How do you celebrate the 130th anniversary of the founding of St. Columba’s parish in Wallsend?

Why, you jump in the minibus and shoot off to Iona to see where St. Columba began it all!!

So it was that Fr. Anthony and eight parishioners boarded the Church Minibus bright and earIMG_0029ly on June 15th bound for Oban. This would be a challenge. The bus, variously named “The Eagle” (as Fr. A had quipped when it eventually arrived one evening at Church after a breakdown: “The eagle has landed”) or Thunderbird 1 (anything could happen in the next half hour!!), had never travelled as far. Journeying two hundred miles to catch a specific ferry seemed madness. It was achieved, though, and Thunderbird thrived on it. Not sure about the passengers.

Having made it to Oban at the planned time, enough to take a stroll around the town, the hale and hearty headed off for a brisk walk along the sea front to the Cathedral: St. Columba’s, of course!

A beautiful crossing through the islands to Mull foretold the stunning scenery to be enjoyed at our destination, reached after another hour or so of bone shaking across Mull’s single track roads. Iona. Our adventure had truly begun.

Our host for the week was Sister Jean, a Sacred Heart Nun, who runs the Catholic House of Prayer, just five minutes’ walk up from the ferry landing. It is a beautiful, welcoming house, with iona 096an exceptional oratory giving out on to views that remind you at every blink of the wonders of the Lord’s creation. As if not enough, Sr. Jean is a remarkable, charming and modest host, full of Celtic charm, gifted in lots of ways, but especially in cooking! Should you follow in our footsteps, as we recommend you do, we suggest packing a few of those “comfortable” things as you will never resist the quietly intoned, “Will you have a spoonful more?”!

Amazing, isn’t it, how some places can encourage you into a comfortable routine? Prayers before breakfast, inclnew ligt through old windowsuding Sr. Jean’s fabulous homemade bread, a day spent strolling the length and breadth of the island, perhaps a visit to explore the Abbey,, somewhere special for lunch,  and back in time for Mass celebrated by Fr. Anthony at five o’ clock each day. Chatter, dinner, more chatter, sometimes there was grave discussion. Off to the Abbey for evening prayers and reflection at nine o’clock and back to turn in under miraculously starlit skies and a silence we cannot equal in any town.

For those bravIMG_0019e enough to endure Mull’s roads, a trip to Tobermory was a midweek adventure. For the grandparents amongst us, we could not help looking out for Mrs. McReady’s bus and for the odd sighting of a lost Womble. (Ballamory and the Uncle Tobermory, respectively!).


The week was over too soon. Like a good host, Sr. Jean, the House of Prayer and Iona left us wishing we could stay longer. We will return.

PS Congratulations to the passengers for hanging on during our headlong dash to the ferry to Oban! Miss the boarding time and it costs you another four hours of waiting or travelling.Thunderbird did the business!! The Eagle landed.

At the AbbeyIMG_0010











Our group in the gusty wind outside the House of Prayer












How to make progress on single track roads: find something BIG and follow it!!



Those paparazzi pop up everywhere!!







Deep in Discussion

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20150616_141223From the windows


Thoughts of Joyful Travellers

Pilgrims were asked to record a few words on their visit to Iona. We’ll publish them here as they arrive.


Iona grit