St. Columba and the Loch Ness Monster: The Earliest Extant Story

David Russell Mosley

Description English: Columba banging on the gate of Bridei, son of Maelchon, King of Fortriu. Date	1906 (published) Source	Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall, Scotland's Story Author	J. R. Skelton (Joseph Ratcliffe Skelton; 1865–1927) (illustrator), erroneously credited as John R. Skelton Permission (Reusing this file)	 PD-art
Description
English: Columba banging on the gate of Bridei, son of Maelchon, King of Fortriu.
Date 1906 (published)
Source Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall, Scotland’s Story
Author J. R. Skelton (Joseph Ratcliffe Skelton; 1865–1927) (illustrator), erroneously credited as John R. Skelton
Permission
(Reusing this file)
PD-art

Ordinary Time
25 July 2017
The Edge of Elfland
Hudson, New Hampshire

Dearest Readers,

Did you know that the story of the Loch Ness Monster dates back to at least the seventh century (c. 697) when Adomnán, ninth abbot of Iona, wrote his Life of St. Columba? In all likelihood, the story goes back even further since it is about Columba who lived between c.521-597. Even if we were to assume the story was untrue and not indicative of any even in the saint’s life (which even the translator of my edition, Richard Sharpe, does not believe, though he assumes the monster may have been a walrus or some other such beast), we can easily assume that a story about the Loch Ness Monster, or in this case, the River Ness Monster is over 1100 years old. So, without further ado, here is the story of “How a water beast was driven off by the power of the blessed man’s prayer.”

Once, on another occasion, when the blessed man stayed for some days in the land of the Picts, he had to cross the River Ness. When he reached its bank, he saw some of the local people burying a poor fellow. They said they had seen a water beast snatch him and maul him savagely as he was swimming not long before. Although some men had put out in a little boat, they were too late, but, reaching out with hooks, they had hauled in his wretched corpse. The blessed man, having been told all this, astonished them by sending one of his companions to swim across the river and sail back to him in a dinghy that was on the further bank. At the command of the holy and praiseworthy man, Lugine moccu Min obeyed without hesitation. He took off his clothes except for a tunic and dived into the water.

English: Sketch of the Arthur Grant alleged Loch Ness monster sighting in January 1934. DateIn 1934 Source	There'll Always Be A Monster in Loch Ness. San Antonio Light. 5 October, 1941. Author	Anonymous Public Domain
English: Sketch of the Arthur Grant alleged Loch Ness monster sighting in January 1934.
Date In 1934
Source There’ll Always Be A Monster in Loch Ness. San Antonio Light. 5 October, 1941.
Author Anonymous
Public Domain

But the beast was lying low on the riverbed, its appetite not so much sated as whetted for prey. It could sense that the water above was stirred by the swimmer, and suddenly swam up to the surface, rushing open-mouthed with a great roar towards the man as he was swimming midstream. All the bystanders, both the heathen and the brethren, froze in terror, but the blessed man looking on raised his holy hand and made the sign of the cross in the air, and invoking the name of God, he commanded the fierce beast, saying:

“Go no further. Do not touch the man. Go back at once.”

At the sound of the saint’s voice, the beast fled in terror so fast one might have thought it was pulled back with ropes. But it had got so close to Luigne swimming that there was no more than the length of a pole between man and beast. The brethren were amazed to see that the beast had gone and that their fellow-soldier Luigne returned to them untouched and sage in the dinghy, and they glorified God in the blessed man. Even the heathen natives who were present at the time were so moved by the greatness of the miracle they had witnessed that they too magnified the God of the Christians (Life of St. Columba II.27).

Sincerely,

David

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