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Saint Donnan of Eigg

Saint Donna of Eigg was a Gaelic priest from Ireland who travelled to northwestern Scotland in an effort to evangelize to the Picts. By reading through the place-names found on the maps, one can reasonably imply a logical route of his journey to the north. The names of several islands are named after him and a Chapel Donan at Kirkcolm.

Many of the information detailing his early life has been lost but there are two major records that still remain - the Martyrology of Donegal from the 17th century and the book of Leinster.

In the Martyrology of Donegal, compiled by the Irish chronicler Michael O'Clery, his death is recorded as being martyred by bandits under the order of so called "robbers of the sea":

"Donnan, of Ega, Abbott. Ega [Eigg] is the name of an island in which he was, after his coming from Erin [Ireland]. And there came robbers of the sea on a certain time to the island when he was celebrating mass. He requested of them not to kill him until he should have the mass said, and they gave him this respite; and he was afterwards beheaded and fifty-two of his monks along with him. And all their names are in a certain old book of the old books of Erin, A.D.616."

The account found in the book of Leinster reads:

'Eigg is the name of a spring in Aldasain. And there Donnán and his community suffered martyrdom. This is how it came about. A rich woman used to dwell there before the coming of Donnán and her flocks grazed there. On account of the ill-feeling she had towards Donnán and his community, she persuaded a number of bandits to kill him. When these bandits arrived in Eigg, they found them chanting their psalms in the oratory and they could not kill them there. Donnán however said to his community: 'Let us go into the refectory so that these men may be able to kill us there where we do our living according to the demands of the body; since as long as we remain where we have done our all to please God, we cannot die, but where we have served the body, we may pay the price of the body.'

Saint Donnan's death was recorded on April 17th, 617 AD. His feast day is now celebrated on the same day.

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