Duald Mac Firbis

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter II

The Chronicum Scotorum was compiled by Duald Mac Firbis. He was of royal race, and descended from Dathi, the last pagan monarch of Erinn. His family were professional and hereditary historians, genealogists, and poets,[9] and held an ancestral property at Lecain Mac Firbis, in the county Sligo, until Cromwell and his troopers desolated Celtic homes, and murdered the Celtic dwellers, often in cold blood. The young Mac Firbis was educated for his profession in a school of law and history taught by the Mac Egans of Lecain, in Ormonde. He also studied (about A.D. 1595) at Burren, in the county Clare, in the literary and legal school of the O'Davorens. His pedigrees of the ancient Irish and the Anglo-Norman families, was compiled at the College of St. Nicholas, in Galway, in the year 1650. It may interest some of our readers to peruse the title of this work, although its length would certainly horrify a modern publisher:—

"The Branches of Relationship and the Genealogical Ramifications of every Colony that took possession of Erinn, traced from this time up to Adam (excepting only those of the Fomorians, Lochlanns, and Saxon-Gaels, of whom we, however, treat, as they have settled in our country); together with a Sanctilogium, and a Catalogue of the Monarchs of Erinn; and, finally, an Index, which comprises, in alphabetical order, the surnames and the remarkable places mentioned in this work, which was compiled by Dubhaltach Mac Firbhisigh of Lecain, 1650." He also gives, as was then usual, the "place, time, author, and cause of writing the work." The "cause" was "to increase the glory of God, and for the information of the people in general;" a beautiful and most true epitome of the motives which inspired the penmen of Erinn from the first introduction of Christianity, and produced the "countless host" of her noble historiographers.

Mac Firbis was murdered [1] in the year 1670, at an advanced age; and thus departed the last and not the least distinguished of our long line of poet-historians. Mac Firbis was a voluminous writer. Unfortunately some of his treatises have been lost; [2] but the Chronicum Scotorum is more than sufficient to establish his literary reputation.


[9] Poets.—The Book of Lecain was written in 1416, by an ancestor of Mac Firbis. Usher had it for some time in his possession; James II. carried it to Paris, and deposited it in the Irish College in the presence of a notary and witnesses. In 1787, the Chevalier O'Reilly procured its restoration to Ireland; and it passed eventually from Vallancey to the Royal Irish Academy, where it is now carefully preserved.

[1] Murdered.— The circumstances of the murder are unhappily characteristic of the times. The Celtic race was under the ban of penal laws for adherence to the faith of their fathers. The murderer was free. As the old historian travelled to Dublin, he rested at a shop in Dunflin. A young man came in and took liberties with the young woman who had care of the shop. She tried to check him, by saying that he would be seen by the gentleman in the next room. In a moment he seized a knife from the counter, and plunged it into the breast of Mac Firbis. There was no "justice for Ireland" then, and, of course, the miscreant escaped the punishment he too well deserved.

[2] Lost— He was also employed by Sir James Ware to translate for him, and appears to have resided in his house in Castle-street, Dublin, just before his death.