Annals, Histories, Genealogies

Patrick Weston Joyce

24. Annals. The Irish chroniclers were very careful to record in their annals remarkable occurrences of their own time, or past events as handed down to them by former chroniclers. The annals are among the most important of the ancient manuscript writings for the study of Irish history.

The following are the principal books of Irish Annals remaining. The Synchronisms of Flann, who was a layman, Ferleginn or chief professor of the school of Monasterboice; died in 1056. He compares the chronology of Ireland with that of other countries, and gives the names of the monarchs that reigned in them, with lists of the Irish kings who reigned contemporaneously. Copies of this tract are preserved in the Books of Lecan and Ballymote.

25. The Annals of Tighernach [Teerna]. Tighernach O'Breen, the compiler of these annals, one of the greatest scholars of his time, was abbot of the two monasteries of Clonmacnoise and Roscommon. He was acquainted with the chief historical writers of the world known in his day, and made use of Flann's Synchronisms, and of most other ancient Irish historical writings of importance. He states that authentic Irish history begins at the foundation of Emania, and that all preceding accounts are uncertain (100). He died 1088.

26. The Annals of Innisfallen were compiled about the year 1215 by some scholars of the monastery of Innisfallen in the Lower Lake of Killarney.

The Annals of Ulster, also called the Annals of Senait Mac Manus, now called Belle Isle, in upper Lough Erne. The original compiler was Cathal [Cahal] Maguire, who died of small-pox in 1498. They have been published with translation.

The Annals of Loch Ce [Key] were copied in 1588 for Brian Mac Dermot, who had his residence in an island in Lough Key, in Roscommon. They have been translated and edited in two volumes.

The Annals of Connaught from 1224 to 1562.

27. The Chronicon Scotorum (Chronicle of the Scots or Irish), down to A.D. 1135, was compiled about 1650 by the great Irish antiquary Duald Mac Firbis. These annals have been printed with translation.

The Annals of Boyle, from the earliest time to 1253, are written in Irish mixed with Latin; and the entries throughout are very meagre.

The Annals of Clonmacnoise from the earliest period to 1408. The original Irish of these is lost; but we have an English translation by Connell Mac Geoghegan of Westmeath, which he completed in 1627.

28. The Annals of the Four Masters, also called the Annals of Donegal, are the most important of all. They were compiled in the Franciscan monastery of Donegal, by three of the O'Clerys, Michael, Conary, and Cucogry, and by Ferfesa O'Mulconry, who are now commonly known as the Four Masters. They began in 1632, and completed the work in 1636. "The Annals of the Four Masters" was translated with most elaborate and learned annotations by Dr. John O'Donovan; and it was published—Irish text, translation, and notes—in seven large volumes.

A book of annals called the Psalter of Cashel was compiled by Cormac Mac Cullenan, but this has been lost. He also wrote "Cormac's Glossary," an explanation of many old Irish words. This work still exists and has been translated and printed. Besides annals in the Irish language, there are also Annals of Ireland in Latin; such as those of Clyn, Dowling, Pembridge, of Multifarnham, &c., most of which have been published.

29. Histories. None of the writers of old times conceived the plan of writing a general history of Ireland. The first history of the whole country was the Forus Feasa ar Erinn, or History of Ireland, from the most ancient times to the Anglo-Norman invasion, written by Dr. Geoffrey Keating of Tubbrid in Tipperary, who died in 1644. Keating was deeply versed in the ancient language and literature of Ireland; and his history, though containing much that is legendary, is very interesting and valuable.

30. Genealogies. The genealogies of the principal families were most faithfully preserved in ancient Ireland. Each king and chief had in his household a Shanachy or historian, whose duty it was to keep a written record or all the ancestors and of the several branches of the family.

Many of the ancient genealogies are preserved in the Books of Leinster, Lecan, Ballymote, &c. But the most important collection of all is the great Book of Genealogies compiled in the years 1650 to 1666 in the College of St. Nicholas in Galway, by Duald Mac Firbis.

31. In this place may be mentioned the Dinnsenchus [Din-Shan'ahus], a topographical tract giving the legendary history and the etymology of the names of remarkable hills, mounds, caves, cairns, cromlechs, raths, duns, and so forth. Copies of this tract are found in several of the old Irish books of miscellaneous literature, as already mentioned in Chapter II. The Coir Anmann ("Fitness of Names") is another work explaining the names of remarkable Irish historical persons. It has been published with translation.