Nessie and St Columba


Adamnan's Life of St Columba, written about a century after the event, tells us that in the year 565 CE the saint was on his way to visit a local 'Pictish' king, which required crossing the River Ness. By the shore he met some people burying a friend who, they said, had been attacked and killed by the monster in the waters. They had only just succeeded in rescuing his body from the beast.

'The blessed man, on hearing this, was so far from being dismayed that he directed one of his companions to swim over and row across the ferry that was moored at the farther bank. And Lugne Mocumin hearing the command obeyed without the least delay, taking off all his clothes except his tunic and leaping into the water. But the monster lying at the bottom of the stream, so far from being satiated, was only roused for more prey. When it felt the water disturbed above by the man swimming, it suddenly rushed out and, giving an awful roar, darted after him with its mouth wide open, as the man swam in the middle of the stream. 'Columba raised his holy hand while all the rest, brethren as well as strangers, were stupefied with terror. Invoking the name of God, he formed the saving sign of the cross in the air, and commanded the ferocious monster, saying, "Thou shalt go no further, nor touch the man; return with all speed."

'Then at the voice of the saint, the monster was terrified, and fled more quickly than if it had been pulled back with ropes, though it had just got so near to Lugne, as he swam, that there was not more than the length of a spear-staff between the man and the beast. 'Then the brethren, seeing that the monster had gone back and that their comrade Lugne returned to them in the boat safe and sound, were struck with admiration, and gave glory to God in the blessed man. And even the barbarous heathens, who were present, were forced by the greatness of this miracle, which they themselves had seen, to magnify the God of the Christians.'

Chapter 28, Book II of the Life of Saint Columba by Adamnan, ninth Abbot of Iona