Inishmurray Island Voices

Pictures courtesy of Joe McGowan from his book  Inishmurray Island Voices

Below is an excerpt from Joes book Inishmurray: Land of Gale, Stone and Fire which he has kindly let me use

The remote and mystical Inishmurray Island four miles from the coast of Sligo rivals all for its state of preservation as an early Christian site, for its wild scenery and as a wildlife sanctuary. St Molaise founded a Christian Monastery here in the 6th century, the remains of which are remarkably intact to this day.

St. Molaise of Inishmurray was confessor to St. Colmcille also called St Columba and it was to him this holy man went in great remorse after the Battle of the Books at Cooldrumman in north Sligo. The battle came about when Colmcille copied a book while a guest of St. Finian requested that the copy be returned to him and Colmcille refused. When the problem was brought before the High King of Ireland his inspired decision of: ‘To every cow its calf and to every book its copy’, was rejected by Colmcille. In A.D. 561 the two men, mustering their armies, fought a pitched battle on the slopes of Benbulben mountain. Aided by an angel, Colmcille won the battle, thousands of men were slain, and the king had to award the copy of the psalter to Colmcille.

Stricken by remorse Colmcille went to Inishmurray to confess his sins to Molaise. As a result of this meeting Colmcille was banished to Iona, Scotland, in 563 A.D. His penance was to convert more people to Christ than had fallen in the Battle of Culdreimhne. Leaving Ireland he was one of a wave of Irish missionaries that colonised a barbaric Europe, bringing learning, culture and religion with them. Scots, Picts, Irish, Britons and Anglo-Saxons poured into Iona to learn at Colmcille’s feet.

Inishmurray island still captures the imagination. Here we may still view Molaise’s monastic settlement with it’s many curious artefacts many of which may well have their origins in pagan beliefs