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In a Seventh Century Version of Social Distancing .....

In a Seventh Century Version of Social Distancing .....

26 March, 2020

As we neared the end of a second week of campus closure and became more familiar with self-isolation and remote working, our esteemed President, Dr. Barry O'Connor,  asked retired colleague Brendan Goggin, Registrar Emeritus, to review the history behind our CIT Coat of Arms and the CIT motto - given the resonance this story has with the current crisis.


Brendan wrote:

"As we confront the Covoid-19 pandemic, CIT’s coat of arms brings to mind echoes of a public health emergency that devastated the people of Cork and of Ireland in a much earlier time.

The words Sén Dé inscribed on a book in one of the quadrants of the coat of arms and the motto Rísam Uile are both derived from the Hymn of St. Colman, considered to be the oldest extant document from a Cork source. In the seventh century, St. Colman mac Uí Chluasaigh was the lector in a Cork monastery. Attached to the monastery was a renowned school, the earliest known school in Cork.

The hymn was said to have been composed by St. Colman and the students circa 661 A.D. to save themselves from the Yellow Plague that was sweeping the country. The first two words of the hymn, Sén Dé - God’s Blessing - also give the title to the hymn. Later lines refer to the students around the school and include “Let us all achieve the peace of the kingdom.” A version of two words from these lines, Rísam Uile - let us all achieve - were used for the motto on the coat of arms.

In a seventh century version of social distancing, St. Colman and the students took flight from the epidemic and sought refuge on an island in the belief that, at a distance of “nine waves” from the shore, they would be safe.

Following the enactment of the Regional Technical Colleges Act in 1992, Cork RTC became an independent legal entity rather than a school under the aegis of the City of Cork VEC as it had been previously. In recognition of this new status, the College decided to seek its own heraldic coat of arms. In Ireland, official coats of arms are granted by the Chief Herald of Ireland in the Genealogical Office and are designed by the office in conjunction with the petitioner.

There was extensive consultation with the College before the final design was eventually agreed and proposals for the motto were the subject of a competition open to all staff in the College. Learning, Hope, Strength, Vigour and the Muses are all represented in the coat of arms which was officially presented by the Chief Herald’s Office to the College in a ceremony in 1996.

In our current trials, may I wish Sén Dê and Rísam Uile to all in the CIT community."


Our sincerest thanks to Brendan for his wonderful narrative and his well wishes.  

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