Last Monday the 9th of June I attended the pattern day celebrations in the parish of Durrow Co Offaly.
Banner of St Colmcille/Columba.
Durrow is a small village about 5-7 km outside of Tullamore town. St Colmcille/Columba is the patron saint of the parish and the local community celebrate his feast day on the 9th of June each year. Tradition holds the saint founded a monastery here in the 6th century close to the holy well. Durrow was an ecclesiastical settlement of great importance and part of the early medieval Columban federation of churches. I will discuss the history, the archaeological remains at Durrow and the medieval evidence for pilgrimage in more detail in a later date. This post will focus only on this years pilgrimage.
Each year the people of Durrow continuing on a centuries old tradition, commemorate the feast day of St. Colmcille. It is also the traditional day that the children from the parish make their first communion.
This year the communion mass was held at 10 am and a second mass in honor of Colmcille was held at 12am. Following mass the community walk in procession to St. Colmcille’s holy well and after all the religious celebrations a sports day was held in the afternoon .
Processional route from Durrow Roman Catholic Church to St Colmcille’s holy well ( map taken google maps)
When I arrived in Durrow it was about 12.2o and mass was underway. The church was decorated in bunting and flags.
Roman Catholic Church at Durrow.
Following mass everyone assembled at the church gates and fell into line behind a banner with an image of the saint. The parish priest and other clergy from the diocese and two musicians walked in front with the rest of the pilgrims following.
Pilgrims beginning to assemble outside the church gates for the procession.
Musicians John Buttivant and Dick relaxing before the procession. There are normally joined by a piper who was unfortunately not able to attend this year due to illness.
The procession as it leaves the church and turns soutj down the N52.
The procession heads from the church gates south along the N52 road . The event literally stops traffic as the community walk along this busy road. St Colmcille’s day is very important to the local community and one lady told me that many people will take the day off work to attend.
Everyone was in good spirits as they walked along oblivious to the lorries and cars behind them, thankfully the an Garda Síochána were also present to regulate the traffic.
The procession as it heads down the N52.
After walking for approximately 0.5 km the procession leaves the N52 road and heads into Durrow Abbey Demesne.
The procession as it enters the N52.
The next stage of the procession, which is about 0.6km in lenght, could not be more different from the first section of the walk. The pilgrims proceeded down a leafy driveway that leads to the St Colmcille’s Church of Ireland and Durrow Abbey House.
Pilgrims walking along the road within Durrow Demesne.
The procession continued past St Colmcille’s Church of Ireland
St Colmcille’s Church of Ireland at Durrow.
and along a small trackway which leads to a D shaped , tree covered marshy area known as the island.
Pilgrims walking down the trackway leading to St Colmcille’s holy well.
St Colmcille’s holy well is located at the center of this area.
St Colmcille’s holy well at Durrow.
Everyone congregated around the well and tried to avoid the more marshy areas. Some boards had been placed towards the entrance to make access easier. Once everyone had arrived a number of prayers were recited blessing the well and those present.
Prayer being said at St Colmcille’s holy well.
Following prayers many people went to the holy well to take home water in plastic bottles and milk cartons. A young man and woman stood by the well and filled bottles with water for the pilgrims .
Pilgrims taking water from St Colmcille’s holy well at Durrow.
Durrow was certainly one of the most stylish pilgrimages I have attended, probably because it coincides with communion day and everyone looked great in their suits and dresses. This event has such a great community feel and its really a great social occasion too.
Pilgrims chatting at St Colmcille’s holy well.
As I headed back up the trackway towards the church, which houses the 9th century high cross (will discuss in another post), I could hear singing and when I went to investigate further I found a fantastic choir who were singing within the church.
The choir singing within the church at Durrow.
I really enjoyed my time at Durrow and it was really lovely to attend such a vibrant pilgrimage.