Colman’s retreat, Inishbofin from Clare island. West Ireland.
Colman, the abbot of Lindisfarne defended the Celtic church at the Synod of Whitby in 664 against the more forceful St Wilfrid. His failure precipitated his departure with other Irish and English monks who were also unable to accept the decision reached by the synod. In time these refugees from Lindisfarne came to the island of Inishbofin County Mayo.
Viewed from the rugged west of Clare Island, Inishturk is on the horizon and beyond that is Inishbofin. Clare Island is within sight of Croagh Patrick and Caher island two places which form the oldest and most popular pilgrimage in Ireland. At Colman’s monastery on Inishbofin Bede tells that a conflict swiftly arose between the brethren over the gathering of the harvest. The English monks felt aggrieved that they were doing the hard work whilst their Irish brothers roamed freely on the mainland. Colman had to intervene and establish a separate monastery for the dissident English at a place called Mag Eo. “the plain of the yew trees”, now the village of Mayo, after which the modern county gets its name.
The ferocious seas off Western Ireland must have challenged the resolve of these sea farers. The churning waves, dashing against the severe rocks are perhaps a reflection of the difficulties, both spiritual and materially faced by the exiles looking for a place where they could worship and live.