A visit to St. Patrick's Purgatory at Lough Derg, where pilgrims of all ages engage in ritual prayer and fasting.

Tommie Gorman recites an excerpt from the poem ‘Lough Derg’ by Patrick Kavanagh, which he wrote about a trip to Lough Derg.

Solicitors praying for cushy jobs
To be County Registrar or Coroner,
Shopkeepers threatened with sharper rivals
Than any hook-nosed foreigner.
Mothers whose daughters are Final Medicals,
Too heavy-hipped for thinking,
Wives whose husbands have angina pectoris,
Wives whose husbands have taken to drinking.


While the number of foreign tourists to Donegal is in decline, pilgrims from all parts of the country continue to flock to Lough Derg. Tommie Gorman meets some of those heading to Lough Derg to find out what it means to them. On a windy boat crossing to the island, one woman says that when she goes home, she will be cleansed of all her worries. Another pilgrim speaks of Lough Derg as a place of penance and prayer. A young priest mentions the tradition of Saint Colm Cille and says that people from Derry are very pious and have great faith. He believes that the Troubles in Northern Ireland have made many want to get in touch with their roots and their spirituality.

Once landed on the island, known as 'Saint Patrick’s Purgatory', the visitors, in bare feet, engage in a ritual of prayer and fasting, which dates back to the middle ages. They spend their first night without sleep. For the second and final night there is the offer of a bed in the men’s and women’s hostels. The buildings are currently undergoing a £3.5 million reconstruction programme.

As Lough Derg is in the diocese of Clogher, it falls under the stewardship of Dr. Joseph Duffy, who says that there is something very authentic about Lough Derg that appeals to people of all generations.

An RTÉ News report by Tommie Gorman broadcast on 23 July 1986.