CELT document E600001-030

Letter of Florence Mac Carthy to the Earl of Thomond, on the ancient history of Ireland


Letter of Florence Mac Carthy to the Earl of Thomond, on the ancient history of Ireland


The following letter, on the ancient history of Ireland, which was written by the celebrated Florence Mac Carthy to the Earl of Thomond, about the year 1609, the ninth year of his imprisonment, has been printed from the author's autograph. The original copy of it, though stated in an Irish memorandum to be in the writing of Conor O'Kinga, is certainly in Florence's own fair handwriting, with only one or two erasures made by himself, and is preserved in the British Museum (Additional MSS. 4793, fol. 18). In the Index to the volume it is referred to as “The copy of a letter written by Florence Mac Carthy.” But it is no copy (unless by copy is meant the original, which was the primary meaning of that word). Every word of it, except the Irish memorandum at the end, is in the handwriting of Florence Mac Carthy. In vol. 4821, Additional MSS., there is a transcript of this letter in a different hand, headed “A letter of Florence Mac Carthy written (I think) to the Earl of Thomond.” This copy is not perfectly exact; yet it is valuable, because the original had been much folded, frayed, and mended, and thereby rendered occasion ally, but rarely, illegible. The transcript in the vol. 4821 was evidently made before this damage and restoration took place. There is another copy preserved in a volume at Lambeth, and a fourth in the MS. Library of Trinity College, Dublin; but these are of no value whatever, except as far as they enable us to read the words illegible in the original.

At the end of this letter is the following memorandum in Irish, in the handwriting of Gillapatrick O'Kinga, whose relative, Conor son of Murtough O'Kinga, had been commissioned by Florence Mac Carthy to carry it to the Earl of Thomond, then in Ireland: —

‘Tabhradh gach aon léighfios ⁊ éistfios no sgríbheochus an trachtadh so rannchuidiugha a nguidhi do'n tí do sgriobh an seanchus sin a dubhramur, ⁊ fos tuc leis é go h-Éirinn .i. Conchubhar mac Muircheartaigh h-i Cionga, ⁊ fós fa Dia do shaoradh Fhinghin Mé Carrthaigh ón m-braighdionas ⁊ ón ngéibhionn i na bhfuil sé a ttor Lundainn noch do chuir so amach ó thúr. Go ndiongnaidh Dia uile-chumhachtach Grása ⁊ trócaire ar a n-anmannaibh araon.
Misi Giollapadruig mac Donnchadha do ghraifne an becan sin, oidchi S. Frainsias, 1615.’ ()

‘Let every one who shall read, hear [read], or transcribe this treatise  p.204 join to pray for the person who wrote the said history, and who moreover brought it with him to Erin, i. e. Conor son of Murtough O'Kinga; and moreover, that God may redeem Finghin Mac Carthy from the imprisonment and bondage in which he is [detained] in the Tower of London, who put this out first. May God Almighty have mercy on the souls of both.
I am , son of Donogh, who wrote this little scrap on the eve of St. Francis's festival.’ ()

From this it would appear that this letter was transcribed and carried to Ireland by Conor O'Kinga, who seems never to have delivered it to the Earl of Thomond. How it found its way back again to England nothing remains to determine.

Florence Mac Carthy, the author of this historical letter to the Earl of Thomond, was considered by the English officials of his day “the dangerousest man in all Ireland.” He was the eldest son of Sir Donogh Mac Carthy Reagh, lord or chief of Carbery, who died in 1576. Our author was then fifteen years old, according to an inquisition taken shortly after his father's death, though he himself states in a letter, dated 1624, that he was then above seventy! In other words, the jurors swear that he was born in 1561, and he himself asserts, in his old age, that he was born before 1554. The jury was clearly right, and the memory of the old man, weakened by long imprisonment, wavered. If the inquisition be correct, he was but sixty-three when he asserted he was above seventy.

That our author had some chronicles relating to Ireland, and some MS. lives of Irish saints, we learn from Carew, who says, in speaking of the ancient dignity of the Carew family in Munster (Lambeth, 635, fol. 42), “the castles of Donnemark, in Bantry, and of Artulloghe, in Mac Finin's country, were builded by Carewe, in anno 1215. This is extracted out of an old chronicle, written in Irish, which Florence Mac Carthy hath.” It was evidently a copy of the old Annals of Innisfallen. Colgan says that the most illustrious Florentius Maccarthy, of the city of London, had a volume of lives of Irish saints in his possession, from which he had extracts. Well might he have called him of the city of London, for he was never permitted to return to his native country.

The author of Carbriae Notitia, who wrote in 1686, in descanting on the pedigree of the Mac Carthys, says —

‘It is likewise evident that Donell Earle of Clancare, dying without issue male, his daughter and heir was married to Florence mac Donough Mac Carthy Reagh (whose pedigree shall follow more at large), by virtue of which marriage Florence claimed the name and title of Mac Cartymore, which Donell, naturall son of the deceased Earle of Clancare had usurped, and by the help of Tyrone, who was then come into Munster, he was establisht in that name and dignity, and his grandson and heir, Charles, is at this day ownd and stiled Mac Cartymore.’ (Carbriae Notitia)


And again —

‘But of all the Mac Cartyes none was ever more famous then the aforesaid Florence mac Donogh, who was a man of extraordinary stature [being like Saul higher by the head and shoulders than any of his followers] and as great policy with competent courage, and as much zeal as any body for what he falsely imagined true Relligion and the liberty of his country. He married the heiress of the Earle of Clancare, and, purely by his merrit, dispossessed her bastard brother Daniell, from the name and estate of Mac Cartymore, which he was then possessed of, and gott the same for himself in her right by the joynt suffrage of Tyrone and all the nobility and clergy, which is the more strange, for that in Ireland they allwayes regard the male so much above the female that they often prefer a bastard son before a legitimate daughter, which is upon these two reasons, first that the name and family is thereby preserved (as in the Roman adoptions), and, secondly, the country being most commonly in feuds and wars, it is necessary to have able men to protect every family, and that also is the true reason of the custom of Tanistry.
This Florence for marrying the Earle of Clancare's daughter without licence of the Queene, or for some other misdemeanours, or perhaps for reasons of state, was imprisoned for eleven years in England, and then being set at liberty, acted in Ireland as you may read at large in the Pacata Hibernia, and was at length again apprehended, and sent to the Tower, where he died.’ ()

When we make due allowances for the circumstances of Florence Mac Carthy having been by birth a native Irishman; of there having been such a general deficiency of style in English prose at the time he wrote; and of the absence, at the same period, of a proper philosophy of history, — his letter, whatever may be its defects, will be sufficient to demonstrate the great injustice of the representations given, in certain quarters, of the old Irish. In 1798, when it was still sufficiently the fashion in those quarters only to countenance a belief of whatever was most uncivilized with respect to the native Irish, an accomplished Englishman, Dr. Arthur Browne, Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, ventured, in his Miscellaneous Sketches, to hint that some idea of that people should be formed from their own writings, instead of merely judging of them by the interested productions of their enemies. “The Irish in the reign of Elizabeth,” says he, “are represented as quite ignorant and barbarous. Read the letters of their chiefs to the Spaniards, in the Pacata Hibernia and judge.”

The following sketch of the life of Florence Mac Carthy, chiefly extracted from the State Papers, has been furnished me by Daniel Mac Carthy, Glas, Esq., who is engaged in writing a life of this remarkable Irish chieftain: —

I greatly rejoice to hear that the name of Florence Mac Carthy is going to be once again sounded in the ears of his countrymen. In his  p.206 generation that name was so familiar with the Governors of Ireland, the Prime Ministers, and Privy Council of England; it was so constantly on the lips of all politicians, so incessantly in their despatches, so perseveringly before the eyes of the world for fifty years, that it became a cabinet word, and its owner familiarly called Florence. I have been often surprised considering how large a portion of the State Papers of Elizabeth and James is occupied about Florence Mac Carthy, that so little is known concerning him. The writer of the Pacata Hibernia has indeed given us so much of his biography as he thought needful for the glory of Carew, but his notices range over no larger a space than sixteen months. The following very meagre sketch will, I trust, supply the information which you pay me the compliment to seek from me.

Finin, or Florence Mac Carthy, was the eldest son of Sir Donogh Mac Carthy Reagh, lord, chief, or captain of Carbry, and Jane, daughter to Morrice of Desmond, slain in his rebellion on the 11th of November, 1583. He was fifteen years of age in 1576, in which year his father, Sir Donogh, died, as appears from an inquisition held at Cork, on the 1st of June in that year, before Sir William Drury and others. In after life Florence appears not to have kept very accurate account of the years as they passed over him, for in several of his petitions he represents himself as older than he really was. Sir Donogh is styled “Miles”, and of Kilbrittain. This was the chief residence of Mac Carthy Reagh, and there, probably, was Florence born. Being a minor, he fell under the wardship of Sir William Drury; but this did not prevent him from assuming “the command of his own country and his own people.” For this command he was pre-eminently qualified by nature and education, being, “like Saul, higher by the head and shoulders than any of his followers” (Pacat. Hib. p. 179), and being intimately acquainted with the Irish language, literature, and history. He did not, however, as you are aware, succeed to the chieftainship of Carbery; this descending, by usage of Tanistry, to Sir Donogh's next brother Sir Owen, Florence was passed over, as his cousin, Donell Pipy, had been, to await his turn of succession, which in due course would fall to him on the death of Sir Owen, his uncle, and Donell, the eldest son of Sir Cormac, the elder brother and predecessor of Florence's father, Sir Donogh. You remember the terms in which the Annals of the Four Masters speak of Sir Donogh. He had been a firm adherent of the English authorities in Munster; had served with the Lord Deputy Sidney at the siege of Ballimarter, at Glanmoyr, and in all other places where he had occasion to use any forces for her Majesty, where he brought with him more men than any two in Munster, for which services he received her Majesty's own letters of thanks. Sir Donogh appears to have added materially to his own inheritance by purchases of lands around him, and to have died very wealthy. He is sworn to have been seised at his death of no less than 20 carucates of land in the county of Cork. To these his eldest son was declared heir; but, either by the generosity of Florence, or by well-understood unwritten custom, Donell Moyle, his younger brother, received a large portion of the lands of Carbry.

Whatever education Florence received must have been acquired in early boyhood, or subsequently, after a lapse of seven years from the period of his father's death; for immediately on the demise of Sir Donogh he assumed  p.207 the command of his Munster forces, “assisted in almost all the journies that were done in her Majesty's service, both under Sir William Pelham, the Lord Grey, the Earl of Ormonde, Mr. John Zouche, Sir George Bourchier, and all such as governed or commanded there,” until the unfortunate Earl of Desmond perished miserably in the cabin of Glanneginty.

From 1583 to 1588 Florence appears to have divided his time, at pleasure, between his possessions in Munster and the court of Queen Elizabeth, where he made powerful friends, and acquired a knowledge of court influences, which he knew well how to turn to account in his hour of need. Not the less, however, was a keen vigilance exercised upon his conduct during his visits to his native country; and it was soon remarked that “he had acquired the Spanish tongue, and greatly affected the company of Spaniards;” that he had mortgaged portions of his patrimony to enable him to purchase the Old Head of Kinsale, a castle commanding that harbour, so suitable for the reception of an invading force of the foreign enemy.

In 1588 Florence married the daughter and heiress of the Earl of Clancarthy, or Clancare, as it was then rather incorrectly written — a marriage most romantic in all its incidents, and the fruitful source of long and grievous sorrows. The Lady Ellen Mac Carthy, the last living descendant of the main line of Mac Carthy Mor, was, by her birth and inheritance, a match the most important then in the British empire. The keen eyes of Elizabeth, the far keener of the English authorities in Munster, were upon her. Sir Warham St. Leger suggested to the Vice-President, Sir Thomas Norreys, to offer his hand to the lady, and to apply to the Queen for a grant of succession to her father's country. Sir Valentine Browne, who had had various money transactions with the Earl of Clancarthy [Clancare], and who better knew his business, offered, in plain language, to buy the lady for his son, and to buy the consent of the chief officers of the Earl. His offer was accepted; and then arose a loud and angry outcry amongst all the subordinate chieftains of Munster. The Countess, her daughter, and a deputation from those who considered the honour of their blood imperilled, waited upon Sir Thomas Norreys, and gave him plainly to understand that a disparagement so odious would not be submitted to. In the meantime, “in an old, broken church, in the wilds of Killarney, with a Mass, without license of the bishop, and not in such solemnity and good sort as behoved, and as order of law and her Majesty's injunctions do require,” the young heiress was married to her cousin Florence. Great was the consternation of the Vice-President, great the wrath of the Queen, greatest of all the contempt and ridicule that fell upon the Brownes, and their hatred thenceforth for Florence.

Twelve years of banishment, a portion of them spent within the walls of the Tower of London, was Florence's punishment for this defiance of authority. In 1598 he returned to Ireland. The Earl of Clancarthy [Clancare] was dead, and Donell, his bastard son, had proclaimed himself Mac Carthy Mor. Tirone was in rebellion; James Fitz Thomas, the sougane Earl of Desmond, had reduced the Queen's authority within very small limits in Munster; a Spanish invasion was expected, and it was thought that Florence was the only man who could avert some great national  p.208 disaster. He received authority to demand arms from the Queen's stores to arm followers of his own, and bonaghts hired out of Connaught, to recover his own country.

He did recover it, and from that moment he became “the most dangerousest man in all Ireland, no man so fit to be the head of a faction,” the terror of the English cabinet. Every dispatch that was sent from Munster was occupied with his proceedings, his policy, his ambition, his cunning, his treachery.

On the 24th of April, 1600, Sir Carew was sent to Cork as Lord President of Munster; and he at once decided that Florence Mac Carthy must be conciliated or crushed before he could venture to meddle with rebels actually in arms; and then there began between these two men an encounter of wits the most curious, the most ingenious, of which the annals of diplomacy have any record. It was an encounter with weapons of which Florence was a most perfect master. Sir George Carew entered upon it with great confidence, expressing the uttermost contempt for the intellect of his adversary; but Sir Robert Cecyll looked on with some misgiving from the beginning. The sougane Earl of Desmond spoiled the country within sight of the walls of Cork; Tirone and O'Donnell were mustering their forces to burst upon Munster; the Spaniards were expected daily; and English treasure, to the great grief of the Queen, was streaming from her exchequer into the insatiable gulf of the rebellious kingdom; and there was Florence Mac Carthy, with 3000 men of his own followers, occupying all the fastnesses of the land, yet serenely professing unimpeachable loyalty, profound respect for his good friend the Lord President, and regretting the necessity of his presence in the inaccessible wilds of Desmond to keep his people from rebellion; and there was the Lord President suffering discredit from the vicinity of the rebel Geraldines, yet not daring to go forth of the gates of Cork, lest the next move of Florence should extinguish the Queen's authority in Munster. Such was the contest of these two astute strategists, whilst time was passing, and rumours of coming Spaniards kept the English cabinet in constant alarm. Carew became bewildered; his dispatches to Cecyll daily contradicted each other; till, in despair, by an act of shameless treachery, he violated his own safe conduct, and made prisoner of the man whom he found it impossible to outwit.

Florence's political life was now ended; within a couple of months he crossed the Channel for the last time, and entered again within the gloomy portals of the Tower, and for thirty long years, till death released him, he ate the bitter bread of a state prisoner. It was to while away some of the hours of his wearisome captivity that the letter you are now editing was written, and I am rejoiced that you find its intrinsic merits worthy of the attention of the learned of our own day. I have never been able to consider it otherwise than as connected with his active life, and as a proof of his thorough appreciation of his country's claims to men's esteem, and of his own claims to the supreme rule of south Munster. No others of his writings of a literary nature remain; but a long series of letters, petitions, and remonstrances, extending over forty-two years, are still extant, every one written by his own hand, in characters small, regular, firm, and distinct as print; and we rise from the perusal of them no longer surprised that  p.209 through life he had been able to persuade men to doubt of facts as patent as human evidence could make them; that in the most critical moment of his career he could force even Carew to exclaim to Cecyll, “What to make of Florence I protest I know not! I am utterly perplexed!” To know Sir George Carew is to know the depth of Florence's ingenuity.

At the time this letter was written, Florence had been nine years within the Tower! No petitions of his own, no solicitation of his friends at court, no change of ministers, or regard for the altered circumstances of Ireland, had availed to procure him the liberty to pass one day beyond the walls of that gloomy prison. If any man might be expected to feel some compassion for the sufferings of this state prisoner, it would be the Earl of Thomond, for he had been an honourable and open enemy, and mainly instrumental in his overthrow. Of one single touch of pity no one who knew Carew could suppose him capable. Had he been the means of throwing open for Florence the gates of his prison, it would not have cancelled — nothing ever could — the treachery by which he had placed him there, but it would have evinced some feelings of humanity. Any such act was far remote from his thoughts. Six years afterwards, when there had been a moment of hope for the prisoner, and Florence was plaintively petitioning for some freedom, for that his health was perishing, Carew sternly refused to help him with a single word! Between Florence and the Earl of Thomond there existed at least the tie of country. To that feeling this letter was a direct appeal, and, to the honour of the Earl of Thomond, it was successful. On the 9th of July, 1614, was registered this following document: —

“Several bonds taken to his Majesty's use, of the parties underwritten, that Florence Mac Carthy shall not depart out of the realm of England, without licence from his Majesty, nor travel above one day's journey from the city of London, without licence under the hands of six of his Majesty's Privy Council: — ”

  • Florence Mac Carthy … £2000
  • Earl of Thomond … £500
  • Earl of Clanricard … £500
  • Sir Patrick Barnewall £500
  • Lord Delvin … £500
  • Sir Randulph McDonnell £250
  • Sir Donell O'Brien … £250
  • Dermott Mac Carthy £250
  • David Condon … £250
  • … £5000

The Earl of Thomond not only bound himself in the sum opposite to his name above, but he entailed the same obligation upon his son, in case of his own death. The case occurred; but it was not without Florence's return to his prison, and a great struggle, that the humane foresight of the Earl was allowed to avail him. Upon such limited liberty Florence was permitted to quit the Tower; and I rejoice that with this first printed copy of his letter shall be recorded the act of his benefactor.

The letter throughout is distinct, without a blot, and exhibits only  p.210 two erasures. What minute characters the hand of such a giant could form, and with what certainty and precision it could trace, line after line, in faultless parallels, and with intervals so minute that there seems upon the page but a sharp, slender thread of white around each word, may be judged from the fact, that three pages and twenty-one lines of a sheet, foolscap size, sufficed to contain the whole of this long letter to the Earl of Thomond. The same distinct, regular handwriting, with great similarity to that of Florence, was inherited by the eldest of his surviving sons.

The capture of Florence was the signal for all the harpies of Munster, in authority and out of it, to fall upon his property; but they had yet to learn the resources of this able man, who, from the close confinement of an English prison, could during thirty years carry on a fight, single-handed, with them all. One after another was compelled to give up portions of the plundered property; but the Brownes continued to the last to keep the tightest clutch upon their spoil: through three generations they had clung with determined tenacity to the seigniory of Malahuff [Molahiff]; but even over them he triumphed at last. In 1629, an order in Council compelled the grandson of Sir Valentine Browne “to deliver possession of the said lands to the said Florence, with due consideration of some recompense to be given for the mean profit for the time” past.

What was the precise period of Florence's death I have not yet been able to discover. His last petition, though undated, was evidently written in 1631; and a petition of his son, dated in the same year, speaks of his father as still under restraint. He left behind him three sons, one (his eldest) having died in the Tower. History has spared us a short but dark chapter on the early career of the eldest of these surviving sons, who was probably a source of greater sorrows to Florence than aught else that clouded his long and unfortunate life.

Florence MacCarthy Reagh


A Letter from Florence Mac Carthy to the Earl of Thomond. 1


At your last being in England I understood of your being studious of the antiquities of our nation, wherein (altho' my memory is much decayed in almost 9 years extreme endurance) I would be glad to do any service to so ancient a nobleman of the nation.


And for the opinion that their original came from Greece, not only other writers doe so conclude but also themselves call the contrey from whence they came first Sceth iath2 the country of the thorns, for iath is a country and sceth a thorn, which all our ancient writers and others interpret Greece, as in the beginning of the 1st book of the Machabees is set down that Alexander the Great came out of Terra Cethim 3 the country of the thorn, whereby there is no doubt but their original comes out of Greece: but what colony of  p.211 Greeks they were, what time they came from thence, who was their conductor, where they remained until they came for Ireland, and upon what occasion they came thither, there stands the chiefe question, wherein all the Scottish writers that I have seen and the English in what they borrowed of them are (I think) erroneous: the cause (I believe) is that our nation in Scotland have been first vexed by Pights, Britons and others, and annoyed afterwards out of this land by the Romans that were very powerful, and much exercised against all warlike nations, neither have they been shortly after quiet with the Saxons, nor after them with the Danes, nor quiet always with the Kings of England, nor free from civil wars oftentimes; and being joined with Pights from the beginning, divers noble houses out of France, England, and other parts came thither since, whose fashion was so imbraced that many or most of the ancient nobility of the Scottish nation disdained and forgot their language and despised and neglected their monuments and antiquities, whereby it seems that some of them that write thereof know not well from whence came the original, nor who was the head and Ancestor of the nation, who in myne opinion is by them erroneously called Gathelus, as appeareth by the Britons, who is an ancienter and a nobler nation than what is said of Brutus would make them, for all our ancient books and writers doe conclude that these three kingdoms were first peopled by the colony that was brought out of Greece about 500 years after the universall Fludd by Nemeus or Nemhedh mac Agnomhain, 4 whose Grandchild Britanus it was that gave the name to his land and nation who being our nearest neighbours and here long before we [Milesians] came into Ireland terme us still Gaedhail, as we do of our said head and ancestor, Gedhal, which (as it is pronounced) is Gél, who was no son of Caecrops, nor of Argus as they supposed because perhaps they found that he was of the kingdom which was the ancientest of Greece except the Sicyonian that Ægialus begun, when Belus began the Asyrian kingdom, where Xerxes their 7th king reigned and Turimachus the 7th also of the Sicionians, Inach begun the kingdom of the Argives in Peloponessus, whose son Phoroneus 5 was grandfather to Argus that (after Apis went into Egypt) reigned there, whom Creasus succeeded, in whose time when Matnilas the 14th king reigned over the Assyrians, and Orthopolis the 12th king over the Sicyonians. Moysis was born in Egypt, who (according to our writers ledd the Israelites from thence before Gaedhal went thither, whereby he could be no son of Argus, for his father, who is called by our writers Nél or Nelus, is by the Greeks called Sthe-Nélus, 6 and himself which  p.212 we call Gaedhal or Gel) Gelanor, 7 which addition proceeds of the alteration of the ancient brief languages used then in Greece, that is imported by our writers and differs much from the Greek tongue, which an infinite number, excellently learned in all sciences brought afterwards to the height of perfection, who as they beautified and altered the language, did also beautifye with these additions, the names which they got by Tradition, being destitute of letters in Greece, long after Gaedhal or Gelanor 8, for whose time & and the cause of his going out of the country our writers agree with the Greeks: for Eusebius writes that Danaus, called Armeus was driven away by the Egyptians, who created King Ramesses, called Egyptus of whom the country (called before Cerie [aerie] ) take the name, and that the Argives expulsed Gelanor son to Sthenelus their 9th king and made Danaus their king.


Pausanias that treats more of their controversie writes that Sthenelus was son to Crotopus the son of Agenor, that was brother to Jasus and 2nd son to Triopas the 7th king of the Argives, and that Danaus came and challenged the kingdom of Gelanor the son of Sthenelus, where after each of them alledged many probable and lawful reasons, the matter being deferred that day, the next morning as the cattel was going to pasture a wolf ran among them, wherewith their Bull fought, which moved the Argives to imagine superstitiously that the bull or conductor of their cattel signified Gelanor, and the wolf, that lives not among men, Danaus, that never before lived with them, and when the Bull was overcome they judged the kingdom to Danaus, whereby Gaedhal or Gelanor was (according to the Greeks) driven away, when Amintas the 7th king reigned over the Assyrians, and Chorax the 10th king over the Sycionians, and Danaus (in his place) the 10th king over the Argives, and Erichthonio the 4th king over the Athenians, Jesus naue then commanding and judging the Israelites. Our ancient writers whose language is so dead and out of use as it is now very hardly understood, write that Gaedhal, or Gelanor 9 being in controversie for his kingdom was driven away and went into Egypt, whereof I have in the same ancient language written here the beginning, as it was set down (at the request of Mál son to Ugaine Mor, that was king of all the nation in Ireland and Scotland about 2000 years past) by Roighne 10 one of our ancient writers, that begins thus: —  p.213

  1. A mec ain Ugaine,
    Co saich do rus ingaibhe
    Scethieth saichset sluaigh ri Senair,
    Snigis Niul Egipt,
    Rersat ré ruidles,
    La Forann fechtaib
    Fonais Niul Scota,
    Co n-epert ar naithre.


By the which repeating first the king's son's demand he signifies that Scethieth, terra Cethim, belonged to Gaedhal or Gelanor's father and Grandfather, that Gaedhal reached into Egypt, was favorably accepted by Pharao and prevailed in the love of Scota, here (as all our writers) he calls the grandfather of Gaedhal (or Gelanor) Féinios, who is by Eusebius and Pausanias called Crotopus which (proceeding of the several names of one man then) brings to differ often in names those authors that call one by sundrie names, as the Egyptian kings are called by Eusebius and many Greeks by them both. It (for the time) agrees well with our writers who sette down that Gaedhal or Gelanor being thro' controversies expulsed, went into Egypt shortly after Moyse's time, which must be in Jesus naue his time, and that he married Scota the Daughter of Pharao which (as some supposed) could not be Orus that long before succeeded Amenophis, called Memnon whose Image gave some noise at the rising of the sun, but rather Egyptus, unto whom Gaedhal is likelier to have gone, or sought because he expulsed his adversary Danaus of which woman Scota all our ancient books and writers conclude that the nation are called Scotts and Gaedhail or Gaedhil who came not into Spain as was also supposed himself and Scota, and their son Esru, having all ended their lives in Egypt, but Esru his son Sru 11 together with his son Eber Scot came with four vessels  p.214 back into Greece where Sru died immediately, his son Ebher Scot attained to be of great degree, who had to his son Beoman, he had Oghamán, he had Taat, he had Adhnomhan, he had Láimhfhinn, he had Ebher Glúnfhinn, he had Adhnamhan Finn, he had Ebhric Glas he had Nenuall, he had Nuadhat, 12 he had Alloid, he had Ercada, he had Deaghatha, whose son Bratha or Bractius was the first of the nation that (not very long after the return of the Greeks from Troy) brought a colony in seven vessels to the south-west part of Spaine, where having by mischance lost some of his men and overthrown in two battles by that country people he came in Galicia and into the northeast part of Portugal wherein he founded Bracha or Braga so called of him and the countrie of him and his people Galicia Bracharenes his son Breogan or Breghan founded Brigancia which (as divers holde and write) is not St James called Compostella but Corunna, as some of the ancientest of Spanish writers holde, and ours also who write Brigancia to be upon the sea, as St James's is not, nor nere it, and make mention of a tower which he built 13 near the city upon the sea, the ruins of which tower that standes within half a mile of Corunna down towards the sea on the west side of the haven or bay is called still Tower of Brighan. This Brighan, the son of Bracchus, had many sons whereof the eldest Bile or Bilius and his son Miledh 14 or Milesius after him were Lords of Biscay, and kept their chief seat upon the river of Vermeo in a place called Mondaca in which Ireland being then well known, for Echaidh mac Eirc 15 the  p.215 last king of the posterity of the sons of Dela, who was the first that gave lawes in Ireland, — had his wife Tailltin from thence, it happened that Ith or Ithius, 16 another son of Brighan came to see Ireland, where Mac Cuill, Mac Cecht and Mac Gréine, sons to Cermoda of the nation called Tuatha de Danann, by whom the posterity of the sons of Dela was [had been] long before suppressed, reigned together who were then gone to Oileach 17 in the north to divide the goods of Nuada 18 that was killed by some of those septentrional corpulent Easterlings called Fomoiri19 that of ould vexed these three kingdoms, which they invaded in the times of Brittanus 20 and the rest of Nemeus his grandchildren, whereof Britanus or (as is said) Brutus his warrs with the giants was, altho' they were, as the word Fomóir signifies, but corpulent men that under Conaing mac Faebhuir came from the northest parts where to this day the name of a king is Coningc. 21 Ithus the son of Brighan, landing then in the west of Munster went thro' the country to Oilech where he found at dissention those three brothers that were kings, who being by them made their arbitrators agreed betwixt them, and he commended the fertility, goodness and temperature of their country which, after his departure, moved them (imagining it dangerous that such a stranger that knew their country and dissension, should go away safe), to follow and kill him, whose son Lughaidh 22 escaped into Spain, and complained thereof to the sons of Milesius, that were then chiefs of all the nation,  p.216 who to revenge that act came with an army for Ireland 23 when King David 24 reigned over the Israelites and Eupalus the 30th king over the Assyrians and Archestratus the 3rd king over the Lacedemonians, and Trion the 2nd king over the Corinthians, in the time of the 1st Athenian magistrate, Medon the son of Codrus, their last king. Of the 7 sons of Milesius that came to that expedition 4 lost their lives before any landed in Ireland. Aranán having fallen from his ship mast, whereof he died, and Colpa was lost at lnbher Colpa 25 as Donn was upon the rock beyond Dorsies called also Tech Duinn, 26 and Ir or Irenos one of the best of them, died the night before Ebher or Iberus and Hermon, and Amarginus the other 3 brothers landed at Inbher Scéine27 in the west of Munster, from whence having led their forces, after some fighting, at Sliabh Mis 28 and other places, the 3 brothers that were kings and they came to fight a battle at Tailtin 29 where those 3 brothers and most part of their nation were killed, the rest, but a few that served our nation being driven out of the land whereof (by division) the Princes of south and north Munster with a great part of Leinster and Conaught was allotted to Iberius: the middlemost part called Meath with the rest of Leinster and Connaught to Hermon, and upon their landing Ebher Donn or Iberius the son of Irenis (that died the night before) had the west part of Munster, and afterwards, at the division, the north part of Ireland, but they fell shortly in civill warre, wherein Iberius was killed by his second Brother Hermon which gave occasion to their houses to be most commonly afterwards at wars, as the House of Hermon was also at warrs much with the house of Ireus that were kings of the North or Ulster, of which 3 houses the kings who reigned over all Ireland were descended,  p.217 and all the kings of the nation that reigned in Scotland, which they invaded about 250 years after their coming into Ireland, under the conduct of Eneas King of Ireland called Aengus Ollmhucaidh 30 the son of Fiachaidh Labhruinne, of the house of Hermon, by whom the nations that were in Scotland, and in the north parts of this land (as Pights, Britons, some of the posterity of the sons of Dela, 31 and some of them that we [Milesians] expulsed) were overthrown in many battles whereby that land was afterwards reduced under our nation, who called it of themselves (or as they called Ireland before) Scotland, where before they had kings there, one king reigned over both countries, and afterwards sometimes, in the names of whose ancient kings and chiefest men, which ordinarily was Eachus, Nateus, Atrius, Diomed, 32 or such ancient Greek names, and in their manner of Government, their assemblies at Tailltin, 33 for the like exercises that the Greeks used at Olympus, their affection to letters and poetry, and in all their fashions customs and usages they shewed themselves Greeks.


It appears by some ancient books that (before any other people of Greece) they had in Egypt knowledge of letters, which carries some likelihood in respect that Gaedhal, or Gelanor went into Egypt, after Moyses, in the time (according to Eusebius) of Cath the son of Tresmegistus when (long before Greece had any) letters were known in Egypt, where he and his son and Grandchild came back into Greece spent their tyme, as also that in Ireland at the first they had several sorts that were seen in letters, whereof the one was derived from fis34 which is knowledge and called fisici p.218 men of knowledge, as philosophers were called, before modesty moved Pythagoras to term himself a lover of wisdom, the other was filedh a poet, and another called draoi, wise man, some kind of magician or soothsayer, for the nation was not destitute of the superstitious Idolatrous sacrifices and observations of the Greeks, whereunto their king Tighernmus mac Follaigh Grandchild to Irial, Hermon's son being given, thrived as well as Zoroastres, for as he did set up an Idol called Crom Cruach35 and imitating the oracles of the Greeks, allured Demons or Spirits to give answers therein (as hath been done if Trismegistus be to be believed) himself and the most part of the people were consumed with fire at Magh Slecht, before whose time, which was about one hundred years after their coming into Ireland, the nation was not cautious nor careful of wealth, for they had no coyne stampt nor no plate nor vessels of gould nor silver, nor clothes died with sundrie colours, until his reign, nor had noe skill in ordering or arraying of battles, nor their men reduced into companies, and brought to fight under insegnes until afterwards in the reign of Enna Airgthech36 a king of the house of Iberius. It seems that they had a silver mine there, by the name of the place called thereof Airged-ros37 by the great store of coin that was stamped there, and by the number of silver shields made there by the King of Ireland — Enna Aircthech, the son of Eachus surnamed Mumo 38 (of whom Munster took the name Mumonia) whose great Grandfather was Conmaol, Iberius his son.


I did not read as some wrote, that nation had in Spain, nor brought into Ireland, any such seat of stone 39 as was brought from  p.219 Scotland hither, but I did read that the nation which we [Milesians] conquered there that were admirable and exceeding magicians 40 brought such a seat from the city in the septentrional parts of the East called Failias 41 wherein belike they conjured some spirit that (when he that was elected and should prevail to be king was set thereon) gave some noise 42 (as the Image of Amenophis or Memnon did at the rising of the sun), which our nation found there, and used and reigned there where they found it, who sometimes had no absolute king, but every Prince or chief governing his own Province, as they were at the Incarnation of Christ, which was above 2000 years after their coming into Ireland, then had they those that were called curidha, 43 Curdi, Conall Cernach, Cuchulainn, and others that for their agility, strength, and valour were much celebrated; and about 150 years after they had those bands or companies called Fiana 44 that for their activity and valour were elected, and chosen out of all the provinces, their chief charge was to watch the havens, and keep the country from sudden invasion, being commanded by Cumhall mac Trénmoir, a Leinsterman, and by Finn mac Cumhaill, his son, after he was killed at the battle of Cnucha by Conn Cédcathach, 45 or Conn [of the hundred battles]sup> who, being chief of Hermon's  p.220 house, was at mortal war for the chief rule with Moghnuadhat 46 or Mowh, heir and chief of the house of Iberius, whereupon all Ireland was between them divided with a great Trench 47 from Dublin Ford called Aahe Clieh [i.e. Átha Cliath], to the other Aahe clieh of Mearie beyond Galway, whereon the South part is ever since called the Half of Mowh and the north the Half of Conn. Shortly after some of the nation began to understand of Christian Religion by Brénainn Birra48 called Brendanus and others, and about the yeare of our Lord 370 Patricius 49 being a youth, was brought a prisoner into Ireland, whose life and literature afterwards purchased him to be by Celestine the first imployed thither, where he (accompanied with as many of the Scots nation as he found instructed in the religion) and converted that country people, who for 400 years after 50 lived very zealous and liberal to their churches, religious houses, and academies. What their manner of government, wealth and ability was then appears by the number of volumes of good Laws 51 made by their kings, by the  p.221 coins stampt for the kings of the Half of Conn at Ardmach52 and for the kings of the Half of Mowh at Cassil53 whereof some is yet extant; by their great traffic and frequentation of merchants, 54 and marts and fairs 55 which was such as when (in the time that the Danes invaded that country) Counte Olfyn ledd 3 or 4000 Danes from Limbrick to rifle or spoile the faire that was on St Peter and Paul's day at Roscrea56 in Ely, the numbers of buyers and sellers that were there came in arms against him, and overthrew and killed him and his forces. And what their civility was appears by the numbers of their learned men, and their academies, which were chiefly at Downe, Cassil and Ardmacha, where so many colleges were, that (as appears by an ancient record found of late years at Oxford57) the students of Ardmacha being on a time registered, were found to be above 7000, which brought many of that country people to be (for their life and literature) so much esteemed that the Saxon kings of this land intreated Colum Cille, called Columbus, to take their children with him thither to be brought up, as Beda58  p.222 testifies. Neither will the Germans deny but that Bonifacius59 one of the Scotish nation, was their apostle, and when Ferleus 60 Foilianus and Ultanus, sons to Aodh Bennan, king of the Half of Mowh came in the year of our Lord 650 into France, king Clodoveus 61 accepted them favourablie, and gave them their choice of any land there, whereupon they founded Latiniacum monasterium, 62 as Columbanus, 63 another of that same house, founded Luxoniense monasterium, in Clotharius his time, all which Placitus the German testifies.


I omitt to trouble your Lordship with divers others that increased religion and learning in Germany, France and England, where they founded Glastonburie64 and divers other places, and taught the Saxons the use of letters, as appeareth by some of their own best antiquaries, 65 and by the Saxon letters which are our characters.  p.223 And for their own country St. Bernard in the life of Maelmaedhog O'Morgair called Malachias 66 writes what monuments they left, and what a number of learned men have been there, who although their eloquence was great could not keep their unfortunate nobility from civil war, which moved some to threaten and foretell the infinite ruins that within a little happened, for shortly after the year of our Lord 800 Atreus or Airtri mac Cathail, 67 commanding the Half of Mowh, and Aodh mac Neill the Half of Conn, the Danes began to invade that country called then of the nation Scotland, 68 until the country people calling it Ere (of the wife of Mac Cuill that reigned there at our coming 69); the Eastern nations added land 70 and so called it Ereland.


These (Danes) came first under Turgesius, 71 who spoiled Ardmacha,  p.224 where he settled himself driving away Pharananus the Primate, and all the religious men and students; from thence he came to Loghrie, where being taken prisoner with a stratagem by Maelsechlainn 72 Prince or chief of Meath, and shortly after drowned at Logh-Aininn; 73 the Danes were overthrown in divers battles by the houses of Tireconnell, North Munster, Tireown, Meath, and by Olcobhar, 74 King of the Half of Mowh: but in the end Aodh Finnliath, King of the half of Conn 75 deserved the chief praise, by whom (by the help of the chiefs of Meath, Connaught and Leinster, they were driven away, altho' a great fleete and power was brought by Alanus [Aulavus76 the King of Denmark's son, who after his repulse supplied [recruited] his forces, and came into Scotland, where (coming to fight with the rest of our nation) he was overthrown and killed.


Afterwards in the time of Niall Glundubh 77 son to Aodh Finliath aforesaid, Blind Sitrick O'Hiowmar, 78 first (by whom Ugaire mac Oilella, the chief, and all the Lords of Leinster were overthrown and killed,) and thereupon the rest of the O'Hiowmars came with a mighty power and took Dublin, where the King, Niall Glundubh, with the forces of Ulster, Meath and Connaught, came to feight with them) was overthrown and himself with the nobility, and above 5000 of theirs killed; but within a while after Donnchadh mac mic Maelsechlainn 79 of Meath overthrew their chief forces at Tech mic n-Echach, and Congalach mac Maoilmithigh, King of the Half of Conn, overthrew them at Muine Brocáin80 where they lost 7000 men; and Ceallachan,  p.225 King of the Half of Mowh, 81 overthrew them in divers battles by land and by sea at their departure, who having supplied their forces came afterwards to Limberick with a far mightier power under the Hiowhmars, by whom the land was brought again under that barbarous cruel covetous nation, whose Tyranny was to place Lords and petty lords of theirs in every country and barony, seargeants in every town, and another under-officer in every house  82 that had yearly half the goods thereof. Their King's rente was not exacted of lands, cattel or comodities but of men, for every body paid a mark yearly, or had his nose cut off; they destroyed the churches, religious houses, and academies, and led from Ardmacha 2000 students into bondage. At the first they burned all the books they found, which afterwards they took away with them.


And as divers helped before to repulse them, so now all was performed by the endeavour and valour of Brien, 2nd son to Kinedy, or Cinnedi mac Lorcain, chief of north Munster who (after his elder brother was unluckily killed) 83 foiled the Danes and others that stood in controversie with him and attaining to be King of the half of Mowh overthrew in many battles and expulsed the Danes, and was by common consent received King of all Ireland. In his later days Maelmorda mac Murchadha 84 chief of Leinster rebelled, and (by the help of a colony of Danish merchants which the King permitted to remain at Dublin) wrought Carolus, Cnutus and Andreas, the King of Denmark's sons, to come with a great army to Dublin, where (when the King of Ireland came) a terrible battle well ordered and arranged was long fought, in the which the Danes were overthrown, and their King's three sons, and all the nobility,  p.226 and 6700 of those that were in the maine battle, and well nere 4000 of the Dublin men and Danes that were mingled with them, and the chief and nobility of Leinster and 3200 of their men were all killed. Of the other side the Prince of Ireland, Murchard, son and heir to the King, and chief commander of the army, who for valour and reputation in arms excelled, and his son, and almost all the nobility of both Munster and Connaught, and above 4000 of their men were all killed. Some few of the Danes that fled into the land lighted to the old King's tent, where they were killed, in which broil the King received a wound in his head, with an axe, whereof he died, being 88 years of age, 85 after he was 37 years King of the Half of Mowh, [Leath-Mhogha] and 12 years King of all Ireland. This battle was fought at Cluan Tarff by Dublin [Clontarf near Dublin] on Good Friday the 22 of April in the year of our Lord 1014, being the 25th battle wherein he overthrew the Danes, who never since attempted to invade that country. His 2nd son Donnchadh 86 succeeded him, who in his latter days, after he raigned above 50 years, went to Terra Sancta, leaving the kingdom to Toirdealbhach, 87 son to his 2nd brother Tadhg, a man of good worth, that reigned 17 years, whose son Muirchertach 88 that succeeded him (being for his justice, generosity and valour well beloved and esteemed, and much favoured and affected by the King and the rest of the nation in Scotland, after he reigned 29 years) fell extreme sick at Ardmacha, in the year 1115, whereof he died 5 years after, and was the last King of the nation, this King that now is being the first after him, of the nation itself, that reigned over Ireland, of whose ancestors many have been before Kings of all Ireland, who being the first of our nation that reigned over these three kingdoms, altho' all sorts are hard to be pleased in this world, nobody can deny him to be a just King, which is the greatest praise that either King or anie other can have, and to be a man that wants neither sense nor utterance.


Upon Murchards sickness the provinces of Ireland fell to disobedience and dissension, and his 2nd brother Diarmott took possession of North Munster, whose son Toirdealbhach, that succeeded him therein, was much oppressed by the power of Toirdhealbhach mac Ruaidhri 89 chief of Connaught to whose son, Ruadhiri or  p.227 Roderick 90 he and the chiefs of Meath and Ulster promised obedience whereby many called him King of Ireland. At which time Dermod Mac Murchard, cheif of Leinster, ravished Dearbhorgaill 91 daughter to Murchadh mac Flainn of Meath, and wife to Oroirk Lord of Brefny, which incensed against him the said Roderick by whom Leinster was spoiled, McMurchow's house at Fearna 92 destroyed, and himself driven out of the land, who went to King Henry 2nd, that was then in France, by whom he was favourably used, and dismissed with letters to licence as many as would go here [in England] hence with him. In his return he conditioned at Bristol with Richard the son of Gilbert, 93 Earl of Stranguel, to give him his daughter Aive and Leinster, after his Decease, and from thence went to the Prince of Wales, Rice Ap Grifine, who inlarged for him out of prison Robert Fitz Stephens, upon promise to follow McMurchow, that went then for Ireland, when he kept secretly until Robert Fitz Stephens, Maurice Fitz Gerald, and others came with 90 horse and 300 archers, whom the Earl of Stranguel followed at Bartholomew's tide in the year 1170, with 200 horse and a thousand archers, and married the Daughter of Mac Murchow, who brought Leinster under his obedience, and surprised Dublin, whereof, and of the dissensions of the provinces of Ireland when King Henry was advertised he came the 8 of October in the year 1172 to Waterford, where the Lords of North and South Munster, and afterwards at Dublin the Lords Tirconnell, Brehny, Oiriel and divers others (being all weary of civill war) became subjects to his Majesty, who leaving Hugo de Lacie, his constable there, came for England. After whose departure the Earl of Stranguel behaved himself very irreligiously in burning of churches, unto whom Lacie was not much inferior. How John de Courcie then dispossessed many of their lands and (when he and Lacie were at odds for it) rebelled and how (when King John came hither) Walter de Lacie rebelled, whereby the King was driven to follow him into the north, to make a bridge of his ships over Strangford Haven, and to besiege Carrick Feargus, from whence Lacie fled for England; the cause of Rebellions since, and of all the losses that the crown and country sustained thereby, is not so much noted or remembered as the blame is cast generally upon that country people, who although they are  p.228 thought by many fitter to be (as a Scottish Knight said) rooted out than suffered to enjoy their lands, are not so rebellions or dangerous 94 as they are termed by such as covete it, nor so rude or wilde as those Sicilians were (that as Plutarch writes by continual wars became as savage as beasts) with whom, nor with noe other nation wars continued not so long as with them, wherewith learning being decayed, the most part of those that wrote since did write without good order or agreement, whereby those that wrote before when they were learned, are thought best worthy of credit, together with those that wrote before they embraced Christianity or were so much learned, whose writings is very brief and obscure and language dead, 95 out of use, and hard to be understood, which is much written in verse, where their arms and colours is mentioned, by the which it should seem that he that gave this Lyon first in Scotland was of the house of Ulster, but those that were learned who wrote about 1000 or 800 years past, although their language also is now out of use, wrote more copious and elegant, to whose books, if this king were anything affected, I think his Majesty might best have them. 96


This much of the Nation (being all the service that I am able to doe your Lordship) I thought fit to acquaint your Lordship withal, before I  p.229 end my life in the languishing torture of this close prison, where since my commitment I have bene threese tossed without any matter to chardge me withall, 97 and where, so long as God will spare me life, I will rest your Lordship's most humble and faithful to be commanded. 98

Florence Mac Carthy.

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Title (uniform): Letter of Florence Mac Carthy to the Earl of Thomond, on the ancient history of Ireland

Author: Florence MacCarthy Reagh

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Electronic edition compiled by: Beatrix Färber

Proof corrections by: Beatrix Färber, Kilian Mallon, Janet Crawford, and Olan Daly

Funded by: School of History, University College, Cork

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2. Second draft, with introduction.

Extent: 18750 words

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Publisher: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts: a project of the School of History, University College Cork

Address: College Road, Cork, Ireland — http://www.ucc.ie/celt

Date: 2012

Distributor: CELT online at University College, Cork, Ireland.

CELT document ID: E600001-030

Availability: Available with prior consent of the CELT programme for purposes of academic research and teaching only.

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  1. London, British Library, MS Add. 4793, fo. 18.
  2. London, British Library, MS Add. 4821, imperfect transcript of same.
  3. Lambeth, (transcript of 1.)
  4. Dublin, Trinity College Library, (transcript of 1.)


  1. John Colgan (ed), Acta Sanctorum Hiberniae (Leuven 1645).
  2. Roderic O'Flaherty, Ogygia seu, Rerum Hibernicarum chronologia: Ex pervetustis monumentis fideliter inter se collatis eruta, atque e sacris ac prophanis literis primarum orbis gentium tam genealogicis, quam chronologicis sufflaminata praesidiis. (...) (London 1685). (An English translation by the Reverend James Hely was published in Dublin 1793).
  3. Charles Vallancey, Collectanea de rebus Hibernicis. (...) Published from the MSS, vol ii, Antiquities of Irishtown and Kilkenny (Dublin 1786).
  4. William Haliday [=Holiday] (ed. & trans.), A complete history of Ireland: from the first colonization of the island by Parthalon to the Anglo-Norman invasion collected and arranged from the most ancient records of Ireland, and from authentic foreign writers, by the Rev. Jeoffrey Keating (Dublin: John Barlow, 1811).
  5. Edward Ledwich, The antiquities of Ireland: with additions and corrections. To which is added a collection of miscellaneous antiquities. 2nd ed. (Dublin: J. Jones, 1804.)
  6. P. Louis Lainé, Généalogie de la Maison de McCarthy: Anciennement Souveraine des deux Momonies ou de l'Irlande méridionale (...) publié dans le cinquième volume des Archives généalogiques et historiques de la Noblesse de France (Paris:Béthune et Plon 1839) [available online at CELT].
  7. James Henthorn Todd, The Irish version of the Historia Britonum of Nennius (Dublin 1848) [available online at CELT].
  8. Daniel McCarthy, The life and letters of Florence MacCarthy Reagh: tanist of Carbery, MacCarthy Mor, with some portion of 'The history of the ancient families of the south of Ireland,' compiled solely from unpublished documents in Her Majesty's State Paper Office (London and Dublin 1867).
  9. Giraldus Cambrensis, Topographia Hibernica, 1188: J. F. Dimock (ed.), Topographia Hibernica et expugnatio Hibernica, Rolls Series 21. Vol. 5 of Giraldi Cambrensis Opera. London 1867.
  10. James Henthorn Todd (ed. & trans.) Cogadh Gaedhel re Gallaibh: The war of the Gaedhil with the Gaill (London 1867).
  11. Sir Bernard Burke, Vicissitudes of Families. 2 vols. (London, 1869).
  12. Richard Bagwell, Ireland under the Tudors: with a succinct account of the earlier history (3 vols. London 1885–90, repr. 1963).
  13. Thomas Stafford, Pacata Hibernia: Ireland appeased and reduced, or a historie of the late warres of Ireland [...] (London 1633). Re-edited, in 2 vols., with an introduction and notes by Standish Hayes O'Grady, as 'Pacata Hibernia: or, A history of the wars in Ireland during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, especially within the province of Munster under the government of Sir George Carew, and compiled by his direction and appointment' (Dublin 1896).
  14. Samuel Trant MacCarthy, The MacCarthys of Munster (Dundalk 1922).
  15. R. B. Wernham, Before the Armada: the growth of English foreign policy, 1485–1588 (London 1966).
  16. Alan Harrison, Ag Cruinniú Meala: Anthony Raymond (1625–1726), ministéir Protastúnach agus léann na Gaeilge i mBaile Átha Cliath, (Dublin: Clóchomhar Teoranta 1988). [Illustrates relationship between Dermod O'Connor and Anthony Raymond mentioned in John O'Donovan's footnote 55.]
  17. Colm Lennon, Sixteenth Century Ireland: The Incomplete Conquest (Dublin 1995).
  18. Nicholas P. Canny, Making Ireland British, 1580–1650 (Oxford 2001).
  19. Kenneth W. Nicholls, Gaelic and gaelicised Ireland in the Middle Ages (Dublin 1972, new edition 2003).
  20. Emilio Rodríguez Almeida, 'Ad Speculum Britanniae', in: 'Mar Exterior', Actas del Congreso Internacional "El Occidente atlántico en época romana", Pisa, Santa Croce in Fossabanda, 6–9 de noviembre de 2003, M.a Mercedes Urteaga Artigas and María José Noain Maura (eds.), Escuela Esp. de Historia y Arqueología en Roma-CSIC (Rome 2005) 13–19.
  21. Fear Feasa ón Cháinti, 'Gluais a litir go Lunndain', for details see CELT file G402238.

The edition used in the digital edition

‘Letter of Florence Mac Carthy to the Earl of Thomond, on the ancient history of Ireland’ (1856). In: Journal of the Kilkenny and South-East of Ireland Archaeological Society, n. s.‍ 1. Ed. by John O’Donovan, pp. 203–229.

You can add this reference to your bibliographic database by copying or downloading the following:

  editor 	 = {John O'Donovan},
  title 	 = {Letter of Florence Mac Carthy to the Earl of Thomond, on the ancient history of Ireland},
  journal 	 = {Journal of the Kilkenny and South-East of Ireland Archaeological Society, n. s.},
  address 	 = {Dublin},
  publisher 	 = {Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland},
  date 	 = {1856},
  volume 	 = {1},
  pages 	 = {203–229}


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The present text covers pages 203–229. The editor's footnotes are numbered in sequence and tagged note type="auth" n="".

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Creation: by Florence MacCarthy Reagh (1560–1640)

Date: 1609

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  • The text is in seventeenth-century English. (en)
  • Some words are in Latin. (la)
  • Some words are in Irish. (ga)
  • Some words (in the editor's annotations) are in Greek. (gr)

Keywords: Florence MacCarthy Reagh; Fínghin mac Donnchadha Mac Cárthaigh; Donough O'Brien, 4th earl of Thomond; letter; prose; history; scholarship; 17c

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  1. BL Add. MSS 4793. 🢀

  2. Sceth iath — Generally supposed to mean Scythia. Keating denies this to be the true etymology of Scythia. See Haliday's edition of Keating's History of Ireland p. 221. 🢀

  3. Terra Cethim. — Usually interpreted land of thorns. See 1 Maccabees, i. 1.  🢀

  4. O'Flaherty fixes the ninth year of his reign to A.M. 2038 Ogygia, Part iii. c. 6. See Keating, p. 175. 🢀

  5. Phoroneus — Sic in MS., recte Choroneus. 🢀

  6. Sthe-nelus — , i.e. Sthenelus, King of Mycene. This is all wild speculation. The author of the Life of Cadroe who asserts that the Irish came originally from Greece, calls him Nelus or Niulus, son of Æneas, a Lacedemonian. — Colgan, Acta, SS., p. 495. 🢀

  7. Gelanor. — He was King of Argos. See Pausanias, ii. c. 16. 🢀

  8. Gel or Gelanor. — The Irish writers never call him Gelanor. 🢀

  9. Gel or Gelanor. — The Irish writers never call him Gelanor. 🢀

  10. Roighne — He was one of the sons of Ugaine More, monarch of Ireland, the commencement of whose reign O'Flaherty fixes to A.D. 3619. From this quotation it would appear that Florence Mac Carthy had an old copy of The Book of Invasions. O'Reilly, in his Descriptive Catalogue of Irish Writers, referring to the poem of Roighne, here quoted, writes the following remarks on its antiquity, p. xvi: —“If every other proof of antiquity of this piece were wanting, the language alone would be sufficient to evince its early composition. In fact, it would be nearly unintelligible to Irish readers of the present day, if it were not for the interlined gloss that accompanies the text, and even the gloss is so obsolete, that none but those who have made an Irish MSS. a particular study are able to interpret it.” The lines are given somewhat differently in the O'Cleary's Leabhar Gabhála page 80 (where they are accompanied by an interlined gloss) as follows: —
    A mhec áin Ugaine,
    Co soich do rus ingaibhe?
    Adamruaidh re Ferdator,
    Scithia saichset sluaig ri Senair.
    Siechtator Egipt in-diobath,
    Cingcris co nort Ollarba,
    bebais muir robuir
    Rersat re ruidles
    La Pharo fechtaib;
    Fonais Nial Scota
    Conpert ár n-aithre
    Ainm gabsat Gaedil
    Rethis Scot comainm
    Cain-ingen Forainm.

    “O noble son of Ugoine,
    How hast thou got thy knowledge of invasions?
    I know the period when from Scythia
    They proceeded to the host of Shenar's king.
    They passed into Egypt at the drowning
    Of [Pharoah] Cinchres with his mighty host,
    Whom the Red Sea destroyed.
    They went faithfully with Pharoah on expeditions.
    Niul married Scota,
    Who bore our ancestor,
    From whom the Gaeidhil took name.
    Another surname clung to them
    From Scota the fair daughter of Pharoah” 🢀

  11. Esru's son Sru — See Keating's History of Ireland, pp. 243–247. 🢀

  12. He had Nuadhat — Keating, in the pedigree of our author's father-in-law, Donnell, the first Earl of Clanncarthaigh, or Clancare, adds another generation here, namely, Alloid. 🢀

  13. A tower which he built — See the account of this tower in Keating, pp. 255, 261, and Ogygia, p. 83; see also Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, May 13, 1844. What would our Milesian chieftain have thought of the opinion of the Hon. Algernon Herbert, who, in a note on Maelmura's poem, in the Irish Nennius, p. 239, says that the Irish account of this tower is all a fable, founded on the following passage in Orosius: “Secundus angulus Circium intendit ubi Brigantia Calleciae Civitas sita, altissimum pharum, et inter pauca memorandi operis, ad speculum Britanniae erigitur.” — Oros., p. 61. Ed. Gronovii. This sceptical commentator adds: — “The farum, or pharos, light-house, is the tower of Breogan, and the words “ad speculum” gave rise to the absurd notion that Ireland was visible from Betanzos.” 🢀

  14. Miledh or Milesius. — He was otherwise called Galamh, or Mile Espaine, i. e. miles hispanicus. Nennius mentions this Spanish soldier thus, in his Historia Britonum: — “Et postea venerunt tres filii cujusdam militis Hispaniae cum triginta ciulis apud illos, et cum triginta conjugibus in unaquaque, ciula.” See the Irish Nennius, p. 55, note k; also Keating, pp. 255–263.
    The annalist, Tighernach, who died in 1088, writes “Omnia monumenta Scotorum usque ad Cimbaeth incerta erant.” And Charles O'Conor, of Belanagare, in his maturer years, had no reliance on these stories, as we learn from the following words in his Introduction to O'Flaherty's Ogygia Vindicated, which he edited in 1775: — “Our earliest accounts of Ireland have been handed down to us by the bards, a race of men well qualified for working on the barren ground of broken traditions. Poetic invention gave existence to facts which had none in nature, and an origin which included some genuine truths has been obscured by forged adventures on sea and land.” 🢀

  15. Eochaidh mac Eirc. — He was the last King of the Firbolgs, and was slain at Traigh Eothaile, near Ballysodare, A. M. 2737. See Ogygia, Part iii. c. 10. and Keating, p. 193, where it is said that in his reign fixed and venerable laws were first promulgated. His wife Tailtin is said to have been the daughter of Maghmor, King of Spain, and to have given her name to Teltown in Meath; but we have no account of any King of Spain of this name from any other authority, except the Irish bards only. The true history of Spain does not go so far back into the night of time as the reign of our Eochaidh mac Eirc. But our author appears to have believed that the authority of the Irish writers alone was unquestionable upon all these historical points relating to Ireland and Spain. 🢀

  16. Ith, or Ithius — For the account of his voyage to Ireland see Keating, p. 265. 🢀

  17. Oileach — Now Grianan Oiligh (Greenan-Ely), near Lough Swilly, in the barony of Inishowen; for an account of which see the Ordnance Memoir of the parish of Templemore, county of Londonderry🢀

  18. Nuada. — He was King of the Tuatha de Dananns, and was killed by the Fomorians in the battle of North Moyturey, in the now county of Sligo, A. M. 2764. See Ogygia, Part iii, c. 12. 🢀

  19. Fomoiri — Keating, p. 179, calls them Fomoraigh, and says they were pirates, of the race of Cham, who fled from the race of Shem, to seek settlements for themselves in the islands of the west of Europe. The name would appear to be synonymous with the Danish viking; and it is difficult to conjecture where our author found his explanation of it, “septentrional corpulent Easterlings.” Keating, p. 181, derives the name from fo-muiribh, 'powerful on the seas.' They had their stronghold on Tory Island, off the north coast of the present county of Donegal, where Conaing, son of Faebhar, was their king or leader. See Annals of the Four Masters (O'Donovan's edition, A.D. 3066, note f. 🢀

  20. Britannus, son of Fergus, son of Neimhidh. — Keating (p. 185) quotes a poem of Cormac Mac Cullenáin to show that the Britons are named from him. That this was the belief among the ancient Irish is clear from the Lives of St. Patrick, published by Colgan, in which it is confidently asserted that St. Patrick was descended from him. See Trias Thaumaturga, pp. 4, 224. The departure of Britan for Britain is fixed by O'Flaherty (Ogygia, Part iii. c. 6 to A.M. 2445. 🢀

  21. The name of a king is Coningc. — This shows that Florence was acquainted with the Anglo-Saxon. The German word is König. 🢀

  22. Lughaidh. — He is set down in all the genealogical Irish books as the ancestor of the family of O'Driscoll; but the line of descent is at least forty generations short, which shows that this line cannot be relied on. 🢀

  23. Came with an army for Ireland. — This story is told at considerable length by Keating, pp. 289–301. 🢀

  24. King David. — O'Flaherty does not agree with these synchronisms in his corrected Irish Chronology. He fixes the invasion of Ireland by the eight sons of Golamh or Milesius, the Spanish soldier, to A.M. 2934; but according to the Annals of Clonmacnoise, as translated by Connell Mageoghegan, the Milesians arrived “in Ireland in the beginning of the destruction of Troy, in the year after the Flood 1245, being about the 12th year of the reign of David, King of Israel and Judah.” 🢀

  25. Inbher Colpa — Now Colp, at the mouth of the river Boyne, near Drogheda. See Keating, p. 293. 🢀

  26. Teach Duinn — i. e. Donn's house. There a place still so called in Irish, beyond Dursey Island. Donn's house is on the larger of the group of islands called the Cow, the Bull, and the Calf, at the mouth of the Kenmare river, in Kerry. This Donn does not appear to be the fairy Donn Firineach, of Knockfeerin, near Ballingarry, in the county of Limerick; but he is probably the same as the fairy Donn na Duimche, of Doagh, at the mouth of the river Inagh, near Ennistimon, in the west of the county of Clare. Indeed, Dumhach, in Clare, appears to be really the place where Donn was drowned, for his spirit is still traditionally believed by the people to haunt the place. 🢀

  27. Inber Sgéine. — This was the ancient name of the mouth of the river Kenmare, in Kerry, where the most vivid tradition of the landing of the Milesian or Spanish colony exists to this day. — Keating, p. 289. 🢀

  28. Sliabh Mis. — Now Slieve Mish, a mounain in the county of Kerry, the summit of which is about nine miles west of the town of Tralee. — Keating, p. 295. 🢀

  29. Tailtin. — Now Teltown, in the county of Meath, on the river Sele or Blackwater, between the towns of Navan and Kells. 🢀

  30. Aengus Ollmhucaidh. — Keating says that he fought fifty battles against the Cruthni, and the Firbolgs [in the Hebrides], and the inhabitants of the Orkneys, but he does not say that he established any colony in Scotland. O'Flaherty agrees (Ogygia, Part iii. c. 26), and indeed it seems quite certain that no regular colony of Irish Gaedhil or Scoti was established in Scotland till the year 504 (Ogygia, Part iii. c. 63). Dr. Forbes, Professor of Oriental Languages, King's College, London, asserts in his paper on the Ancient Languages of Gaul, Britain, and Ireland, that the present Gaelic of Scotland passed from Wales into the Highlands of Scotland, but this is contrary to the whole tenor of Irish history. I maintain that the present language of the Highlands passed from Ireland into the Highlands about A.D. 504, and that a regular intercourse has ever since been kept up between both countries, the literature and music of the one having been ever since those of the other. It is true that the Eoghanacht of Magh Gerginn, or Marr, were established in Scotland somewhat earlier (Ogygia, Part iii. c. 67), being the descendants of Corc, King of Munster, the grandson of Oilioll Flannbeg (Ogygia, Part iii. c. 81); and it is a curious fact that the dialect of Gaelic still spoken there bears a strong resemblance in construction and pronunciation to the Munster dialect of the Irish. 🢀

  31. Posterity of the sons of Dela — These were the Firbolgs. 🢀

  32. Eachus, Nateus, Atrius, Diomed. — This assertion will hardly stand the test of criticism. They had the names Echaidh, or Eochaidh, Nathi, Artri, Diarmaid, but it is by no means certain that these names are cognate or synonymous with the Greek names with which our author wishes to identify them. 🢀

  33. Tailtin. — Now Teltown, in the county of Meath, where the Irish celebrated games and fairs from the earliest period of their history down to the reign of Roderic O'Conor, the last Milesian monarch of Ireland. See Ogygia, Part iii. c. 13, 56. 🢀

  34. Fis. — This word signifies knowledge, but I do not believe that the ancient Irish had any class of men called fisici. This is a mere attempt to make Irish of the Greek φυσικοι. Pythagoras called himself φιλοσφος, of which the plural is φιλοσφοι. Our author forgot himself here! Filidh is an undoubted Irish word for poet, but it is very doubtful that it bears any relationship to the word philósphos. The word draoi is also genuine, and has been conjectured to be cognate with the Greek δρυς, “the oak.” — Ogygia, Part iii. c. 21. 🢀

  35. Crom Cruach — In the Tripartite Life of St. Patrick, published by Colgan, Part ii. c. 31, and Ogygia, Part iii. c. 21, this image is said to have been the chief idol of all the Irish colonies. It was ornamented with gold and silver, and had ranged around it twelve brazen statues of less distinction. The place at which this idol stood has not been yet identified. It stood near the river Gathard, in the plain of Magh Sleacht, in the barony of Tullyhaw, and county of Cavan, somewhere in the neighbourhood of the village of Ballymagauran. See Annals of the Four Masters, AM. 3566, A.D. 1431. The only name in this barony that suggests this situation is Cromlin. 🢀

  36. Enna Aircthech — O'Flaherty fixes the beginning of his reign to A. M. 3168. 🢀

  37. Arged-ros. — This was near the river Nore in Iduagh, in Ossory. The church of Rathveagh is in it. 🢀

  38. Eochaidh Mumho was the thirty-second monarch of Ireland, according to O'Flaherty. Ogygia, Part iii. c. 25.  🢀

  39. Seat of stone. — This was the Lia Fáil, which is said to have been brought into Ireland by the Tuatha de Dananns. The writers alluded to by our author, who had asserted that this stone had been carried to Ireland by the Gaedhil or Scoti, were John Fordun, and Hector Boetius. After the conquest of the Tuatha de Dananns, this stone was possessed by the Scoti or Milesians, in whose possession it remained so long, that it was believed to have become so closely connected with their destiny that in whatever country it should be kept, no other but a king of the Scotic race could reign. See Keating, Hal. ed., pp. 117, 199, 201, 202; also Petrie's Antiquities of Tara Hill, pp. 161, 162, where it is shown that this stone is still at Tara, though the general belief was, that it had been removed from Tara to Scotland, in the sixth century, by Fergus Mac Eirc, and carried from the Abbey of Scone, in Scotland, to Westminster, in England, by Edward I. Keating firmly believed that the prediction respecting this stone was fulfilled in his own time, “in our present King Charles and his father James, whose descent is of the Scotic race, namely, from Maine, son of Corc, son of Lughaidh, of the race of Heber, son of Milesius, who were crowned kings of England upon this stone.” — p. 201. 🢀

  40. Admirable and exceeding magicians. — Concerning the magical powers of the Tuatha de Dananns the reader is referred to Keating, Hal. ed., pp. 197–205. In Mageoghegan's translation of the Annals of Clonmacnoise, it is also said that “this people were most notable magicians, and would work wonderfull thinges by magic and other diabolicale artes, wherein they were exceedingly well skilled, and in these days accompted the chiefest in the world in that profession.” — See Annals of the Four Masters, A. M. 3500, p. 24, note 2. 🢀

  41. Failias. — Keating says (Hal. ed. p. 197–205), that the Tuatha de Dananns brought this stone from the city of Falias, in the land of Lochlann (Scandinavia), and that they taught the arts and sciences, and among the rest magic, in four cities in this country; that they passed from thence to Dobhar and Iar-Dobhar in Alba, and thence to Erin. Keating and the O'Clerys, in the book of Invasions, give an ancient poem recording these traditions of the Tuatha de Dananns, from which it would appear that the tradition of their having emigrated from the land of Lochlann is very ancient. O'Flaherty, in his corrected “Irish Chronology”, fixes their settlement in Ireland to A.M. 2737. — Ogygia, Part iii. c. 10. 🢀

  42. Gave some noise. — For a full account of the traditions and bardic accounts of this stone, see Petrie's Antiquities of Tara Hill, pp. 159, 160, 161, 162, 178, 179. For the account of Memnon and his statue, see Pausanias, i. c. 42; x. c. 31; and Strabo, xiii. 🢀

  43. Curidha. — i.e., heroes or champions. The principal of these heroes were those of the Craebh Ruadh in Ulster, those of Erris Domhnann in Connaught, and the Ernaans, of whom the chief leader was Curoi, son of Dairi, of Desmond. See Keating, pp. 337–399, and O'Flaherty's Ogygia, Part iii. c. 46, 47, 48. 🢀

  44. Fiana. — Generally called Fiana Eireann, or Militia of Ireland, and by Mac Pherson, Fingallians. See Annals of the Four Masters, A.D. 283, note 2; and Keating, Regimine Conn Cedchathach and Cormac Mac Art. Also, Battles of Cnucha and Magh Lena🢀

  45. Conn Cedchathach. — i.e., Conn of Hundred Battles. He was chief of the race of Heremon, and ancestor of the O'Neills and other distinguished families of Leath-Chuinn, or the northern half of Ireland. He became monarch of Ireland, A.D. 177. 🢀

  46. Mogh Nuadhat. — He was otherwise called Eoghan Taidhlech, or Owen the Superb, and was chief of the race of Heber. He was King Conn's mortal enemy, and after having conquered him in ten successive battles, compelled him to cede unto him full dominion over the southern half of Ireland, Conn being sovereign only of the northern half, a line of hills extending from Dublin to Maaree near Galway, being the boundary between them. The northern half was called Leath Chuinn, or Conn's half, and the southern, Leath Mhogha, or Mogh's half. This division of Ireland is still traditionally remembered. It is stated in the battle of Magh Lena, and repeated by Keating, O'Flaherty, and others, that this division was observed only for one year, when Eoghan, observing that the northern bay of Dublin, and the harbour which belonged to Conn, were more profitable than the southern, in consequence of which he demanded half the revenue, Conn refused to accede to his demand, and their dispute was the cause of the battle of Magh Lena, in the parish of Kilbride, near Tullamore, in the King's County. All this account of the revenues of Dublin, in 177, however, savours strongly of modern fabrication, for Dublin was never a royal seat among the Pagan Irish, nor was the town of any commercial importance whatever until after the year 830, when the Danes attempted to fortify the place. 🢀

  47. A great trench. — This is not correct. The Esker Riada, which formed the boundary between Conn and Mogh, was not a great trench, but a line of natural, continuous sand hills, extending from Ath-cliath, a ford on the river Liffey, to Ath-cliath Meadhraighe, now Clarin Bridge, near Galway. 🢀

  48. Brenainn of Birra. — He was not one of the earliest preachers of Christianity in Ireland, for he died in the year 571. See Annals of the Four Masters, at the years 553 and 571. St. Declan of Ardmore, and St. Kieran of Saighir, are said to have taught Christianity in Ireland before the arrival of Patrick, but the whole account of this matter is involved in almost impenetrable obscurity. 🢀

  49. Patricius. — The Annals of Tighernach place the birth of St. Patrick in the year 341, and his captivity in 357. Ussher's Tripartite Life of St. Patrick places his captivity in the first year of the reign of the Emperor Julian the Apostate, and in the ninth year the reign of Niall of the Nine Hostages — “qui xxvii. annis potenter regnavit; quique Britanniam et Angliam multum devastavit ibique in bello cecidit.” — Primordia, 587. 🢀

  50. For 400 years after. — That is, until the Danes disturbed their peace and religious tranquillity. After the time of Turgesius who was drowned A.D. 846, many of the Irish joined the Danes, and relapsed into Paganism. 🢀

  51. Number of volumes of good laws. — These are now known as the Brehon Laws. Respecting the volumes of these laws extant at the close of the eighteenth century, Teige O'Rody of Crossfield, in the county of Leitrim, wrote as follows in a letter to Lhwyd: — “I have the bookes of our Law, being 30 in number (though my honoured friend, Sir Richard Cox, was once of opinion that our law was arbitrary, and not fixed nor written, till I satisfied him to the contrary in the summer 1699, by shewing him some of the said law bookes).” — See Miscellany of the Irish Archaeological Society, vol. i. p. 123. It should be remarked, that Sir Richard Cox never acknowledged this fact. 🢀

  52. The Coins stampt for the Kings of the Half of Conn, at Ardmach. — It were to be wished that our author had informed us where these coins were to be seen in his time, as we cannot find any in our present cabinets. Dr. O'Conor mentions a coin struck for an Irish king, Aedh; and Dr. Petrie has described some bracteate coins found in the Round Tower of Kildare; but no evidence has turned up to show when, where, or by whom they were struck. 🢀

  53. At Cassil [Cashel]. — Where are these coins? Did our author mistake them for Danish coins, struck at Cork or Dublin? 🢀

  54. Frequentation of merchants. — Our author had sufficient authority tor this assertion, for Tacitus states, in the life of his father-in-law, Agricola, that the ports of Ireland were better known from commerce and through commercial men, than those of Britain: — “Portus per commercia et negotiatores melius cogniti.” 🢀

  55. Marts and fairs. — The fairs of Tailten, in Meath, of Oenach Cholmáin, on the Curragh of Kildare, and of Carman, at Wexford. are much talked of in old Irish writings.  🢀

  56. Fair at Roscrea. — This ransacking of the fair of Roscrea is not mentioned by any of the published Irish annalists. Our author must have had Munster annals not now accessible. Dermod O'Connor has foisted the previous account of the overthrow of the Danes at Roscrea into his corrupt version of Keating's History of Ireland, giving the encounter as if taken by Keating himself from “a reputable author, called Florence Mac Carthy, who has delivered down the transactions of Ireland for many ages.” Dermod evidently became acquainted with Florence's statement, by having seen his letter in manuscript in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin, when admitted to it by Dr. Raymond. Indeed, it appears, from various references in the handwriting of Sir George Carew, in the Library at Lambeth (particularly No. 635), that Florence Mac Carthy had old Irish chronicles in his possession. What Carew did with them when he rifled Florence's house, and sent him a prisoner into England, nothing remains to explain; but he is accused by the author of Cambrensis Eversus, of having destroyed Irish MSS. Certain it is, that not a single MS. in the Irish language is now in his collection at Lambeth. 🢀

  57. Ancient record found at Oxford. — This is not yet sufficiently authenticated. Who found it? Of what age is it? Is it now preserved at Oxford? Where? 🢀

  58. As Beda testifies. — Our author is here perfectly right as to Bede's testimony, though it is quite clear that he wrote from memory. Well indeed might he proudly adduce the testimony of Bede in favour of the learning and generosity of his ancestors. Bede writes, in his Ecclesiastical History, book iii. c. 27: —
    “In the same year of our Lord, 664, … a sudden pestilence depopulated the southern coasts of Britain, &c. &c. This pestilence did no less harm in the island of Hibernia. Many of the nobility and of the lower ranks of the English nation were there at that time, who, in the days of the Bishops Finan and Colman, forsaking their native island, retired thither, either for the sake of divine studies, or of a more continent life; and some of them presently devoted themselves to a monastic life; others chose rather to apply themselves to study, going about from one master's cell to another. The Scoti willingly received them all, and took care to supply them with food, as also to furnish them with books to read, and their teaching gratis.” Dr. Ledwich, who was deeply imbued with prejudices againt the old Irish race, is obliged to confess, in his notice of this passage, that “so zealous and disinterested a love of learning is unparalleled in the annals of the world.” — Antiquities of Ireland, second ed., p. 355. 🢀

  59. Bonifacius. — He was Archbishop of Mentz and General Visitor in Bavaria when Virgilius, an Irishman, a celebrated geometrician, was Bishop of Salzburg, A.D. 767. Bonifacius was the enemy of Virgilius; but our author is wrong in assuming that he was an Irishman himself. 🢀

  60. Fursaeus, or Fursa, son of Fintan, of the race of Aedh Beannan, died at Peronne, in Picardy, on the 16th of January, A.D. 653. See Colgan, Acta SS., 22 Januarii, pp. 75, 87, 97; and Bede's Ecclesiastical History, lib. iii.  🢀

  61. Clodoveus. — He was Clodoveus II, King of France, who succeeded A.D. 648, and died n 663. See Colgan's 'Life of Fursaeus', Act. SS. p. 90, note 26. [see also Whitley Stokes's edition of the Irish Life of Fursa, online at CELT.] 🢀

  62. Latiniacum monasterium. — Described as “inter Lutetiam et Meldas.” See Colgan, Acta SS., p. 91, note 27. It is “Pentiniatre monaster” in Florence's own handwriting. He also wrote “Luxoniensiū.” 🢀

  63. Columbanus. — See Colgan's Acta SS., p. 117. He was a disciple of the celebrated St. Comgall, of Bangor, in the county of Down, and travelled into Burgundy in the year 589, where he laid the foundation of the monastery of Luxonia or Luxeuil. He was afterwards driven from thence, and he retired into Italy, where he erected the abbey of Bobbio, near Naples [rather near Piacenza in Emiglia-Romagna], and where he died on he 21st of November, 615. 🢀

  64. Glastonburie. — This is described, in Cormac's Glossary, as a large church near the Ictian Sea. St. Patrick was its patron saint, and the monks maintained that he was buried there, and not in Ireland. 🢀

  65. By their best antiquaries. — Camden and Spenser (the former a host in himself) state the Anglo-Saxons to have derived their letters from the Irish. This is controverted, on the ground that the ancient Britons had Roman letters earlier than either the Irish or Anglo-Saxons; that the Irish and Anglo Saxon letters were only a modification of the Roman; and so far, if I understand the argument, that it is more probable the Saxons had letters from a British than from an Irish source. But the Saxons, as the Christian missionaries found them, had NO letters. The old Britons, or Welsh, were so indignant at the Saxons for robbing them of the best part of Britain, that they are reproached with refusing to teach those Pagan robbers anything, even the Christian religion, and preferring to let them live and die as they were — or, in other words, be damned! To the Irish missionaries, then, as having converted much the greater portion of the Saxon Heptarchy, and as having the prior knowledge and use of the very characters afterwards common to themselves and the Saxons, must the communication of those characters to the Saxons be mostly assigned — I say mostly (even if it should be established that, in the sixth and seventh centuries, when the Saxons were converted, the Roman characters were the very same as those of the Irish and Anglo-Saxons), the share of the Roman, compared with that of the Irish missionaries, in the conversion of England, having been comparatively small; but if the characters used by the Roman missionaries, or Augustine's followers, who had a share, however small, in converting the English Saxons, differed to any considerable extent from the characters used by the contemporary Irish missionaries, and so long those also of the English Saxons, then it will be still clearer that Camden and Spenser were right in assigning the introduction of such characters to the Irish only. 🢀

  66. Maelmaedhog O' Morgair, called Malachias. — St. Bernard, who wrote the Life of St. Malachias about the year 1148, scarcely bears out this assertion. He gives a lamentable character of the people of the diocese of Armagh. He found them rude, barbarous, and uncultivated — Christians in name, but Pagans in practice. 🢀

  67. Artri, son of Cathal. — He was King of Munster contemporarily with Aedh, son of Niall Farsach, monarch of Ireland, whose reign began, according to O'Flaherty's corrected chronology, A.D. 797 (Ogygia, p. 493). See Annals of the Four Masters, A.D. 747.  🢀

  68. Scotland. — Ireland was first called Scotland or Scotia. 🢀

  69. At our coming — It is said that Eire was the wife of Mac Cuill, the reigning King of the Tuatha de Dananns, at the arrival of us [Scoti or Milesians] to invade it, and hence that we, their descendants, called the country Eire after this Queen, whom our ancestors subdued and killed 🢀

  70. The Eastern nations added land. — i. e. the nations lying eastwards of Ireland: the Danes and Saxons. The same nations appear to have added ster in the termination of three of the Irish provinces, as Munster for Mumhain, Leinster for Laighin, and Ulster for Uladh. The name of the fourth province, Connaught, was too long to admit euphoniously of this termination, and so we have the name Connacht remaining in its Irish purity, without this hybrid addition. Ster means land, terra. 🢀

  71. Turgesius. — The first great invasion of the Northmen was evidently under Turgesius, about the year 838. See Annals of the Four Masters, A.D. 843, p. 467; Ogygia, p. 433; and Giraldus's Topographia Hibernica, iii. 39, 42. It is quite clear that our author took this account from the Cogadh Gaedhal fri Gallaibh the War of the Gaels with the Galls, of which there were many copies in Ireland in his time. Forannan was carried off prisoner to Limerick. It is strange that famous as Turgesius is in the Irish annals, written stories, and oral traditions, no account of any such chieftain is to be found in any northern chronicles of Denmark or Norway. Ledwich has attempted to identify him with Thorgils of Norway; but this prince was not born for at least two generations after the death of the Irish tyrant, Turgesius. It is very clear from the Irish annals that Turgesius was a Norwegian, not a Dane. 🢀

  72. Taken with a stratagem by Maelseachlainn. — From this it is quite clear that our author believed in Giraldus's account of Turgesius' taking off. See Giraldus, Topographia Hibernica Hist. iii. cc. 39, 40, 41, 42, and Annals of the Four Masters, A.D. 843. 🢀

  73. Loch Ainninn. — Now Lough Ennell, near Mullingar, in the county of Westmeath. Keating, as well as our author, makes the “Lacus Loch-yreno” of Giraldus the same as Loch Ainninn; but it is clearly a mistake, for it appears from all the Irish Annals that Turgesius was drowned in Loch Uair, now Lough Owel, situate to the north of Mullingar. Loch Ainninn lies to the south of the same town, which is nearly midway between these two remarkable lakes. 🢀

  74. Olchobar. — He was King of Munster, and defeated the Northmen at Sciath Neachtain, in the year 848. See Annals of the Four Masters, A.D. 846. 🢀

  75. Aedh Finnliath, King of the half of Conn. Aedh was certainly monarch of all Ireland; but our author, with the usual prejudice of his race against the race of Conn, did not acknowledge the northern kings as monarchs of all Ireland. This is very wrong, for the old Annals of Innisfallen do not pretend to name any monarch of all Ireland as of the Munster race since the time of St. Patrick, except five. For the account of Aedh Finnliath's victory over the Norsemen, see Annals of the Four Masters, A.D. 864.  🢀

  76. Alavus. — i.e. Amlaff, or Auliffe. “A.D. 865, Amlaw and his nobilitie went to Fortren together with the foreigners of Ireland and Scotland, spoyled all the Cruhnes, and brought their hostages with them.” — Annales Ultoniae Cod. Clarend. tom. 49. [Now British Library, Additional 4784; see CELT header for Annals of Ulster, file G100001A.] 🢀

  77. Niall Glundubh — See Annals of the Four Masters, A.D. 915. This great king, the progenitor of the O'Neills of Ulster, was killed by the Danes at Kilmashoge, near Dublin, A.D. 919. The Danes were at this time under the command of Sitrick O'Hivor. 🢀

  78. Sitrick O'Hiomhair. — i. e. Sitrick, grand son of Ivor. He landed in the east of Leinster, A.D. 915 (916), and defeated and slew Ugaire, son of Ailell, King of Leinster, and made a great slaughter of his people. See Annals of the Four Masters, A.D. 915. 🢀

  79. Donnchadh mac mic Maelsechlainn. — See Annals of the Four Masters, A.D. 918 (920), Donnchadh was son of Flann, and monarch of all Ireland.  🢀

  80. Muine Brocáin — This battle was fought in the year 950, between Congalach, monarch of all Ireland, and the Danes. Godfrey, King of the Danes, was defeated, and 6000 of his men slain, according to the Annals of Ulster. See Annals of the Four Masters, A.D. 949, p. 665. 🢀

  81. Ceallachan, King of Leath Mhogha. — He was our author's ancestor. His battles with the Danes are not recorded by the Hy-Niall annalists; but they are blazoned in colours sufficiently exaggerated, and unworthy of credit, in the historic story called Toruidheacht Cheallachain Chaisil i.e. Cathréim Cellacháin Caisil, CELT file G100030 which Keating sets down as true history, but which Dr. O'Brien, in his Genealogical History of the Dal gCais, published in Vallancey's Collectanea, has shown to be a comparatively modern fabrication. Ceallachan died in 952.  🢀

  82. An under officer in every house. — This account of the cruelty of the Norsemen is taken by our author from the Cogadh Gaedhal fri Gallaibh. The Danes of Limerick were defeated by Mahon, son of Kennedy, and brother of Brian Borumha, in 965. 🢀

  83. Unluckily killed. — He had been treacherously captured by Donovan, son of Cathal, ancestor of the O'Donovans, the ally of the Danes of Limerick, and delivered by him into the hands of Molloy, son of Bran, king of Desmond, who had him murdered in cold blood. See Annals of the Four Masters, A.D. 974, p. 701. Brian Borhumha, the brother of this Mahon, was the ancestor of the Earl of Thomond, to whom this letter is addressed, and who was very anxious to preserve the genealogies and history of the race of Oilioll Olum, as appears by a beautifully written volume of pedigrees, compiled, under his superintendence, by several Irish antiquaries, and now preserved in the Carew Collection, at Lambeth, No. 599. 🢀

  84. Maelmordha mac Murchadha. — He was the ancestor of the O'Byrnes of Leinster, not of the Mac Murroghs or Kavanaghs, as generally supposed. See Annals of the Four Masters, A.D. 1013. p. 777. note w. 🢀

  85. In the 88th year of his age.‐This was not Brian's true age, according to the Annals of Ulster, which place his birth in 941. See Annals of the Four Masters, A.D. 1013, p. 773.  🢀

  86. His second son Donnchadh — It is stated in the Annals of Clonmacnoise, as translated by Mageoghegan, A.D. 1063, that “Donogh, the son of Brian Borome, went to Rome to do penance, because he had a hand in the killing of his elder brother, Teige, and that he brought with him the crown of Ireland, which remained with the Popes until Pope Adrian gave the same to Henry II.”  🢀

  87. Toirdhealbach. — He was considered King of Ireland, go bhfreasabhra, i. e. with opposition. He died in the year 1086, in the thirty-second year of his reign. See Annals of the Four Masters, p. 927.  🢀

  88. Muirchertach. — He died in the year 1119. See Annals of the Four Masters, A.D. 1119, p. 1009.  🢀

  89. Toirdhealbach, son of Ruadhri, O' Conchobhair. — He was certainly as much monarch of Ireland as any of the family of O'Brien ever had been. See Annals of the Four Masters, A.D. 1106 and 1156. 🢀

  90. Ruaidhri or Roderic. — According to the Annals of the Four Masters, Roderic O'Conor was inaugurated at Dublin, in 1166, monarch of all Ireland, in as honourable a manner as any king of the Gaeidhil ever had been. 🢀

  91. Dearbhforgaill. — She appears to have left her husband, by consent of her brother, and to have carried her cattle and trinkets with her. She was at this time forty-four years old, and Diarmaid, King of Leinster, was sixty-two. 🢀

  92. Mac Murchow's house at Fearna. — Now the castle of Ferns, the property of Richard Donovan, Esq. See Annals of the Four Masters, A.D. 1166. 🢀

  93. Richard, son of Gilbert, usually called Strongbow. See Annals of the Four Masters, A.D. 1170, 1171, 1176.  🢀

  94. So rebellious or dangerous. — This was written by this great Irish chieftain, to show that he himself, the Earl of Thomond, and others of the Milesian Irish race, were as much to be trusted by the English Government as the Fitzgeralds of Leinster, or Desmond, or any other descendants of the first English conquerors. 🢀

  95. The language dead. — It is very curious to see how the ancient Irish language was considered unintelligible at so early a period. Teige O'Rody, of Crossfield, who was, perhaps, a better Irish and general scholar than our author, and who flourished nearly a century later, thus speaks of the ancient Irish language in his own time: — “I have several volumes that none in the world now can peruse, though within twenty years there lived three or four that could read and understand them all, but left none behind absolutely perfect in all them books, by reason that they lost the estates they had to uphold their publique teaching.” — See Miscellany of the Irish Archaeological Society, vol. i. p. 123.
    In the next century, another very celebrated Irish scholar, the venerable Charles O'Conor, of Belanagare, speaks more despondingly of the knowledge then possessed of the ancient Fenian or Brehon Law dialect of the Irish language: —
    “I have seen and possessed some of our Phoenian tracts; and having an opportunity in my youth of conversing with some of the most learned Irish scholars in our island, they freely confessed to me that, to them, both the text and gloss were equally unintelligible.” — Ledwich, Antiquities of Ireland, second edition, p. 303.  🢀

  96. His Majesty might best have them. — “There is a double cause why I should be careful of the welfare of that people,” said King James I. to the agents from the Irish at Whitehall, in April, 1614, “first, as King of England, by reason of the long possession the crown of England hath had in that land; and also as King of Scotland; for the ancient kings of Scotland are descended from the kings of Ireland; so as I have an old title as King of Scotland, therefore you shall not doubt to be relieved when you complain, so as you will proceed without clamour.” — Macariae Excidium, pp. 31–295. Dublin, 1850. See, also, what O'Flaherty has written on this point, with reference to King James I.'s grandson, King James II.; and what Dr. Kennedy has written on the same point with reference to King James II.'s son, Prince James Francis Edward Stuart, called the Pretender. From the Stuarts, in the female line, her present Majesty derives her title to the thrones of Great Britain and Ireland, and through the Stuarts, consequently, from the older royalty of the Milesian monarchs of Ireland — the most ancient in Western Europe.  🢀

  97. Without any matter to charge me withal. — Both Carew and Cecil confessed one to another that Florence MacCarthy had left them no plea to imprison him; that “he had so drawn all his crimes within reach of his pardon, as they could not imprison him, except on discretion.” Carew not being able to prove him guilty, calls him a coward, having mistaken his profound good sense and astuteness for cowardice. Carew's conduct proved himself to have been a bully, a murderer, and a liar. 🢀

  98. I have received the following from Mr. Mac Carthy since the foregoing was in type — “Touching your doubt of the British Museum letter being written by the big hand of the gigantic author, all I can say is, that having now had Florence's writing under my eye daily for months, and having copied many scores of pages of it, I should not be one bit the more convinced that that letter is his writing if I had sat by his side whilst he wrote it. Be assured, Florence's hand, and no other, wrote that letter. Whatever theory may be requisite to explain the memorandum, in Irish, I am sure you have ingenuity enough to supply.” To the foregoing I have only to add, that it is distinctly stated in the Irish memorandum, already printed, that this letter, the composition of Florence Mac Carthy, was written (transcribed) by Conor, son of Murtough O'Kinga, who also carried it with him to Ireland. This memorandum was written by Gillapatrick, son of Donogh Oge [O'Kinga], on the eve of the festival of St. Francis, when the said Conor O'Kinga, for whom he prays, was dead. As the letter on which this memorandum is written is considered by Mr. Mac Carthy to be undoubtedly in the handwriting of Florence, we can only infer that Gillapatrick, the son of Donough, was not well acquainted either with Florence Mac Carthy's handwriting, or even with that of his deceased friend, Conor O'Kinga, and that he wrote at random. — J. O'D.  🢀


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