Irish Annals, Histories, and Genealogies

From A Smaller Social History of Ancient Ireland 1906

« previous page | contents | next page »

Sculpture on Capital, Priest's House, Glendalough: Beranger 1779

Sculpture on Capital, Priest's House, Glendalough: Beranger 1779 (From Petrie’s Round Towers)



SECTION 1. How the Annals were compiled.

Letter A
the various classes of persons who devoted themselves to literature in ancient Ireland, there were special Annalists, who made it their business to record, with the utmost accuracy, all remarkable events simply and briefly, without any ornament of language, without exaggeration, and without fictitious embellishment. The extreme care they took that their statements should be truthful is shown by the manner in which they compiled their books. As a general rule they admitted nothing into their records except either what occurred during their lifetime, and which may be said to have come under their own personal knowledge, or what they found recorded in the compilations of previous annalists, who had themselves followed the same plan. These men took nothing on hearsay: and in this manner successive annalists carried on a continued chronicle from age to age, thus giving the whole series the force of contemporary testimony.*

We have still preserved to us many books of native Annals, the most important of which will be briefly described in this chapter. Most of the ancient manuscripts whose entries are copied into the books of Annals we now possess have been lost; but that the entries were so copied is rendered quite certain by various expressions found in the present existing Annals, as well as by the known history of several of the compilations.

The Irish Annals deal with the affairs of Ireland—generally but not exclusively. Many of them record events occurring in other parts of the world; and it was a common practice to begin the work with a brief general history, after which the Annalist takes up the affairs of Ireland.

« previous page | contents | next page »


* Of course it is not claimed for the Irish Annals that they are absolutely free from error. In the early parts there is much legendary matter, and some errors have crept in among the records belonging to the historical period.