The lost kingdom of Lough Foyle: The conversation of Colum Cille and the youth at Carn Eolairg

The text is taken from the article “The Lough Foyle Colloquy Texts” by John Carey in Ériu, Vol. 52, pp. 53 – 87, 2002.
Concerning the age of the text, John Carey concluded that it “was composed not later than the eighth century, copied at least once c. 900 or later, then copied again into a fifteenth- or sixteenth-century manuscript”.
Translation by John Carey.

The conversation of Colum Cille and the youth at Carn Eolairg; some say that he was Mongan mac Fiachna.
Colum Cille said to him: ‘Whence do you come, youth?’ said Colum Cille.
Respondit iuuenis: ‘I come,’ said the youth, ‘from lands of strange things, from lands of familiar things, so that I may learn from you the spot on which died, and the spot on which were born, knowledge and ignorance.’
Respondit Colum Cille: ‘A question,’ said Colum Cille. ‘Whose was it formerly, this lough which we see?’
Respondit iuuenis: ‘I know that. It was yellow, it was flowery, it was green, it was hilly; it was rich in liquor, and strewn rushes, and silver, and chariots. I have grazed it when I was a stag; I have swum it when I was a salmon, when I was a seal; I have run upon it when I was a wolf; I have gone around it when I was a human. I have landed there under three sails: the yellow sail which bears, the green sail which drowns, the red sail under which bodies were conceived (?). Women have cried out because of me, although father and mother do not know what they bear, with labour for living folk, with a covering for the dead.’
Colum Cille said again to the youth: ‘And this sea to the east of us, what is under it?’
‘Not hard to answer,’ said the youth: ‘there are long-haired men with broad territories beneath it; there are fearsome greatly-pregnant cows beneath it, whose lowing is musical; there are bovine oxen; there are equine horses; there are two-headed ones; there are three-headed ones-in Europe, in Asia, in lands of strange things, in a green land, whose border is a border as far as its river-mouth (?).’
‘That is enough,’ said Colum Cille. Looking toward his followers, Colum Cille arises and went aside with him, to speak with him and to ask him about the heavenly and earthly mysteries. They were conversing (?) for half the day, or from one day to the next, as Colum Cille’s followers watched them from a distance.
When [the conversation] ended, they suddenly saw that the youth was hidden from them. They did not know whither he went nor whence he came. When Colum Cille’s followers were asking him to reveal to them something of the conversation (?), Colum Cille told them that he could not tell them even a single word of anything that he had been told; and he said that it was better for mortals not to be informed of it. Finit.

Full article available at

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s