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Chronicon Scotorum (Author: [unknown])



The text of the following chronicle has been taken from a manuscript preserved in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin, Class H., Tab. 1, No. 18, collated with a good copy in the collection of the Royal Irish Academy, classed P 23 5. The former, which is denoted by the letter A. in the Notes appended to the accompanying translation, is in the fine, bold, Irish handwriting of the celebrated Irish scholar and antiquary, Duald Mac Firbis. The latter, indicated in the Notes by the letter B., is in the handwriting of the Rev. John Conry, or Connery, and was transcribed in France, about the middle of the last century, apparently from the autograph of Mac Firbis. There are three other copies of the chronicle in the Royal Irish Academy, viz:—two in the Betham collection, and one amongst the MSS. recently purchased by the Academy from the representatives of the late John Windele. There is also a copy in the College of St. Patrick's, Maynooth. But these are modern transcripts, full of gross inaccuracies, and so utterly valueless that it has not been considered necessary to collate them with the more correct text supplied by the MS. A.

Some observations on the historical value of the latter MS. will be found further on.

Of the history of its transcriber, Dubhaltach Mac Firbisigh, generally written Duald Mac Firbis (or Dudley Firbisse, as he has himself anglicized the name), but few particulars can now be ascertained. Enough is known however, to show that he was a man of no ordinary talent and character. Although his name is not even once mentioned


by Ware, who was indebted to him for much of the information which enabled him to acquire his distinguished reputation as an Irish antiquary, nor included in the catalogues of native authors published by Bishop Nicholson and Edward O'Reilly, his contributions to Irish history, genealogy, and literature, entitle him to a place in the foremost rank of Celtic scholars.

Neither in the contemporary writings of his friends and associates, nor in the voluminous mass of his own works hitherto discovered, is there any evidence to indicate the date or place of his birth; but he is believed to have been born about the year 1585, at a place called Lecan-mic-Firbisy, now Lackan, in the parish of Kilglass, barony of Tireragh, and county of Sligo, where his family, he states, ‘wrote books of history, annals, poetry, and kept a school of history.’

According to the genealogy of his tribe, as traced by himself from the ancient records of his ancestors, the family of Mac Firbis was descended from Dathi, or Nathi, the last pagan Monarch of Ireland, and progenitor of most of the principal families of Connaught, from whom the subject of the present notice was, as he alleges, the twenty-ninth in direct descent. But as the death of King Nathi is recorded under the year 428, infra, it is evident that some generations have been omitted in the pedigree, unless it be conceded that more than thirty years, the standard average laid down by Newton, should be allowed to each generation.

In the Introduction to his large genealogical work, the original of which is in the possession of the Earl of Roden,


Mac Firbis observes that his ancestors were historians, genealogists, and poets to the chief septs of Connaught, such as the families of Ui Fiachrach of the Moy, Ui Amhalghaidh, Ceara, Ui Fiachrach of Aidhne, and Eachtgha; and also to the Mac Donnells of Scotland. Their chief patrons, however, were the O'Dowdas, princes of Hy-Fiachrach, or Tireragh, whose patrimony in 1350, according to the contemporary Topographical poem of John O'Dugan, comprised the entire district
‘From the Codhnach of the fairy flood
To the limit of the Rodhba,’
an extent of territory extending from the Cownagh to the Robe, and corresponding to the present baronies of Carra, Erris, and Tirawley, in the county of Mayo, together the barony of Tirawley, and a large portion of Carbury, in the county of Sligo.

At what time the Mac Firbis family began to follow the profession of historians it would now be useless to enquire. They appear to have been one of the many tribes in which the profession was hereditary, in accordance with the practice that seems to have existed since the introduction of


letters into Ireland. But some individuals of the name are referred to by the annalists, at a very early period, as distinguished for learning and a knowledge of the national history; and their compilations, many of which are still in existence, have always been regarded as among the most authentic of the native Irish records.

The Annals of the Four Masters, under the year 1279, notice the death of Gilla-Isa, or Gelasius, Mac Firbis, ‘chief historian of Tir-Fiachrach’, or Tireragh, i.e., the O'Dowda's country. Harris, in his edition of the works of Sir James Ware, alludes to another person of the same name, ‘a learned annalist’, whose death is referred to the year 1301. The obits given by the Four Masters, at the year 1362, include Auliffe and John Mac Firbis, two ‘intended Ollamhs’, or professors of history. Under the year 1376, also, the same annalists record the death of Donogh Mac Firbis, ‘a historian’, and three years later, that of Firbis Mac Firbis, ‘a learned historian.’

Of the numerous compilations made by the older members of the Mac Firbis family, only two are now known to be in existence, viz :—I., the magnificent vellum MS., called the Book of Lecan, written before 1416, by Gilla-Isa Mor Mac Firbis, the ancestor of Duald; and II., the hardly less important volume known as the Leabhar Buidhe Lecain, or Yellow Book of Lecan, written about the same period, and partly by the same hand.

The former of these originally belonged to Trinity College, Dublin, but was carried to France in the reign of James II., and was restored to Ireland in the year 1790; it now enriches the extensive collection of Irish MSS. in the possession of the Royal Irish Academy. The latter, or — to speak more correctly — a large fragment of it, is preserved in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin.

These manuscripts were written, as their names import,


at Lecan-mic-Firbisy, in the county of Sligo, the residence of the compilers at the time. The Mac Firbis family seems to have previously resided in the county of Mayo; for, in the genealogical tract on the tribes of Hy-Fiachrach, contained in the Book of Lecan, the Clann Firbisigh, or sept of Mac Firbis, are stated to have resided at Ros-serc, a place still known by the same name, and situated in the barony of Tirawley, in that county. The extent of their possessions is not given; but it is certain that they were amply endowed, according to the usage of the period, by which members of the learned professions in Ireland were entitled to privileges and emoluments hardly inferior to those enjoyed by the rulers of territories. The following extract from the account of the ceremony observed at the inauguration of the O'Dowda, as prince of Hy-Fiachrach, affords a curious illustration of the nature of some of these privileges:—
‘And the privilege of first drinking [at the banquet] was given to O'Caemhain by O'Dowda, and O'Caemhain was not to drink until he first presented it [the drink] to the poet, that is, to Mac Firbis. Also the weapons, battle-dress, and steed of O'Dowda, after his nomination, were given to O'Caemhain, and the weapons and battle-dress of O'Caemhain to Mac Firbis. And it is not lawful ever to nominate the O'Dowda until O'Caemhain and Mac Firbis pronounce the name, and until Mac Firbis raises the body of the wand over the head of O'Dowda. And after O'Caemhain and Mac Firbis, every clergyman and comarb of a church, and every bishop, and every chief of a district, pronounces the name.’

Tribes and Customs of Hy-Fiachrach, p. 440.

We have no evidence to show when the family of Mac Firbis removed to Lecan, on the eastern bank of the river Moy, where they appear to have been settled before the year 1397, as some of their compositions are stated to have been written there in that year.


Duald, who was the eldest of four brothers, would seem to have been of a junior branch of the family, for he observes that the Castle of Lecan or Lackan, in which he was born, was erected in the year 1560 by his cousins, Ciothruadh and James. Although there can be no doubt that the Mac Firbises then held the land attached to the castle in right of their profession, their tenure would seem to have been altered at a subsequent period, for by an inquisition taken at Sligo on the 22nd of August, 1625, Donough O'Dowda, their chief and patron, was found to have been then ‘seized of the castle, town, and quarters of Lecan-mic-Firbisigh, and other lands, which he had settled by deed, dated 28th of August, 1617, to the use of his wife Onora Ny-Connor, for their lives, and then to the use of his own right heirs’ — a state of things incompatible with the possession of any permanent interest therein by the Mac Firbises.

'It is quite clear', observes Dr. O'Donovan, 'that Donnoghe O'Dowde could not have settled Lacken in this manner, in 1617, if it had been then the freehold inheritance of the family of Mac Firbis. The most that can be believed, therefore, is, that the Mac Firbises may have farmed the townland of Lackan, or a part of it, from Donnoghe O'Dowde, or his successor, till the year 1641, at which period it was forfeited by O'Dowde, and granted to the family of Wood.'’’

Hy-Fiachrach, Introduction, p. vi.

Respecting his education, Professor O'Curry writes:—
Duald Mac Firbis appears to have been intended for the hereditary profession of an antiquarian and historian, or for that of the Fenechas, or ancient laws of his native country (now improperly called the Brehon Laws). To qualify him for either of these ancient and honourable professions, and to improve and perfect his education, young Mac Firbis appears, at an early age, to have passed into Munster, and to have taken up his residence in the


school of law and history then kept by the Mac Egans of Lecan, in Ormond, in the present county of Tipperary.
He studied also for some time, either before or after this, but I believe after, in Burren, in the present county of Clare, at the not less distinguished literary and legal school of the O'Davorens, where we find him, with many other young Irish gentlemen, about the year 1595, under the presidency of Donnell O'Davoren.’’

Lectures on the MS materials of Irish History, p. 121

Duald Mac Firbis's studies were not confined to the ordinary branches of education attainable through the medium of his native language, but included also Greek and Latin. From his account of the Anglo-Norman and Welsh families settled in Ireland, he seems to have been familiar with the writings of Giraldus Cambrensis and Holingshed. He appears also to have read Verstegan's Restitution of Decayed Intelligence, and the Fasciculus Temporum of Rolewinck. In his copy of Cormac's Glossary, preserved in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin, (Class H. 2, 15), he explains many Latin and Greek words in the margin, always writing the Greek in the original character. Nevertheless, the rude Latinity of some of the entries in the following chronicle indicates that his knowledge of Latin was very imperfect.

We have no account of Mac Firbis's proceedings from the period when he had completed his education until the year 1645, two years after the death of his father, when he seems to have been settled in Galway, where he became acquainted with the learned Roderick O'Flaherty (then only seventeen years of age), and Dr. John Lynch, the author of Cambrensis Eversus, to both of whom he


acted as Irish tutor, affording them, besides, much valuable assistance in the prosecution of their historical studies. O'Flaherty, who appears to have been much attached to him, and frequently acknowledges, with much feeling, the obligations he owed to Mac Firbis, in his chapter on the letters of the Irish, says of him, that he was ‘rei antiquariæ Hibernorum unicum, dum vixit, columen, et extinctus, detrimentum.’ Again, referring to his enumeration of the kings of Ulidia, O'Flaherty observes: ‘Horum nomenclaturam, et annorum numerum, quo illorum quisque Ultoniæ præfuit, penes me habeo ab intima nostro amico Dualdo Firbisio è vetustis majorum suorum Monumentis excerptum, qui anno Domini 1670–1 cruenta morte sublatus antiquitatum, et Hiberniæ linguæ cognitioni altum vulnus inflixerat.’

Ogygia, Proloquium, p. [13]

And in another place he calls him ‘hereditary professor of the antiquities of his country.’ Dr. Lynch, who wrote under the name of Gratianus Lucius, also acknowledges having received assistance from Mac Firbis.

During the ensuing five years Mac Firbis was occupied in compiling his important work on Irish genealogies, which he finished in 1650, as he states, in the College of St. Nicholas, Galway. In the year 1652, he lost one of his steadfast friends, Dr. Lynch, who fled to France on the surrender of Galway to the Parliamentary Forces; but he still continued, although under adverse circumstances, to apply his honest zeal and active industry to the task of transferring to a more permanent shape the contents of MSS. falling into decay. A few years later, however, his prospects assumed a brighter aspect. Sir James Ware, impressed with the importance of


securing the services of one so thoroughly acquainted with the language, history, and antiquities of his country as Mac Firbis had the reputation of being, employed him, in the year 1655, to collect and translate, from the Irish Annals, materials for the composition of his learned works on the Antiquities and Ecclesiastical History of Ireland. His connection with Ware, who, as already remarked, makes no reference to the services rendered him by Mac Firbis, has been generally considered to have commenced only a short time before the death of that distinguished scholar in 1666; but there are two tracts compiled by Mac Firbis in 1655 — one a catalogue of Irish bishops, preserved in the British Museum, in each of which he states that it was drawn up for his friend and patron, Ware. At a subsequent period he seems to have been an inmate of Ware's house, in Dublin, as appears from the following remark of Harris, in his account of the Bishops of Tuam: —‘One John was consecrated about the close of the year 1441. [Sir James Ware declares he could not discover when he died; and adds that some called him John De Burgo, but that he could not answer for the truth of that name.] But both these particulars are cleared up, and his immediate successor named, by Dudley Firbisse, an amanuensis, whom Sir James Ware employed in his house to translate and collect for him from the Irish manuscripts; one of whose pieces begins thus, viz.:—
‘This translation beginned was by Dudley Firbisse, in the house of Sir James Ware, in Castle-street, Dublin, 6th of November, 1666,’ which was 24 days before the death of the said knight.’ ‘I suppose the death of his patron,’ adds Harris, ‘put a stop to his further progress.’

The small amount of patronage extended to him has also been made the subject of complaint by old Charles


O'Conor of Belanagare, the grandfather of Dr. O'Conor, editor of Rerum Hibernicarum Scriptores, ‘Duald Mac Firbis’, observes this venerable antiquary and scholar, ‘the most eminent antiquarian of the latter times, was possessed of a considerable number of the Brethe Nimhe. He alone could explain them, as he alone, without patronage or assistance, entered into the depths of this part of Scottish learning, so extremely obscure to us of the present.’

‘When we mention Mac Firbis, we are equally grieved and ashamed; his neglected abilities ignominious to his ungrateful country! his end tragical! his loss irreparable!’ The death of his enlightened patron, Sir James Ware, having put a stop to his labours in Dublin, Mac Firbis appears to have returned to his native place in the county of Sligo, where he lived in great poverty during the remaining few years of his life. He had outlived many of the friends who had encouraged and assisted him in former years; others, like Dr. Lynch, had sought safety in flight from the vengeance of their successful opponents in the civil war which then distracted the country; and of those who remained behind, the majority, including the learned Roderick O'Flaherty, heir to a handsome patrimony, were reduced by confiscation to a state of poverty hardly less intense than that in which Mac Firbis was plunged.


The state of misery to which his friend O'Flaherty was brought after the confiscation of his ample inheritance, is incidentally told by Dr. Thomas Molyneux, in his account of a journey made to Connaught in the year 1709.

‘I went,’ he says, ‘to visit old Flaherty, who lives, very old, in a miserable condition at Park, some three hours west of Galway, in Hiar or West Connaught. I expected to have seen here some old Irish manuscripts; but his ill fortune has stripped him of these as well as other goods, so that he has nothing now left but some few of his own writing, and a few old rummish books of history printed.’ O'Flaherty was then in his 80th year, The death of Mac Firbis was sudden and violent. In the year 1670, while travelling to Dublin, he was assassinated at Dunflin, in the county of Sligo. The circumstances attending the event, are thus narrated by Professor O'Curry. ‘Mac Firbis was at that time under the ban of the penal laws, and, consequently, a marked and almost a defenceless man, in the eye of the law, whilst the friends of his murderer enjoyed the full protection of the constitution, He must have been then past his 80th year, and he was, it is believed, on his way to Dublin, probably to visit Robert, the son of Sir James Ware. He took up his lodgings for the night at a small house in the little village of Dunflin, in his native county. While sitting and resting himself in a small room off the shop, a young gentleman, of the Crofton family, came in and began to take some liberties with a young woman who had the care of the shop. She, to check his freedom, told him that he would be seen by the old gentleman in the next room upon which, in a sudden rage, he snatched up a knife from the counter, rushed furiously into the room and plunged it into the heart of Mac Firbis.’


‘Thus it was that, at the hand of a wanton assassin, this great scholar closed his long career—the last of the regularly educated and most accomplished masters of the history, antiquities, and laws and language of ancient Erinn.’ The venerable Charles O'Conor, to whom the circumstances attending the murder of Mac Firbis were known, but who withheld them from publicity out of consideration for the descendants of the murderer, thus deplores the event: ‘Duald Mac Firbis closed the line of the hereditary antiquaries of Lecan, in Tirfiacra, on the Moy; a family whose law reports and historical collections, (many of which lie now dispersed in England and France), have derived great credit to their country. This last of the Firbises was unfortunately murdered at Dunflin, in the county of Sligo, A.D. 1670; and by his death our antiquities received an irreparable blow. The last years of his life were employed in drawing up a glossary for the explanation of our old law terms, the great desideratum of the present age. Of the fate of this last performance we know nothing, but we may well suppose it lost, as the author lived without a single patron, in days unfavourable to the arts of which he was master.’

The compilations of Mac Firbis are numerous, and of the most varied nature, including works on Biography, Genealogy, Hagiology, History, Law, and Philology. He appears also to have transcribed many tracts compiled by others, and to have translated some. The following list comprises all his works that are at present known to exist, either in his own handwriting, or in authentic transcripts therefrom:—

  1. The transcript from which the following chronicle has been printed.

  2. p.xxi

  3. His large genealogical work, completed in the year 1650, and entitled The Branches of Relationship, and the Genealogical Ramifications of every Colony that took possession of Ireland, &c. together with a Sanctilogium, and a Catalogue of the Monarchs of Ireland, &c. compiled by Dubhaltach Mac Firbisigh, of Lecan, 1650.
    The original of this important work is in the possession of the Earl of Roden, and an excellent copy of it, by the late Professor O'Curry, transcribed in the year 1836, is in the Library of the Royal Irish Academy. This work has been described by Dr. O'Conor, in the Stowe Catalogue, from a copy formerly in the Stowe Collection, and now the property of Lord Ashburnham. A detailed description of its contents, by Dr. Petrie, appears in the 18th vol. of the Royal Irish Academy's Transactions. Professor O'Curry has also published an abstract of its contents in his Lectures on the MS. Materials of Irish History. Charles O'Conor of Belanagare, writing of this volume, observes:—
    ‘As the work stands it is valuable, by preserving the descents, and pointing out the possessions of our Irish families of latter times very accurately; but it is particularly valuable as rescuing from oblivion the names of districts and tribes in Ireland, antecedently to the second century; since which the Scoti have gradually imposed new names of their own, as they were enabled, from time to time, to expel the Belgic inhabitants. It is a most curious chart of ancient topography, and vastly preferable to that given by the Alexandrian Geographer, Ptolemy, who must know [have known] but little of Ireland, wherein the Romans never made a descent.’
  4. An Abridgment of the foregoing work, with some


    additional Pedigrees, compiled in the year 1666.
    The original of this abridgment is not now known to exist; but there is a very accurate copy of it in the library of the Marquess of Drogheda, and several in the collection of the Royal Irish Academy.
  5. A Treatise on Irish authors, drawn up in the year 1656. The original of this work, which formerly belonged to Sir James Ware, had been considered, for a long time, as altogether lost, but the Editor found it in the year 1864, in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, bound up with the next tract (No. 5), in the volume Rawlinson, 480, to which his attention was directed by the Rev. Dr. Macray, of Oxford. Although in the Preface to his Genealogical Work Mac Firbis alludes to his having compiled such a treatise, it appears from various data furnished by the Bodleian copy, which is in his own handwriting, that it had not been completed. An accurate copy of this fragment, made by the Editor, has been placed in the Royal Irish Academy.
  6. A catalogue of extinct Irish Bishoprics, together with a list of dignitaries anciently accounted bishops, but not so regarded in the author's time. This very curious tract, written in 1665, is also preserved in the Rawlinson collection, in the same volume that contains the last mentioned treatise. It is in the autograph of Mac Firbis, and appears to have been the property of Sir James Ware, although the editor of his Works does not seem to have known of its existence. Neither was it known to any subsequent investigator, until the Editor


    found it under the circumstances referred to in connection with the last mentioned treatise (No. 4).
    A transcript of this catalogue, also made by the Editor has been added to the collection of the R. I. Academy.
  7. A List of Bishops arranged by Mac Firbis for Sir James Ware, already referred to, which is probably a copy, or abstract of the foregoing catalogue.
  8. A Collection of Glossaries, including original compositions and transcripts from more ancient ones. Of these there are several fragments preserved in the MS. volume classed H 2 15, in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin. The same volume also contains transcripts, in Mac Firbis's handwriting, of O'Davoren's law glossary, and the curious glossary believed to have been compiled by Cormac, King and Bishop of Cashel, whose death is recorded infra under the year 907. These two important compilations have been published, from more ancient texts, by Mr. Whitley Stokes.
  9. A Martyrology, or Litany of the Saints, in verse, a copy of which, in his own autograph, is preserved in the British Museum [now British Library].
  10. A transcript, or collection, from a volume of Annals belonging to Nehemias Mac Egan, of Ormond, ‘chief professor of the old Irish or Brehon Laws’, made in the year 1643, for the Rev. John Lynch, author of Cambrensis Eversus. This collection has been published by the Irish Archæological and Celtic Society, from a copy made directly from Mac Firbis's MS.


Mac Firbis's translations from the Irish are believed to have been numerous, but in consequence of the wide dispersion of the MS. collection of Sir James Ware, for whom they were chiefly made, their extent cannot now be ascertained. His principal effort in this line was the translation of the Annals of Ulster, now preserved in the British Museum, and of the original Annals of Inisfallen. An important fragment, consisting of a translation of Irish Annals from the year 1443 to 1468, has been published by the Irish Archæological Society; and his English version of a curious tract called the Registry of Clonmacnois, believed to have been originally compiled before the year 1216, has been printed in the Transactions of the Kilkenny Archæological Society, from the translator's autograph in the British Museum.

It is unnecessary to dwell further on Mac Firbis's profound knowledge of the history, language, and literature of his native country. The opinion entertained of his abilities, honest zeal, and industry, by Irish scholars of the present day, agrees with the judgment expressed of him by his learned contemporaries. Although educated with a special view to the profession which his ancestors for centuries had followed, his association with Roderick O'Flaherty, Dr. John Lynch, Francis Kirwan, Skerrett, and the other members of the learned brotherhood which obtained for the Collegiate Institution of Galway, in the seventeenth century, a distinguished reputation for literary eminence, naturally gave a wider range to his studies; and it was probably during his residence among these remarkable men that he acquired whatever knowledge he possessed of the classic languages.

In the art—for such it may be called—of correctly interpreting the very ancient phraseology of the Irish, or ‘Brehon’ laws, he was without an equal. It was the


opinion of Charles O'Conor that all chance of rightly translating them passed away with him. He observes nearly as much himself; for in his treatise on Irish authors, he states that there were only ‘three or four persons’ living in his time who understood a word of the subject, and they were ‘the sons of Ollamhs (professors) of the territory of Connaught,’ in which province the ancient Irish customs and system of jurisprudence continued longer than in the other divisions of Ireland. In proof of this Mac Firbis alleges, in the abridged copy of his large genealogical work, that he knew Irish chieftains who in his own time governed their septs ‘according to the ‘words of Fithal’ and the ‘Royal Precepts;’’ the Fithal alluded to was Brehon, or judge, to Cormac Mac Airt, Monarch of Ireland in the third century, the reputed author of the Royal Precepts, or Teagasg Ríoghdha, of which various ancient copies are in existence.

The MS. A. from which the following text has been taken is contained, as has been already observed, in a volume in the library of Trinity College, Dublin, classed H 1 18, which comprises fragments of several tracts, all in the Irish language. The contents of the volume, which is a paper folio, lettered on the back 'Miscellanea Hibernica', are thus specified in a leaf at the beginning, in a handwriting which Dr. O'Donovan believed to be that of an amanuensis employed by Charles O'Conor of Belanagare, to whom the volume appears to have been lent by Vallancey, in 1774:—
‘In hoc vetusto ac valde pretioso codice hæc antiquitatum Hibernæ Monumenta continentur, viz.’ :—


  1. ‘Tractatus Genealogicus ex libro authentico qui vocatur Leabhar Irse clainn Ui Maael-Conaire desumptus.’
  2. ‘Tractatus Historicus de bellis familiæ O'Brienorum, tum secum invicem, tum contra Anglorum duces, a medio Sæculi xiii. usque ad annum Gratiæ, 1318, a Joanne Magrath, familiarum de Dail-Gais historico, et scriptore fere coætaneo, stylo copioso, et juxta illorum temporum normam exaratus, atque ex autographo existente anno 1721, a viro in antiquititabus nostris versatissimo, Andrea Mac Crutin nomine, fideliter et ad literam descriptus.’
  3. Annales Tigernachi Clonmacnoicensis, qui ab Augustino Magrada Canonico de Insula Sanctorum, vulgo dicta Oilean na Naomh, et post mortem ejus, a quodam anonyma scriptore, continuantur ad annum 1407.’
  4. ‘Antiquum Monumentum vulgo dictum Chronicon Scotorum. Videtur esse compendium prædictorum Annalium Tigernachi.
    Haec omnia Monumenta zelo ac industria illustrissimi ac Reverendissimi Joannis O'Brien, Episcopi Cloynensis et Rossensis in Hibernia, qui die xiii. mensis Marti, 1769, Lugduni in Galliâ obiit, comparata et in unum hunc codicem digesta fuerunt.’

The Bishop O'Brien here referred to was the Roman Catholic Bishop of Cloyne, and the learned compiler of an Irish-English dictionary published in Paris, 1769, and republished, with additions, in Dublin in the year 1832. He was also the author of the tract on the Law of Tanistry, published by Vallancey under his own name (without the smallest allusion to the real author), in his Collectanea de rebus Hibernicis, vol. 1. Dr. O'Brien, in conjunction with the Rev. John Conry, a good Irish scholar, was likewise the compiler of the Dublin Annals of Inisfallen. A paper in the Journal des Scavans, on the Macpherson poems of Ossian, is also attributed to Bishop O'Brien.


The contents of the MS. H 1 18 have been more fully described by Dr. Charles O'Conor, who carefully examined it when he was preparing his edition of Tighernach, and also subsequently by Dr. John O'Donovan.

The copy of the Chronicum Scotorum in this volume occupies 52 ½ folios, or 105 pages of two columns each. The handwriting is large and bold, and in Mac Firbis's best style; but the text is very much abbreviated, and some of the contractions are so complicated that it has been no easy task to decipher the words in many places. There is no evidence to fix the date at which the MS. was copied; but from a comparison of the handwriting with that in his larger genealogical work, compiled in 1650, it seems probable that the Chronicle was transcribed before that year.

It is evident from the foregoing summary of contents that the copy of the Chronicum Scotorum in H 1 18 had belonged to Bishop O'Brien; and it was probably during his residence in France, where he lived for several years prior to his death in 1769, that the transcript in the Royal Irish Academy (23 P 3), was made by his friend and associate, the Rev. John Conry. The MS. H 1 18 had previously been the property of the learned Roderick O'Flaherty, who has frequently quoted it as a reliable authority in his Ogygia, and has enhanced its value by many marginal notes and occasional emendations of the text. These annotations, which are all in O'Flaherty's autograph, have been included in the footnotes to the present edition, as it was considered desirable that every memorandum added by so eminent an authority on Irish history and chronology should be carefully preserved. It does not appear at what date, or under what circumstances, the MS. passed from O'Flaherty. But it could not


have been in his possession in 1709, when Dr. Molyneux found with him only ‘some few [tracts] of his own writing,’ his ill fortune having stripped him of his other Irish MSS. After the death of Dr. O'Brien, the MS. A. passed successively through the hands of Vallancey, and of old Charles O'Conor, whose grandson the learned editor of Rerum Hibernicarum Scriptores, has published a description of it in the Stowe Catalogue.

A good deal of uncertainty has hitherto been felt respecting the original from which Mac Firbis made his copy of the Chronicum Scotorum. The late eminent Celtic scholar, Professor O'Curry, was uncertain whether to regard MS. A. as the original, or only a transcript. ‘Nothing of its history is known to me,’ he observes, ‘but what can be gathered from the book itself, and the hand in which the autograph (or Trinity College copy) is written.’ In his valuable lecture on the life and works of Duald Mac Firbis, O'Curry speaks of him as the ‘compiler’ of the Chronicle, which he in another place calls the ‘compilation’ of Mac Firbis, and again a ‘compendium from some ancient book or books of annals belonging to his family,’ and a ‘utilitarian abstract.’ At the conclusion of his description, nevertheless, he gives expression to his doubt on the subject of its origin, in the following words, viz :—‘Such as it is, however, and as far as it goes, there can be no doubt of its being one of the most authentic copies of, or compilations from, more ancient annals.’

Professor O'Curry's first supposition, that the Chronicum Scotorum was a compilation, or abstract, made by Mac Firbis, seems to have been founded chiefly on the interpretation of the opening sentence of the work, in which Mac Firbis deprecates the censure of his readers for having


given only a summary of the ancient history of the Scotic or Milesian colonists, whose proceedings before their arrival in Ireland, as well as subsequent thereto, are generally detailed at much length by Irish writers. In this very passage, however, Mac Firbis calls his MS. a ‘copy,’ as he does again further on where he speaks of ‘the vellum from which it has been drawn.’ Regarding the reasons which induced Mac Firbis's unwillingness to copy the section of the work forming pp. 1 to 15 of the present edition, Professor O'Curry writes, ‘It is very probable that it was about this time [1650] that Sir James Ware conceived the idea of availing himself of Mac Firbis's extensive and profound antiquarian learning; and as that learned and well-intentioned writer, was then concerned only with what related to the ecclesiastical history of Ireland, this was probably the reason that Mac Firbis offers those warm apologies for having been compelled to pass over the ‘long and tedious account of the early colonizations of this country, and pass at one step to the Christian era.’’

‘(We know that Ware quotes many of our old Annals as sterling authorities in his work. As these were all in the Irish language, and as Ware had no acquaintance with that language, it follows clearly enough, that he must have had some competent person to assist him to read those annals, and whose business it was doubtless to select and translate for him such parts of them as were deemed by him essential to his design.) Excepting for some such purpose as this, I can see no reason whatever why Mac Firbis should apply himself, and with

such apparent reluctance, to make this compendium from some ancient book or books of Annals belonging to his family. It appears, indeed, from his own words,’ adds O' Curry, ‘that it was poverty or distress that caused him to pass over the record of what he deemed the ancient glory of his country, and to draw up a mere utilitarian abstract for some person to whose patronage he was compelled to look for support in his declining years.’ But Mac Firbis, who asserts that in making the preliminary abstract he was actuated by a desire ‘to avoid tediousness,’ does not refer to ‘poverty or distress;’ and it is certain that his copy of the Chronicum Scotorum was neither made for, nor at any time the property of, Sir James Ware.

It need scarcely be observed that no man was more competent than Professor O'Curry to pronounce, authoritatively, on any subject connected with Irish MSS.; and had he transcribed or translated the MS. A., or been able to devote the time necessary for a minute investigation of its contents, observed the occasional peculiarities of idiom and archaic phraseology, and the conjectural emendations here and there suggested by Mac Firbis, (which will be found referred to in the foot-notes to the present volume), he would doubtless have been led to the conclusion at which the Editor has arrived, viz.:—that it is, in all except the preliminary section, a trustworthy copy of an ancient chronicle compiled in the monastery of Clonmacnois.

The Editor would naturally regret very much to find himself at issue with any deliberate opinion put forward by Professor O'Curry on a question touching the age or history of an Irish MS. And had that distinguished scholar expressed it as his unqualified conviction, after a critical examination of the entire subject, that the Chronicum Scotorum was the actual compilation of


Duald Mac Firbis, the Editor would have bowed submissively to his superior judgment. But O'Curry had spoken in such undecided terms of the authorship of the Chronicle, that the Editor considered the question capable of further elucidation, and the result of his inquiries having been placed before the Right Honorable the Master of the Rolls, His Lordship was pleased to coincide in the conclusion arrived at by the Editor, and to sanction the publication of the present work.

The internal evidence furnished by MS. A. would be sufficient, even if other evidence were wanting, to prove that it is not the original compilation of Mac Firbis. In more than one place, for instance, as has been already observed, he refers to his production as a ‘copy’. In other places, where a difficulty apparently occurred in deciphering the original from which he copied, he ventures on conjectural emendations, without, however, affecting the integrity of his text. At the year 718 (recte 722), where a large deficiency occurs, he speaks of ‘the old book’ out of which he wrote, as wanting a ‘front’ of two leaves, as a provision for which he leaves a part of his MS. blank. The hiatus left in his transcript of the entry at the year 1013 (recte 1015) illustrates the fidelity with which he copied the original Chronicle. Both these deficiencies might have been easily supplied by Mac Firbis from other Annals, if his desire had been to frame a Chronicle; and his omission to supply them indicates conclusively that the text of the MS. A. has been transcribed from an original by a copyist, not reduced or put into form by a compiler, whose business it would have been not to copy, but to supply, as far as possible, all defects in his sources.

Dr. O'Donovan, who did not make as much use of the


Chronicum Scotorum as he might have done, although he considered it ‘very valuable as containing passages not to be found in any other Annals,’ hesitates, in his account of its contents, to pronounce an opinion on the question of its age or history. But elsewhere he calls it ‘a good abstract of some Annals which belonged to the Mac Firbises, made by the celebrated Duald Mac Firbis;’ and adds that it was ‘styled Chronicum Scotorum by the transcriber, who states that he shortened or abstracted it from a larger work of the Mac Firbises, omitting everything except what relates to the Scoti or Milesians.’ The statement here imputed to Mac Firbis does not correctly express the sense of the passage to which Dr. O'Donovan alludes.

The fact is that O'Donovan seems not to have carefully examined the Chronicum Scotorum.

This will appear evident from some notes in his edition of the Annals of the Four Masters, regarding entries in these Annals which are also contained in the present Chronicle, the original of which may have been among the authorities made use of by the Four Masters. Even the valuable entry at the year 964, infra, where the erection of the Round Tower of Tomgraney, in Clare, is ascribed to Cormac O'Cillin, escaped O'Donovan's notice, which could hardly have happened had he attentively read the Chronicum. His description of the MS. was written in 1836: but, three years afterwards, writing of this very passage, which Colgan ( Actt. SS. p. 360) incorrectly quotes from the Four Masters, O'Donovan observes,


‘It is to be lamented that we have not the original Irish of this passage, as it would show that a round tower (cloig theach) was erected at Tuaim-greine in the third quarter of the tenth century.’

That Duald Mac Firbis did make an abstract or compilation from some of the books of Annals belonging to his family is very certain. The collection of Irish MSS. in Trinity College, Dublin, includes a large fragment (classed H 2 11) of the Annals of the Four Masters, in the autograph of Michael O'Clery. This volume seems to have belonged to Roderick O'Flaherty, who has added numerous marginal notes down to the year 1422, and referred to several authorities, among which is a chronicle quoted as that of "D. F." or Dudley Firbisse. But it is hardly necessary to observe that this could not have been the Chronicum Scotorum, with which O'Flaherty was well acquainted, and which he has so frequently quoted in his Ogygia, without, however, mentioning the name of Mac Firbis in connexion with it. There can be no question that, if the Chronicle had been compiled by Mac Firbis, O'Flaherty would not have concealed the fact, or spoken of it as Scotochronicon Tigernachi Cluanense, and Tigernachi Cluanensis Scotorum Chronicon, thus intimating that it was originally written in the monastery of Clonmacnois, where the more ancient and important Chronicle of Tighernach was also compiled.

That the present chronicle was known to Irish scholars in the last century as the Chronicum Scotorum Cluanense, or of Clonmacnois, appears from an article published in the Journal des Scavans for 1764, seemingly from the pen of Bishop O'Brien, in whose possession MS. A. was at the time, and who was, of the Irish scholars of his day,


the most competent, perhaps, to offer an opinion on the age or history of an Irish MS.

‘Plusieurs scavans etrangeres,’ observes the learned writer, ‘reconnoissent que les Irlandois ont des Annales d'une antiquité tres respectable, et d'une authenticité a toute epreuve. C'est le jugement qu'en porte Mr. Stillingfleet dans le Preface de ses Antiquites, ou il paroit, au contraire, faire tres peu de cas de tous les Monumens de la nation Ecossoise. Mr. Innes, qui n'a jamais flatté les Irlandois, reconnoit l'antiquité, aussi bien que l'authenticité de leurs Annales, particulièrement de celles de Tigernach, d'Inisfallen, et de quelques autres. Il remarque que la copie des Annales de Tigernach qui appartenoit à Mr. O'Flaherty, Auteur de l' Ogygia, paroissoit plus parfaite que celle qui se trouvoit dans le Bibliotheque du Duc de Chandois. Je crois devoir declarer ici que je possede actuellement cette meme copie des Annales de Tigernach que possedait Mr. O'Flaherty, avec un ancienne apographe de la Chronique de Clonmacnois, qui est bien connu sous le titre de Chronicon Scotorum Cluanense, et qui appartenoit aussi au meme M. O'Flaherty, qui le cite bien souvent dans son Ogygia.’’’

Journal des Scavans 1764, tome 9, p. 351.

In another place in the same journal Bishop O'Brien remarks, criticising Innes's Critical Essay, ‘Mr. Innes s'accorde parfaitement avec les anciennes Annales d'Irlande, particulierement avec celles de Tigernachus et du Chronicon Scotorum Cluanense, ou on lit la note suivante à l'an 503; ‘Fergus Mor Mac Eirc cum gente Dalriada partem Britanniæ tenuit, et ibi mortuus est.’’

The Rev. Dr. O'Conor, who carefully examined the Chronicum, and made a transcript of MS. A., which he collated with the Bodleian copy of Tighernach, was also of opinion that the Chronicum was originally written at


Clonmacnois. ‘Some have confounded this chronicle with Tighernach,’ he observes, ‘because it is frequently called Chronicon Cluanense, and was written in Tighernach's Monastery of Clonmacnois.’ And among the number of persons so offending, O'Conor rightly includes Roderick O'Flaherty, who undoubtedly has so confounded it, although the chronicle which the latter refers to throughout his Ogygia as the Chron. Cluanense is not the present Chronicle, but Mageoghegan's translation of the so-called Annals of Clonmacnois.

It is very much to be regretted that O'Flaherty has not put his readers in possession of the reasons which induced him to identify the present Chronicle with Tighernach. He probably regarded the Chronicum in the same light as Dr. O'Conor has regarded it, namely, as a reproduction of Tighernach, in a form slightly altered. In O'Conor's edition of Tighernach's Annals, commenting on the entry at the year 434, respecting the ‘first Saxon depredation in Erinn’ (which is supplied from the Chronicum Scotorum), he observes—‘Eadem habent ad eundem annum Annales Ultoniæ. Silet tamen Chron. Saxon.; sed vetustiores sunt Annales Tigernachi, qui obiit anno 1088; et Chron. Scotorum nihil aliud est quam compendium Tigernachi, paucis adjectis, a quo vetere auctore ignoramus.’ Again, at the year 662, in his edition of the same Annals, referring to a corruption in the Bodleian text, which he has corrected from the Chronicum Scotorum, he says, ‘Textum in codice Bodleiano hic corruptum restituimus ex codice MS. Dublinii cui titulus Chronicon Scotorum, qui nihil aliud est quam Tigernachi


compendium propriis verbis ubique fere servatis.’ And in another place he describes it as the ‘ Chronicon Scotorum, MS. in Biblioth. Dublin. ex codice Tigernachi jam deperdito.’

That this learned and painstaking writer was certainly wrong in supposing the Chronicum Scotorum to be no more than a compendium of Tigernach, ‘propriis verbis,’ and ‘paucis adjectis,’ will appear evident on a perusal of the present volume, although, as Professor O'Curry has remarked, ‘the order and arrangement of the events recorded, and the events themselves, often, though not always, agree with the Annals of Tighernach.’ Even making due allowance for certain verbal differences attributable to Mac Firbis's practice of altering the orthography and grammatical construction of old texts transcribed by him to the standard in use in his time, the discrepancies between the phraseology of the two chronicles are too marked to justify the opinion that one was actually copied from the other. These discrepancies are rather of a nature to indicate that Tighernach and the original compiler of the Chronicum Scotorum had transcribed from a common original. It is impossible that Mac Firbis could have made his copy from any existing MS. of Tighernach.

It appears from the ‘Testimonium’ prefixed to the Annals of the Four Masters that the laborious compilers of that invaluable collection made use of a chronicle called the Annals of Clonmacnois, which came down to the year 1227. There is no Irish chronicle at present known answering to this description. It could not have been the volume of Annals translated by Conell Mageoghegan, which seems to have extended to the year 1407, inasmuch as several entries quoted from the Book of Clonmacnois by the Four Masters are not to be found in Mageoghegan's


translation, although some of these entries are such as Mageoghegan would certainly not have omitted had he found them in his original. At the year 1005, for instance, the Four Masters give an account of a great hosting made by Brian Borumha into the north of Ireland, which is stated to have been extracted from the Book of Clonmacnois, and the Book of the Island of Saints, in Loch Ribh. There is no reference to this expedition in Mageoghegan's version of the former chronicle; and there is little doubt that, had Mageoghegan found such a record in the volume which he professed to translate, he would not have failed to make it the foundation of an encomium on Brian, by his extreme partiality for whom the authority of Mageoghegan's version is in many places injuriously affected.

This entry will be found infra, under the year 1004, in nearly the same terms used by the Four Masters. Again, the record of the victory gained by Comaltan Ua Clerigh, King of Ui-Fiachrach-Aidhne, over Fergal Ua Ruairc, which the Four Masters have at the year 964, is stated in the MS. of that work, formerly in the Stowe Library, to have been taken from the same Book of Clonmacnois and of Book of the Island. There is no similar entry in any other known chronicle except the present, in which it appears under the same year. The number of the slain is, however, differently given in these authorities, owing apparently to some mistake in the transcription of either. In a note to his edition of the Four Masters, at the year 806 (recte 811), respecting the curious entry there given of the arrival of a Céle-Dé in Ireland, Dr. O'Donovan


observes:—‘This entry is not in the Annals of Ulster or Clonmacnois [i.e., Mageoghegan's version]. It has been also copied by the Four Masters into their Leabhar-Gabhala (or Book of Invasions), but where they found it the Editor has not been able to determine.’ This entry is given in the present chronicle, at the year 811, in almost precisely the same words as in the Four Masters. Referring to the death of Tolorg, chief of Fealla, which the Four Masters record under the year 842, O'Donovan also remarks ‘This entry is not in the Annals of Ulster, or in those of Clonmacnois. The Editor has not been able to find any other reference to this territory, and thinks that it is a mistake of the Four Masters.’ But the same record appears word for word, infra, under the year 844, which is the correct date.

Many other entries, also common to the Annals of the Four Masters and the present chronicle, are not found in any other volume of Irish Annals now known to be in existence.

The curious account in the present chronicle, under the year 1107 (recte 1111), respecting the synod of Uisnech, and the partition of the ancient diocese of Feara-Midhe (Meath and Westmeath), between the Bishops of Clonmacnois and Clonard, furnishes some important evidence towards discovering the real compiler of the original from which Mac Firbis made his transcript. The account in question, which is more than usually specific as to matters of detail, does not appear in any other work now forthcoming, except in the MS. known as the Dublin Annals of Inisfallen, compiled by Bishop O'Brien and the Rev. John Conry, who of course must have copied it from the MS. A. which, as we have seen, belonged to one of them. Dr. Lynch states that the same account was contained in


‘a copy of old Irish annals’ in his possession. It is to be regretted that Lynch did not more precisely mention his authority. It was probably no other than MS. A., which may have been lent to him by Mac Firbis, his instructor and guide in matters relating to Irish history and antiquities.

Amongst the persons who took a leading part in the synod referred to was an ecclesiastic named Gillachrist Ua-Maeileoin, or O'Malone, abbot of Clonmacnois, to whom the compilation of the Chronicum Scotorum is ascribed, probably with justice.

A copy of the work in the collection of the Royal Irish Academy, classed 23 O 8, has an Irish title prefixed, of which the following is a translation, viz :—
‘The Chronicum Scotorum, ie. the Annals of the Scotic Race, written at first at Clonmacnois, sometime in the twelfth century, by Gilla-Christ O'Maeileoin, Abbot of Clonmacnois; in which is contained an account of a great many valuable affairs, particularly the affairs of Ireland, from Adam to the Age of Christ, 1150.’. It is a remarkable fact that the proceedings of the synod in which he acted a principal part are not described, as has been observed, in any other chronicle except this with which his name is connected.

There is no evidence to indicate the source from which this copy was made; but it could not have been transcribed from the MS. A., or any fair copy of it, for although the scribe might in many cases have failed to decipher the text of Mac Firbis's transcript correctly, the discrepancies between the latter MS. and his copy are too numerous to justify the supposition that the one was taken from the other. It is to be remarked that there is now no title-page to MS. A., although there appears to have once been one; and Mac Firbis seems to have always studiously observed the practice of prefixing titles to his works,


whether original compilations or transcripts. Be this as it may, there is no reason to suppose that the copyist of 23 O 8 invented the foregoing title.

The ecclesiastic to whom the composition of the present chronicle has thus been ascribed, and who is stated at the year 1120 = 1124, infra, to have contributed to the completion of the great belfry, or round tower, of Clonmacnois, seems to have enjoyed a very high reputation for learning. His death is recorded within under the year 1123 (= 1127), in the following words, viz :— ‘Gillachrist Ua Maeileoin, Abbot of Cluain-muc-Nois, fountain of knowledge and charity, head of the prosperity and affluence of Erinn, quievit.’ It is also mentioned in the Annals of Ulster, and by the Four Masters, under the year 1127, in somewhat similar terms.

In neither of these authorities is there any reference to Gillachrist as the author of the present chronicle; but anyone acquainted with the subject of mediaeval literature need not be told that no conclusive evidence against his authorship can be derived from this omission, or from the additional circumstance that the copy in MS. A. comes down to the year 1131 (recte 1135), or 8 years after the death of Gillachrist Ua Maeileoin. The Annals of Boyle , those of Inisfallen, of Connacht, and of Loch-Cé contain no reference to the names of their original compilers, while the continuations added by Augustin Magraidin to the Chronicle of Tighernach , and by Roderick O'Cassidy to the Annals of Ulster , have been supplemented with additional entries by some persons whose names are not known.

Many other circumstances tend to connect the Chronicum Scotorum with the monastery of Clonmacnois. The affairs of that establishment, for instance, are more frequently noticed in it than those of any other place. Even the name of Cluain-muc-Nois is occasionally represented by the first syllable (‘Cluain’) only; and as there were several other celebrated ecclesiastical establishments


in Ireland the names of which began with Cluain (i.e. a sheltered lawn or meadow), as Cluain-Dolcain, Cluain-eois, Cluain-eidhnech, Cluain-ferta-Brenainn, Cluain-Iraird, Cluain-Uamha, and many more collected in the index, each of which would be familiarly called ‘Cluain’ by its inmates, it might reasonably be inferred that the writer who thus indicated Cluain-muc-Nois was in some way connected with the establishment. Many entries also, not found in any other authority, are of a nature to support this conjecture. Of this kind are the entries at the year 922, regarding Flann Fobhair (which, indeed, Mac Firbis seems to have been no more able to understand than the present writer); that under the year 1000, respecting the ‘deposing of Ua Begulain’ from some office; the purchase of the ‘Eneclar’ of the great altar, by King Maelsechlainn, noticed under the year 1005; and the curious entry at the year 1091, referring to the persecution directed against the monastery.

The original of the entries occupying pp. 338 to 349 of the present work is contained in what seems to be a small fragment of some other collection of annals, which follows Mac Firbis's autogragh in A., but has not been copied into B. The fragment, which consists of two leaves only, is in a handwriting of the seventeenth century. The orthography is corrupt, and the phraseology occasionally loose and ungrammatical; but, like the Chronicum Scotorum, it contains some notices of events that are not found in any other accessible authority, and it is consequently much to be regretted that the remainder should have been lost. As it is impossible actually to decide whether the fragment may have been a portion of some original work, or only of some collection intended as a continuation of the Chronicum Scotorum, it has been considered advisable to print its contents by way of supplement to the Chronicum.


The chronology of the following chronicle is in a state of much confusion, notwithstanding the apparent regard for a regular system, indicated by the array of ferial numbers with which the Christian period of the work begins. The feriæ, however, do not run on in consecutive order, owing probably, in large measure, to mistakes committed in the course of successive transcriptions of the original. Much of the confusion created in this respect is traceable to the ease with which the numeral u, as written in old MSS., may be confounded with ii. Nevertheless it is almost incredible that Mac Firbis, who had an extensive acquaintance with Books of Annals, could have committed such errors as the list of criteria exhibits.

The chronicler seems to have followed the Hebrew computation in that portion of the work preceding the Christian era, thus differing from the later annalists who have generally adopted the chronology of the Seventy Interpreters. But any attempt to fix the dates of events that may have taken place from 1000 to 2000 years before the present era, must be regarded with suspicion. This seems to have been the opinion of the transcriber of A., who dismisses the brief summary of the ancient historical accounts with the expression ‘I pass to another time,’ as if intending to convey the impression that he regarded the records of that ‘other time’ as more reliable and authentic.

The first entry in the Christian period is the record of the birth of St. Patrick, which is preceded by the criteria ‘Kl^. Enair, ui,’. ‘Kal. of January 6,’ implying that the kalends, or first, of January occurred on the 6th day of the week, or Friday. The succession of years is then regularly indicated by the repetition of the characters Kl^., or K. for ‘kalends,’ accompanied, with some exceptions, as far as the year 641, by the feriæ, or days of the week on which the first of January fell in each year. Subsequently to the date 641, the feriæ are no


longer noted, every year being simply marked by the sign ‘Kl^.’. From the entry of the birth of St. Patrick to where the annalist has noted the year of the world 4481 (recte 4381), corresponding to A.D. 429, according to the Irish antiquaries, there are in all 77 ‘kals.’ or years. But as one ‘kal.’ has been manifestly omitted, whilst the sign has been as plainly doubled in two instances, the actual number of ‘kals.’ to be taken into account is 76. The birth of St. Patrick should consequently be referred, according to this computation, to the year A.D. 353, in which the kalends of January coincided with the 6th day of the week, or Friday; although the date 357 has been added opposite to the entry in A., apparently by Charles O'Conor of Belanagare. The year 353 has therefore been added in the margin.

That the entry of St. Patrick's birth under the year 353 is a gross error, appears from the record of his death at the year 489, where he is stated to have died in the 122nd year of his age, although the number of intervening ‘kals.,’ or years, amounts to 135, exclusive of two which have been omitted between the years 429 and 431. In the quatrain appended to his obit, the event is said to have taken place in the year 493; but an enumeration of the ‘kals.’ from where the annalist has noted the year 432 of the Incarnation, the era employed by the Irish chroniclers, (equal to 431 of the common era of the nativity), gives the year 489, which shows that four ‘kals.’ have been omitted in the intervening period. This subject is still further complicated by the entry under the year 660, respecting the mortality which appeared in Ireland in that year, where it is stated to have happened 203 years after


the death of St. Patrick, which event should in this case be referred to A.D. 457. But the obit recorded under 457 is that of ‘Senex Patricius,’ who is called ‘Bishop of the Church of Glastonbury,’ and is referred to in Irish chronicles as a distinct individual from ‘Patrick, the Archbishop,’ the Apostle of Ireland, although Dr. Lanigan has laboured hard to identify the one with the other.

Starting from the year A.D. 433, which coincides with the First Indiction, as the annalist has rightly noted, the computation of this chronicle, reckoning the number of ‘kals.,’ representing as many years, is correct down to the year 634, with the exception of a ‘kal.’ or year, omitted between 592 and 594, which has been taken into account. Many entries are, no doubt, out of their proper order, as if some ‘kals.’ had been left out in one place and superadded in another. In the margin opposite to the entry corresponding to the year 538, in A., the original hand has added the note, ‘Initium Indictionis,’ to signify, doubtless, that the Indiction answering to the year was 1; which would be correct. Opposite to the 27th ‘kal.’ from this date, however, the numerals dxxu (525) are written, also in Mac Firbis's hand; but these are manifestly a mistake for dlxu (565), which was undoubtedly the date intended to be recorded by the person who originally added the note, although, strangely enough, the mistake of 40 years here committed has been repeated at several dates further on.

Between the years A.D. 634 and A.D. 718, four ‘kals.’ appear to have been omitted; and the latter year therefore really represents the year 722, as the criteria supplied by the annalist sufficiently indicate. One of these ‘kals.’ seems to have been left out at the year 634, under which


date the events of the two years are apparently given, as in the Annals of Tighernach. Another ‘kal.’ appears to have been omitted at the year 639, where the entries for two years have been similarly combined under one date. The entire events of one year have been omitted after the year 645, and a like omission occurs after the year 651.

The reckoning of this chronicle is therefore correct from the year 353 to 634 inclusive. But from 634 to 639, it is one year behind the common reckoning; from 640 to 645 it is two years in arrear; from 646 to 651, the error is three years, and from 652 to 718, the computation is four years in arrear.

The defect which occurs at the year 718=722, and extends to the year 805, is very much to be regretted, in involving, as it does, the loss of, perhaps, the most historically interesting part of the chronicle; for there is hardly any period in the history of his country to which an Irishrnt"tn can look back with more unmixed satisfaction than the eighth century, when Ireland was, in the words of Dr. Johnson, ‘the school of the west, the quiet Imbitation of sanctity and literature,’ when Irish missionaries zeallously laboured to make the savage Teuton a participator in the blessings of Christianity, before the civilization of their own country had sustained the rude shock administered by the Danish invasion. This deficiency is the more to be regretted, inasmuch as the Annals of Tighernach, with which the Chronicum Scotorum may be regarded as of equal authority, are defective about the same period.

But the hiatus in Tighernach is much more extensive, all that portion embracing the transactions of 210 years — viz.: from A.D. 766 to 976 — being unfortuntately missing, This hiatus can be fairly supplied from the present chronicle to the extent of 171 years, i.e. from 805 to 976; but ,the entries for the 38 years intervening between 766 and 805 are altogether lost.


The next entry, imperfect at the beginning, appears to belong to the year 805, which date O'Flaherty has prefixed in A., as there are 51 ‘kals.’ down to where the date "Anno Domini, 856," has been added in the margin by the original hand. Thenceforward the ‘kals.’ are correctly noted as far as the year 904, between which and the year 1131=1135, four ‘kals.’ would seem to have been omitted. Of these four, one has apparently been left out after the year 904, one at the year 968 (where the transactions of two years have been combined in the one entry), a third at the year 1061, and the fourth at the year 1076, where the entry embraces the events of two years.

The result of these omissions and irregularities may be summarily stated as follows:—
From A.D. 353 to 634, inclusive, the chronology is apparently correct.

From A.D. 635 to 639, inclusive, it is one year in arrear; from A.D. 640 to 645, two years in arrears; from A.D. 646 to 651, three years; from A.D. 652 to 718, four years; and from A.D. 805 to 904, the chronology is correct. From A.D. 905 to 968, it is one year in arrear; from A.D. 969 to 1061, two years; from A.D. 1062 to 1076, three years; from A.D. 1077 to 1131, four years; and from A.D. 1141 to the end the computation is correct.

The loose method followed by the older annalists, of simply indicating the succession of years by the repetition of the sign ‘Kl^.’ or ‘K;.’ for ‘kalends,’ to which they sometimes added the ferial or day of the week on which the 1st of January occurred, together with their habitual practice of omitting to paginate their MSS., has led to innumerable errors in the chronology of Irish history.


These errors might in some measure be corrected by the help of the feriæ, if we possessed the original MSS. But these criteria have been so corrupted in the course of successive transcriptions of the earlier chronicles, by ignorant scribes who did not understand their value, that they are comparatively useless in determining the correct chronology, unless when combined with other criteria. Even in the copies of Tighernach at present available, the order of the feriæ is so confused and irregular, that any attempt to bring it into harmony with the succession of ‘kals.’ or years, would prove a fruitless undertaking. O'Flaherty has endeavoured to accomplish the task as regards the present chronicle, the chronology of which he has altered and arranged according to his own corrected system. But although his authority on this subject is entitled to great respect, the Editor felt that the adoption of O'Flaherty's corrections would involve such an alteration of the order and arrangement of the entries, as would seriously affect the integrity of the text, to produce a reliable and accurate edition of which he has sedulously laboured. Bearing in mind, also, the example of Dr. O'Conor, who, in trying to settle the chronology of the Annals of Tighernach, Inisfallen, and Boyle, has committed errors which render his editions of these chronicles quite unreliable, the Editor considered that it was his duty to adhere to the computation of his original text. This he has fatithfully done, with the exception already pointed out, where he felt justified in allowing for a palpable omission; and the marginal dates represent the actual enumeration of the ‘kals.’ or years contained in the chronicle.

The reader will find much assistance towards fixing the


correct chronology in the annotations of O'Flaherty, which have been added in the foot notes, sometimes over the full name, but more frequently over the initials ‘O'F.’

The English reader will doubtless be surprised at the promiscuous application of the title of ‘king’ to individuals who must have been petty princes, or chieftains. But this very practice is an evidence of the antiquity of the chronicle, as the later annalists, the Four Masters for instance, are more particular in applying the term.

Duald Mac Firbis, writing in 1666 of the chieftains of the O'Dubhdas, or O'Dowdas, states that the historical books gave them the title of kings, ‘and though strange it appears at this day,’ he observes, ‘it was not so then [i.e., anciently] among the Gaeidhel, according to their own laws at that time, and according to other nations also. Behold,’ he adds, ‘before the coming of the children of Israel to the Land of Promise, how there were thirty kings together in that country, and it not more than 200 miles in length, or breadth.’ On this application of the word righ, or king, O'Flaherty also remarks: ‘Sua omnibus linguis, et nationibus aliqua peculiaris insita est proprietas, cujus absurda foret in aliis imitatio. Quare in eorum sententiam ultro eamus, qui falso contendunt Regem Latine supremum tantum, et nulli subjectum dominum denotare; ac proinde nobis inepte illud Martialis hemistichium exprobrant,
Qui Rex est, Regem, Maxime, non habeat.
Quid vero hoc nostra interest? Scoti sumus, non Galli; Scotice loquimur, non Latine; atque hoc idiomate trito adagio dicimus; ut hemistichio aliud opponam:
Degener in tuguri Rex lare quisque sui.’


And again: ‘Veteres Regis nomen tribuebant ei, qui uno oppidulo præesset: sic Ithacæ Rex Ulysses, cujus ditionem adeo exiguam nidum æstimat Cicero saxo affixum. Sic Nestor Pyli Rex. Josue 30 regibus in Palestina gulam fregit. Strabo testatur singulas Phoenissarum urbes regem habuisse; et Plinius strategiis et præfecturis omnibus olim reges præfuisse: unde usitato more Divinæ Scripturæ cujusque oppidi Dominus Rex appellatur. Atque ut propius ad vicinos accedam, in Cantii partibus (qui nunc in Anglia Comitatus) quatuor reges Cæsaris ætate regnarunt. Denique nullum modo in Europa, præter ipsam Hiberniam, regnum, quod non pluribus regibus sibi invicem minime subjectis antiquitus paruerit: quos tamen nostræ memoriæ Scriptores, cum in eorum mentionem incidunt, Reges dicere non hæsitant.’

There are numerous references in the present chronicle to the affairs of Scotland and Wales, and also to the Cruithne, or Picts. But the annalist frequently leaves it uncertain whether he refers to the Picts of Scotland or of Ireland. The allusions to the affairs of England are comparatively few, and the events sometimes misplaced by many years. The birth of Bede, for instance, is entered under the year 644, and the composition of his book De Natura Rerum, is referred to the year 686; the former event being 28 years antedated, and the latter probably quite as much too early. The phraseology of the latter entry, which reads, ‘In hoc anno Beda fecit librum De Natura Rerum et Temporibus, et in pagin et in figell,’ seems very corrupt. At least the Editor confesses himself unable to understand the concluding words, ‘in pagin et in figell’.

It would seem that the compiler consulted some ancient work on English history besides Bede, and the Anglo-Saxon chronicle, as some important events recorded


infra—the death, for instance, of Osiricc, son of Albirt, ‘royal heir of the Saxons,’ entered under the year A.D., 629 — are not found in either of these authorities.

Many entries of curious interest to the Irish historian, which are not contained in any collection of Irish Annals at present available, will be found in the present volume. The reference (at A.D. 964 = 965) to the erection of the Cloigtech, or Round Tower, of Tomgraney, in the county of Clare, (of which not a vestige now remains), is the earliest allusion extant to the erection of such a structure. The curious entry at the year 1095 = 1099, regarding the persecution exercised against Clonmacnois, implies that there was at that date a nunnery in connection with the establishment. The notice which appears under the year 1005 = 1007, recording the purchase of the ‘Eneclar’ of the great altar of Clonmacnois, by King Maelsechlainn, or Malachy II., who exacted ‘a hide from each fort in Meath on account thereof,’ is of value, as proving that at this comparatively late period taxes were paid in such a commodity. The account of the synod of Uisnech, which is given under the year 1107 = 1111, is of especial value to the Irish ecclesiastical historian, as bearing on the much disputed question of the establishment of diocesan jurisdiction in Ireland. But probably one of the most historically interesting notices in the chronicle is the brief one at the year 888, referring to the adoption ‘by the virgins of Ireland,’ of the practice, or ‘change,’ of ‘cutting the hair.’ The phraseology of the original being rather ambiguous, the Editor felt uncertain at first as to whether the adoption, or discontinuance, of the practice of cutting off the hair of females entering into the religious state was intended to be recorded. On further consideration of the subject, however, he has been led to the conclusion that the adoption of the practice was certainly meant.

The question is rather a curious one, both in a historical and antiquarian point of view.

It appears to have been the custom in the monasteries of Egypt and Syria, in the early ages of the Church, to cut off the hair of virgins and widows dedicated to God in religion, as appears from the passage of St. Jerome — Moris est in Ægypti et Syriæ monasteriis, ut tam virgo quam vidua, quæ se Deo voverint, et sæculo renunciantes, omnes delicias sculi conculcaverint, crinem monasteriorum matribus offerant desecandum, non intecto postea contra Apostoli voluntatem incessuræ capite, sed ligato pariter et velato.’’

Ep. ad Sabinianum (Ep. 147, Migne, vol. 1.)

But St. Jerome adds that the custom was observed with a view to personal cleanliness.

This practice of cutting off the hair of virgins does not seem to have prevailed in other, or at least in many other, parts of the Christian Church, in the early ages. From the 6th century to the 9th it was imposed as a punishment for scandalous transgressions in the Western Church. It is not easy to determine the time when the ceremony of cutting off the hair of nuns, in token of voluntary subjection to a life of penance and mortification, was introduced generally into the West. But the entry at the year 888, which undoubtedly refers to the subject, shows that it was practised in Ireland at a very early date.

The Irish text of the present volume is an accurate reproduction of the contents of MS. A., the extension of the abbreviations, and the correction of a few manifest errors on the part of the transcriber, being the only substantial liberties the Editor felt himself justified in taking with the text of the MS., which it appeared desirable to produce with literal exactness, as being the oldest, and far the most valuable copy of the old chronicle now known to exist. Some of the abbreviations are so ingeniously contrived, and difficult to be interpreted, that the


transcriber of the MS. B., a most accomplished Irish scholar, has frequently misunderstood them, as may be seen by the various readings at foot of the following pages. Whenever a word or two appeared to have been omitted by the scribe, through inadvertence, the liberty has been taken of supplying the words thus left out. The words so supplied have been introduced within brackets in the Irish text, and the coresponding words in the translation will also be found so distinguished.

The idiomatic brevity of many sentences in the Irish text rendered it necessary, in order to convey the actual meaning, to introduce words into the translation which are not represented by corresponding words in the original. In order, however, to make the translation as useful as possible to the Irish student, all words so added have been printed in italics. The transposition of a few expressions in the original has also been remedied in the present text.

The translation is also strictly literal, and consequently may appear rather rugged. But the Editor considered that the objects of the historian and the philologist would be more effectually served by a literal translation than by a free interpretation. The Latin phrases in the original, which are very numerous, and frequently mixed up with the Irish in a most curious fashion, have been rendered into English, where ‘the perverse ingenuity of successive scribes in disfiguring Latin words’ had not made it impossible to do so. Many Latin words have, nevertheless, been left untranslated, as exhibiting characteristic meanings. The words ‘iugulatio’ and ‘iugulatus est’, for instance, are apparently used by the annalist to signify death by violence of whatever nature, not simply by ‘cutting the throat’, as it has been understood by the Editor of the Annales Cambriæ, I while the expressions


‘occisus est’, and ‘interfectus est’, are seemingly meant to convey that death was inflicted in battle. The death of an ecclesiastic is almost invariably signified by ‘quies’, ‘quievit’, ‘dormitatio’, or ‘dormivit’; but the obit of a layman is nearly always represented by the expression ‘moritur’, or ‘mortuus est’. The words ‘in clericatu’, seem to be used in the sense of ‘in pilgrimage.’ At least some individuals who are stated in the following chronicle to have died ‘in clericatu’, are represented in the corresponding entries in other Irish Annals, as having died ‘a n-ailitre’, i. e. ‘in pilgrimage.’

The Irish ecclesiastical titles airchinnech and comarba have not been translated, for, although they are generally understood as respectively signifying ‘superintendent’ and ‘successor, or heir’, they are ocasionally used in a sense somewhat different. The word airchinnech for instance, which Dr. Reeves understands to mean the ‘hereditary warden of a church’, is explained by Dr. O'Donovan as a ‘lay superintendent of churchlands.’ In more recent times the office of airchinnech would seem to have been exercised by a layman, but anciently it was probably filled by an ecclesiastic. At the year 977 infra, one Flann, lector of Clonmacnois, is stated to have been Bishop and airchinnech of Cluain-Deochra; and a similar combination of offices is occasionally noticed in the other Annals.

The word comarba, which appears for the first time in the present chronicle at the year 895, and respecting the meaning of which Ussher seems to have been entirely mistaken, is correctly defined by the Rev. Dr. Todd, as


properly signifying ‘co-heir, or inheritor; co-heir or inheritor of the same lands or territory which belonged to the original founder of a church or monastery; co-heir also of his ecclesiastical or spiritual dignity, as well as of his temporal rights.’ It is generally used in the sense of ‘heir’ or ‘successor’ to a person, in the present chronicle, but sometimes also in that of ‘inheritor of a place.’ Thus at the year 928, Cele, son of Scannal, is called ‘comarb of Bennchar’, or Bangor, in Down; under the year 956 Flann, son of Aedhagan, is described as the ‘comarb of Glenn-da-Locha’; and in the entry at the year 964, Cormac Ua Cillín is called ‘comarb of Tomgraney’. The liberty has therefore been taken of preserving the word, in the anglicised form of ‘comarb’, in the translation.

Proper names of persons and places have been printed in the translation as they appear in the original text. To readers of Irish history unacquainted with the Celtic languages they will therefore, appear uncouth, seemingly unpronounceable, and embarrassing. But, as Dr. Todd has correctly observed, ‘to change the spelling of such names, with a view to represent to English eyes their pronunciation, seemed a course which, besides being unscholarlike, would be very unlikely to effect its object, the name in its new form,’ he adds, ‘would be more barbarous in appearance, and perhaps quite as difficult of pronunciation as it was in its original and correct orthography. Any change in that orthography, made with this view, would destroy the etymology, and render it impossible for the philological student to trace, with any certainty, the real origin and meaning of the name. The reader of the history of Ireland, who is ignorant of the Irish language, must therefore make up his mind to encounter this difficulty, as the reader of the history of France, or Spain,

Arabia, Russia, or Poland, has to encounter the corresponding difficulty if he should happen to be ignorant of the languages of those countries.’1