Princes, Prelates and Poets in Medieval Ireland: Essays in honour of Katharine Simms, Seán Duffy (ed), Four Courts Press, 600 pp, €49.50, ISBN: 978-1846822803
There are several Irish families, Bart Jaski remarks in the opening essay of Princes, Prelates and Poets, who can trace their ancestors continuously, father to son, back to the sixth or seventh century, supported by fairly trustworthy historical documentation. One will not find families like that in all parts of our globe. “To my knowledge, this is unique in Europe and probably rare in the rest of the world,” Jaski says. But this is just one aspect of an uncommonly rich historical culture, which may also fascinate those of us who have no great interest in personal pedigrees. Ireland’s fifth century, and practically any century thereafter, remains enigmatic. The material one can draw on for argument is vast and varied, many-faced, and frustratingly incomplete. New controversies keep emerging, and the polemics of the past can flare up afresh when someone has a new insight. And again, one does not find that this is so everywhere.
In the collection under review Donnchadh Ó Corráin has a lively argument on a point of fifth-century history: when St. Patrick says that he paid for safe-conduct through the various territories, does he indicate that these payments were made to kings or to Brehon lawyers? Ó Corráin continues his attack on the intellectual legacy of Daniel A Binchy, declaring with a forcefulness worthy of Binchy himself that “Binchy’s tribes and tribal kings have no place in Irish history”. I agree with this, and I think it’s a pity it couldn’t have been said while the doughty professor was alive, just in case he might possibly have had something to say in reply.
Understandably, in a large book of essays like this there might not be a snug fit between title and contents. The sixteenth century is not usually thought of as medieval, yet a number of contributors in the Poets section focus on the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with Pádraig Ó Macháin even making a swoop into the twentieth. Should we give the editor credit for not taking his tidy title too seriously? Or must we suspect that the poets of Ireland are thought to be medieval irrespective of date? Actually, the notion of “medieval” puts time in a framework which those poets would not have accepted. Maybe one day somebody will write with sympathy and insight about how they saw time and change, but the contributors here avoid such themes.
The book is loosely divided into three sections, one each for the princes, the prelates and the poets. These sections are of unequal merit. What I find most interesting in the Princes section is the two essays, by Bart Jaski and Catherine Swift, on genealogy and genetics. As of 2011 the most novel discovery of the DNA testers was that those in Ireland with Gaelic surnames, especially in Munster and Connacht, were most closely related genetically to the Basques. This gives an intriguing plausibility to ancient Irish legend, but Jaski will have none of that. “Even the medieval Irish origin legend has been drawn into the debate, since it claims that the last people to colonise the island crossed the sea from Spain under the leadership of Míl of Spain. Yet it has long been realized that this literary ‘tradition’ derives from Orosius.” In other words, academic wisdom holds that this legend can have no foundation in fact, being an illegitimate graft from the work of an ancient Iberian historian. Jaski does not consider the possibility that, even if intuitive connections were made with Continental Latin culture in ways which we cannot now approve, the story might after all have been based on an older tradition. (Even the archaeologists, or so one gathers from JP Mallory’s latest book, feel they have to leave open the possibility of an ancient migration from Spain.)
One will find much food for thought in the Prelates section, whether or not one accepts the authors’ arguments. In fact, this section also contains the most interesting writing on Irish princes, whose stock appears to be rising slowly in spite of prejudice. Helen Perros-Walton argues persuasively that “Connacht was very much connected with the wider world in the twelfth and early thirteenth century”. A key figure in the story is Toirdelbach Mór Ua Conchobair (1106-1156), king of Connacht and High King of Ireland with opposition. For GH Orpen and more recent writers too (including the editor of Princes, Prelates and Poets, Seán Duffy), Toirdelbach was an author of chaos and destruction. Perros-Walton sees him more positively: “Toirdelbach, an ambitious modernising king, in touch with developments in the wider world, and guided by reform-minded clergy who found ways for him to make amends for his war crimes and other sins, began the process of church reform in Connacht”.
Howard Clarke argues that it was Toirdelbach’s son Ruaidrí, the last High King, who established the first Gaelic town which one can properly call such (as a settlement focused mainly on trade), Tuam. In Clarke’s view, if the Anglo-Normans had not invaded when they did there would have been similar urban developments in more of the settlements round the major churches.
Damian Bracken gives an interesting sketch of the contemplative philosophy in Judaism and early Christianity and demonstrates that some seventh century Irish authors show its influence. But when he claims that Muirchú maccu Mochthéni, the formidable writer who produced the classic life of Patrick, was a proponent of contemplation, his reasoning is hazy. Bracken argues from implications in Muirchú’s words rather than what is said directly, but I think Muirchú was anxious that the things he considered most important should be stated plainly. His Patrick is dynamic, wastes no time (“for nobody seeks the Lord with sloth”), and engages in the political transformation of Ireland. Whereas Bracken sees “an understanding of authority and of the nature of leadership that is profoundly monastic”, what I find in the Life of Patrick is the opposite: a relentless emphasis on the hierarchical role of duly appointed bishops. (Patrick is trained by one bishop and himself ordained bishop by another, but only after news is received that Palladius, previously dispatched by the pope as first bishop to the Irish, has left the island and died.) Monks and monasteries, so far as I can see, are not mentioned at all.
Stephanie Hayes-Healy classifies the migrations of monks and scholars from Ireland in the period from the sixth to the ninth centuries. This is done with admirable thoroughness. And yet one might question whether the evidence she presents supports the case she is making. There’s a long-standing opinion, still held by at least one of her fellow-contributors, that “the idea of transforming one’s life into a pilgrimage for Christ had been one of the hallmarks of early Irish Christianity” (Helen Perros-Walton). For Hayes-Healy this is “a romantic misconception”. The error goes all the way back to the seventh century, when the poet Bécán mac Luigdech and the hagiographer Adamnán thought of Columcille as a pilgrim, in Hayes-Healy’s opinion wrongly.
She distinguishes five categories of migrants, of which only one (the Columbanus type) can definitely be regarded as peregrini, pilgrims. Columcille is excluded because he merely moved from one Irish territory to another, the islands and west coast of Scotland being at that time Irish-controlled. However, there are many indications in the later literature that Scotland was not thought of as simply another part of Ireland – it was considered a very poor substitute, essentially a place of banishment. Some of the finest Irish poetry of exile from early times has been associated with Columcille, and no one has found that ridiculous until now. (Incidentally, Columcille’s contemporary Cormac Ua Liatháin is also excluded, on the grounds that Adamnán’s account of his voyages in search of “a desert in the ocean” is fantastic and incredible. But I have argued elsewhere that the most extravagant detail in the story, the attack by “vicious little creatures” which threatened to sink Cormac’s boat in the far north, can be understood as the boat encountering fragments of drifting ice.)
As for the eighth/ninth century Irish scholars on the Continent such as Eriugena, Hayes-Healy does not think their reasons for leaving Ireland had anything to do with religion. They are rather to be classed as “standard examples of migration for gainful employment”. She gives no period reference to support this opinion. In fact, as she acknowledges, these scholars were sometimes referred to as peregrini by themselves and by others. “To the Irish the custom of pilgrimage has almost become part of their nature,” Eriugena’s contemporary Walafrid Strabo said. This is evidence that an able contemporary writer thought of the Irish scholars he encountered as in some sense pilgrims. (And indeed, for Hayes-Healy, Strabo is the main source of the more-than-millennial romantic error.)
I still feel that the people in all of the author’s five categories can be thought of as in some sense pilgrims. However, others may judge differently, and in any case one cannot reasonably complain about the way she presents the evidence. The case is different when we go to the Poets section. The poets should be more interesting than the prelates, but (with one striking exception right at the end of the book, to be noted presently) they aren’t. And yet, as Edmund Curtis long ago observed in his bold attempt at A History of Medieval Ireland, it’s precisely the order of poets that is distinctive in Irish history and culture, the element one does not find anywhere else. Princes and prelates may be met with all over Europe, but our poets are special.
But the writers do not bring these remarkable men to life. Much learning is displayed and much information is given which is interesting in its way, but there’s something missing. If this volume is representative, which one doesn’t doubt, there appears to be some repressive force, almost an enchantment, affecting academic thinking. The experts cannot or will not suspect, let alone address, the crucial position of these poets in the Gaelic civilisation and in Ireland’s enigmatic history.
What did the poets say? All three of the essays which deal generally with this topic, by Damian McManus, Kevin Murray and Salvador Ryan, are concerned with religious poetry. This is an important part of the poets’ work, though only a part. The two essays which are concerned with devotional themes appear to be capably written. Salvador Ryan takes issue with an opinion of the great Jesuit scholar Lambert McKenna, who said that the poets had a very limited knowledge of Scripture and showed little or no interest in large parts of the life of Christ. Damian McManus looks at three poems concerned with the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary. One of these refers to “the dilemma of divine parenthood, i.e. the invisible or unknown father, and the public shame to which it might give rise”, and McManus points to a parallel case in early Irish literature: the scandal caused among the Ulaid when Cú Chulainn was born to the unmarried Deichtine, pregnant by the god Lug. It might be added that the ancient literature also mentions this aspect of Mary’s situation. In the Voyage of Bran the mysterious prophetess predicts “a great birth after ages” of someone who will rule many thousands. He will be born in a lowly place, mac mná nad festar céle, “son of a woman whose mate will not be known”.
Kevin Murray, examining the portrayal of women, is the writer who comes closest to examining the poets’ interaction with the secular world. From an oddly limited review, he concludes that “it is evident that the central literary weakness of much medieval Irish religious poetry is its portrayal of women: nowhere in the body of material under examination do we get a rounded picture of womanhood; nowhere are female characters presented as individuals; nowhere are they named. Instead, they are presented as ciphers, present in the interaction between man and God, with their Christian roles defined for us by male clerical authors. Because a believable picture of living, breathing female characters fails to emerge from the images sketched in these compositions, the literary quality of such poetry is constantly undermined.”
I am surprised that a reader could not find something living and breathing in Eórann (wife or ex-wife of mad Sweeney) in Buile Shuibhne, or Líadáin in Líadáin and Cuirithir. It appears to be a problem that sixty years ago Professor Gerard Murphy classed the latter as a “secular” work, even though this wonderful story-poem is deeply religious in the older Irish sense. Murray might have rejected or simply ignored this mistaken judgment. But he avoids the issue by saying in a footnote that Líadáin and Cuirithir “transcends any attempt at systematic classification” and leaving it out of his commentary.
Granted, characters like Líadáin might not be very “rounded”, but one hardly goes to religion looking for that. Historically much of culture has involved a rejection of “roundedness”: this is permanently fascinating, and writers such as Peter Sloterdijk have explored the topic at length in the past few years. Although Murray notes in passing that “the church offered women who became nuns a chance to have a role and status in society which was largely independent of men”, he does not explore how this is reflected in poetry. But if one reads, for example, the obituary poem (published by Kuno Meyer) for Saint Samthann of Clúain Brónaig near Granard (d 741), one finds that a real named woman, historically attested in the annals, could be praised as an ascetic warrior, a heroine of religious struggle, in much the same terms as Columcille or any other of the male saintly elite.
In the case of Alec Woolf, writing about “the court poet in medieval Ireland”, one cannot accuse him of lacking the courage to follow his idea through. He sets out to explain the contrast between “the wealth of praise poems from the post-Norman period in Ireland and the paucity of such poems surviving from the pre-Norman period”. Although he insists he is “not denying that praise poetry, for secular patrons and honorands, may have been composed in the Old Irish period”, in fact his argument seeks to cast doubt on this: to suggest that there may have been no such poetry at all until about 900AD, or practically none. And what is the reason for its absence? Essentially, the early Irish kings did not have the proper audiences to listen to praise poems, and even if they’d had the listeners they had nowhere to put them.
The natural audience, in Woolf’s view, was the fighting men: the king’s own retained military force. However, it seems that Irish kings didn’t have such forces until the time of the Vikings. They relied for military manpower on the free clients (their most important supporters/dependents in the kingdom) and their followers. But in any case the kings did not have halls large enough for a band of warriors to gather together, where they might have listened to poems. Irish royal residences, to judge by what archaeologists have found, were small compared to their Anglo-Saxon or Danish equivalents. Even if we take the dimensions of the model royal house described in the law tract Crith Gabhlach, which would seem to be well above average, probably the building could only have seated about twenty-five people.
Through Crith Gabhlach specifically says that in the king’s house poets would be present, Woolf doesn’t see what they could usefully have done there. Genealogical poems were certainly composed and must have been performed, but he thinks that probably this occurred at open air gatherings of the kingdom or province. Otherwise the poets, for one can’t get around the fact that they seem to have existed, may have done much of their work as entertainers in the bruiden, a large communal hall of hospitality and feasting. (Actually, no remains of large halls have been discovered, but it is possible that (a) they were temporary or less substantial structures which have not survived, or (b) they’re there, but the archaeologists haven’t found them yet.)
This is the boldest and most imaginative piece of thinking in the Poets section, and it does turn up points of interest. But it’s based on a misconception. Woolf is not familiar with the work of Whitley Stokes and Kuno Meyer. If he were, he would know that the existence of praise poems from early times cannot be in any doubt. One complete specimen was written into his pious manuscript by a ninth century jobseeker (as Stephanie Hayes-Healy would have it) who went to Europe. It’s in praise of a Leinster prince called Aed mac Diarmata “to whom lovely Liffey belongs”. The scholar must have cherished this poem as a special favourite, but Stokes thought it had been composed earlier, in the eighth century. The final verse goes like this:
Oc cormaim gaibtir dúana, At ale-feasts poems are recited,
drengaitir dreppa dáena, fine pedigree-ladders mounted;
ar-beittet bairdni bindi melodious bard-metres play
tri laith linne ainm nAeda. through ponds of beer the name of Aed.
When such things are said in token of praise, one can fairly assume that such things were conventionally done.
Kuno Meyer published many fragments of praise poems from early times. In some cases the poets can be located fairly clearly in historical context. Rechtgal Úa Síadhail, for example, as his recent editor Donnchadh Ó hAodha observes, evidently made praise poems for some of the most powerful kings of the late eighth and early ninth centuries. Mael Mura Othna, at some time before his death in 887, made a poem for the High King of Ireland Flann Finna, beginning “Flann over Ireland in the house of Tuathal, / Tuathal Teachtmhar!” But one can go back much further. Wishing to make a chronological point about two ancient princes, a writer in the Book of Leinster introduces a verse by a praise poet called Lugair: Énna Cennselach דּ Énna Niad, comaimser don dís sin amail asrubairt Lugair file ag molad an dá Énna (“Énna Cennselach and Énna Niad, those two were contemporaries; as the poet Lugair said when praising the two Énnas …”) This Lugair is named as the author of some of the oldest pieces published by Meyer, who was certain that they were not later than the sixth century.
But the influence of the early praise poetry goes beyond its primary sphere and into the sphere of religion. Some religious poets take a competitive attitude towards secular poetry, attempting, as it were, to beat it at its own game. But more often they simply adapt the praise poet’s art for devotional purposes or to further their political strategies. There’s a poem attributed to St Moling, addressed to a seventh century king of Munster who had instituted capital punishment for serious crimes. After some ferocious opening verses, declaring that whoever lets off criminals is a criminal and that the criminal has himself chosen death by his crime, Moling praises the king who has hanged criminals and prophesies good fortune for his descendants. How are we to describe this grim little masterpiece? It’s a work of propaganda, intended to promote the interests and power of the Church. But it’s also quite definitely a praise poem, composed by a trained praise poet.
Similarly, when Blathmac mac Con Brettan made his poem in praise of the Virgin Mary he used themes that can be found in secular Irish praise poetry from the eighth century, when Blathmac lived, down to the eighteenth. On the death of Christ, for example, to-celt grian a soillsi sain, / ro-coíni a flaithemain, “the sun hid its great light / and grieved for its prince”. Other poets want to stress that the praise of secular kings is vanity: the old kings’ power has vanished, their royal houses are deserted, and only the saints have lasting glory. The most famous example is Oengus the Culdee, in the prologue to his calendar of saints. However, in a poem such as Slán seiss, a Brigit co mbuaid (“Securely reign, victorious Brigid!”), where the poet is committed to making the same argument, we find an inner conflict. He is supposed to say that the old Leinster kings have left nothing behind them, their royal house at Allen is ruined, and Brigid is sovereign now. But in fact he gets so caught up in telling of the old kings and praising them that his poem is in danger of becoming a celebration of Leinster royal tradition, such as doubtless he used to compose in the days before he turned to militant religion.
In short, it’s only comparatively that praise poetry is scarce in the extant pre-900 AD literature. To explain that comparative scarcity, I suppose one could start by looking at what else is included in the older manuscripts, but that’s just a suggestion. The point is, one keeps stumbling on evidence that this poetry wasn’t scarce in pre-Viking times. (Saint Brigid’s praise poet mentions, among excellent things no longer known at Allen, clúas a duan do thengthaib bard, “the sound of poems from the tongues of bards”. If the Leinster kings didn’t have a hall capacious enough for that, it seems they got by with pretending.)
With disarming honesty Woolf admits that the royal houses of the later period, when he grants that praise poetry existed, were not much larger than the earlier ones. Nonetheless, by then the kings had their war-bands, they were copying Viking modes, and they may have decided that they ought to have poets praise them. – But … the space problem? Where did the warriors go? Did many of them crowd in the doorway and just outside, like the less devout in country churches? The problem is left unsolved.
As regards the earlier period, Woolf should have noticed something in a passage he himself quotes: Crith Gabhlach specifically says that the free clients were the king’s companions. And surely they (or however many of them would fit) were a suitable audience to hear the king’s praises? (Praise poetry, incidentally, was not what it is often glibly declared to be: flattery. It was legitimation of the king or lord before others; and for the person actually praised it was motivation and moral training for the strenuous princely life.)
Woolf’s essay is by far the most interesting commentary in the Poets section, and I think its faults have something to do with the way the poets are generally regarded. And that brings us to the accomplished recent writer on the poets, Katharine Simms, to whom this volume is dedicated.
As tends to happen in a Festschrift (I seem to remember that Professor Binchy got one too), the contributors give their honorand nothing but praise, some of it well deserved. The editor justly highlights her Bardic Poetry Database, which gives basic information about a huge number of poems, including whether or where they were published, and the poets who composed them. A debt has been acknowledged by the editors of A Bardic Miscellany, the most important collection of poems for many years, which is testimony enough. Otherwise, if anyone, let’s say, in the Institute of Advanced Studies wished to produce an edition of the work of Gofraidh Mac Briain Mac an Bhaird, a poet of the early seventeenth century who sheds much light on his times (but he’s just one of many possibilities), the Database will make it easier to get started. (In one of the numerous interesting leads in Simms’s essays, she drew attention to a poem where Gofraidh Mac Briain says that even if he understood the language of the new Ulster settlers he would not be able to talk to them, since they take no interest in Irish tradition: it would feel like talking to a pack of dogs, or to wolves in a cave. Reading the poem, one finds that these are just graphic moments of exasperation in a sustained description of how a natural communicator feels when condemned to silence. This is certainly one of the most remarkable literary responses to the experience of the Ulster Plantation. The poem was finally published three years ago in A Bardic Miscellany.)
The editor observes: “Nowadays a team of researchers, working under a ‘principal investigator’ (PI), funded by a research council, would struggle to realise such a project; Katharine seems to have done it in her spare time – albeit over the course of a third of acentury of under-acknowledged dedication.” Such an old-fashioned voluntary commitment to seeking and sharing knowledge is admirable indeed. It can be compared to the dedication of GH Orpen in his day, which was before the motor car, when for many years he tramped round Ireland to visit castles and other ancient structures and describe them in detail.
From the general description of the poems given in Simms’s principal work, From Kings to Warlords, one gathers that much will be lost by neglecting them. “Within each poem, most of the space is given up to certain stock motifs, repeatedly used in many periods and for many patrons …” we are told. “Familiarity with the bardic style allows one to lay less emphasis on these sections of the poem and thus to focus with greater precision on the five or six stanzas containing an individual message. Thus winnowed, the purport of these poems can be very interesting indeed.” When one considers that Michelle O’Riordan, the most vigorous writer in the Institute of Advanced Studies, has committed herself to the argument that the poems are made up of stock images and nothing else, this attitude is refreshing.
But although the poems are expertly quarried for information of many kinds, there is no sign that Simms’s writings have enhanced the regard in which the poets are held. Nor, indeed, does one feel that she thinks them worthy to rise in public estimation. Clear light is shed on these matters in the book where she presents her larger historical perspective. From Kings to Warlords is the most important work produced by TCD’s medieval historians since Jocelyn Otway-Ruthven’s History of Medieval Ireland; I cannot do full justice to it here, or to my own disagreements with it. But I can sketch my argument in outline. Katharine Simms reduces the Gaelic princes to what is less than their proper magnitude: to warlords. And the poets, who are wrongly supposed to be simple mouthpieces of these warlords, are reduced doubly.
I will take the second point first. In an influential essay on “Bards and Barons” Simms declares flatly: “Bards did not influence their patrons’ culture and politics, they reflected them.” Since poets and patrons did not exchange written correspondence, it is not easy to disprove this statement conclusively. However, in a previous essay for the Dublin Review of Books I gave three examples of poems addressed to major lords where the lord was pressed to take a difficult and dangerous course of action which that lord was reluctant to take; where the lord did afterwards take that action; and where we have no other extant examples (so far as I know) of the pressures exerted on him to change. I argued that it is not unreasonable to believe that these poems had some influence in effecting the change of policy. And in one case (that of Donough MacCarthy, Viscount Muskerry, who in February 1642 was urged to join the Irish rebellion in a tremendous poem by Diarmaid Óg Ó Murchadha) there is independent supporting evidence: the baron of Inchiquin wrote in a letter to a friend that MacCarthy was coming under pressure from “bards and rhymers” to join the rebels, though he believed MacCarthy would hold out. – I think it would be possible to find many more such instances if one searched systematically.
But besides this, there is the famous “Gaelicisation” of the Anglo-Norman lords over four centuries. The process has never been studied in proper depth. Though many have observed it, some of the most influential, such as Orpen, thought of it as a kind of long-term natural disaster, human desertification. But if the Anglo-Normans changed, the conscious elements involved cannot be reduced to the temptation to imitate local forms of tribute-gathering (first highlighted four centuries ago by Sir John Davies). There was purpose, there were agents. The Gaelicised had their Gaelicisers. Where can one see them at work? In Muireadhach Albanach Ó Dálaigh’s poem to Richard Burke in the thirteenth century, in Gofraidh Fionn’s poems to three Earls of Desmond in the fourteenth century, in Tadhg Óg Ó hUigín’s poem to the White Earl of Ormond in the fifteenth century, in poems addressed to a variety of Butlers, Burkes, FitzGeralds and others in the sixteenth century.
Patiently, none too scrupulously, magnanimously, even affirming the lords’ English traditions with their own formulations, these poets strove to transform the lords’ thinking. They sought to give them an Irish centre of gravity. A remarkable undertaking! Yet one finds that even the most talented enquirers who begin to study it imprison their own thinking by accepting the dogma that “bards did not influence their patrons’ culture”.
From Kings to Warlords uses a wide range of materials, which are ably organised. But at crucial moments the argument takes unsupported leaps. One such leap is the book’s main contention, as expressed in the title: the notion of a degenerative tendency in Gaelic Ireland (since a mutation of the elite from kings to warlords can hardly be considered enhancement).
Simms acknowledges that there were important developments in Irish kingship in the twelfth century, but these were disrupted by the Norman invasion. However, in her view it was not mainly the invasion which caused the long-term decline in the quality of the Gaelic elite. There was a deeper problem within Gaelic society itself: it was “a society that could not function without violence”. While this violence should not be described as mindless, it would appear that by the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century the one-time kings had got lost in a maze of particular conflicts, where no one could any longer find a credible larger perspective. They “were not seen by others, nor did they see themselves, as kings in any meaningful sense of the word”. The poets said that they saw them so, but this testimony is sweepingly dismissed, by implication as empty flattery.
I consider that the facts tell a different story. The irruption of the Normans into Ireland disrupted Gaelic political evolution, that much is clear. But it is equally clear that there were enduring energies in Ireland which were striving to let Gaelic issues work themselves out. One aspect of this is the O’Neills’ recurrent interest in all-Ireland projects, their preparedness to take practical steps to transfer the sovereignty of Ireland, and the sheer impact of their initiatives at crucial moments. After the failure in 1260 of the movement led by the reigning O’Neill, Brian Catha an Dúin (who had tried unavailingly to forge a North-South agreement with the O’Briens), an attempt was made to transfer the high kingship to a Norwegian prince. In 1314 Domhnall O’Neill transferred his sovereignty claim to Edward Bruce, politically masterminding an invasion which was not successful in its aim but which lastingly damaged English power in Ireland and boosted “Gaelicisation”. The fifteenth century O’Neills did try more conciliatory approaches, but again in the following century Shane O’Neill was in touch with the courts of France and Scotland and was at least exploring the possibility of a transfer of sovereignty. And it should not be necessary to stress the significance of Hugh O’Neill and his dealings with Spain. In Simms’s book none of this gets a mention.
The issue of violence is treated without sufficient perspective. A German might have thought that Ireland was a quiet country, at least until the Tudor viceroys got properly into their stride. There are ongoing arguments about the character and significance of the violence of feuding princes in fourteenth and fifteenth century Germany, but its huge extent is unquestioned. Harsh judgments have been passed, both by historians and by contemporaries. It was not Ireland that a fifteenth century Roman cardinal was referring to when he described a country that was “all one den of thieves, where a nobleman is more glorious the more rapacious he is”.
Some perspective was brought to the Irish situation by writers in the Age of Atrocity collection, where it was shown that in Gaelic society the violence, though frequent, was low-level, largely without great damage done to the general population. Germany’s late medieval princely wars would appear to have been more destructive. Citing the boast of a certain Markgraf of Brandenburg that he had burned a hundred and seventy villages in the course of his lifetime, Carl Georg von Wachter remarks that he wasn’t the only one. Which Gaelic lord was in a position to say something like that?
There were cynical German writers of the fifteenth century who justified the princely wars as a means of keeping social equilibrium. The peasants tended to get above themselves and needed to be cut down to size (“pruned”) by the periodic practice of killing and burning. I do not know of anything similar in Gaelic literature prior to Pairlement Chloinne Tomáis, which was written when the English were firmly in control (about 1619) and whose real targets, though explicitly peasants, are more likely to be the New English upstarts.
A solution was found to the problem of German princely feuding right at the end of the fifteenth century (though some princes waged war with others for long afterwards, in the context of the Wars of Religion). In Ireland things would have taken a while longer. One of the conceivable solutions, in fact, was that a Gaelicised Anglo-Norman would establish an Irish monarchy. Edmund Curtis has some fascinating pages where he teases out this issue in relation to Garret Mór FitzGerald, at the turn of the sixteenth century the most powerful man and, according to one annalist, the most kingly man in Ireland (dob fherr smacht et recht et ríghriaghail, Annals of Connacht 1513). Curtis, however, concludes that he wasn’t ready for kingship. None of the Anglo-Normans would be ready for some time; the poets’ patient work was not nearly complete.
I don’t think there’s any book like From Kings to Warlords about Germany, but that’s because the German situation was not complicated by an exclusive claim to sovereignty from a royal neighbour, or by the establishment of strong colonial lordships, strategically placed. Certainly the O’Briens, for instance, with Norman earldoms surrounding them on three sides, could not effectively pursue their ambitions as heirs of Brian Boru while things remained so. But even where their immediate capacities were hampered, the princes remained princes. During centuries when our present-day teleologies were unknown, they were princes with uncertain potential. And their princely culture, as in Germany surviving the apparent stalemate, had begun the slow assimilation of the outsiders – and again this is something that Simms strategically ignores.
Mairidh teine i dteallach Ghaoidheal,
a goil fá chách cuirfidh sí;
ceiltear lé lasar gach teineadh,
lasadh is é is deireadh dí.
Fire lives in the hearth of the Gaoidhil;
it will send out its heat to all,
it dims the flame of each other fire,
its blaze will be that other’s end!
This is the opening verse of a poem to one of the O’Mores of Laois, Rudhraighe, who was lord of his territory from 1542 to 1547. He is identified as the man who will make a great blaze, and already the English in Ireland are trembling in fearful anticipation. Rudhraighe has come to take his turn at the forge of the kings of Tara, which he found empty. A story of Gaelic resurrection is told yet again in its evergreen freshness: how Tuathal Teachtmhar, the only survivor of a massacre of the nobility, came back over the sea to expel the usurpers and restore the ancient monarchy. And Ireland was not more suited to Tuathal Teachtmhar than she is to Rudhraighe, if she is marriageable at all!
Rudhraighe, in prosaic fact, was an undistinguished prince who seems to have been submissive to the English government for the few years before he was killed by his brother. But the fire was not quenched simply because one hope had been disappointed. And that splendid poem remained to inspire his successors, including his grandson Uaithne, who was an ally of Hugh O’Neill in the Nine Years War. In 1598 reports were coming in that Munster was ready to explode, that it only needed someone to light the spark. Similar reports had been brought to the Bruces in 1317 and they had marched down to Munster for nothing, with the province remaining quiet. But in 1598 Uaithne Ó Mórdha came southwards into present-day Limerick (“Uaithne Ó Mórdha came over the Mulkerne river,” says the author of Pairlement Chloinne Tomáis, guardedly celebrating the feat) and he lit a blaze that destroyed the Munster Plantation within a fortnight. It seems something a bit too big, too ambitious, for the petty warlord that Katharine Simms would see in him.
The famous statement by Shane O’Neill in the mid-sixteenth century, “My ancestors were kings of Ulster; Ulster is mine and shall be mine” is commented on as follows:
This speech was considered typical of Seaán’s ranting and boastful style but, although it has often been quoted, no explanation has been offered for Ó Néill’s uncharacteristically modest failure to claim the status of king held by his ancestors, since his territory and overlordship in Ulster were quite as extensive as theirs had ever been.
We are to presume a subjective incapacity. Shane had the substance of kingship but not the spirit: despite all his bragging, he simply could not see himself in the royal role.
But it is not true that no explanation has been offered of why Shane didn’t call himself king. A perfectly good explanation was offered by a Professor of Modern History at Trinity College Dublin. His name was Edmund Curtis, and he clarifies this very point in Chapter 12 of A History of Ireland. It is a measure of how severely Curtis has been downgraded in TCD that Simms does not seem to have come across this explanation, and that the professor who supervised her thesis (on which her book is based) was apparently unable to give her the reference.
Both in arms and in diplomacy O’Neill fenced skilfully, for he was not a great soldier. He was ready to acknowledge the Queen as sovereign but was resolute against the introduction of English law into Ulster … On one occasion Shane declared to government envoys: ‘I care not to be an earl unless I be better and higher than an earl … My ancestors were kings of Ulster and Ulster is mine and shall be mine.’ Such was the main aim of Shane, in whose programme religion or the union of Ireland counted less than the maintenance of the O’Neill kingship.
The issue could hardly be explained more clearly. Queen Elizabeth was going to be inflexible with anyone who announced he was king in territory that she claimed as hers, and Shane needed flexibility. To gain space for manoeuvre he was obliged to proceed dialectically. He had to be both a king and not a king.
Stressing the distinction between rí, “king” and tighearna, “lord”, Simms builds a crucial part of her argument:
James Carney noted that (Blathmac mac con Brettan) reserved the titles of rí and flaith to describe God, the ‘king of Heaven’, and styled the devil merely tigerna or ‘lord’ of Hell. Without drawing too sweeping a conclusion from this usage, one may safely deduce, from the mere fact that bardic poets clung to the term in their eulogies when it had become obsolete as a description of contemporary Gaelic rulers, that the word rí evoked a higher ideal than tighearna and consequently that both bard and patron were conscious of a decline in status by the sixteenth century.
But while the devil or an English viceroy may appropriately be called tighearna as opposed to rí, Simms knew well that God also has been called “ár dTiarna” in Irish from that day to this. The usage goes back a long way. In the introduction to the Seanchus Mór, when St Patrick, wishing to impose his authority, decided to cause an eclipse and an earthquake at Tara, Patric ro-toguib a lamu suas do-cum a tigerna (“Patrick raised his hands to his Lord”). The distinction is simply that rí is always royal, while tigerna is a lord who might not be royal but also might be. In the Testament of the legendary judge Morann there’s a reference to the massacre of the Irish nobility by the vassal communities, dílgund tigernae n-Erenn dona haithechthuathaib acht Feradach namá i mbrú a máthar, “the destruction of the nobles of Ireland by the vassals, except for Feradach in his mother’s womb”. And Feradach (an alternative to Tuathal Teachtmhar in the ancient story) is the restorer of the monarchy and the model king whom Morann is addressing.
We find rí and tigherna used with casual alternation, interchangeably, for the Irish princes of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Fínghín Ó Mathghamhna, himself lord of a minor territory in West Cork, produced an Irish translation of the famous travel book of Sir John Mandeville in 1475. He gives a list of the Irish princes of Mandeville’s time, beginning with men who were tigernada of their territory, but by the end of his list he is using different expressions and two men are referred to as rí. One finds the same interchangeability in the annals.
And here we come to a crucial moment in Simms’s argument. Oddly enough it is consigned to a footnote, but later on in the book it is recalled and re-emphasised. For a long time the annals have been regarded as Gaelic Ireland expressing itself in a relatively sober state. As far back as 1722, when Thomas O’Sullevane wrote his scathing attack on Geoffrey Keating’s history, he said that Keating should have founded his narrative on the sound and reliable annals, not on poetic fables. And at least from the time of Thomas Moore, historians otherwise ignorant of or averse to Gaelic sources have been ready to use the annals. Even Jocelyn Otway-Ruthven used them. If it can be shown that the annalists cease to use princely language when they write about Irish lords, this will be a point in Simms’s favour.
The crucial claim, concerning the Annals of Ulster, Annals of Loch Cé and Annals of Connacht, is duly made in a footnote. “The annalists tend to avoid the use of the word rí altogether in entries for the sixteenth century, with the following exceptions – AU 1510; ALC 1509, 1510; A Conn 1510, 1536, 1539.”
There is something here which I find inexplicable. I can think of no explanation. It may be that I have missed or failed to grasp some essential point. But the fact is, such annals as I have been able to locate are different. I was inspired to check Simms’s statement when I found a contributor to Princes, Prelates and Poets, Nollaig Ó Muraíle, citing an entry in the Annals of Loch Cé for 1582, where one Emonn Ua Dúbhda was made king (Emonn Ua Dúbhda do rígad). As it happens, this is not her only oversight.
The word rí is used about Gaelic lords in the Annals of Ulster in 1521, 1528 and 1537. Aside from that, the text is simply littered with other terminology of kingship: do ríghadh, “(someone) was made king”, ríghe, “sovereignty”, mac rígh, “king’s son”, adhbhar rígh or ríghdhamhna, “potential king”. The doubting reader may like to check the Annals of Ulster for 1513, 1517, 1519, 1522, 1527 (where the Anglo-Norman Mac William Burke dies and his son is made king in his place), 1529 and 1540. The Annals of Connacht employ this language in 1511, 1513, 1516, 1519, 1520, 1521, 1522, 1524, 1526, 1528, 1532, 1534, 1537 and 1538, along with those instances which Simms has mentioned.
These two sets of annals effectively end in 1540/1541. The Annals of Loch Cé, however, go on to 1590. But there’s no sign of the terminology of kingship disappearing in the late sixteenth century. On a quick check of the entries from 1560 on, I find this language used in 1560, 1562, 1568, 1570, 1582 and 1589.
To be sure, the word tighearna is used also. The list of the tighearnadha of Connacht in the Annals of Loch Cé for 1584 includes at least one man (Ó Dúbhda) who had been made king two years previously. In the Annals of Ulster for 1521 we read of a man whom his brother deprived of ainm rígh ocus tighernas, “the name of king and the lordship”. A couple of times the Annals of Connacht use what seems to be a stock phrase, rígh ocus rotigerna, “a king and a great lord” (1524, 1526).
To summarise, I do not think Simms has found any support in Gaelic sources for her idea of the decline from kings to warlords. Such genuine support as she can muster comes from outside Gaelic society, from New English and official sources, but these are concerned with creating facts rather than fairly interpreting the facts as they are currently. King Henry VIII had told the Irish princes, in effect: “Warlords is what you are; and from now on you must be my warlords, making war when and where I tell you!” This enduring policy aim produced attitudes and commentary to match.
Before taking leave of the annals, I would like to quote an obituary in the Annals of Connacht for Aed Dub son of Aed Ruad son of Niall Garb son of Toirrdelbach the Festive, lord of Tir Conaill and Lower Connacht and Fermanagh and Cenel Moain and Inishowen, who died in 1537. It is a superb description, composed by a master, of how one “prince with uncertain potential”, as I have designated the type, might be seen in his unique and particular context. I give it here in Martin Freeman’s English rendering:
We think it not too much to say that there never came a lord of the posterity of Niall Noigiallach who, while not having all Ireland in his power, yet came nearer to the Kingship of Ireland than did this lord, on account of his power and estate, form and feature, nobility and bounty, the excellence of his rule, his stoutness of heart towards his enemies and manifold acquaintance with the arts. Moreover it was thought and widely believed, according to the prophecies of the Saints and the likely signs that appeared in him and in his time, that he was that Aed Engach whose coming late in time the prophets and seers and great learned Saints of Ireland had promised; and since he was not, I do not think [that Aed] will come till the day of doom and the end of the world. Yet there is no doubt that if the Gaels had not been growing feeble and fickle he would have made a bid for the sovereignty of Ireland, and it is probable he would have succeeded; but since he saw that the Gaels were becoming men of bad faith, trusting no man, unruly and froward, he made an alliance with the King of England, so that he was not oppressed by the might of the Galls but held sway in Leth Chuind without cavil, after the manner of the men of Ireland. For many a time he made hosting round every territory therein and carried back, unopposed by them, their pledges and hostages to his own land, just as the kings of whom the poets and the Regnal Successions speak took [the like] to Cruachu or Emain or Ailech. Nor was any part of his success a matter for wonder, for he was the son of a married couple, a true and worthy heir to the land, and there were united in him naturally the goodness of his parents and his own goodness and Aed O Domnaill was ‘a vessel twice filled’; in so much that the four elements were never in latter times in Ireland put together to form any person more perfect in the qualities of lordship and all other virtues than was O Domnaill, that is Aed Dub son of Aed Ruad, head-letter and guardian of Cenel Conaill, the like of Conn Cetchathach for making war and raising battle and strife, co-equal of Art Enfher in bounty and fidelity, image of Cairbre in proficiency and understanding of all arts in use among the Gaels, peer of Guaire son of Colman for succouring poets and exiles, veritable worthy kinsman of Brian Boruma mac Ceinneididh both in lineage and in actions, such as the exalting of Orders and churchmen, destroying rebels and lawless men, attacking and conquering his foes; and as God bestowed these great gifts upon him in the world, so may his soul enter into rest in God’s Kingdom after quitting this life.” (We are told that his son Magnus O Domnaill was made king in his stead.)
To set From Kings to Warlords in its proper perspective, one would have to see how Simms relates intellectually to GH Orpen and to his outstanding successors, Edmund Curtis and Jocelyn Otway-Ruthven. (Orpen, having no need to work, did not hold academic office, but this is a trivial point: in context he must be seen as one of TCD’s greatest historians.) However, this goes beyond the scope of the present essay.
I would not like to conclude my review of Princes, Prelates and Poets without mentioning the jewel of the book, which comes right at the end. It’s a war poem. As baile mar ainm Árás, “Arras is a town like its name”, was written about the siege and battle that took place in Arras, in northern France not far from the Belgian border, in August 1654. Spanish forces had besieged the town in an attempted diversionary operation (hoping to draw French troops away from the siege of Stenay). They included many Irish soldiers who had gone to the Continent when the Cromwellians overwhelmed Ireland. The Spanish troops were themselves encircled by a much larger French force, which on August 25th attacked and broke them. The bulk of the Spanish force escaped but with heavy losses, including many Irish officers and men.
For the poet, the significance of that town for the Irish is summed up in its name: Arras becomes Ár-(fh)ás, “growth of slaughter”. His view is resolutely Ireland-centred. Arras, he says, was not worth three outstanding men who fell there, Edmund O’Dwyer, Piarus Butler and James FitzGerald. At the heart of the poem these men are celebrated and mourned, but at the beginning and end it is stressed that they have been lost to the meaninglessness exemplified by this wretched town’s name. The poet, whose name is not recorded, wrote in a strict classical metre with accomplished art. His verses seethe with emotion.
Dáibhí Ó Cróinín, the poem’s rediscoverer (it was published previously in 1912) gives a clear account of the political and military context and the persons mentioned, leaving the rest to the reader. Without criticising his translation, I think other approaches are sometimes possible. I will give the first four verses with a rendering of my own, and the reader may judge if a poem such as this can have any resonance in the year 2014, which would be the 360th anniversary of the battle.
As baile mar ainm Árás, Arras is a town like its name,
baile nimhneach nuadhphálás, poisonous town of upstart palaces,
baile fán gáinneamhuil ga, town bristling with javelins,
baile gráineamhuil gallda. a horrible and alien town.
Baile na n-olc ’s na n-iolach, A town of evils and triumph-yells,
baile cogthach cinnsiolach, town of violence and arrogance,
baile brosgurtha na gcath, town that smashed the armed forces,
baile cosgartha curach. town that slaughtered champions.
Árás, d’éis cráidhte na gclann Arras, after the pain that pierced
go smior a bhfódaibh Fremhann, to the marrow of Ireland’s families,
crádhfhás an-all do iomchair, bore a pain-growth over here:
árfhás ann ar Éirionnchaibh. slaughter grew on the Irish there.
Do-thuit ’na thimchioll – mo-nuar! Around it fell – alas! –
a mbith bhuan bheith go diombuan, a dreadful number of Irishmen
adhbhadh fuinidh dhá cheannach, – (transient in the enduring world),
n-uimhir adhbhal Éireannach. purchasing a house of tragedy.
NOTE ON SOURCES
“To my knowledge, this…”: Princes, Prelates and Poets (hereafter PPP) p. 13. – “Binchy’s tribes and tribal kings…”: ibid. p. 212, fn. 3. – “Even the medieval Irish…”: ibid. p. 5. – “Connacht was very much connected…”: ibid. p. 308. – Orpen, Duffy on Toirdelbach: G. H. Orpen, Ireland Under The Normans (Dublin 2005), intro. Seán Duffy, p. xx. – “Toirdelbach, an ambitious modernising…”: PPP p. 301.
“For nobody seeks the Lord…”: Muirchú maccu Mochthéni, Life of Patrick, I, 9, tr. L. Bieler. – “An understanding of authority…”: PPP p. 240. “The idea of transforming…”: ibid. p. 285. – “A romantic misconception”: Hayes-Healy’s article is entitled ‘Irish Pilgrimage’: A Romantic Misconception, PPP p. 241-260. Scotland a poor substitute: This is discussed in Wilson McLeod’s Divided Gaels. – “Vicious little creatures”: cf. John Minahane, The Christian Druids: on the filid or philosopher-poets of Ireland (Dublin 2008) p. 93. – “Standard examples of migration…”: PPP p. 257. – “The custom of pilgrimage…”: Walafrid Strabo, Vita Sancti Galli 2, 47 (“de natione Scotorum, quibus consuetudo peregrinandi iam pene in naturam conversa est”).
Curtis on the poets: A History of Medieval Ireland from 1086 to 1513 (New York 1968) p. xvi. – “The dilemma of divine parenthood…”: PPP p. 512. – mac mná nad festar céle: Imram Brain maic Febail ed. Kuno Meyer, v. 26. “It is evident that…”: PPP p. 523. – “Transcends any attempt…”: ibid. fn. 46. – Peter Sloterdijk on asceticism: Du mußt dein Leben ändern (Frankfurt am Main 2011). “The church offered women…”: PPP p. 522. Poem for Samthann: Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie Vol. 13 p. 144.
“The wealth of praise poems…”: PPP p. 377. – “Not denying that praise…”: ibid. – “To whom lovely Liffey…”: Thesaurus Palaeohibernicus, ed. W. Stokes and J. Strachan Vol. 2 p. 295. – Stokes, 8th century poem: ibid. p. xxxiv. – Os cormaim gaibtir dúana: ibid. p. 295. – Meyer published early praise poems: Mainly in Bruckstücke des älteren Lyrik Irlands and Über die älteste irische Dichtung I and II. – Rechtgal Úa Síadhail: Donnchadh Ó hAodha, “Rechtgal Úa Síadhail: a famous poet of the Old-Irish period”. In: Seanchas: Studies in Early and Medieval Irish Archaeology ed. A. P. Smyth. – Mael Mura’s poem for Flann: Book of Lecan, RIA MS 23 P 2 f. 296 v., online at www.dias.ie – “Énna Cennselach ocus Énna Niad…”: cited by Kuno Meyer, Über die älteste irische Dichtung II p. 19. – Poems by Lugair: ibid. pp. 14-19. – Lugair not later than 6th century: ibid. p. 4.
Poem by St. Moling: Kuno Meyer (ed.), Miscellanea Hibernica p. 17. – To-celt grian a soillsi sain: James Carney (ed.), The Poems of Blathmac son of Cú Brettan p. 22. – Slán seiss, a Brigit…: Kuno Meyer (ed.), Hail Brigit: An Old-Irish Poem on the Hill of Alenn. – Clúas a duan do thengthaib bard: ibid. p. 15. – Woolf, later houses not much larger: PPP p. 388. Crith Gabhlach, clients were king’s companions: ibid. p. 381.
A Bardic Miscellany: See my review for Dublin Review of Books, “Documents of a Spiritual Resistance”. – Simms on Gofraidh mac Briain: “References to Landscape and Economy in Irish Bardic Poetry”. In: Surveying Ireland’s Past: Multidisciplinary Essays in Honour of Anngret Simms, ed. H. B. Clarke et al. – Gofraidh’s poem in Miscellany: A Bardic Miscellany ed. D. McManus and E. Ó Raghallaigh pp. 456-7. – “Nowadays a team of researchers…”: PPP p. xiii.
“Within each poem…”: Katharine Simms, From Kings to Warlords (Woodbridge 2000) p. 5. – “Bards did not influence…”: Katharine Simms, “Bards and Barons: the Anglo-Irish aristocracy and the native culture”. In: Medieval Frontier Societies ed. R. Bartlett and A. Mackay (Oxford 1989) p. 187. – Previous DRB essay, three examples: John Minahane, “Fencing Ireland’s Poets”. – Inchiquin on MacCarthy/rhymers’ pressure: David Dickson, Old World Colony p. 15. – Enquirers accept dogma on bards: e.g. Gearóidín de Buitléir, “Aighneas polaitíochta sa chúigiú haois déag: dán le Tadhg Óg Ó hUigín ar cheathrú Iarla Urmhumhan”, Ossory, Laois and Leinster Vol. 4 (2010) p. 113.
“A society that could not function…”: From Kings to Warlords, p. 59. – “Were not seen by others…”: ibid. p. 147. – O’Neills’ initiatives: See particularly Curtis, A History of Medieval Ireland p. 149 and 191-3, and the relevant chapters of A History of Ireland. – Arguments about Germany’s feuding princes: cf. e.g. Hillay Zamora, State and Nobility in Early Modern Germany: the Knightly Feud in Franconia (Cambridge 2003). – “All one den of thieves”: Carl Georg von Wächter, Beiträge zur deutschen Geschichte, insbesondere zur Geschichte des deutschen Strafrechts (Tübingen 1845) p. 55. – Age of Atrocity collection: Age of Atrocity, ed. D. Edwards et al. (Dublin 2007), esp. 93-6. – Markgraf who burned 170 villages: von Wächter, Beiträge p. 56. – Cynical German writers on peasants: Gadi Algazi, “Pruning Peasants: Private War and Maintaining the Lords’ Peace in Late Medieval Germany.” In: Medieval Transformations: Texts, Power and Gifts in Context ed. E. Cohen and M. de Jong (Leiden 2000) pp. 245-274. – Pairlement Chloinne Tomáis on peasants: Pairlement Chloinne Tomáis ed. N. J. A. Williams pp. 2-3 and thereafter. – Curtis on Garret Mór: A History of Medieval Ireland pp. 337-363. – Garret not ready for kingship: ibid. pp. 360-1.
Mairidh teine i dteallach Ghaoidheal: ed. Eoghan Ó Raghallaigh, Ossory, Laois and Leinster Vol. 4 (2010) pp. 164ff., my transl. – “Uaithne came over the Mulkerne”: Pairlement Chloinne Tomáis p. 23. – “This speech was considered…”: From Kings to Warlords p. 147. – “Both in arms and in diplomacy…”: A History of Ireland (Norwich 1968) pp. 185-6. – “James Carney noted that…”: From Kings to Warlords pp. 149-150. – Patric ro toguib a lamu…: Ancient Laws of Ireland Vol. 1 p. 6. – Dílgund tigernae n-Érenn dona haithechthuathaib…: Audacht Morainn ed. Fergus Kelly p. 2.
Ó Mathghamhna’s Mandeville: ed. Whitley Stokes, Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie Vol. 2; tigerna: p. 4; rí: pp. 4-6. – Thomas O’Sullevane on Keating: repr. in Éigse Vol. IX pp. 263-9. – “The annalists tend to avoid…”: From Kings to Warlords p. 39 fn. 104. – Emonn Úa Dubhda do rígad: Cited by Nollaig Ó Muraíle, PPP p. 151. – Annals of Ulster/Connacht/Loch Cé: These will be found online at http://www.ucc.ie/celt As baile mar ainm Árás: PPP pp. 557-8.
All sources quoted for Whitley Stokes and Kuno Meyer, including the Zeitschrift, will be found at the Celtic Digital Initiative at http://epu.ucc.ie/cdi/textarchive-search.php Algazi’s article, von Wächter’s book, Muirchú and Walafrid Strabo can be found online also.
John Minahane has produced translations of literature in Irish and essays on Irish history and literature: recent books include The Christian Druids: on the filidh or philosopher-poets of Ireland (repr. Howth Free Press, Dublin 2008) and Conor O’Mahony, An Argument Defending the Right of the Kingdom of Ireland (Aubane Historical Society, Aubane 2010). –