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Clare’s Gaelic Bardic Tradition by Michael Mac Mahon


1. O’Donovan & O’Curry, The Antiquities of Clare: Ordnance Survey Letters 1839, Clasp Press, Ennis 1997, p.5.

2. Clare formed part of Connacht between 1569 and 1576 and again between 1579 and 1602. In the latter year it was reunited with Munster at the request of Donnchadh O’Brien, fourth earl of Thomond, and the Munster affiliation was confirmed in 1615. For Clare as part of ancient Connacht (“and long remembered as such”) see Mac Niocaill, Gearóid, Ireland before the Vikings, (Dublin 1972), 6.

3. Westropp, Folklore Survey of Clare, Clasp Press, Ennis, 2000, p. 1.

4. John Mac Rory Magrath, Caithréim Thoirdealbhaigh, edited and translated by Standish Hayes O’Grady, 2 vols., Irish Texts Society (London, 1929), ii. P.2.

5. Westropp, ‘On the external evidences bearing on the historic character of the ‘Wars of Turlough’ by Seán, son of Rory MacGrath, in Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy XXX11 (1903), p.158

6. Stephen of Lexington: Letters from Ireland 1228-1229, translated with an introduction by Barry W. O’Dwyer (Kalamazoo, 1982) as quoted in Stalley, R., Cistercian Houses of Ireland, p. 9.

7. It is thus described in An Leabhar Breac. See MacNamara, G.U., ‘The O’Davorens of Cahermacnaughten, Burren, Co.Clare’, Jrnl. Nth. Munster Archaeol. Soc. 2, no. 2, 1912, 63-84.

8. Mac Namara, op. cit. p. 65.

9. P.Mac Cana, “The rise of the later schools of filidheacht”, Ériú 25 (1974) 134.

10. James E. Doan, “The Ó Dálaigh family of Bardic Poets, 1131-1691”, Éire-Ireland, XX11, 3, pp.19-31, 24.

11. Op. cit, 112.

12. John O’Donovan, The tribes of Ireland: a satire by Aenghus Ó Dálaigh (1852, reprint Cork, 1976), p. 9.

13. Robin Flower, The Irish Tradition (Oxford, 1948), 94.

14. Ibid., 89.

15. Ibid.

16. Ibid.

17. Ibid, p.90.

18. Ibid, p.89.

19. Gaelic Literature Surveyed, (Revised edition, Dublin 1983). 87-92.

20. Mc Kenna, Lambert (ed.) Dioghluin Dána (Dublin 1938), no.80.

21. AFM.

22. Leerseen, Joep, The Contention of the bards (Iomarbhaigh na bhfileadh) and its place in Irish political and literary history [hereafter Leerssen, Contention..] (Irish Texts Society, 1994), 33.

23. O’Rahilly, T.F. (ed.) Measgra dánta. Miscellaneous Irish Poems (2 vols.), I, 41-4.

24. “The role of the poet, was not confined to poetry. the poet was the man of letters: any literary or even documentary function was his business - down to the writing of a passport, as Ó Bruadair sarcastically reminds us” – Breandán Ó Madagáin, ‘Daibhí Ó Bruadair and Irish Culture in Limerick, 1691’, North Munster Antiquarian Jrnl. xxxiii (1991), 51.

25. Hyde, A literary history of Ireland, (New Edition, London, 1980), p.578.

26. Ibid, 517. But see Larenssen’s comment (Contention, p.31): “ Tadhg Mac Bruaidheadha is usually mentioned as one of the leading literati of his day, and his family as one of the great bardic families alongside the Ó Dalaigh, Ó hUiginn, Mac Aodhagáin, Ó Cléirigh and Mac an Bháird poets. That picture seems to be somewhat flattering, and is probably due to the éclat Tadhg gained for himself as a result of the Contention which he instigated”.

27. For the texts that make up the Contention see Lambert Mc Kenna, (ed.) Iomarbhágh na bhFileadh. The Contention of the Bards, 2 vols., (Irish Texts Society, 1918).

28. Hyde, Literary history… 517.

29. Leersen, Contention, pp. 52ff.

30. Ibid, p.68. Donnchadh O’Brien, 4th earl of Thomod had been made a Privy Councillor in 1599. Tadhg composed a number of poems to Donnchadh including an inaugural ode Mór atá at theagasc flatha, (‘A major task to instruct a prince’ ).

31. Ibid.

32. Ibid.

33. Paul Walsh, Irish men of Learning, ed. Colm Ó Lochlainn (Dublin, 1947), 34-48.

34. Baothghalach Mac Fhlannchadha (d. 1576) is described in AFM as ollamh Dal gCais le breaitheamhnais (i.e. ollamh in jurisprudence).

35. Westropp, Jrnl. Kilkenny Arch. Soc., 1868-9, p.100.

36. O’Curry, Lectures on the manners and customs of the ancient Irish, (Dublin, 1861), p. 237.

37. RIA Mss. 23 Q 16. cf. Robin Flower’s introduction to Caithréim, vol.1, p.xvi.

38. Gearóid Mac Niocaill (eag.) Dúnaire Ghearóid Iarla, Studia Hibernica 3, 1963.

39. In the Dunaire Mac Niocaill mistakenly identifies Inis an Laoigh with Inis Lua on the Fergus. It is clear from the context however that it is the site traditionally assigned to Clonroad and described in the Caithréim (l.2) as situated “i gceartmedón a oidhreacht …do’n taobh thuaidh do’n tsruth re hucht innse in laoigh”(i.e. in the middle of his domain… on the north bank of the stream [Fergus] beside Inis An Laoi that is referred to here.

40. De Paor, Liam, ‘ Contae An Chláir le linn Thomáis Uí Mhíocháin’ in Diarmuid Ó Muirithe (eag.) Tomás Ó Míocháin Filíocht (Clócomhar 1988), 13.

41. Ibid.

42. Petition to government by Hugh Boulter, protestant primate of Armagh in 1730. Akenson, The Irish Education Experiment, (Eds.) Moody, Beckett & Williams (Studies in Irish History Series (London 1970), 30.

43. From the poem: Is léan le naithris ( “Sad it is to relate”) in Seán Ó hÓgáin (eag) Amhráin Tuanach, Clare Champion, 17 July 1948. The translation is my own.

44. Séamus Mac Cruitín SF 2, Coláiste Phadraig Maigh Nuad, 28-31.

45. Ibid.

46. O’Curry, Lectures..., p.234.

47. Liam P. Ó Murchú, ‘Contae An Chláir – An Traidisiún Liteartha, Cómhar 37 (Meán-Fómhair 1977) 6.

48. Ibid.

49. Liam Ó Lúnaigh(eag.), Dánta Aindréis Mhic Cruitín, This incomplete edition appeared as a series in the Clare Champion commencing on 5 January, 1935.

50. Ibid. Issue of 5 January, 1935.

51. Many of Andrias’s contemporaries spoke affectionately of the sean-Ghaill séimhe “the kindly old English”. These were the old Anglo-Norman families who had become assimilated to the Irish way of life and to whom the phrase Hibernis ipsis Hiberniores (“more Irish than the Irish themselves”) was sometimes applied.

52. ‘Deasgán Tuanach’, The Irish Monthly, May 1925.

53. A. Norman Jeffares, Yeats’s Poems (London, 1989), p.451.

54. Declan Kiberd, Irish Classics, (London 2000), p.3.

55. The complete poem was published by Tomás Ó Rathaile under 'Deasgán Tuanach in The Irish Monthly (May 1925, hereafter Deasgán Tuanach). A very free translation by Aindrias's kinsman, Seamas Mac Curtain (1814-74) appears in Liam Ó Luanaigh (ed.) Dánta Aindrias Mhic Cruitín in The Clare Champion, 5 January, 1935.

56. Ivar O’Brien, O'Brien of Thomond (Sussex 1986), 117.

57. Patrick S. Dineen (ed.) Dánta Aogáin Uí Rathaille, (Irish texts Soc., [London 1900), p.114

58. Daniel Corkery, The Hidden Ireland (Dublin 1924), p.42

59. See, for instance, L.M. Cullen, ‘Hidden Ireland: Reassessment of a Concept’, Studia Hibernica, No.9 1969, where many of Corkery's views are debunked.

60. Kiberd, Irish Classics, p.15

61. ‘Deasgán Tuanach’, 433-4. From the poem beginning Is mithid a mhaoimh ar rí-fhuil Bhreogáin am…

62. Fiachra was reputedly the brother of Nial of the Nine Hostages. Táil was traditionally regarded as the eponymous ancestor of the Dalcassians and is thus a generic term for the people of Clare. See Hyde, A literary history of Ireland (London 1980), 93.

63. In Mac Curtain's time Kilmacreehy was coextensive with the present civil parishes of Kilmacreehy and Killaspuglonane. This position obtained until the 1820s when the civil parish of Killaspuglonane became one of seven new civil parishes created in Co.Clare. It was carved out of the old parish. According to Micheál Ó Raghallaigh Aodh Buí lived at Rath Mheirgín. This is thought to be the modern townland of Knocknaraha [now] in Killaspuglonane parish.

64. Seamas Mac Curtain, Mss. SF2 Maynooth Lib., p. 163.

65. Aodh Buí's poetry has been collected but it still remains unpublished .i. Seán S. Ó Mainnín, Filíocht Aodha Bhuí Mhic Cruitín (Tráchtas M.A., Gaillimh, 1961).

66. Its full title was A brief discourse in vindication of the antiquity of Ireland collected out of many authentic Irish histories and chronicles and out of foreign learned authors.

67. Vincent Morley, An Crann Os Coill: Aodh Buí Mac Cruitín, c.1680-1755 (Baile Átha Cliath, 1995), p.41.

68. Eileen Mac Carvill, Jonathan Swift, Aodh Buí Mac Cruitín, and contemporary Thomond Scholars, North Munster Antiquarian Journal, xi (1968), 36-46.

69. The poem – Sloinfeadh scothadh na Gaoidheilge grinn – is reproduced in full in Alan Harrison, Ag Cruinniú Meala, (Baile Átha Cliath, 1986), p. 136.

70. Printed in Gadelica 1(1912), 158.

71. For a comprehensive account of the sources used by Mac Curtain in A Brief Discourse see Morley, pp 52-62.

72. Op. cit., p.38.

73. . Richard Cox, Hibernia Anglicana (London, 1689).

74. Morley, p. 39.

75. . Ibid, 40. Aodh Buí is known to have addressed a petition in verse to O’Brien around this time acquainting him in skillfully coded language of his predicament. O'Brien might be expected to have the ear of the chief justice as both men were members of the Irish Privy Council. In an article in the Censor many years later (1749) Charle Lucas alleged that Mac Curtain had been privately released and bribed to silence about the affair – Morley, p.135.

76. From Is léan le n-aithris ("Painful it is to relate") - Ó hÓgáin, ‘Amhráin Tuanach’ in The Clare Champion, 17 July 1948.

77. The association of Irish culture with the lime-washed and [presumably] thatched house recalls a saying which this writer heard many times in the Claddagh in Galway in the 1960s: "the Irish [language] disappeared from the Claddagh with the thatch". In his book Locating Irish Folklore (Cork, 2000) Diarmuid Ó Giolláin writes (p.2): "[Folklore] seems to have to do with the past, or at least the residual…it belongs more under a thatched than a slated roof…"

78. Book Of Survey & Distribution, Co.Clare, pp. 236, 238.

79. Is léan le n-aithris. See note 23 above.

80. N.J. A. Williams (ed.) Pairlement Chloinne Tomáis, (Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies 1981).

81. The term buailem sgiath, (literally a shield-beater) was a term commonly applied to a 'windbag' or boastful person. It is a term derived from the battlefield when approaching armies noisily beat their shields in order to give the impression of large numbers and thereby demoralise their opponents.

82. Mss. 23 0 27, Royal Irish Academy. An edited version of the poem together with a literal prose translation appears in Seán Ó Tuama and Thomas Kinsella (eds.) Poems of the Dispossessed. The translation given here is my own.

83. A collection of poems written on different occasions by the Clare bards in honour of the Mac Donnells Kilkee and Killane, Co.Clare, collected and edited by Brian O’Looney for Major Mac Donnell (Dublin 1863), p.3. James Clarence Mangan, Poets and Poetry of Munster (John O’Daly, Dublin,1850), pp. 174-5.

84. Ó Tuama & Kinsella (eds.), op. cit., 20

85. T. O Rahilly, ‘Deasgán Tuanach’, The Irish Monthly 53 (1925), p.323.

86. Pádraig Ó Fiannachta, 'The Irish Tradition of Clare', Mount St. Joseph's Centenary Publication (Ennistymon 1974), p.54.

87. H. Mac Curtin, The elements of the Irish language grammatically explained in English (Louvain 1728). At p.64 there is a reference to the noisy atmosphere of the prison.

88. Ibid, p.11.

89. Morley, p.100.

90. In fact in the opinion of some scholars, a second poem, A Dhia do Dhealbhaigh gach ní, included in the book (p.138), should also be attributed to Aodh Buí. This poem takes the form of a night prayer.

91. F. O’Rahilly, 'Notes on the poets of Clare', An Claidheamh Soluis, 28 Iúl, 1917.

92. Royal Ir. Academy Ms. (O’Looney) 24B 11., p.28.

93. Lewis, Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, Vol. II, p.195.

94. Mss. 2048 (Inchiquin Collection), National Library of Ireland.

95. Liam Ó Luanaigh, 'Aodh Buidhe Mac Cruitín', in Mount St. Joseph's Christian Brothers’ Secondary School Centenary Publication, (Ennistymon, 1974), 63.

96. Eoghan Ó hAnnluain, Seán Ó hUaithnín, (Baile Átha Cliath, 1973).

97. Copies of both sketches, made by Prof. Brian O’Looney, will be found in Roy. Ir. Academy Mss. No. 24 B. 11.

98. The surname Commane, which is found at several places in the western parts of the county is thought to be a corrupt version of the name – see Robert Simington, The Transplantation to Connacht, (Stationery Office, 1970), pp. 278, 380.

99. Brian O’Looney R.I.A. Ms. 24B 11, p.32.

100. This is more fully discussed by Muiris Ó Rocháin, in 'Micheál Ó Coimín', Dal gCais, 10. See also Seosamh Mac Mathúna, Kilfarboy, a history of a West Clare Parish, (Miltown Malbay, undated), p.109.

101. Ibid.

102. Padraig Ó Fiannachta, 'Litríocht an Chláir san Ochtú hAois Déag', Feasta (Eanair 1981), lch.9.

103. Hyde, Literary History…, p, 511.

104. Alastair Moffat, The Sea Kingdoms, (London, 2001), p.174. [See also George Eyre-Todd, Early Scottish Poetry: Thomas the Rhymer, John Barbour, Androu of Wyntoun, Henry the Minstrel (Greenwood Press, 1971)].

105. Ibid.

106. Patrick Kavanagh, Collected Poems, (London, 1968), p.186.

107. A. Norman Jeffares (ed.) Yeat's Poems (Dublin, 1989), p.483.

108. . Ulick O’Connor, The Yeats Companion, London 1990, p.194.

109. Padraig Ó Siochfhradha, Laoithe Óisín, (An Chumann le Béaloideas Éireann, 1941), p. vii.

110. O’Curry, Manners & Customs of the ancient Irish, iii (London, 1873), 391-2.

111. Gaelic Literature Surveyed, (Dublin, 1983), p.325.

112. Corkery, op. cit., p. 273.

113. Transactions of the Ossianic Society 4(1859) p. 234-280.

114. Gaelic Union Publications, Dublin 1880.

115. Tomás Ó Flannghaile, Laoi Óisín ar Tír na nÓg; the Lay of Oisín in the land of Youth (Dublin, 1907).

116. Ibid, p.xiii.

117. Ó Siochfhradha, Laoithe Óisín, pp.213-226.

118. Ms. 24B 11. (O'Looney), Royal Ir. Academy, pp. 226-318.

119. Ibid, p.34.

120. Máire Ní Mhuiríosa & J.E. Caerwyn Williams, Tradisiúin Litheardha na nGael, (An Clóchomhar, 1979), p.210 (footnote). Regretably, the source of this information is not stated.

121. O’Briain, Pádraig, (ed.) ‘Eachtra Thoirdealbhaigh mhic Stairn maille me Eachtraibh a Thriúir Mhac le Michéal Ó Coimín’, Blíthfhleasg de Mhilseánaibh na Gaeilge (Baile Átha Cliath, 1893).

122. O'Rahilly, Clare poets…,p. 25.

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