This lecture, entitled ‘Armagh Robinson MS A – the oldest manuscript of Conall Mag Eochagáin’s English translation of Irish Annals’, considers the following:
1. What are Irish Annals?
They are brief written descriptions of important events recorded year by year in Ireland from the fifth to the seventeenth century.
2. Who was Conall Mag Eochagáin?
Conall was a well-educated antiquarian from Lismoyny, County Westmeath, who lived to c.1640, and who was in contact with some of the most noted Irish men of learning of his era, e.g. Br. Míchéal Ó Cléirigh, Br. Seoirse Díolmhain and Bishop James Ussher.
3. Why did Conall make this English translation?
For the use of his brother-in-law, Toirdhealbhach Mac Cochláin, alias Terence MacCoghlan, who was evidently not literate in Irish.
4. Who wrote MS A?
MS A’s handwriting corresponds with that of MS BL Add. 4807, which was written in 1681 by Domhnall Ó Súilleabháin of Tralee, who also copied the English translation made in 1635 of Séathrún Céitinn’s Foras Feasa ar Éirinn.
5. When did Ó Súilleabháin write MS A?
Marginal notes at ff. 18v and 63v indicate that he was writing on 18 April 1660, and then on 15 May 1660.
6. Who has used MS A?
In the 16th century James Ware requested a copy of it; in the 17th century Ruaidhrí Ó Flaithbheartaigh, alias Roderick O Flaherty, annotated MS A extensively, as did three others, and Tadhg Ó Dálaigh used it in 1685 as his exemplar for MS TCD 673; in the 18th century, circa 1740, two of the scribes of MS NLI 767 used it as their exemplar; in the 20th century Nollaig Ó Muraíle has used it as the primary authority for his edition of Conall’s translation.
7. In summary:
MS A has been repeatedly read and transcribed by Irish scholars for well over three hundred years.
This lecture was organised by Armagh Robinson Library to mark the Library’s 250th anniversary and also to link with the annual Irish Language Festival (Seachtain na Gaeilge le Energia) which takes place at the start of March. The Library is grateful to the Department for Communities for funding provided towards the lecture.
Dr Daniel McCarthy is an Emeritus Fellow of Trinity College Dublin. His publications include The Irish Annals: Their genesis, evolution and history (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2008) and ‘The Genesis and Evolution of the Irish Annals to AD 1000’, Frühmittelalterliche Studien, 52, 2018.