« PreviousContinue »
THE STORY OF THE IRISH RACE
This is an attempt to sketch a rough and ready picture of the more prominent peaks that rise out of Ireland's past—the high spots in the story of our race.
The story is developed with the object of interesting and informing the man who can not, or will not, afford the time to read studiously. Yet it is earnestly hoped that it may whet the appetites of many, and stimulate them to go browsing in broader and richer pastures—in anticipation of which there are set down, at ends of chapters or periods, titles of some of the more important books dealing with the subject just treated of.
The writer was impelled to the compilation of this story of our race by the woeful lack of knowledge on the subject which he found in the four corners of America, among all classes of people, alike the intelligent and the ordinary. With the vast majority of America's intellectual ones he found Ireland's past as obscure as the past of Borneo. On three occasions he was asked by educated women who were pillars in their Societies, Has Ireland got a history?
To a large extent the blame for American ignorance of Ireland's story rests upon the ignorance of our own exiles, and the children of those exiles. Were these possessed of a general knowledge of Ireland's past, and the proper pride that must come of that knowledge, the good Americans around them would catch information by contagion. The writer hopes that even this crude compendium may put some of the necessary knowledge and pride in the minds and hearts of his people—and also the incentive to seek out and study the history of the country that endowed them with the rare riches, spiritual and mental, that characterises the far-wand. ered children, and children's children, of the Gael.
Also it is to be hoped that many of the general American public, ever sympathetic toward Ireland, may, through the aid of this rough record, graduate from a state of instinctive sympathy and love to the beginning of an intelligent one.
In making this compilation, the political narrative common to all Irish histories is given briefly. But, non-political phases of our race's history—often far more important than the political, and
usually omitted or only hinted at-are gone into more largely: sach as the ancient customs, laws, learning, literature, scholars, teachers, saints, missionaries—and in more modern times the spiritual struggles and sufferings of our people.
In spelling the ancient Irish proper names the Gaelic form is usually employed-except in cases where a modern form has been popularised. For sake of readers who know nothing of Irish pronunciation, the confusing aspirate has been, in most cases, omittedexcept with g or c where the aspirate is, to English speakers, a help rather than a hindrance. The Gaelic reader will know where to supply the missing aspirates.
For the inquiring reader's benefit it may be useful to quote here a passage from an article on The Ancient Language, History and Literature of Ireland, which Dr. Douglas Hyde kindly contributed for this volume—but which was unfortunately received too late for inclusion.
Says Dr. Hyde: “The numerous Irish annals in which the skeleton of Irish history is contained, are valuable and ancient. We have of course no outside testimony by which we can verify their statements, but there is abundance of internal testimony to show the accuracy with which they have been handed down. The Annals of Ulster, to take one of several compilations of a like character, treat of Ireland from about the year 444, and record numerous natural phenomena as they occurred. If it could be proved that these phenomena actually took place upon the very date ascribed to them in the annals, we should be able to conclude with something like certainty that they were actually written down at the time and recorded by eye-witnesses. The illustrious Bede in recording the great eclipse of the sun which took place only eleven years before his own birth is two days astray in his date, while the Irish annals give correctly not only the day but the hour. This proves that their compiler had access either to the original record of an eye-witness, or to a copy of such a document. These annals contain, between the end of the fifth century and the year 884, as many as eighteen records of eclipses, comets, and such natural phenomena—and modern science by calculating backwards shows that all these records are absolutely correct, both as to the day and hour. From this we can deduce without hesitation that from the fourth or fifth century the Irish annals can be absolutely trusted.”
The compiler expresses his earnest thanks to the Irish scholars and writers who generously aided his work.
The fine chapter on the Danish period' is contributed by one eminently well versed on the subject, Dr. Joseph Dunn, translator of the Táin bo Chuailgne, and Professor of Celtic and Lecturer on Romance Philology at the Catholic University of America.
The noted worker in Irish history, biography, archaeology, and literature, “Sean-Ghall”—whom Arthur Griffith characterised as "the greatest living authority on Irish history”—gives us the fruit of years of research in the picture which he contributes of the obscure period from after the advent of Shane Buide to the eve of Shane O'Neill.2
Miss L. MacManus, the admired author of "The Silk of the Kine" and other fine Irish historical novels, and an authority upon the periods of which she has here treated, supplies the chronicle of Ireland during the Wars of Elizabeth, and during those of William of Orange.
The bright chapter on the Wild Geese,* and the record of those momentous decades of Irish militancy 1782-1803 5 have been treated by another of the distinctive Irish writers, Helena O'Concannon (Mrs. Thomas O'Concannon), author of "The Book of Irish Womanhood," aná several other valuable works.
Rev. Tomás O'Kelly of the National University (Galway), whose writing both in Irish and in English is not yet as well known as it ought to be, tells the story of the Parnell period.
Another of the new generation, one who is making a name in fiction, essay, and poetry (Gaelic and English) Aod de Blacam, author of "Holy Romans," and "Towards the Republic" contributes the informing chapters on Gaelic literature, and those on the Sinn Fein period.”
For the Gaelic design on the cover of the book earnest thanks are due to a worthy Irish-American artist who is admirably striving to make Gaelic art live again here, in stained-glass work, Thomas Augustus O'Shaughnessy of Chicago.
1 Chap. XXX.
6 Chaps. LVI-LIX and Chap LXI.
THE STORY OF THE IRISH RACE
The Irish Race of to-day is popularly known as the Milesian Race, because the genuine Irish (Celtic) people were supposed to be descended from Milesius of Spain, whose sons, say the legendary accounts, invaded and possessed themselves of Ireland a thousand years before Christ.
But it is nearly as inaccurate to style the Irish people pure Milesian because the land was conquered and settled by the Milesians, as it would be to call them Anglo-Norman because it was conquered and settled by the twelfth century English.
The Races that occupied the land when the so-called Milesians came, chiefly the Firholg and the Tuatha De Danann, were certainly not exterminated by the conquering Milesians. Those two peoples formed the basis of the future population, which was dominated and guided, and had its characteristics moulded, by the far less numerous but more powerful Milesian aristocracy and soldiery.
All three of these races, however, were different tribes of the great Celtic family, who, long ages before, had separated from the main stem, and in course of later centuries blended again into one tribe of Gaels—three derivatives of one stream, which, after winding their several ways across Europe from the East, in Ireland turbulently met, and after eddying, and surging tumultuously, finally blended in amity, and flowed onward in one great Gaelic stream.
1 Many scientific historians deny this in toto. See Chapter III.
? De Jubainville denies a De Danann race to Ireland. He asserts they were mythological. MacNeill agrees with him. But many students of the question disagree with both of these able men. The fact that myths grow around great people must not lead us to conclude that the people were mythical. Fortunately Fionn and his Fian fell within historical time when actual facts, countering the myths that have gathered around them, were set down; otherwise, by the same process of reasoning, they might have been classed with the De Danann as an entirely imaginary people.