Tighernach and his Annals—Erudition and Research of our Early Writers—The Chronicum Scotorum—Duald Mac Firbis—Murdered, and his Murderer is protected by the Penal Laws—The Annals of the Four Masters—Michael O'Clery—His Devotion to his Country—Ward—Colgan—Dedication of the Annals—The Book of Invasions—Proofs of our Early Colonization.
Our illustration can give but a faint idea of the magnificence and extent of the ancient abbey of Clonmacnois, the home of our famous annalist, Tighernach. It has been well observed, that no more ancient chronicler can be produced by the northern nations. Nestor, the father of Russian history, died in 1113; Snorro, the father of Icelandic history, did not appear until a century later; Kadlubeck, the first historian of Poland, died in 1223; and Stierman could not discover a scrap of writing in all Sweden older than 1159. Indeed, he may be compared favourably even with the British historians, who can by no means boast of such ancient pedigrees as the genealogists of Erinn. Tighernach was of the Murray-race of Connacht; of his personal history little is known. His death is noted in the Chronicum Scotorum, where he is styled successor (comharba) of St. Ciaran and St. Coman. The Annals of Innisfallen state that he was interred at Clonmacnois. Perhaps his body was borne to its burial through the very doorway which still remains, of which we gave an illustration at the end of the last chapter.
The writers of history and genealogy in early ages, usually commenced with the sons of Noah, if not with the first man of the human race. The Celtic historians are no exceptions to the general rule; and long before Tighernach wrote, the custom had obtained in Erinn. His chronicle was necessarily compiled from more ancient sources, but its fame rests upon the extraordinary erudition which he brought to bear upon every subject. Flann, who was contemporary with Tighernach, and a professor of St. Buithe's monastery (Monasterboice), is also famous for his Synchronisms, which form an admirable abridgment of universal history. He appears to have devoted himself specially to genealogies and pedigrees, while Tighernach took a wider range of literary research. His learning was undoubtedly most extensive. He quotes Eusebius, Orosius, Africanus, Bede, Josephus, Saint Jerome, and many other historical writers, and sometimes compares their statements on points in which they exhibit discrepancies, and afterwards endeavours to reconcile their conflicting testimony, and to correct the chronological errors of the writers by comparison with the dates given by others. He also collates the Hebrew text with the Septuagint version of the Scriptures. He uses the common era, though we have no reason to believe that this was done by the writers who immediately preceded him. He also mentions the lunar cycle, and uses the dominical letter with the kalends of several years.
Another writer, Gilla Caemhain, was also contemporary with Flann and Tighernach. He gives the "annals of all time," from the beginning of the world to his own period; and computes the second period from the Creation to the Deluge; from the Deluge to Abraham; from Abraham to David; from David to the Babylonian Captivity, &c. He also synchronizes the eastern monarchs with each other, and afterwards with the Firbolgs and Tuatha De Danann of Erinn, and subsequently with the Milesians. Flann synchronizes the chiefs of various lines of the children of Adam in the East, and points out what monarchs of the Assyrians, Medes, Persians, and Greeks, and what Roman emperors were contemporary with the kings of Erinn, and the leaders of its various early colonies. He begins with Ninus, son of Belus, and comes down to Julius Caesar, who was contemporary with Eochaidh Feidhlech, an Irish king, who died more than half a century before the Christian era. The synchronism is then continued from Julius Caesar and Eochaidh to the Roman emperors Theodosius the Third and Leo the Third; they were contemporaries with the Irish monarch Ferghal, who was killed A.D. 718.
The ANNALS and MSS. which serve to illustrate our history, are so numerous, that it would be impossible, with one or two exceptions, to do more than indicate their existence, and to draw attention to the weight which such an accumulation of authority must give to the authenticity of our early history. But there are two of these works which we cannot pass unnoticed: the CHRONICUM SCOTORUM and the ANNALS OF THE FOUR MASTERS.
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, 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 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; but the CHRONICUM SCOTORUM is more than sufficient to establish his literary reputation.
The ANNALS OF THE FOUR MASTERS demand a larger notice, as unquestionably one of the most remarkable works on record. It forms the last link between the ancient and modern history of Ireland; a link worthy of the past, and, we dare add, it shall be also worthy of the future. It is a proof of what great and noble deeds may be accomplished under the most adverse circumstances, and one of the many, if not one of the most, triumphant denials of the often-repeated charges of indolence made against the mendicant orders, and of aversion to learning made against religious orders in general. Nor is it a less brilliant proof that intellectual gifts may be cultivated and are fostered in the cloister; and that a patriot's heart may burn as ardently, and love of country prove as powerful a motive, beneath the cowl or the veil, as beneath the helmet or the coif.
Michael O'Clery, the chief of the Four Masters, was a friar of the order of St. Francis. He was born at Kilbarron, near Ballyshannon, county Donegal, in the year 1580, and was educated principally in the south of Ireland, which was then more celebrated for its academies than the north. The date of his entrance into the Franciscan order is not known, neither is it known why he,
"Once the heir of bardic honours,"
became a simple lay-brother. In the year 1627 he travelled through Ireland collecting materials for Father Hugh Ward, also a Franciscan friar, and Guardian of the convent of St. Antony at Louvain, who was preparing a series of Lives of Irish Saints. When Father Ward died, the project was taken up and partially carried out by Father John Colgan. His first work, the Trias Thaumaturgus, contains the lives of St. Patrick, St. Brigid, and St. Columba. The second volume contains the lives of Irish saints whose festivals occur from the 1st of January to the 31st of March; and here, unfortunately, alike for the hagiographer and the antiquarian, the work ceased. It is probable that the idea of saving—
"The old memorials Of the noble and the holy, Of the chiefs of ancient lineage, Of the saints of wondrous virtues; Of the Ollamhs and the Brehons, Of the bards and of the betaghs,"
occurred to him while he was collecting materials for Father Ward. His own account is grand in its simplicity, and beautiful as indicating that the deep passion for country and for literature had but enhanced the yet deeper passion which found its culminating point in the dedication of his life to God in the poor order of St. Francis. In the troubled and disturbed state of Ireland, he had some difficulty in securing a patron. At last one was found who could appreciate intellect, love of country, and true religion. Although it is almost apart from our immediate subject, we cannot refrain giving an extract from the dedication to this prince, whose name should be immortalized with that of the friar patriot and historian:—
"I, Michael O'Clerigh, a poor friar of the Order of St. Francis (after having been for ten years transcribing every old material that I found concerning the saints of Ireland, observing obedience to each provincial that was in Ireland successively), have come before you, O noble Fearghal O'Gara. I have calculated on your honour that it seemed to you a cause of pity and regret, grief and sorrow (for the glory of God and the honour of Ireland), how much the race of Gaedhil, the son of Niul, have passed under a cloud and darkness, without a knowledge or record of the obit of saint or virgin, archbishop, bishop, abbot, or other noble dignitary of the Church, or king or of prince, of lord or of chieftain, [or] of the synchronism of connexion of the one with the other." He then explains how he collected the materials for his work, adding, alas! most truly, that should it not be accomplished then, "they would not again be found to be put on record to the end of the world." He thanks the prince for giving "the reward of their labour to the chroniclers," and simply observes, that "it was the friars of the convent of Donegal who supplied them with food and attendance." With characteristic humility he gives his patron the credit of all the "good which will result from this book, in giving light to all in general;" and concludes thus:—
"On the twenty-second day of the month of January, A.D. 1632, this book was commenced in the convent of Dun-na-ngall, and, it was finished in the same convent on the tenth day of August, 1636, the eleventh year of the reign of our king Charles over England, France, Alba, and over Eire."
There were "giants in those days;" and one scarcely knows whether to admire most the liberality of the prince, the devotion of the friars of Donegal, who "gave food and attendance" to their literary brother, and thus had their share in perpetuating their country's fame, or the gentle humility of the great Brother Michael.
It is unnecessary to make any observation on the value and importance of the Annals of the Four Masters. The work has been edited with extraordinary care and erudition by Dr. O'Donovan, and published by an Irish house. We must now return to the object for which this brief mention of the MS. materials of Irish history has been made, by showing on what points other historians coincide in their accounts of our first colonists, of their language, customs, and laws; and secondly, how far the accounts which may be obtained ab extra agree with the statements of our own annalists. The Book of Invasions, which was rewritten and "purified" by brother Michael O'Clery, gives us in a few brief lines an epitome of our history as recorded by the ancient chroniclers of Erinn:—
"The sum of the matters to be found in the following book, is the taking of Erinn by [the Lady] Ceasair; the taking by Partholan; the taking by Nemedh; the taking by the Firbolgs; the taking by the Tuatha De Danann; the taking by the sons of Miledh [or Miletius]; and their succession down to the monarch Melsheachlainn, or Malachy the Great [who died in 1022]." Here we have six distinct "takings," invasions, or colonizations of Ireland in pre-Christian times.
It may startle some of our readers to find any mention of Irish history "before the Flood," but we think the burden of proof, to use a logical term, lies rather with those who doubt the possibility, than with those who accept as tradition, and as possibly true, the statements which have been transmitted for centuries by careful hands. There can be no doubt that a high degree of cultivation, and considerable advancement in science, had been attained by the more immediate descendants of our first parents. Navigation and commerce existed, and Ireland may have been colonized. The sons of Noah must have remembered and preserved the traditions of their ancestors, and transmitted them to their descendants. Hence, it depended on the relative anxiety of these descendants to preserve the history of the world before the Flood, how much posterity should know of it. MacFirbis thus answers the objections of those who, even in his day, questioned the possibility of preserving such records:—"If there be any one who shall ask who preserved the history [Seanchus], let him know that they were very ancient and long-lived old men, recording elders of great age, whom God permitted to preserve and hand down the history of Erinn, in books, in succession, one after another, from the Deluge to the time of St. Patrick."
The artificial state of society in our own age, has probably acted disadvantageously on our literary researches, if not on our moral character. Civilization is a relative arbitrary term; and the ancestors whom we are pleased to term uncivilized, may have possessed as high a degree of mental culture as ourselves, though it unquestionably differed in kind. Job wrote his epic poem in a state of society which we should probably term uncultivated; and when Lamech gave utterance to the most ancient and the saddest of human lyrics, the world was in its infancy, and it would appear as if the first artificer in "brass and iron" had only helped to make homicide more easy. We can scarce deny that murder, cruel injustice, and the worst forms of inhumanity, are but too common in countries which boast of no ordinary refinement; and we should hesitate ere we condemn any state of society as uncivilized, simply because we find such crimes in the pages of their history.
The question of the early, if not pre-Noahacian colonization of Ireland, though distinctly asserted in our annals, has been met with the ready scepticism which men so freely use to cover ignorance or indifference. It has been taken for granted that the dispersion, after the confusion of tongues at Babel, was the first dispersion of the human race; but it has been overlooked that, on the lowest computation, a number of centuries equal, if not exceeding, those of the Christian era, elapsed between the Creation of man and the Flood; that men had "multiplied exceedingly upon the earth;" and that the age of stone had already given place to that of brass and iron, which, no doubt, facilitated commerce and colonization, even at this early period of the world's history. The discovery of works of art, of however primitive a character, in the drifts of France and England, indicates an early colonization. The rudely-fashioned harpoon of deer's horn found beside the gigantic whale, in the alluvium of the carse near the base of Dummyat, twenty feet above the highest tide of the nearest estuary, and the tusk of the mastodon lying alongside fragments of pottery in a deposit of the peat and sands of the post-pliocene beds in South Carolina, are by no means solitary examples. Like the night torch of the gentle Guanahane savage, which Columbus saw as he gazed wearily from his vessel, looking, even after sunset, for the long hoped-for shore, and which told him that his desire was at last consummated, those indications of man, associated with the gigantic animals of a geological age, of whose antiquity there can be no question, speak to our hearts strange tales of the long past, and of the early dispersion and progressive distribution of a race created to "increase and multiply."
The question of transit has also been raised as a difficulty by those who doubt our early colonization. But this would seem easily removed. It is more than probable that, at the period of which we write, Britain, if not Ireland, formed part of the European continent; but were it not so, we have proof, even in the present day, that screw propellers and iron cast vessels are not necessary for safety in distant voyages, since the present aboriginal vessels of the Pacific will weather a storm in which a Great Eastern or a London might founder hopelessly.
Let us conclude an apology for our antiquity, if not a proof of it, in the words of our last poet historian:—
"We believe that henceforth no wise person will be found who will not acknowledge that it is possible to bring the genealogies of the Gaedhils to their origin, to Noah and to Adam; and if he does not believe that, may he not believe that he himself is the son of his own father. For there is no error in the genealogical history, but as it was left from father to son in succession, one after another.
"Surely every one believes the Divine Scriptures, which give a similar genealogy to the men of the world, from Adam down to Noah; and the genealogy of Christ and of the holy fathers, as may be seen in the Church [writings]. Let him believe this, or let him deny God. And if he does believe this, why should he not believe another history, of which there has been truthful preservation, like the history of Erinn? I say truthful preservation, for it is not only that they [the preservers of it] were very numerous, as we said, preserving the same, but there was an order and a law with them and upon them, out of which they could not, without great injury, tell lies or falsehoods, as may be seen in the Books of Fenechas [Law], of Fodhla [Erinn], and in the degrees of the poets themselves, their order, and their laws."
 Erinn.—O'Curry, page 57. It has also been remarked, that there is no nation in possession of such ancient chronicles written in what is still the language of its people.
 Years.—See O'Curry, passim.
 Erinn.—Eire is the correct form for the nominative. Erinn is the genitive, but too long in use to admit of alteration. The ordinary name of Ireland, in the oldest Irish MSS., is (h)Erin, gen. (h)Erenn, dat. (h)Erinn; but the initial h is often omitted. See Max Mueller's Lectures for an interesting note on this subject, to which we shall again refer.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 Betaghs.—Poems, by D.F. Mac Carthy.
 Noah.—This is a clear argument. The names of pre-Noahacian patriarchs must have been preserved by tradition, with their date of succession and history. Why should not other genealogies have been preserved in a similar manner, and even the names of individuals transmitted to posterity?
 Laws.—MacFirbis. Apud O'Curry, p. 219.
First Colonists—The Landing of Ceasair, before the Flood—Landing of Partholan, after the Flood, at Inver Scene—Arrival of Nemedh—The Fomorians—Emigration of the Nemenians—The Firbolgs—Division of Ireland by the Firbolg Chiefs—The Tuatha De Dananns—Their Skill as Artificers—Nuada of the Silver Hand—The Warriors Sreng and Breas—The Satire of Cairbre—Termination of the Fomorian Dynasty.
We shall, then, commence our history with such accounts as we can find in our annals of the pre-Christian colonization of Erinn. The legends of the discovery and inhabitation of Ireland before the Flood, are too purely mythical to demand serious notice. But as the most ancient MSS. agree in their account of this immigration, we may not pass it over without brief mention.
The account in the Chronicum Scotorum runs thus:—
"Kal. v.f.l. 10. Anno mundi 1599.
"In this year the daughter of one of the Greeks came to Hibernia, whose name was h-Erui, or Berba, or Cesar, and fifty maidens and three men with her. Ladhra was their conductor, who was the first that was buried in Hibernia." The Cin of Drom Snechta is quoted in the Book of Ballymote as authority for the same tradition. The Book of Invasions also mentions this account as derived from ancient sources. MacFirbis, in the Book of Genealogies, says: "I shall devote the first book to Partholan, who first took possession of Erinn after the Deluge, devoting the beginning of it to the coming of the Lady Ceasair," &c. And the Annals of the Four Masters: "Forty days before the Deluge, Ceasair came to Ireland with fifty girls and three men—Bith, Ladhra, and Fintain their names." All authorities agree that Partholan was the first who colonized Ireland after the Flood. His arrival is stated in the Chronicum Scotorum to have taken place "in the sixtieth year of the age of Abraham." The Four Masters say: "The age of the world, when Partholan came into Ireland, 2520 years."
Partholan landed at Inver Scene, now the Kenmare river, accompanied by his sons, their wives, and a thousand followers. His antecedents are by no means the most creditable; and we may, perhaps, feel some satisfaction, that a colony thus founded should have been totally swept away by pestilence a few hundred years after its establishment.
The Chronicum Scotorum gives the date of his landing thus: "On a Monday, the 14th of May, he arrived, his companions being eight in number, viz., four men and four women." If the kingdom of Desmond were as rich then as now in natural beauty, a scene of no ordinary splendour must have greeted the eyes and gladdened the hearts of its first inhabitants. They had voyaged past the fair and sunny isles of that "tideless sea," the home of the Phoenician race from the earliest ages. They had escaped the dangers of the rough Spanish coast, and gazed upon the spot where the Pillars of Hercules were the beacons of the early mariners. For many days they had lost sight of land, and, we may believe, had well-nigh despaired of finding a home in that far isle, to which some strange impulse had attracted them, or some old tradition—for the world even then was old enough for legends of the past—had won their thoughts. But there was a cry of land. The billows dashed in wildly, then as now, from the coasts of an undiscovered world, and left the same line of white foam upon Eire's western coast. The magnificent Inver rolled its tide of beauty between gentle hills and sunny slopes, till it reached what now is appropriately called Kenmare. The distant Reeks showed their clear summits in sharp outline, pointing to the summer sky. The long-backed Mangerton and quaintly-crested Carn Tual were there also; and, perchance, the Roughty and the Finihe sent their little streams to swell the noble river bay. But it was no time for dreams, though the Celt in all ages has proved the sweetest of dreamers, the truest of bards. These men have rough work to do, and, it may be, gave but scant thought to the beauties of the western isle, and scant thanks to their gods for escape from peril. Plains were to be cleared, forests cut down, and the red deer and giant elk driven to deeper recesses in the well-wooded country.
Several lakes are said to have sprung forth at that period; but it is more probable that they already existed, and were then for the first time seen by human eye. The plains which Partholan's people cleared are also mentioned, and then we find the ever-returning obituary:—
"The age of the world 2550, Partholan died on Sean Mhagh-Ealta-Edair in this year."
The name of Tallaght still remains, like the peak of a submerged world, to indicate this colonization, and its fatal termination. Some very ancient tumuli may still be seen there. The name signifies a place where a number of persons who died of the plague were interred together; and here the Annals of the Four Masters tells us that nine thousand of Partholan's people died in one week, after they had been three hundred years in Ireland.
The third "taking" of Ireland was that of Nemedh. He came, according to the Annals, A.M. 2859, and erected forts and cleared plains, as his predecessors had done. His people were also afflicted by plague, and appeared to have had occupation enough to bury their dead, and to fight with the "Fomorians in general," an unpleasantly pugilistic race, who, according to the Annals of Clonmacnois, "were a sept descended from Cham, the sonne of Noeh, and lived by pyracie and spoile of other nations, and were in those days very troublesome to the whole world." The few Nemedians who escaped alive after their great battle with the Fomorians, fled into the interior of the island. Three bands were said to have emigrated with their respective captains. One party wandered into the north of Europe, and are believed to have been the progenitors of the Tuatha De Dananns; others made their way to Greece, where they were enslaved, and obtained the name of Firbolgs, or bagmen, from the leathern bags which they were compelled to carry; and the third section sought refuge in the north of England, which is said to have obtained its name of Briton from their leader, Briotan Maol.
The fourth immigration is that of the Firbolgs; and it is remarkable how early the love of country is manifested in the Irish race, since we find those who once inhabited its green plains still anxious to return, whether their emigration proved prosperous, as to the Tuatha De Dananns, or painful, as to the Firbolgs.
According to the Annals of Clonmacnois, Keating, and the Leabhar-Gabhala, the Firbolgs divided the island into five provinces, governed by five brothers, the sons of Dela Mac Loich:—"Slane, the eldest brother, had the province of Leynster for his part, which containeth from Inver Colpe, that is to say, where the river Boyne entereth into the sea, now called in Irish Drogheda, to the meeting of the three waters, by Waterford, where the three rivers, Suyre, Ffeoir, and Barrow, do meet and run together into the sea. Gann, the second brother's part, was South Munster, which is a province extending from that place to Bealagh-Conglaissey. Seangann, the third brother's part, was from Bealagh-Conglaissey to Rossedahaileagh, now called Limbriche, which is in the province of North Munster. Geanaun, the fourth brother, had the province of Connacht, containing from Limerick to Easroe. Rorye, the fifth brother, and youngest, had from Easroe aforesaid to Inver Colpe, which is in the province of Ulster."
The Firbolg chiefs had landed in different parts of the island, but they soon met at the once famous Tara, where they united their forces. To this place they gave the name of Druim Cain, or the Beautiful Eminence.
The fifth, or Tuatha De Danann "taking" of Ireland, occurred in the reign of Eochaidh, son of Erc, A.M. 3303. The Firbolgian dynasty was terminated at the battle of Magh Tuireadh. Eochaidh fled from the battle, and was killed on the strand of Traigh Eothaile, near Ballysadare, co. Sligo. The cave where he was interred still exists, and there is a curious tradition that the tide can never cover it.
The Tuatha De Danann king, Nuada, lost his hand in this battle, and obtained the name of Nuada of the Silver Hand, his artificer, Credne Cert, having made a silver hand for him with joints. It is probable the latter acquisition was the work of Mioch, the son of Diancecht, Nuada's physician, as there is a tradition that he "took off the hand and infused feeling and motion into every joint and finger of it, as if it were a natural hand." We may doubt the "feeling," but it was probably suggested by the "motion," and the fact that, in those ages, every act of more than ordinary skill was attributed to supernatural causes, though effected through human agents. Perhaps even, in the enlightened nineteenth century, we might not be much the worse for the pious belief, less the pagan cause to which it was attributed. It should be observed here, that the Brehon Laws were probably then in force; for the "blemish" of the monarch appears to have deprived him of his dignity, at least until the silver hand could satisfy for the defective limb. The Four Masters tell us briefly that the Tuatha De Dananns gave the sovereignty to Breas, son of Ealathan, "while the hand of Nuada was under cure," and mentions that Breas resigned the kingdom to him in the seventh year after the cure of his hand.
A more detailed account of this affair may be found in one of our ancient historic tales, of the class called Catha or Battles, which Professor O'Curry pronounces to be "almost the earliest event upon the record of which we may place sure reliance." It would appear that there were two battles between the Firbolgs and Tuatha De Dananns, and that, in the last of these, Nuada was slain. According to this ancient tract, when the Firbolg king heard of the arrival of the invaders, he sent a warrior named Sreng to reconnoitre their camp. The Tuatha De Dananns were as skilled in war as in magic; they had sentinels carefully posted, and their videttes were as much on the alert as a Wellington or a Napier could desire. The champion Breas was sent forward to meet the stranger. As they approached, each raised his shield, and cautiously surveyed his opponent from above the protecting aegis. Breas was the first to speak. The mother-tongue was as dear then as now, and Sreng was charmed to hear himself addressed in his own language, which, equally dear to the exiled Nemedian chiefs, had been preserved by them in their long wanderings through northern Europe. An examination of each others armour next took place. Sreng was armed with "two heavy, thick, pointless, but sharply rounded spears;" while Breas carried "two beautifully shaped, thin, slender, long, sharp-pointed spears." Perhaps the one bore a spear of the same class of heavy flint weapons of which we give an illustration, and the other the lighter and more graceful sword, of which many specimens may be seen in the collection of the Royal Irish Academy. Breas then proposed that they should divide the island between the two parties; and after exchanging spears and promises of mutual friendship, each returned to his own camp.
The Firbolg king, however, objected to this arrangement; and it was decided, in a council of war, to give battle to the invaders. The Tuatha De Dananns were prepared for this from the account which Breas gave of the Firbolg warriors: they, therefore, abandoned their camp, and took up a strong position on Mount Belgadan, at the west end of Magh Nia, a site near the present village of Cong, co. Mayo.
The Firbolgs marched from Tara to meet them; but Nuada, anxious for pacific arrangements, opened new negociations with King Eochaidh through the medium of his bards. The battle which has been mentioned before then followed. The warrior Breas, who ruled during the disability of Nuada, was by no means popular. He was not hospitable, a sine qua non for king or chief from the earliest ages of Celtic being; he did not love the bards, for the same race ever cherished and honoured learning; and he attempted to enslave the nobles. Discontent came to a climax when the bard Cairbre, son of the poetess Etan, visited the royal court, and was sent to a dark chamber, without fire or bed, and, for all royal fare, served with three small cakes of bread. If we wish to know the true history of a people, to understand the causes of its sorrows and its joys, to estimate its worth, and to know how to rule it wisely and well, let us read such old-world tales carefully, and ponder them well. Even if prejudice or ignorance should induce us to undervalue their worth as authentic records of its ancient history, let us remember the undeniable fact, that they are authentic records of its deepest national feelings, and let them, at least, have their weight as such in our schemes of social economy, for the present and the future.
The poet left the court next morning, but not until he pronounced a bitter and withering satire on the king—the first satire that had ever been pronounced in Erinn. It was enough. Strange effects are attributed to the satire of a poet in those olden times; but probably they could, in all cases, bear the simple and obvious interpretation, that he on whom the satire was pronounced was thereby disgraced eternally before his people. For how slight a punishment would bodily suffering or deformity be, in comparison to the mental suffering of which a quick-souled people are eminently capable!
Breas was called on to resign. He did so with the worst possible grace, as might be expected from such a character. His father, Elatha, was a Fomorian sea-king or pirate, and he repaired to his court. His reception was not such as he had expected; he therefore went to Balor of the Evil Eye, a Fomorian chief. The two warriors collected a vast army and navy, and formed a bridge of ships and boats from the Hebrides to the north-west coast of Erinn. Having landed their forces, they marched to a plain in the barony of Tirerrill (co. Sligo), where they waited an attack or surrender of the Tuatha De Danann army. But the magical skill, or, more correctly, the superior abilities of this people, proved them more than equal to the occasion. The chronicler gives a quaint and most interesting account of the Tuatha De Danann arrangements. Probably the Crimean campaign, despite our nineteenth century advancements in the art of war, was not prepared for more carefully, or carried out more efficiently.
Nuada called a "privy council," if we may use the modern term for the ancient act, and obtained the advice of the great Daghda; of Lug, the son of Cian, son of Diancecht, the famous physician; and of Ogma Grian-Aineach (of the sun-like face). But Daghda and Lug were evidently secretaries of state for the home and war departments, and arranged these intricate affairs with perhaps more honour to their master, and more credit to the nation, than many a modern and "civilized" statesman. They summoned to their presence the heads of each department necessary for carrying on the war. Each department was therefore carefully pre-organized, in such a manner as to make success almost certain, and to obtain every possible succour and help from those engaged in the combat, or those who had suffered from it. The "smiths" were prepared to make and to mend the swords, the surgeons to heal or staunch the wounds, the bards and druids to praise or blame; and each knew his work, and what was expected from the department which he headed before the battle, for the questions put to each, and their replies, are on record.
Pardon me. You will say I have written a romance, a legend, for the benefit of my country—a history of what might have been, of what should be, at least in modern warfare, and, alas! often is not. Pardon me. The copy of the tracts from which I have compiled this meagre narrative, is in existence, and in the British Museum. It was written on vellum, about the year 1460, by Gilla-Riabhach O'Clery; but there is unquestionable authority for its having existed at a much earlier period. It is quoted by Cormac Mac Cullinan in his Glossary, in illustration of the word Nes, and Cormac was King of Munster in the year of grace 885, while his Glossary was compiled to explain words which had then become obsolete. This narrative must, therefore, be of great antiquity. If we cannot accept it as a picture of the period, in the main authentic, let us give up all ancient history as a myth; if we do accept it, let us acknowledge that a people who possessed such officials had attained a high state of intellectual culture, and that their memory demands at least the homage of our respect.
The plain on which this battle was fought, retains the name of the Plain of the Towers (or Pillars) of the Fomorians, and some very curious sepulchral monuments may still be seen on the ancient field.
In those days, as in the so-called middle ages, ladies exercised their skill in the healing art; and we find honorable mention made of the Lady Ochtriuil, who assisted the chief physician (her father) and his sons in healing the wounds of the Tuatha De Danann heroes. These warriors have also left many evidences of their existence in raths and monumental pillars. It is probable, also, that much that has been attributed to the Danes, of right belongs to the Dananns, and that a confusion of names has promoted a confusion of appropriation. Before we turn to the Milesian immigration, the last colonization of the old country, let us inquire what was known and said of it, and of its people, by foreign writers.
 Hibernia.—Chronicum Scotorum, p. 3.
 Tradition.—O'Curry, p. 13.
 Names.—Four Masters, O'Donovan, p. 3.
 Abraham.—Chronicum Scotorum, p. 5.
 Years.—Four Masters, p. 5.
 Inver.—Inver and Ab er have been used as test words in discriminating between the Gaedhilic and Cymric Celts. The etymology and meaning is the same—a meeting of waters. Inver, the Erse and Gaedhilic form, is common in Ireland, and in those parts of Scotland where the Gael encroached on the Cymry. See Words and Places, p. 259, for interesting observations on this subject.
 Year.—Annals, p. 7.
 Ireland.—Ib. p. 9.
 Annals.—Ib. I. p. 9.
 World.—See Conell MacGeoghegan's Translation of the Annals of Clonmacnois, quoted by O'Donovan, p. 11.
 Maol.—The Teutonic languages afford no explanation of the name of Britain, though it is inhabited by a Teutonic race. It is probable, therefore, that they adopted an ethnic appellation of the former inhabitants. This may have been patronymic, or, perhaps, a Celtic prefix with the Euskarian suffix etan, a district or country. See Words and Places, p. 60.
 Ulster.—Neither the Annals nor the Chronicum give these divisions; the above is from the Annals of Clonmacnois. There is a poem in the Book of Lecain, at folio 277, b., by MacLiag, on the Firbolg colonies, which is quoted as having been taken from their own account of themselves; and another on the same subject at 278, a.
 Hand.—Four Masters, p. 17.
 Reliance.—O'Curry, p. 243.
 Spears.—O'Curry, p. 245.
 Eye.—There is a curious note by Dr. O'Donovan (Annals, p. 18) about this Balor. The tradition of his deeds and enchantments is still preserved in Tory Island, one of the many evidences of the value of tradition, and of the many proofs that it usually overlies a strata of facts.
 Country.—We find the following passages in a work purporting to be a history of Ireland, recently published: "It would be throwing away time to examine critically fables like those contained in the present and following chapter." The subjects of those chapters are the colonization of Partholan, of the Nemedians, Fomorians, Tuatha De Dananns, and Milesians, the building of the palace of Emania, the reign of Cairbre, Tuathal, and last, not least, the death of Dathi. And these are "fables"! The writer then calmly informs us that the period at which they were "invented, extended probably from the tenth to the twelfth century." Certainly, the "inventors" were men of no ordinary talent, and deserve some commendation for their inventive faculties. But on this subject we shall say more hereafter. At last the writer arrives at the "first ages of Christianity." We hoped that here at least he might have granted us a history; but he writes: "The history of early Christianity in Ireland is obscure and doubtful, precisely in proportion as it is unusually copious. If legends enter largely into the civil history of the country, they found their way tenfold into the history of the Church, because there the tendency to believe in them was much greater, as well as the inducement to invent and adopt them." The "inventors" of the pre-Christian history of Ireland, who accomplished their task "from the tenth to the twelfth century," are certainly complimented at the expense of the saints who Christianized Ireland. This writer seems to doubt the existence of St. Patrick, and has "many doubts" as to the authenticity of the life of St. Columba. We should not have noticed this work had we not reason to know that it has circulated largely amongst the middle and lower classes, who may be grievously misled by its very insidious statements. It is obviously written for the sake of making a book to sell; and the writer has the honesty to say plainly, that he merely gives the early history of Ireland, pagan and Christian, because he could not well write a history of Ireland and omit this portion of it!
 Pillars.—The monuments ascribed to the Tuatha De Dananns are principally situated in Meath, at Drogheda, Dowlet, Knowth, and New Grange. There are others at Cnoc-Aine and Cnoc-Greine, co. Limerick, and on the Pap Mountains, co. Kerry.
The Scythians Colonists—Testimony of Josephus—Magog and his Colony—Statements of our Annals confirmed by a Jewish Writer—By Herodotus—Nennius relates what is told by the "Most Learned of the Scoti"—Phoenician Circumnavigation of Africa—Phoenician Colonization of Spain—Iberus and Himerus—Traditions of Partholan—Early Geographical Accounts of Ireland—Early Social Accounts of Ireland.
The writer of the article on Ireland, in Rees' Cyclopaedia, says: "It does not appear improbable, much less absurd, to suppose that the Phoenicians might have colonized Ireland at an early period, and introduced their laws, customs, and knowledge, with a comparatively high state of civilization; and that these might have been gradually lost amidst the disturbances of the country, and, at last, completely destroyed by the irruptions of the Ostmen." Of this assertion, which is now scarcely doubted, there is abundant proof; and it is remarkable that Josephus attributes to the Phoenicians a special care in preserving their annals above that of other civilized nations, and that this feeling has existed, and still exists, more vividly in the Celtic race than in any other European people.
The Irish annalists claim a descent from the Scythians, who, they say, are descended from Magog, the son of Japhet, the son of Noah. Keating says: "We will set down here the branching off of the race of Magog, according to the Book of Invasions (of Ireland), which was called the Cin of Drom Snechta." It will be remembered how curiously O'Curry verified Keating's statement as to the authorship of this work, so that his testimony may be received with respect. In the Scripture genealogy, the sons of Magog are not enumerated; but an historian, who cannot be suspected of any design of assisting the Celts to build up a pedigree, has happily supplied the deficiency. Josephus writes: "Magog led out a colony, which from him were named Magoges, but by the Greeks called Scythians." But Keating specifies the precise title of Scythians, from which the Irish Celts are descended. He says they had established themselves in remote ages on the borders of the Red Sea, at the town of Chiroth; that they were expelled by the grandson of that Pharaoh who had been drowned in the Red Sea; and that he persecuted them because they had supplied the Israelites with provisions.
This statement is singularly and most conclusively confirmed by Rabbi Simon, who wrote two hundred years before the birth of Christ. He says that certain Canaanites near the Red Sea gave provisions to the Israelites; "and because these Canaan ships gave Israel of their provisions, God would not destroy their ships, but with an east wind carried them down the Red Sea." This colony settled in what was subsequently called Phoenicia; and here again our traditions are confirmed ab extra, for Herodotus says: "The Phoenicians anciently dwelt, as they allege, on the borders of the Red Sea."
It is not known at what time this ancient nation obtained the specific appellation of Phoenician. The word is not found in Hebrew brew copies of the Scriptures, but is used in the Machabees, the original of which is in Greek, and in the New Testament. According to Grecian historians, it was derived from Phoenix, one of their kings and brother of Cadmus, the inventor of letters. It is remarkable that our annals mention a king named Phenius, who devoted himself especially to the study of languages, and composed an alphabet and the elements of grammar. Our historians describe the wanderings of the Phoenicians, whom they still designate Scythians, much as they are described by other writers. The account of their route may differ in detail, but the main incidents coincide. Nennius, an English chronicler, who wrote in the seventh century, from the oral testimony of trustworthy Irish Celts, gives corroborative testimony. He writes thus: "If any one would be anxious to learn how long Ireland was uninhabited and deserted, he shall hear it, as the most learned of the Scots have related it to me. When the children of Israel came to the Red Sea, the Egyptians pursued them and were drowned, as the Scripture records. In the time of Moses there was a Scythian noble who had been banished from his kingdom, and dwelt in Egypt with a large family. He was there when the Egyptians were drowned, but he did not join in the persecution of the Lord's people. Those who survived laid plans to banish him, lest he should assume the government, because their brethren were drowned in the Red Sea; so he was expelled. He wandered through Africa for forty-two years, and passed by the lake of Salinae to the altars of the Philistines, and between Rusicada and the mountains Azure, and he came by the river Mulon, and by sea to the Pillars of Hercules, and through the Tuscan Sea, and he made for Spain, and dwelt there many years, and he increased and multiplied, and his people were multiplied."
Herodotus gives an account of the circumnavigation of Africa by the Phoenicians, which may have some coincidence with this narrative. His only reason for rejecting the tradition, which he relates at length, is that he could not conceive how these navigators could have seen the sun in a position contrary to that in which it is seen in Europe. The expression of his doubt is a strong confirmation of the truth of his narrative, which, however, is generally believed by modern writers.
This navigation was performed about seven centuries before the Christian era, and is, at least, a proof that the maritime power of the Phoenicians was established at an early period, and that it was not impossible for them to have extended their enterprises to Ireland. The traditions of our people may also be confirmed from other sources. Solinus writes thus: "In the gulf of Boatica there is an island, distant some hundred paces from the mainland, which the Tyrians, who came from the Red Sea, called Erythroea, and the Carthaginians, in their language, denominate Gadir, i.e., the enclosure."
Spanish historians add their testimony, and claim the Phoenicians as their principal colonizers. The Hispania Illustrata, a rare and valuable work, on which no less than sixty writers were engaged, fixes the date of the colonization of Spain by the Phoenicians at 764 A.C. De Bellegarde says: "The first of whom mention is made in history is Hercules, the Phoenician, by some called Melchant." It is alleged that he lived in the time of Moses, and that he retired into Spain when the Israelites entered the land of promise. This will be consistent with old accounts, if faith can be placed in the inscription of two columns, which were found in the province of Tingitane, at the time of the historian Procopius. A Portuguese historian, Emanuel de Faria y Sousa, mentions the sailing of Gatelus from Egypt, with his whole family, and names his two sons, Iberus and Himerus, the first of whom, he says, "some will have to have sailed into Ireland, and given the name Hibernia to it."
Indeed, so strong has been the concurrent testimony of a Phoenician colonization of Ireland from Spain, and this by independent authorities, who could not have had access to our bardic histories, and who had no motive, even had they known of their existence, to write in confirmation of them, that those who have maintained the theory of a Gaulish colonization of Ireland, have been obliged to make Spain the point of embarkation.
There is a curious treatise on the antiquities and origin of Cambridge, in which it is stated, that, in the year of the world 4321, a British prince, the son of Gulguntius, or Gurmund, having crossed over to Denmark, to enforce tribute from a Danish king, was returning victorious off the Orcades, when he encountered thirty ships, full of men and women. On his inquiring into the object of their voyage, their leader, Partholyan, made an appeal to his good-nature, and entreated from the prince some small portion of land in Britain, as his crew were weary of sailing over the ocean. Being informed that he came from Spain, the British prince received him under his protection, and assigned faithful guides to attend him into Ireland, which was then wholly uninhabited; and he granted it to them, subject to an annual tribute, and confirmed the appointment of Partholyan as their chief.
This account was so firmly believed in England, that it is specially set forth in an Irish act (11th of Queen Elizabeth) among the "auncient and sundry strong authentique tytles for the kings of England to this land of Ireland." The tradition may have been obtained from Irish sources, and was probably "improved" and accommodated to fortify the Saxon claim, by the addition of the pretended grant; but it is certainly evidence of the early belief in the Milesian colonization of Ireland, and the name of their leader.
The earliest references to Ireland by foreign writers are, as might be expected, of a contradictory character. Plutarch affirms that Calypso was "an island five days' sail to the west of Britain," which, at least, indicates his knowledge of the existence of Erinn. Orpheus is the first writer who definitely names Ireland. In the imaginary route which he prescribes for Jason and the Argonauts, he names Ireland (Iernis), and describes its woody surface and its misty atmosphere. All authorities are agreed that this poem was written five hundred years before Christ; and all doubt as to whether Iernis meant the present island of Ireland must be removed, at least to an unprejudiced inquirer, by a careful examination of the route which is described, and the position of the island in that route.
The early history of a country which has been so long and so cruelly oppressed, both civilly and morally, has naturally fallen into disrepute. We do not like to display the qualifications of one whom we have deeply injured. It is, at least, less disgraceful to have forbidden a literature to a people who had none, than to have banned and barred the use of a most ancient language,—to have destroyed the annals of a most ancient people. In self-defence, the conqueror who knows not how to triumph nobly will triumph basely, and the victims may, in time, almost forget what it has been the policy of centuries to conceal from them. But ours is, in many respects, an age of historical justice, and truth will triumph in the end. It is no longer necessary to England's present greatness to deny the facts of history; and it is one of its most patent facts that Albion was unknown, or, at least, that her existence was unrecorded, at a time when Ireland is mentioned with respect as the Sacred Isle, and the Ogygia of the Greeks.
As might be expected, descriptions of the social state of ancient Erinn are of the most contradictory character; but there is a remarkable coincidence in all accounts of the physical geography of the island. The moist climate, the fertile soil, the richly-wooded plains, the navigable rivers, and the abundance of its fish, are each and all mentioned by the early geographers. The description given by Diodorus Siculus of a "certain large island a considerable distance out at sea, and in the direction of the west, many days' sail from Lybia," if it applies to Ireland, would make us suppose that the Erinn of pagan times was incomparably more prosperous than Erinn under Christian rule. He also specially mentions the fish, and adds: "The Phoenicians, from the very remotest times, made repeated voyages thither for purposes of commerce."
The descriptions of our social state are by no means so flattering; but it is remarkable, and, perhaps, explanatory, that the most unfavourable accounts are the more modern ones. All without the pale of Roman civilization were considered "barbarians," and the epithet was freely applied. Indeed, it is well known that, when Cicero had a special object in view, he could describe the Celtae of Gaul as the vilest monsters, and the hereditary enemies of the gods, for whose wickedness extermination was the only remedy. As to the "gods" there is no doubt that the Druidic worship was opposed to the more sensual paganism of Greece and Rome, and, therefore, would be considered eminently irreligious by the votaries of the latter.
The most serious social charge against the Irish Celts, is that of being anthropophagi; and the statement of St. Jerome, that he had seen two Scoti in Gaul feeding on a human carcass, has been claimed as strong corroboration of the assertions of pagan writers. As the good father was often vehement in his statements and impulsive in his opinions, he may possibly have been mistaken, or, perhaps, purposely misled by those who wished to give him an unfavourable impression of the Irish. It is scarcely possible that they could have been cannibal as a nation, since St. Patrick never even alludes to such a custom in his Confessio, where it would, undoubtedly, have been mentioned and reproved, had it existence.
 Josephus.—Con. Apionem, lib. i.
 Snechta.—O'Curry, p. 14.
 Work—See ante, p. 43.
 Writes.—Josephus, lib. i. c. 6. Most of the authorities in this chapter are taken from the Essay on the ancient history, religion, learning, arts, and government of Ireland, by the late W. D'Alton. The Essay obtained a prize of L80 and the Cunningham Gold Medal from the Royal Irish Academy. It is published in volume xvi. of the Transactions, and is a repertory of learning of immense value to the student of Irish history.
 Sea.—Lib. Zoar, p. 87, as cited by Vallancey, and Parson's Defence, &c., p. 205.
 Sea.—Herodotus, l. vii. c. 89.
 Me.—"Sic mihi peritissimi Scotorum nunciaverunt." The reader will remember that the Irish were called Scots, although the appellative of Ierins or Ierne continued to be given to the country from the days of Orpheus to those of Claudius. By Roman writers Ireland was more usually termed Hibernia. Juvenal calls it Juverna.
 Writers.—The circumnavigation of Africa by a Phoenician ship, in the reign of Neco, about 610 B.C., is credited by Humboldt, Rennell, Heeren, Grote, and Rawlinson. Of their voyages to Cornwall for tin there is no question, and it is more than probable they sailed to the Baltic for amber. It has been even supposed that they anticipated Columbus in the discovery of America. Niebuhr connects the primitive astronomy of Europe with that of America, and, therefore, must suppose the latter country to have been discovered.—Hist. of Rome, vol. i. p. 281. This, however, is very vague ground of conjecture; the tide of knowledge, as well as emigration, was more probably eastward.
 Procopius.—Hist. Gen. d'Espagne, vol. i.c.l. p.4.
 Chief.—De Antiq. et Orig. Cantab. See D'Alton's Essay, p. 24, for other authorities.
 Poem.—There has been question of the author, but none as to the authenticity and the probable date of compilation.
 Ogygia.—Camden writes thus: "Nor can any one conceive why they should call it Ogygia, unless, perhaps, from its antiquity; for the Greeks called nothing Ogygia unless what was extremely ancient."
 Fish.—And it still continues to be a national article of consumption and export. In a recent debate on the "Irish question," an honorable member observes, that he regrets to say "fish" is the only thing which appears to be flourishing in Ireland. We fear, however, from the report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons on the question of Irish sea-coast fisheries, that the poor fishermen are not prospering as well as the fish. Mr. Hart stated: "Fish was as plenty as ever; but numbers of the fishermen had died during the famine, others emigrated, and many of those who remained were unable, from want of means, to follow the pursuit." And yet these men are honest; for it has been declared before the same committee, that they have scrupulously repaid the loans which were given them formerly; and they are willing to work, for when they can get boats and nets, they do work. These are facts. Shakspeare has said that facts are "stubborn things;" they are, certainly, sometimes very unpleasant things. Yet, we are told, the Irish have no real grievances. Of course, starvation from want of work is not a grievance!
Within the few months which have elapsed since the publication of the first edition of this History and the present moment, when I am engaged in preparing a second edition, a fact has occurred within my own personal knowledge relative to this very subject, and of too great importance to the history of Ireland in the present day to be omitted. A shoal of sprats arrived in the bay of —— and the poor people crowded to the shore to witness the arrival and, alas! the departure of the finny tribe. All their nets had been broken or sold in the famine year; they had, therefore, no means of securing what would have been a valuable addition to their poor fare. The wealthy, whose tables are furnished daily with every luxury, can have but little idea how bitter such privations are to the poor. Had there been a resident landlord in the place, to interest himself in the welfare of his tenants, a few pounds would have procured all that was necessary, and the people, always grateful for kindness, would long have remembered the boon and the bestower of it.
 Commerce.—"Phoenices a vetustissimis inde temporibus frequenter crebras mercaturae gratia navigationes instituerunt."—Diod. Sic. vers. Wesseling, t.i.
 Confessio.—Dr. O'Donovan states, in an article in the Ulster Archaeological Journal, vol. viii. p. 249, that he had a letter from the late Dr. Prichard, who stated that it was his belief the ancient Irish were not anthropophagi. He adds: "Whatever they may have been when their island was called Insula Sacra, there are no people in Europe who are more squeamish in the use of meats than the modern Irish peasantry, for they have a horror of every kind of carrion;" albeit he is obliged to confess that, though they abuse the French for eating frogs, and the English for eating rooks, there is evidence to prove that horseflesh was eaten in Ireland, even in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.
Landing of the Milesians—Traditions of the Tuatha De Dananns in St. Patrick's time—The Lia Fail, or Stone of Destiny—The Milesians go back to sea "nine waves"—They conquer ultimately—Reign of Eremon—Landing of the Picts—Bede's Account of Ireland—Fame of its Fish and Goats—Difficulties of Irish Chronology—Importance and Authenticity of Irish Pedigrees—Qualifications of an Ollamh—Milesian Genealogies—Historical Value of Pedigrees—National Feelings should be respected—Historic Tales—Poems.
The last colonization of Ireland is thus related in the Annals of the Four Masters: "The age of the world 3500. The fleet of the sons of Milidh came to Ireland at the end of this year, to take it from the Tuatha De Dananns, and they fought the battle of Sliabh Mis with them on the third day after landing. In this battle fell Scota, the daughter of Pharaoh, wife of Milidh; and the grave of Scota is [to be seen] between Sliabh Mis and the sea. Therein also fell Fas, the wife of Un, son of Uige, from whom is [named] Gleann Faisi. After this the sons of Milidh fought a battle at Taillten against the three kings of the Tuatha De Dananns, MacCuill, MacCeacht, and MacGriene. The battle lasted for a long time, until MacCeacht fell by Eiremhon, MacCuill by Eimheur, and Mac Griene by Amhergen." Thus the Tuatha De Danann dynasty passed away, but not without leaving many a quaint legend of magic and mystery, and many an impress of its more than ordinary skill in such arts as were then indications of national superiority. The real names of the last chiefs of this line, are said to have been respectively Ethur, Cethur, and Fethur. The first was called MacCuill, because he worshipped the hazel-tree, and, more probably, because he was devoted to some branch of literature which it symbolized; the second MacCeacht, because he worshipped the plough, i.e., was devoted to agriculture; and the third obtained his appellation of MacGriene because he worshipped the sun.
It appears from a very curious and ancient tract, written in the shape of a dialogue between St. Patrick and Caoilte MacRonain, that there were many places in Ireland where the Tuatha De Dananns were then supposed to live as sprites and fairies, with corporeal and material forms, but endued with immortality. The inference naturally to be drawn from these stories is, that the Tuatha De Dananns lingered in the country for many centuries after their subjugation by the Gaedhils, and that they lived in retired situations, where they practised abstruse arts, from which they obtained the reputation of being magicians.
The Tuatha De Dananns are also said to have brought the famous. Lia Fail, or Stone of Destiny, to Ireland. It is said by some authorities that this stone was carried to Scotland when an Irish colony invaded North Britain, and that it was eventually brought to England by Edward I., in the year 1300, and deposited in Westminster Abbey. It is supposed to be identical with the large block of stone which may be seen there under the coronation chair. Dr. Petrie, however, controverts this statement, and believes it to be the present pillar stone over the Croppies' Grave in one of the raths of Tara.
A Danann prince, called Oghma, is said to have invented the occult form of writing called the Ogham Craove, which, like the round towers has proved so fertile a source of doubt and discussion to our antiquaries.
The Milesians, however, did not obtain a colonization in Ireland without some difficulty. According to the ancient accounts, they landed at the mouth of the river Slainge, or Slaney, in the present county of Wexford, unperceived by the Tuatha De Dananns. From thence they marched to Tara, the seat of government, and summoned the three kings to surrender. A curious legend is told of this summons and its results, which is probably true in the more important details. The Tuatha De Danann princes complained that they had been taken by surprise, and proposed to the invaders to re-embark, and to go out upon the sea "the distance of nine waves" stating that the country should be surrendered to them if they could then effect a landing by force. The Milesian chiefs assented; but when the original inhabitants found them fairly launched at sea, they raised a tempest by magical incantations, which entirely dispersed the fleet. One part of it was driven along the east coast of Erinn, to the north, under the command of Eremon, the youngest of the Milesian brothers; the remainder, under the command of Donn, the elder brother, was driven to the south-west of the island.
But the Milesians had druids also. As soon as they suspected the agency which had caused the storm, they sent a man to the topmast of the ship to know "if the wind was blowing at that height over the surface of the sea." The man reported that it was not. The druids then commence practising counter arts of magic, in which they soon succeeded, but not until five of the eight brothers were lost. Four, including Donn, were drowned in the wild Atlantic, off the coast of Kerry. Colpa met his fate at the mouth of the river Boyne, called from him Inbhear Colpa. Eber Finn and Amergin, the survivors of the southern party, landed in Kerry, and here the battle of Sliabh Mis was fought, which has been already mentioned.
The battle of Taillten followed; and the Milesians having become masters of the country, the brothers Eber Finn and Eremon divided it between them; the former taking all the southern part, from the Boyne and the Shannon to Cape Clear, the latter taking all the part lying to the north of these rivers.
This arrangement, however, was not of long continuance. Each was desirous of unlimited sovereignty; and they met to decide their claims by an appeal to arms at Geisill, a place near the present Tullamore, in the King's county. Eber and his chief leaders fell in this engagement, and Eremon assumed the sole government of the island.
He took up his residence in Leinster, and after a reign of fifteen years died, and was buried at Raith Beothaigh, in Argat Ross. This ancient rath still exists, and is now called Rath Beagh. It is situated on the right bank of the river Nore, near the present village of Ballyragget, county Kilkenny. This is not narrated by the Four Masters, neither do they mention the coming of the Cruithneans or Picts into Ireland. These occurrences, however, are recorded in all the ancient copies of the Book of Invasions, and in the Dinnseanchus. The Cruithneans or Picts are said to have fled from the oppression of their king in Thrace, and to have passed into Gaul. There they founded the city of Poictiers. From thence they were again driven by an act of tyranny, and they proceeded first to Britain, and then to Ireland. Crimhthann Sciath-bel, one of King Bremen's leaders, was at Wexford when the new colony landed. He was occupied in extirpating a tribe of Britons who had settled in Fotharta, and were unpleasantly distinguished for fighting with poisoned weapons. The Irish chieftain asked the assistance of the new comers. A battle was fought, and the Britons were defeated principally by the skill of the Pictish druid, who found an antidote for the poison of their weapons. According to the quaint account of Bede, the Celtic chiefs gave good advice to their foreign allies in return for their good deeds, and recommended them to settle in North Britain, adding that they would come to their assistance should they find any difficulty or opposition from the inhabitants. The Picts took the advice, but soon found themselves in want of helpmates. They applied again to their neighbours, and were obligingly supplied with wives on the condition "that, when any difficulty should arise, they should choose a king from the female royal race rather than from the male." The Picts accepted the terms and the ladies; "and the custom," says Bede, "as is well known, is observed among the Picts to this day."
Bede then continues to give a description of Ireland. His account, although of some length, and not in all points reliable, is too interesting to be omitted, being the opinion of an Englishman, and an author of reputation, as to the state of Ireland, socially and physically, in the seventh century: "Ireland, in breadth and for wholesomeness and serenity of climate, far surpasses Britain; for the snow scarcely ever lies there above three days; no man makes hay in summer for winter's provision, or builds stables for his beasts of burden. No reptiles are found there; for, though often carried thither out of Britain, as soon as the ship comes near the shore, and the scent of the air reaches them, they die. On the contrary, almost all things in the island are good against poison. In short, we have known that when some persons have been bitten by serpents, the scrapings of leaves of books that were brought out of Ireland, being put into water and given them to drink, have immediately expelled the spreading poison, and assuaged the swelling. The island abounds in milk and honey; nor is there any want of vines, fish, and fowl; and it is remarkable for deer and goats."
The chronology of Irish pagan history is unquestionably one of its greatest difficulties. But the chronology of all ancient peoples is equally unmanageable. When Bunsen has settled Egyptian chronology to the satisfaction of other literati as well as to his own, and when Hindoo and Chinese accounts of their postdiluvian or antediluvian ancestors have been reconciled and synchronized, we may hear some objections to "Irish pedigrees," and listen to a new "Irish question."
Pre-Christian Irish chronology has been arranged, like most ancient national chronologies, on the basis of the length of reign of certain kings. As we do not trace our descent from the "sun and moon" we are not necessitated to give our kings "a gross of centuries apiece," or to divide the assumed period of a reign between half-a-dozen monarchs; and the difficulties are merely such as might be expected before chronology had become a science. The Four Masters have adopted the chronology of the Septuagint; but O'Flaherty took the system of Scaliger, and thus reduced the dates by many hundred years. The objection of hostile critics has been to the history rather than to the chronology of the history; but these objections are a mere petitio principii. They cannot understand how Ireland could have had a succession of kings and comparative civilization,—in fact, a national existence,—from 260 years before the building of Rome, when the Milesian colony arrived, according to the author of the Ogygia, at least a thousand years before the arrival of Caesar in Britain, and his discovery that its inhabitants were half-naked savages. The real question is not what Caesar said of the Britons, nor whether they had an ancient history before their subjugation by the victorious cohorts of Rome; but whether the annals which contained the pre-Christian history of Ireland may be accepted as, in the main, authentic.
We have already given some account of the principal works from which our annals may be compiled. Before we proceed to that portion of our history the authenticity of which cannot be questioned, it may, perhaps, be useful to give an idea of the authorities for the minor details of social life, the individual incidents of a nation's being, which, in fact, make up the harmonious whole. We shall find a remarkable coincidence between the materials for early Roman history, and those for the early history of that portion of the Celtic race which colonized Ireland.
We have no trace of any historical account of Roman history by a contemporary writer, native or foreign, before the war with Pyrrhus; yet we have a history of Rome for more than four hundred years previous offered to us by classical writers, as a trustworthy narrative of events. From whence did they derive their reliable information? Unquestionably from works such as the Origines of Cato the Censor, and other writers, which were then extant, but which have since perished. And these writers, whence did they obtain their historical narratives? If we may credit the theory of Niebuhr, they were transmitted simply by bardic legends, composed in verse. Even Sir G.C. Lewis admits that "commemorative festivals and other periodical observances, may, in certain cases, have served to perpetuate a true tradition of some national event." And how much more surely would the memory of such events be perpetuated by a people, to whom they had brought important political revolutions, who are eminently tenacious of their traditions, and who have preserved the memory of them intact for centuries in local names and monumental sites! The sources from whence the first annalists, or writers of Irish history, may have compiled their narratives, would, therefore, be—1. The Books of Genealogies and Pedigrees. 2. The Historic Tales. 3. The Books of Laws. 4. The Imaginative Tales and Poems. 5. National Monuments, such as cromlechs and pillar stones, &c., which supplied the place of the brazen tablets of Roman history, the libri lintei, or the chronological nail.
The Books of Genealogies and Pedigrees form a most important element in Irish pagan history. For social and political reasons, the Irish Celt preserved his genealogical tree with scrupulous precision. The rights of property and the governing power were transmitted with patriarchal exactitude on strict claims of primogeniture, which claims could only be refused under certain conditions defined by law. Thus, pedigrees and genealogies became a family necessity; but since private claims might be doubted, and the question of authenticity involved such important results, a responsible public officer was appointed to keep the records by which all claims were decided. Each king had his own recorder, who was obliged to keep a true account of his pedigree, and also of the pedigrees of the provincial kings and of their principal chieftains. The provincial kings had also their recorders (Ollamhs or Seanchaidhe); and in obedience to an ancient law established long before the introduction of Christianity, all the provincial records, as well as those of the various chieftains, were required to be furnished every third year to the convocation at Tara, where they were compared and corrected.
The compilers of these genealogies were persons who had been educated as Ollamhs—none others were admissible; and their "diplomas" were obtained after a collegiate course, which might well deter many a modern aspirant to professorial chairs. The education of the Ollamh lasted for twelve years; and in the course of these twelve years of "hard work," as the early books say, certain regular courses were completed, each of which gave the student an additional degree, with corresponding title, rank, and privileges.
"In the Book of Lecain (fol. 168) there is an ancient tract, describing the laws upon this subject, and referring, with quotations, to the body of the Brethibh Nimhedh, or 'Brehon Laws.' According to this authority, the perfect Poet or Ollamh should know and practise the Teinim Laegha, the Imas Forosnadh, and the Dichedal do chennaibh. The first appears to have been a peculiar druidical verse, or incantation, believed to confer upon the druid or poet the power of understanding everything that it was proper for him to say or speak. The second is explained or translated, 'the illumination of much knowledge, as from the teacher to the pupil,' that is, that he should be able to explain and teach the four divisions of poetry or philosophy, 'and each division of them,' continues the authority quoted, 'is the chief teaching of three years of hard work.' The third qualification, or Dichedal, is explained, 'that he begins at once the head of his poem,' in short, to improvise extempore in correct verse. 'To the Ollamh,' says the ancient authority quoted in this passage in the Book of Lecain,' belong synchronisms, together with the laegha laidhibh, or illuminating poems [incantations], and to him belong the pedigrees and etymologies of names, that is, he has the pedigrees of the men of Erinn with certainty, and the branching off of their various relationships.' Lastly, 'here are the four divisions of the knowledge of poetry (or philosophy),' says the tract I have referred to; 'genealogies, synchronisms, and the reciting of (historic) tales form the first division; knowledge of the seven kinds of verse, and how to measure them by letters and syllables, form another of them; judgment of the seven kinds of poetry, another of them; lastly, Dichedal [or improvisation], that is, to contemplate and recite the verses without ever thinking of them before.'"
The pedigrees were collected and written into a single book, called the Cin or Book of Drom Snechta, by the son of Duach Galach, King of Connacht, an Ollamh in history and genealogies, &c., shortly before the arrival of St. Patrick in Ireland, which happened about A.D. 432. It is obvious, therefore, that these genealogies must have existed for centuries prior to this period. Even if they were then committed to writing for the first time, they could have been handed down for many centuries orally by the Ollamhs; for no amount of literary effort could be supposed too great for a class of men so exclusively and laboriously devoted to learning.
As the Milesians were the last of the ancient colonists, and had subdued the races previously existing in Ireland, only their genealogies, with a few exceptions, have been preserved. The genealogical tree begins, therefore, with the brothers Eber and Eremon, the two surviving leaders of the expedition, whose ancestors are traced back to Magog, the son of Japhet. The great southern chieftains, such as the MacCarthys and O'Briens, claim descent from Eber; the northern families of O'Connor, O'Donnell, and O'Neill, claim Eremon as their head. There are also other families claiming descent from Emer, the son of Ir, brother to Eber and Eremon; as also from their cousin Lugaidh, the son of Ith. From four sources the principal Celtic families of Ireland have sprung; and though they do not quite trace up the line to
"The grand old gardener and his wife,"
they have a pedigree which cannot be gainsaid, and which might be claimed with pride by many a monarch. MacFirbis' Book of Genealogies, compiled in the year 1650, from lost records, is the most perfect work of this kind extant. But there are tracts in the Book of Leinster (compiled A.D. 1130), and in the Book of Ballymote (compiled A.D. 1391), which are of the highest authority. O'Curry is of opinion, that those in the Book of Leinster were copied from the Saltair of Cashel and other contemporaneous works.
The historical use of these genealogies is very great, not only because they give an authentic pedigree and approximate data for chronological calculation, but from the immense amount of correlative information which they contain. Every free-born man of the tribe was entitled by blood, should it come to his turn, to succeed to the chieftaincy: hence the exactitude with which each pedigree was kept; hence their importance in the estimation of each individual; hence the incidental matter they contain, by the mention of such historical events as may have acted on different tribes and families, by which they lost their inheritance or independence, and consequently their claim, however remote, to the chieftaincy.
The ancient history of a people should always be studied with care and candour by those who, as a matter of interest or duty, wish to understand their social state, and the government best suited to that state. Many of the poorest families in Ireland are descendants of its ancient chiefs. The old habit—the habit which deepened and intensified itself during centuries—cannot be eradicated, though it may be ridiculed, and the peasant will still boast of his "blood;" it is all that he has left to him of the proud inheritance of his ancestors.
The second source of historical information may be found in the HISTORIC TALES. The reciting of historic tales was one of the principal duties of the Ollamh, and he was bound to preserve the truth of history "pure and unbroken to succeeding generations."
"According to several of the most ancient authorities, the Ollamh, or perfect Doctor, was bound to have (for recital at the public feasts and assemblies) at least Seven Fifties of these Historic narratives; and there appear to have been various degrees in the ranks of the poets, as they progressed in education towards the final degree, each of which was bound to be supplied with at least a certain number. Thus the Anroth, next in rank to an Ollamh should have half the number of an Ollamh; the Cli, one-third the number, according to some authorities, and eighty according to others; and so on down to the Fochlog, who should have thirty; and the Driseg (the lowest of all), who should have twenty of these tales."
The Ollamhs, like the druids or learned men of other nations, were in the habit of teaching the facts of history to their pupils in verse, probably that they might be more easily remembered. A few of these tales have been published lately, such as the Battle of Magh Rath, the Battle of Muighe Leana, and the Tochmarc Momera. Besides the tales of Battles (Catha), there are the tales of Longasa, or Voyages; the tales of Toghla, or Destructions; of Slaughters, of Sieges, of Tragedies, of Voyages, and, not least memorable, of the Tana, or Cattle Spoils, and the Tochmarca, or Courtships. It should be remembered that numbers of these tales are in existence, offering historical materials of the highest value. The Books of Laws demand a special and more detailed notice, as well as the Historical Monuments. With a brief mention of the Imaginative Tales and Poems, we must conclude this portion of our subject.
Ancient writings, even of pure fiction, must always form an important historical element to the nation by which they have been produced. Unless they are founded on fact, so far as customs, localities, and mode of life are concerned, they would possess no interest; and their principal object is to interest. Without some degree of poetic improbabilities as to events, they could scarcely amuse; and their object is also to amuse. Hence, the element of truth is easily separated from the element of fiction, and each is available in its measure for historic research. The most ancient of this class of writings are the Fenian Poems and Tales, ascribed to Finn Mac Cumhaill, to his sons, Oisin and Fergus Finnbheoill (the Eloquent), and to his kinsman, Caeilite. There are also many tales and poems of more recent date. Mr. O'Curry estimates, that if all MSS. known to be in existence, and composed before the year 1000, were published, they would form at least 8,000 printed pages of the same size as O'Donovan's Annals of the Four Masters.
 Scota.—The grave is still pointed out in the valley of Gleann Scoithin, county Kerry.
 Taillten.—Now Telltown, county Meath.
 Amhergen.—Annals of the Four Masters, vol. i. p. 25.
 Also.—This tale bears a simple and obvious interpretation. The druids were the most learned and experienced in physical science of their respective nations; hence the advice they gave appeared magical to those who were less instructed.
 Geisill.—The scene of the battle was at a place called Tochar eter dha mhagh, or "the causeway between two plains," and on the bank of the river Bri Damh, which runs through the town of Tullamore. The name of the battle-field is still preserved in the name of the townland of Ballintogher, in the parish and barony of Geisill. At the time of the composition of the ancient topographical tract called the Dinnseanchus, the mounds and graves of the slain were still to be seen.—See O'Curry, page 449. The author of this tract, Amergin Mac Amalgaidh, wrote about the sixth century. A copy of his work is preserved in the Book of Ballymote, which was compiled in the year 1391. There is certainly evidence enough to prove the fact of the melee, and that this was not a "legend invented from the tenth to the twelfth centuries." It is almost amusing to hear the criticisms of persons utterly ignorant of our literature, however well-educated in other respects. If the treasures of ancient history which exist in Irish MSS. existed in Sanscrit, or even in Greek or Latin, we should find scholars devoting their lives and best intellectual energies to understand and proclaim their value and importance, and warmly defending them against all impugners of their authenticity.
 Island.—The axe figured above is a remarkable weapon. The copy is taken, by permission, from the collection of the Royal Irish Academy. Sir W. Wilde describes the original thus in the Catalogue: "It is 3-1/8 inches in its longest diameter, and at its thickest part measures about half-an-inch. It has been chipped all over with great care, and has a sharp edge all round. This peculiar style of tool or weapon reached perfection in this specimen, which, whether used as a knife, arrow, spike, or axe, was an implement of singular beauty of design, and exhibits great skill in the manufacture."
 Fotharta.—Now the barony of Forth, in Wexford.
 Bede.—Ecclesiastical History, Bohn's edition, p. 6.
 Honey.—Honey was an important edible to the ancients, and, therefore, likely to obtain special mention. Keating impugns the veracity of Solinus, who stated that there were no bees in Ireland, on the authority of Camden, who says: "Such is the quantity of bees, that they are found not only in hives, but even in the trunks of trees, and in holes in the ground." There is a curious legend anent the same useful insect, that may interest apiarians as well as hagiologists. It is said in the life of St. David, that when Modomnoc (or Dominic) was with St. David at Menevia, in Wales, he was charged with the care of the beehives, and that the bees became so attached to him that they followed him to Ireland. However, the Rule of St. Albans, who lived in the time of St. Patrick (in the early part of the fifth century), may be quoted to prove that bees existed in Ireland at an earlier period, although the saint may have been so devoted to his favourites as to have brought a special colony by miracle or otherwise to Ireland. The Rule of St. Alban says: "When they [the monks] sit down at table, let them be brought [served] beets or roots, washed with water, in clean baskets, also apples, beer, and honey from the hive." Certainly, habits of regularity and cleanliness are here plainly indicated as well as the existence of the bee.
 Fish.—It is to be presumed that fish are destined to prosper in Hibernia: of the ancient deer, more hereafter. The goats still nourish also, as visitors to Killarney can testify; though they will probably soon be relics of the past, as the goatherds are emigrating to more prosperous regions at a rapid rate.
 Monarchs.—See Bunsen's Egypt, passim.
 Writers.—The first ten books of Livy are extant, and bring Roman history to the consulship of Julius Maximus Gurges and Junius Brutus Scoene, in 292 B.C. Dionysius published his history seven years before Christ. Five of Plutarch's Lives fall within the period before the war with Pyrrhus. There are many sources besides those of the works of historians from which general information is obtained.
 Niebuhr.—"Genuine or oral tradition has kept the story of Tarpeia for five-and-twenty hundred years in the mouths of the common people, who for many centuries have been total strangers to the names of Cloelia and Cornelia."—Hist. vol. i. p. 230.
 Event.—Credibility of Early Roman History, vol. i. p. 101.
 Libri lintei.—Registers written on linen, mentioned by Livy, under the year 444 B.C.
 Nail.—Livy quotes Cincius for the fact that a series of nails were extant in the temple of Hostia, at Volsinii, as a register of successive years. Quite as primitive an arrangement as the North American quipus.
 Seanchaidhe (pronounced "shanachy").—It means, in this case, strictly a historian; but the ancient historian was also a bard or poet.
 Privileges.—We can scarcely help requesting the special attention of the reader to these well-authenticated facts. A nation which had so high an appreciation of its annals, must have been many degrees removed from barbarism for centuries.
 Before.—O'Curry, p. 240.
 Before.—This, of course, opens up the question as to whether the Irish Celts had a written literature before the arrival of St. Patrick. The subject will be fully entertained later on.
 Genealogies.-There is a "distinction and a difference" between a genealogy and a pedigree. A genealogy embraces the descent of a family, and its relation to all the other families that descended from the same remote parent stock, and took a distinct tribe-name, as the Dalcassians. A pedigree traces up the line of descent to the individual from whom the name was derived.
 Events.—Arnold mentions "the family traditions and funeral orations out of which the oldest annalists [of Roman history] compiled their narratives." vol. i. p. 371. Sir G.C. Lewis, however, thinks that the composition of national annals would precede the composition of any private history; but he adds that he judges from the "example of modern times." With all respect to such an authority, it seems rather an unphilosophical conclusion. Family pedigrees would depend on family pride, in which the Romans were by no means deficient; and on political considerations, which were all-important to the Irish Celt.
 Tales.—O'Curry, p. 241.
 Verse.—See Niebuhr, Hist. vol i. pp. 254-261. Arnold has adopted his theory, and Macaulay has acted on it. But the Roman poems were merely recited at public entertainments, and were by no means a national arrangement for the preservation of history, such as existed anciently in Ireland. These verses were sung by boys more patrum (Od. iv. 15), for the entertainment of guests. Ennius, who composed his Annales in hexameter verse, introducing, for the first time, the Greek metre into Roman literature, mentions the verses which the Fauns, or religious poets, used to chant. Scaliger thinks that the Fauns were a class of men who exercised in Latium, at a very remote period, the same functions as the Magians in Persia and the Bards in Gaul. Niebuhr supposes that the entire history of the Roman, kings was formed from poems into a prose narrative.
Tighearnmas—His Death—Introduces Colours as a Distinction of Rank—Silver Shields and Chariots first used—Reign of Ugaine Mor—The Treachery of Cobhthach—Romantic Tales—Queen Mab—Dispute which led to the celebrated Cattle Spoil—The Story of the Tain bo Chuailgne—The Romans feared to invade Ireland—Tacitus—Revolt of the Attacotti—Reign of Tuathal—Origin of the Boromean Tribute.
Our annals afford but brief details from the time of Eremon to that of Ugaine Mor. One hundred and eighteen sovereigns are enumerated from the Milesian conquest of Ireland (according to the Four Masters, B.C. 1700) to the time of St. Patrick, A.D. 432. The principal events recorded are international deeds of arms, the clearing of woods, the enactment of laws, and the erection of palaces.