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Betha Fursa

Author: Unknown

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Whitley Stokes

Electronic edition compiled by Elva Johnston, Beatrix Färber

Funded by University College, Cork and
Professor Marianne McDonald via the CURIA Project.

4. Fourth draft, with introduction and bibliographic details.

Proof corrections by Mavis Cournane, Donnchadh Ó Corráin

Extent of text: 4420 words


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    Manuscript sources
  1. Brussels, Bibliothèque royale, MS 2324–40, AD 1629; scribe: Michael O'Clery (Charles Plummer, Miscellanea hagiographica Hibernica (Brussels 1925) 190 [sect ]39). A copy of RIA MS 968.
  2. Dublin, Royal Irish Academy, MS 968 (olim A. iv. 1 olim Stowe 9 see Catalogue of Irish Manuscripts in the Royal Irish Academy, fasc. 22, 2780–83), c. 1627; scribe: Domnall Ó Duinnín (Charles Plummer, Bethada naem nÉrenn (2 vols, Oxford 1922), i p. xii).
  1. Whitley Stokes, Revue Celtique 25 (1904) 389–401.
  1. Laurentius Surius [=Laurence Suhr, or Lorenz Sauer] (ed), De probatis sanctorum historiis, 6 vols. and index (Cologne, 1570–75).
  2. Tomás Dávila, Historia, y vida del admirable, y extatico San Furseo, principe heredero de Irlanda, apostol de muchos reynos, y naciones. Maestro sapientissimo de reyes, y ministros, y monge antiquissimo del órden de N.P.S. Agustin. (Madrid: Lucas Antonio de Bedmar y Narvaez, 1699).
  3. Jacques Desmay, La vie de S. Fursy, patron de Peronne: recueillie de plusieurs anciens auteurs (Peronne 1715).
  4. Edward Burnett Tylor, Primitive Culture. Third edition, revised (London: John Murray 1891).
  5. Alessandro d'Ancona, I precursori di Dante (Florence 1874).
  6. George Herbert Moberly, Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum (Oxford 1881).
  7. Charles de Smedt & Joseph de Backer, Acta Sanctorum Hiberniae ex codice Salmanticensi (Edinburgh 1888).
  8. Whitley Stokes (ed), Lives of the Saints from the Book of Lismore (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1890).
  9. Charles Plummer, Baedae Opera Historica (Oxford 1896).
  10. Margaret Stokes, Three months in the forests of France: a pilgrimage in search of vestiges of the Irish saints in France (London: G. Bell 1895).
  11. Sarah Gaynor Atkinson, St. Fursey's life and visions, and other essays (Dublin: M. H. Gill 1907).
  12. Charles Plummer (ed), Vitae sanctorum Hiberniae, 2 vols. (Oxford 1910; repr. Oxford 1968).
  13. Louis Harald Dahl, The Roman camp and the Irish saint at Burgh Castle: with local history (London: Jarrold & Sons, 1913).
  14. Norbert Friart, Histoire de Saint Fursy et de ses deux frères saint Feuillien, évêque et martyr, et saint Ultain. (Lille/Paris/Bruges/Bruxelles: Desclée, De Brouwer & Cie. 1913).
  15. James F. Kenny, The Sources for the Early History of Ireland: ecclesiastical. An introduction and guide (Shannon I.U.P.: 1968. Repr. of 1929 ed., corrections and additions, and preface, by Ludwig Bieler).
  16. St. John D. Seymour, Irish Visions of the Other-World: A Contribution to the Study of Medieval Visions (London 1930).
  17. Mervyn Wall, The unfortunate Fursey (London: Pilot Press 1946). [Fiction] [Translated into German as 'Der unheilige Fursey oder das Irland der Frommen' (Goldmann 1983).
  18. Mervyn Wall, The return of Fursey. (London: Pilot Press 1948). [Fiction]
  19. John Hennig, 'The Irish background of St. Fursey', Irish Ecclesiastical Review, 5th ser., 77 (1952) 18–28; repr. in Gisela Holfter & Hermann Rasche (eds.), Exil in Irland: John Hennigs Schriften zu deutsch-irischen Beziehungen (Trier 2002) 265–272.
  20. W. W. Heist (ed), Vitae sanctorum Hiberniae ex codice olim Salmanticensi nunc Bruxellensi, Subsidia Hagiographica 28 (Brussels 1965).
  21. Peter Dinzelbacher, 'Die Visionen des Mittelalters: ein geschichtlicher Umriss', Zeitschrift für Religions- und Geistesgeschichte 30 (1978) 116–128.
  22. M. P. Ciccarese (ed), 'Le visioni di S. Fursa', Romanobarbarica 8 (1984/85), 231–303.
  23. Pádraig Ó Riain, Corpus Genealogiarum Sanctorum Hiberniae. (Dublin 1985).
  24. Pádraig Ó Riain, 'Les Vies de Saint Fursy: les sources Irlandaises', Revue du Nord 68 (1986) 405–413.
  25. Peter Dinzelbacher, 'La littérature des révélations au moyen âge: un document historique', Rev Hist 275 (1986) 289–305.
  26. M. P. Ciccarese (ed), Visioni dell'Aldilà in Occidente: fonti, modelli, testi, Biblioteca Patristica (Florence, 1987) [ed. and trans. of Visio S. Fursei, 184–229].
  27. Eileen Gardiner, Visions of Heaven and Hell before Dante, New York 1989, 149–195.
  28. Claude Carozzi, Le voyage de l'âme dans l'Au-delà d'après la littérature latine (Ve–XIIIe siècle), Bibliothèque française de l'École française de Rome, 189 (Rome 1994) [pp. 677–692: ed. and trans. of Visio s. Fursei, s. vii (2) (AD 656/7), from (a) London, BL, Harley 504, ff. 79–98v; s. viii; origin Péronne, Nivelles or Fosses; (b) Zürich, B cantonale, 8, pp. 352–78; s. ix (in part); origin Rheinau; (c) Rome, B Casanatense, 641 olim B IV 18, ff. 97–194; s. ix; Beneventan script; origin Monte Cassino].
  29. Pádraig Ó Riain, 'Sanctity and politics in Connacht c.1100: the case of St Fursa', CMCS 17 (1989) 1–14.
  30. Marguerite Quintelli-Neary, Folklore and the fantastic in twelve modern Irish novels [Reception] (Westport, Conn.; London: Greenwood Press, 1997).
  31. Trefor Jones, The English Saints: East Anglia (Norwich: Canterbury, 1999).
  32. Thomas Charles-Edwards, Early Christian Ireland (Cambridge 2000).
  33. Marilyn Dunn, Gregory the Great, the Vision of Fursey, and the origins of purgatory', Peritia 14 (2000) 238–254.
  34. Michelle P. Brown, The life of St. Fursey: what we know; why it matters (Norwich 2001).
  35. Marilyn Dunn, The vision of St. Fursey and the development of purgatory (Norwich 2007).
  36. Oliver Rackham, Transitus Beati Fursei: a translation of the 8th century manuscript, Life of Saint Fursey (Norwich 2007).
  37. Pádraig Ó Riain, A dictionary of Irish Saints (Dublin 2011).
    Digital images of Stokes's edition and translation
  1. Available at
    The edition used in the digital edition
  1. Whitley Stokes, The Life of Fursa in Revue Celtique. volume 25 (1904) page 385–404


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Created: By unknown Irish cleric(s), and based closely on the Vernerable Bede, Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum, III 19. Date range: 1200–1400.

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Language: [GA] The text is in Irish.
Language: [LA] A few words are in Latin.
Language: [EN] The notes are in English.

Revision History

Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition: G201008

Betha Fursa: Author: Unknown


The Life of Fursa

The following Life, now for the first time published, forms part of the rich collection of biographies of Irish saints, preserved in the Royal Library, Brussels. The ms. is in the hand writing of Michael O'Clery, one of the Four Masters, who died about 1644, and the Life is said in the colophon to have been copied out of the Book of the Muinter Duinnín in the year 1629. The date of that book, and whether it still exists, I have been unable to ascertain.

The Life is a tolerably close version of chap. XIX of the third book of Baeda's Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum.1 It seems worth publishing, first, as a further contribution to the eschatology of the Irish2, secondly, as being, in a Celtic shape, the earliest of the series of mediaeval visions3 which culminated in the Divina Commedia; and, lastly, as containing several words absent from Prof. Windisch's Wörterbuch.

Our saint's name appears in two forms, Fursa and Fursu.4 Fursa is a Middle-Irish corruption of Fursae, gen. Fursai, which occurs (as is proved by the rhyme) in the Martyrology of Oengus, Jan. 16. The latinised Furseus is from Fursae. The form Fursu is found in the Book of Leinster 349f, 372d, the Annals of Ulster, A.D. 647, and the Yellow Book of Lecan,


410d17, where a short collection of maxims (illegible in the facsimile) is headed ‘Apgiter crabaidh inso sis Fursu (Craibdigh)’5 ‘This below is the Alphabet of Piety of Fursu the Pious.’ Fursae and Fursu may come from a root *vort and be cognate with Lat. ‘versutus, vortere’, etc.

‘The Irish authorities’, says Mr Plummer (op. cit., II, 176) ‘differ widely as to Fursa's pedigree’; and indeed it is impossible to reconcile the genealogical statements in the Book of Leinster, p. 349f 38, with those in the same ms. p. 372d, and in the Martyrology of Donegal, p. 18, unless by the supposition that there were two or more saints of that name.6 Thus according to the Book of Leinster, p. 349f:

    {column 1}
  1. Fursu
  2. Mac Fintain
  3. Maic Findloga
  4. M Degrota
  5. M Luachain
  6. M Laga Lethain
  7. M Conaill Anglonnaig
  8. M Feic
  9. M Rosa
  10. M Fachtna
  11. M Senchada
  12. M Ailella
  13. M Cestaig
  14. M Rudraige
  15. Gelges ingen Aeda Find máthair Fursu.
  16. {column 2}
  17. Vel ita:
  18. Fursu
  19. Mac Fintain
  20. Maic Findloga
  21. M Conaill
  22. M Luachain
  23. M Lugdach Laga7
  24. M Eogain Moir qui et Mog Nuadat


And according to the Book of Leinster, p. 372d 60: ‘Brónach ingen Milchon maic Buain ca mbáe Pátric i ndáire, máthair Mochae Noendromma oc Loch Cuan, & Colmain Chomraire oc Uisniuch ocus Colmáin Mulind oc Daire Chaechain i nDal Riatai & epscuip Maic Erca o Domnuch Mór Maige Coba & Damnatan Slébe Betha & Fursu Craibdig in Perona.’

‘Brónach, daughter of Miliuc son of Búan, with whom Patrick was in bondage, (was the) mother of Mochoe of Noendruim at Loch Cuan, and of Colmán of the Casket at Uisnech, and of Colmán of the Mill at Daire Caecháin in Dalriada, and of bishop Mac Erca of Domnach Mór Maige Coba, and of Damnatán of Slíab Betha, and of Fursu the Pious in Péronne.’

According to the Martyrology of Donegal, (Jan. 16), Fursa's father was Lochín, of Dalaradia and his mother was Gelgéis (‘Bright Swan’), who was, according to one authority, daughter of Guaire Aidne, (ob. A. D. 662), and, according to another, daughter of Aed Finn.

The very modern appearance of the text is probably due to the transcriber, who seems to have substituted cc for g, cch for gh, tt for d, ff for bf, (i. e. eclipsed f), ao for oe, aoi for ói, in accordance with the spelling usual in the 17th century. The presence of the infixed pronouns, t and n points to the Middle-Irish period as the date of the translation. But the absence of deponents, and the occurrence of the preterite passive in -it (ro calmaigit) and the 2d pl. in -bair (fedabair), prove that it cannot be older than (say) the thirteenth or fourteenth century.


{folio 50a}

In tan ro bái Sigbert h- i r-righe Saxan, is annsin do-chuaidh Fursa Craibhteach tar muir d' iarraidh luic & ionaid i n- gébadh, uáir bá h- edrocht o breithir ocus o ghniomh é, ocus rob ergna ó fertaibh ocus o miorbuilibh, ocus is aire-sin roba cubaidh lais teacht ar deoraidhecht & ionadh deoradh do ghabhail. O rainic an fer-sin co cennathaigh Airthir Saxan ro gabadh go h- onórach h- é ón rígh, & tuccadh ionadh do, ocus ro obair bréithir n- Dé do irrdercucchad ann, ocus tuccadh sochaide do daoinibh lais docum creidmhe, & ro calmaighit foirenn ele ina c- creidemh, & ro médaighedh iris & gradh Dé lais.

IS annsin ro gab treabhlaid & aimhnerte cuirp eisidhe, & ro airiltnigh tréna dhegháirilledh go f- faccaidh sé aingle nimhe ina fiadhnaisi & co f-facaidh fís ann; ocus as h- í-so físi ro forchanadh-somh gomadh gresadh h- é i m- breithir n- Dé d' foircetal, uair roba cinnte lais bás d' faghbhail & ní fidir cuin fogebadh, amal at-bert Crist:

Matt. 25:13

‘Frithairidh, uair ní fedabair an lá no an uair i n- gebthar lamh foraibh’. Ocus as triasan fis-sin do fuair-siumh cudhnodh & tinnisniuccudh a mhainistrech do chumhdach ocus a h- orduccudh o foircetlaibh riaghaltaibh. Ro baí immorro mainistir aoibhinn ann, & sí cumdaighthi i c- coicrích na cailledh ocus an mhara i n- araile longport ann, & rob é a ainm 'san m- bérla, Cnomberbrug .i. cathair dianid ainm Cnobere; & ro tuillestair


dano ri na cennaithche-sin .i. Anna, ocus an lucht socenelach ele robhadar 'san chathraigh-sin iarttain.

Ro bái tra Fursa do cenel na n- Gáoidel, acht cena gérbho soicenelach h- é iar c- colainn ro bai soichenelcha iar menmain, uair ó aimsir a naidhentachta ro bai deithitte aicce dona leabhraib coisriocthaib ocus dona forcetlaibh naomhaibh, & anní as mó maisighis na naomha .i. gniomha sochraidhe do dhenamh, is íad sin do-ghniodh-som.

Cidh fil ann tra acht ro cumhdaigh sé an ecclas adubhramur, ocus ro ghabhustar galar mor h- é innte ón t- satharn go 'roile, amal innisess {folio 50b} leabhar a bethad fein; ocus ruccadh asa curp h- é o fesccur go gairm an choiligh, & ro cuala se cantairecht aingel nimhe, ocus at-connairc íatt ina fiadhnise. Ocus issedh so no chandais .i.

Ps. 83:8

ibunt sancti de uirtute in uirtutem’ .i. raghait na naoimh do nirt for nirt. Ocus is edh fós at-bertis .i.

Ps 83:8

‘uidebitur Deus deorum in Sion
.i. at-cífider Dia na n- día h- i Sleibh Sioin.

Ro leiccedh iarsin h- e ina corp co cend tri lá, ocus isin tres lá ruccadh suás doridhisi, & at-connairc se annsin ni ba lia d' ainglib ag cathuccud fri sluagh mor do dhemhnaibh, ocus issedh do thairgdis, slige nimhe do gabáil & d' iadhadh fri Fursa, & olc & aithis do rádha fris. Arái sin tra ní ro fetsat-somh sin, uair ro bháttar aingil nimhe aga imdíden-somh isin t- sligidh.

INtí immorro, ar Béda, dia m- ba h- áil an fís at-connairc-siumh do innisin co comhlan legadh féin leabhar bethad Fursa.

Ata immorro, ar Béda, énní ann is áil dúinne d' faisnéis


.i. an tan ruccadh-somh súas ar ammas nimhe adubhrattar na h- aingil ris: Feg h- úait an domhan síos, ar síatt. Ro iompá-somh ann sin & ro fegh anúas, ocus at-connairc glend mór domhain dorchæ fáoi anís i n- iochtar an talman. At-connairc ceithre teindte dermara ar derglasadh isin áer ós in n- glionn-sin, ocus nirbo lanfada eter na teinntibh-sin. Ro fiarfaigh-siumh annsin dona h- ainglibh cata reda na teinnte at-connairc, ocus ro raidhsiot na h- aingil: Teindte sud, ar síatt, filet oc losccudh an domuin. IN cédna teine, immorro, ar síatt, teine na breicce sin, uair an tan baistither cech duine is edh gheallus, frithbhrudh & obadh do Dhíabal & da ghniomhaibh. An lucht immorro na coimhlionn sin iarttain & teccat thairis, is íatt loisccter isin teine útt. An teine thánaisi immorro, teine an accobhair .i. saint isidhe, uair an lucht derscaiges nó accobrus na rétta saoghalta ara saint seach na rétta nemhdha, is íatt loisgter annsin. An tres teine, immorro, teine na h- esáontad{folio 51a} isidhein .i. an tan nach doiligh ocus nach cned libh bar m- braithri ocus bhar comhfoiccsi do beith h- i r- retaib forbasaibh ocus h- i réttaib dímaine, is annsin loiscter sibh isin teine útt. IN cethramadh teine dano teine in eccrabaidh isidhe. Is iatt loiscciter annsin, an lucht leis nach gráin na faínn & na truaigh do fodhbhadh ocus do chrechad, is íad loisgiter isin teine sin.

Ro foirbriter dano & ro métaighset na teinnte, & ro comraigset co n- dernta an teine dermair dib. O ro chomhfoiccsigh tra Fursa dona teinntibh ron-gabh eccla & ro raidh risan aingeal: A thigerna, ar sé, ag sin an tene chugainn. Ro freccair an t-aingel annsin & iss edh ro raidh: uair nach tusa ro fadáidh iatt, ol sé, nit-loisccfither ionntu, uair gidh mór & gidh uathmar an tene úd, ol se, ni loisccfe nech acht do réir a áirillteo féin: uair accobhar gach duine, or sé, iss é loiscces h- é isin tene út, uair cech duine loisgither ima curp o thoil indilmain & urchóidigh bódéin loisccither h- e tall iar n- deiliuccudh a chuirp fria anmain tria péin dleistionaigh.


IS annsin at-connairc Fursa áon dona tri h- ainglibh ro bhattar maille fris ina fís, & sé ríasan teinidh, & an da aingel ele immaccuairt 'mon teinidh. Ocus at-connairc sé na demhna ar foluamhain triasin teine, & síatt ag cathuccudh frisna fírénchaibh & aga t- tarraing isin tene ar éiccin. Ro bhattar na demhna dano ag aithisiuccudh Fursa. Ro bhatar immorro na h- aingil aga diden. At-connairc sé dano sluagh d' ainglibh ann & sochaide dona daoinibh naomhaibh don chinedh Ghaoidhelach féin do neoch roptar aithenta dó féin dona saccartaibh do lucht na h- Erenn. At-cualaidh-sein dano beccan do briathraib slánaighibh na 'thaibh-siumh. Ocus o thairnic doibh na bríathra becca-sin do rádh do-cúattar maráon risna h- ainglibh docum nimhe, & ro fansat na tri cedaingil maille frisium dia thabairt dochum an chuirp.

An tan tra ro comhfoiccsighettar don teine remráite ro fodhail an t-aingel an teine. Fursa, immorro, an tan do-riacht sé an dorus do-rinne an t-aingel{folio 51b} tresan teine, ro gabhsat na demhna duine dona daoinibh ro bháttar aga loscudh isin teinidh, & ro dhiubhraicset dochum Fursa, co ro loiscc a formna & a slinnén & a lecain. Ocus do-rad Fursa aithne forsan duine ro diubraiccedh dó, & do cuimhnigh co t- tarat ní dia édach dó reme. Ro gabh immorro an t-aingel naomh an duine ainnsein, & ro chuir isin teinidh doridhisi. Adubairt an Demon ainnsein: Na cuiridh uaib h- é i n- daírsi, uair mar do gabh sibh crodh an duine pheacthaigh útt, as amhlaidh dlighthi cuidiuccudh dia píanaibh. Ro freccair an t-aingel & is edh ro raidh: Ni h- ar saint an t- saogail ro gabh se crodh an duine útt, acht ar dháigh slainte a anma. Ocus ro thoirn an teine amlaid sein. Ocus do-chuaid an t-aingel le Fursa & is edh ro raidh: An tene ro fadáidhis is h- í rott-loiscc, uair muna ghabhtha-sa, ar se, ní do deolaid an duine pheacthaigh


útt ni raghad aithber a pheacaidh fort. Ocus ro baí an t-aingel iarsin aga forcetal-somh im cech ní badh cóir dó do denumh im caingin na n- daoine do déndáis aithricche fri a m- bas.

Tuccadh tra Fursa iarsin ina corp, & ro bai ina churp iartain comhartha an loisccthi tuccadh for a anmain, gur uo follus d' feraibh domuin do neoch at-connairc amal ro baí 'na sdlinnen & ina gualainn & ina lecain. Ocus roba sgel iongnadh le gach n- duine comhartha in neich tuccadh ar in anmain do bhith h- i fiadhnaisi caich isin churp.

Ro bí immorro a betha-somh 'na diaidh-sin foircettal d' feraib an talman & briathra Dé do irrdercucchudh, amail do-nídh reme. Ocus gach ní no errdercaiged do cuiredh fein i n- gníomh.

Ord immorro a físi as doibh amháin nó innisedh h- í .i. don lucht nó iarradh ar daigh congaine cridhe. Ocus maraidh fós, ar Béda, araile senóir do lucht ar mainistrechni, ocus is h- é-sin innises gur' aigill féin araile duine craibhthech fírebertach, ocus is é-sin ro innis co f- facadh féin Fursa ocus gur' aigill i n- Airthir Saxan, ocus co c- cualaidh féin ag an c- cleirech an fís sin, & conidh i n- aimsir geimhridh{folio 52a} ro h- innisedh. Ocus co raibhe sioc mor ann maille fri snechta, & nach raibhe acht edach tana fóill uime, ocus co t- tainic allus mor dhe tre cuimhniugudh na h- eccla romhoire ro bhai fair ina fís amhail bidh i medhón in t- samradh no innisedh.

Cidh fil ann tra, an tan ro fulaing Fursa Craibhthech séselbhe na morshluagh ticcdís ar a ammass ina tír féin .i. i n- Erinn, ro fáccaibh an tír sin .i. Ere, & táinic go Saxanu amail ro raidhsiomar, & úathad do braithribh maille fris, iar fágbhail a charat uile & gach neich ele ro baí aicci, & ro cumdaigh sé mainistir sochraidh ann, & ro errdercaigh bhreithir n- Dé ainnsein.

O thairnic dó tra na neche-sin tainic fái a mhainistir


& a dheithitte d' fagbáil ar Fullan & ar na h- uasalsaccartaibh ele .i. ar Guban & ar Dicuill, & rob ail dó a dhul féin os é sáer ona h- uile rétaibh sáoghultaibh ar ammas ionaid bhadh innilliumh. Do-cuaidh immorro Fursa & Ultan asin mainistir, & dochuatar i n- dithreibh, & ro bhattar bliadain innte ar sáothar a l- lámh co congain cridhe & ernaigthe.

O' t-connairc dano Fursa iarsin geinntlidhi & aimhirisigh ag lot na mainistrech & na cennaithche uile, iar fagbáil cech reda do reir uird isin mainistir, do-cuaidh tar muir soir i f- Frangcoibh, ocus ro frithailedh é, co h- onorach ó rígh Frangc .i. Clouis Ercinbald 'san ait darbh' ainm Latiniacum, & ro cumhdaigedh mainistir leis; ocus nirbó cían tra 'na diaidh-sin co ro gabh galar a báis eissiumh, & co riacht co deiredh a bethad.

Corp immorra Fursa rucc an righ Clouis Ercinbald leis é, & ro coimhéitt é i n- erdomh na h- eccailse cen co tairnic an ecclas do choisreccadh. IN tan immorro tuccadh an corp asin erdomh dia adhnacal h- i farradh na h- altora in uair rob ullamh an ecclas, as amhlaidh frith é, mar nó dheachsadh d' écc in uair-sin .i. a cinn seacht laithe fichet iarna ég, ocus ro h- adhnaicedh co h- oirmidnech onórach é 'san ecclais .i. isin c- cathraigh dianid ainm Perona, & ro h- ardaigedh é co h- onorach and .i. bhaile i n- déntar{folio 52b} ferta ocus miorbaile iomda ar Fhursa cech dia.


A c- cinn ceithre m- bliadan immorro iarsin ro cumdaighedh teghdhais fo leith dó, & tuccadh a corp indte, ocus frith a chorp fós gan acht amhail ro baí an tan at-bath.

Ni fil tra acht becc do sccelaibh Fursa sunn, & ant i dia m- ba h- ail ni bús mó dibh feghadh Bethaid Fursa & fo-gheba iatt. FINIT.