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A perfect copy of this poem remains in the handwriting of Cucoigcriche O'Clery, one of the Four Masters.
He also wrote a poem recording the kings of Leinster, descended from the thirty sons of Cathaoir Mor, monarch of Ireland, and another giving a catalogue of the kings of Cashel, from the time of Corc 380, to that of Tirlogh O'Brien 1367. A copy of this is in the book of Ballimote. Another poem describes the actions of Cormac Mac Art, monarch of Ireland; but the most curious of all, is one upon the festivals, with rules for finding the moveable feasts and fasts by the epacts and dominical letters, and its rules still regulate the practice of many who have never seen this poem. He also wrote a poetical vocabulary of obsolete words which has since been adopted into dictionaries. O’Dugan died in 1372, and O'Huidbrim survived him for nearly fifty years.
DIED A. D. 1380.
Mahon O’REILLY, lord of clan Mahon, wrote a poetical eulogy on his son Thomas, prince of East Brefne, who distinguished himself by the impetuosity of his valour, and his successful resistance against the English, having in a short period levelled eighteen castles belonging to the pale, and laid the country from Drogheda to Dublin under contribution.
LIVED A. D. 1390.
This writer is chiefly known in connexion with the book of Ballimote, on different pages of which his name is signed, but it seems uncertain what precise share he had in the composition; whether he was the compiler or merely the transcriber of those portions of that celebrated book to which his name is appended. We shall therefore, here, in the absence of all personal detail respecting O'Duignan, proceed to mention such facts respecting this book, as have come to our knowledge.
It is described by O'Reilly, “as a large folio volume, written on vellum of the largest size;" it contained originally 550 pages, but the two first are wanting. As usual in the history of books of this class, it passed down through the hands of numerous possessors. A portion of it appears, on the authority of the volume itself, to have been written
in the reign of Tirlogh O'Conor, king of Connaught, who died 1404; and by an entry, p. 180, vol. I. “in a handwriting different from any
of the book, it appears that Hugh Duff, son of Hugh Roe, son of Niall Garoe O'Donell, bought it in the year 1522, from M‘Donogh of Coran, for one hundred and forty milch cows."
The matter of this volume is compiled from a great variety of ancient MSS. of which the principal are yet extant, thus receiving and
imparting to these venerable documents, the authority of so much importance to MS. documents.
The modern history of this valuable MS. must be regarded as especially curious and interesting. It had belonged to the library of Trinity College, Dublin, from which it was either purloined, or fraudulently detained. Vallency gives an account of the book of Leacan, which with good reason is supposed by Mr O'Reilly to have actual reference to the book of Ballimote. The General mentions that Doctor Raymond, about the year 1790, lent a book out of the college library to a person of the name of M‘Naghten; from M‘Naghten it was stolen by one Egan, from whom it came into the possession of Judge Marley, whose servant he was; and remained in the Judge's library till his death. It was then by some means conveyed to the Lombard college in Paris. That this account is mainly conjectural, is apparent on its very face, and the Abbè Geoghegan states that the book of Leacan had long before been transferred to the Irish college in Paris, by James II. ; a fact formally attested by a notary. According to this statement, the book lent to M‘Naghten, could not have been the book of Leacan. There is, on the other hand, strong reason to suppose the book of Ballimote, to have been that which was lent to M Naghten—as there is among the MSS. in the college library, a copy in the hand of M‘Naghten. It would then be the high probability, that having lost the original, which he had borrowed through the interposition of Raymond, for the purpose of transcription, that he in compensation, gave his paper copy to the college.
From the mark and memoranda on the copy in the Academy, it is inferred by O'Reilly, that it was in 1769, in the hands of O'Dornin of Drogheda, “ a good Irish scholar,” and remained with him till 1774. It then probably came into the possession of the college. The next hand to which it seems to be traced with any certainty is that of the chevalier O'Gorman, who presented it to the Royal Irish Academy.
Dermod O'Conor, who translated Keating, mentions having obtained the “ book of Ballimore in the county of Meath, by the kindness of Dr Anthony Raymond of Trim, who entered into a bond of a thousand pound, security for its safe return." This statement is questioned by O'Reilly, who infers that the book in question, was the book of Ballimote. He observes, that no Irish scholar ever heard of a book of Ballimore in Meath; and confirms his inference by the numerous errors in O'Conor's translation, which he considers sufficient to prove that “he could make nothing” of the book of Ballimote. The conjecture that this was the book of Ballimote, receives some additional probability from the circumstance, that Bishop Nicholson who mentions this book twice, calls it once “the book of Ballimore." O'Conor may have caught the word, and referred the book to the place with which he was most familiar.
One more observation we cannot avoid adding in favour of this supposition, though personally we have no present means of verifying it. The enumeration of the contents of this book by O'Conor,t is not in accordance with that of Mr O'Reilly. For this fact, if correct, we must be content to refer to the several books; as those who choose to verify it must be already in possession of the means. Keating mentions the Psalter of Tara, and the Book of Armagh.
* Preface to Keating's Ireland. † Preface to his translation of Keating's Ireland.
Donogh Ban O'Maelconaire.
DIED A. D. 1404.
Donogh BAN O’MAELCONAIRE, chief poet of the O'Conors of Connaught, was author of a poetical catalogue of the kings of Connaught, from Tirlogh O'Conor, son of Roderick the great, to Tirlogh O'Conor, who lived upwards of two hundred and thirty years afterwards.
A copy of this poem is in the book of Leacan.
DIED A. D. 1405.
Angustin MAGRADIAN, or Austin M‘Craith continued the annals of Tigernach to his own time, and they have been since continued by another writer to the year 1571. A copy of these annals is in the library of Trinity College.
A. D. 1415.
MAURICE O'DALY, who with many poets of his time, was this year cruelly plundered by Lord Furnival, revenged himself by recording in verse, the defeats of the English, and the signal victories of Thomas, prince of East Brefne, when he razed eighteen castles belonging to the lords of the pale, for which he was also celebrated in verse by his father, the lord of Clan Mahon.
BORN A. D. 1146.-DIED A, D. 1220.
Among the authorities for the history of the earlier part of this period, none can be named of the same pretension to fulness and minuteness as Giraldus Cambrensis. And as he had probably access to a large class of ancient documents, not now in existence, he is perhaps among the best sources of information on the earlier periods. If we must subtract from this praise the well-known fact that he was a party writer, and the advocate of Henry II.'s views, yet the allowance, too, is easily made, for any deception likely to arise, and where his statement is not perceptibly affected by two great motives, his zeal for the church, and his zeal for the subjugation of this island, he may be relied
upon as a safe authority for the transactions of his own time, and that immediately preceding. His errors and prejudices—his ignorance of the Irish language, and the credulity with which he received, and transmitted in his writings, all sorts of improbabilities have drawn upon him much unmeasured severity; and we must admit that on these grounds, the deductions to be made are large enough. But as much or more is on some similar ground to be deduced from all history, the real authority of which is after all to be elaborately extracted by comparison, and the aid of a comprehensive theory of mankind, and the laws of social transition. Before Cambrensis, it cannot indeed in the full sense of the term be said that there were any Irish historians; the annalists, valuable as they unquestionably are, do not merit the name; it is indeed in a great measure from the fact, that they are but compilers—chroniclers of isolated facts-that their value is derived. Were it not that they copied such ancient dates and records as they found with conscientious accuracy, their ignorant prejudices and superstitious traditions must have rendered questionable every line they wrote: this is apparent from the few well-known remains of the literature of the middle ages. If however these are rendered trustworthy by the barrenness of their statements, and by the fact that they are simply the deliverers of an unbroken series of traditions; the Anglo-Irish historians who follow, have the advantage of standing within the daylight of historical comparison; and of being easily tested by the consent of modern tradition, and by the evidence of existing things.
Giraldus was descended from a noble Norman family, but his mother was a Welsh woman; his native place was Pembrokeshire, where he was born in 1146, at the castle of Manorbur. He was from his childhood destined for the ecclesiastical profession, for which he exhibited early dispositions. He soon mastered the learning of the age,
and while yet very young was introduced to his intended profession, in which his learning, zeal, and practical ability, afforded the fairest expectations of advancement. An ambitious and prompt spirit was not wanting to prompt the active exertion of these capabilities, and Giraldus was soon employed to influence his Welsh countrymen to submit to the payment of their ecclesiastical dues to the archbishop of Canterbury, for whom he acted as legate in Wales: in this capacity he suspended the archdeacon of St David's, who refused to part with his mistress, and was himself appointed archdeacon in his room. In this situation the most remarkable incident is his dispute with the bishop of St Asaph, which is worthy of notice for the very strange and peculiar display it offers of the spirit of the age. This contest related to the dedication of a church, which was situated on the borders of the dioceses of the two belligerent ecclesiastics. The bishop with the experience of his maturer age, had planned to anticipate the movements of his youthful antagonist, and dedicate the church before he should become aware of the design. But he had not justly allowed for the vigilance and superior promptitude of Giraldus, who was not to be thus caught sleeping. Giraldus having received some intimation of the bishop's intent, prepared with
discreet celerity to prevent him: sending for an aid of armed men to his friends, Clyd and Cadwallon, chiefs of the country, to whom he represented the important necessity of vindicating the rights of the diocese of St David's
, and having been joined by their contingents of horse and foot, he hastened forward with his little army to the scene of action. On the next morning after his departure he arrived early at the scene of meditated conflict, and after some delay, entering the church which was to be dedicated, proceeded to the usual solemnities, and having ordered the bells to be rung in token of possession, he began mass. In the mean time, the bishop, with his host, drew nigh, and his messengers arrived to bespeak the due preparations. On this Giraldus, who had finished his mass, sent a deputation of the clergy of St David's to welcome the bishop if he was coming as a neighbour to witness the ceremony, if otherwise to prohibit his further approach. The bishop replied, " that he came in his professional capacity as a priest to perform his duty in the dedication of the church.” With this the bishop came on, and was met by the archdeacon at the head of his party as he approached the entrance of the disputed church. Here these two antagonists, more resolute than wise, stood for a while like thunder clouds over the Adriatic, confronting each other with the fume and menace of controversy, the common presage of those more terrific, but not less futile bolts by which that ignorant age was held in awe. Neither party had the good fortune to shake the purpose the other by argument, and they had proceeded no further after a considerable length of alternate contradiction and objurgation, than the several assertion of a right to the church of Keli; when the bishop, again thinking to play the old soldier, slipped from his horse and proceeded quietly to take possession. Giraldus was nothing dismayedat the head of the clergy of St David's, who came forward in good order, in their sacerdotal attire, with tapers burning, and crucifixes uplifted, he met his episcopal antagonist in the porch. The thunder of the church now burst forth, long and loud in all its terror, and the echoes of conflicting anathemas rung from the unblessed walls. Giraldus, promptly taking advantage of this position, secured the efficacy of his spiritual artillery by ringing the bells three times. The expedient was decisive, struck with dismay at this irresistible confirmation of his adversary's curse, the bishop mounted, and with his party Aled discomfited from the field. What appears strangest still, the victory of Giraldus was crowned with universal gratulation, and even the bishop of St Asaph, not altogether annihilated by the mauling he had received, recovered breath to express his applause at the skill and vigour of his adversary. This reminds us of a surgeon, who having broken his leg, had the professional enthusiasm to congratulate himself on the happy incident by which he was led to witness the consummate expertness of Sir Philip Crampton in cutting it off.
Giraldus, at this period of his life, maintained the same prompt and assiduous character manifested in this praiseworthy exploit; and by his alacrity in performing the duties, or braving the hardships of his pastoral charge, merited and obtained the general approbation of the people and clergy: so that on the death of the aged bishop of St David's, he was warmly recommended to the king as the most fit and