Station of the Cross
Inch. St Ernan’s. Station. Ah. The eternal magic of County Donegal islands. Legend has it that if the priest rowing across Lough Derg to Station Island has red hair, the boat will sink. The island has long been a place of pilgrimage dedicated to the Patron Saint of Ireland. In 1837, Samuel Lewis recorded a calamitous case of titian haired sailing in his Topographical Dictionary of Ireland: “About 10 years since a boat having 80 pilgrims on board swamped and went to the bottom, and only three of the number were saved; the bodies of the rest were afterwards found and interred on Saints’ Island.”
“Lough Derg is a large piece of water in a declivity among shallow hills some 240 metres above sea level in south Donegal. It has several small islands, two of which – Saint’s Island and Station Island – have long been associated with the penitential exercises for which the place is famous,” notes Alistair Rowan notes in The Buildings of Ireland: North West Ulster, 1979. He continues,
“Station Island is now almost completely covered with buildings of which the large centrally planned Church of St Patrick by William Scott is the most recent. Designed in 1921 and built in phases by T J Cullen after Scott’s death, it is a massive neo Romanesque pilgrimage church, octagonal, with short cruciform arms, flanking circular towers to the entrance portal, and primitive Norman arcades outside. In 1912 Scott had also designed the grim New Hostel block, a three storey concrete frame, with modern battlements, providing space for 220 cubicles. The Old Pilgrims’ Hospice, a three storey stone built block erected by Father James McKenna in 1880 to 1882, has been spoilt by the removal of its gables and the addition of a clumsy mansard roof. Beside it are four substantial two storey Georgian houses in an irregular curve in front of St Mary’s Church, a modest four bay lancet hall with a gabled porch, statue niche, and short chancel…” Bringing the architectural history up tp date, Editor and Publisher of Ulster Architect Anne Davey Orr confirms, “In the 1980s the architects McCormack Tracey Mullarkey designed the additional dormitory blocks built by McAleer and Teague. Joe Tracey was the principal architect.”
Today there are two sailors operating St Columba and St Davog’s boats on Lough Derg. Both are brunettes.