Time: Saturday 11am  Venue: St. Mary’s, Church of the Sloes

In the year of our lord – 563AD, Saint Columba sailed into exile to Scotland with twelve trusted companions in a wicker Currach covered with leather. They landed on the tiny island of Iona where he set about his work as a missionary. He subsequently played a major role in the politics of the country as his reputation as a holy man led to his role as a diplomat among the pagan tribes of Picts.

In addition to founding several churches in the Hebrides, he worked to turn his monastery at Iona into a school for missionaries. He subsequently died on Iona and was buried in 597 by his monks in the influential abbey he created. 200 years later the dreaded Vikings descended on Iona and Columba’s relics were finally removed in 849 and divided between Scotland and Ireland. The parts of the relics which went to Ireland are reputed to be buried in Downpatrick, County Down, along with those of St. Patrick and St. Brigid.

In June 1963 – 1400 years after this fateful event another group of men set sail from Derry to Iona to commemorate this anniversary. They sailed and rowed this very same passage of wild Atlantic in a traditional Currach just as Columba and his followers had done. One of the crew from this amazing journey – Richard Hilliard from Killarney will give an enlightening illustrated talk all about their idea to commemorate this momentous sea journey, how they went about building their trusty Curragh and of their fascinating journey in the footsteps, or perhaps more correctly in the ‘wake’ of Saint Columba.


Richard Hilliard, a prominent member of the local community, is a retired former company director and  buyer in R. Hilliard & Sons of Killarney. He was a keen rower and member of a local rowing club and was one of the crew that rowed a currach from Derry to Iona in 1963 to mark the 1400th anniversary of St Columba’s same journey. Richard is fascinated by Irish history enjoys and sharing his passion for such  with his many family and friends.