed both Ireland and Scotland.”

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