The Gaelic Manuscripts in the Ó Fiaich Library/Archive
Cardinal Ó Fiaich had a great love of place, a local patriotism. He wrote many articles on the Fews District of South Armagh and on North Louth. As editor he gathered a series of articles, ‘Dánta fa Chléir Ardmhacha’, in Seanchas Ard Mhacha on the theme of the Oirialla (Oriel) Gaelic poets and the clergy. One of his own famous articles was ‘The Fall and Return of John Mac Moyer’, a priest from County Armagh, of the Mac Moyer family in Ballymoyer, who gave evidence against Archbishop Oliver Plunkett. He used to smile, as if claiming kinship, when he mentioned Cathal Mór Mac Cearachair of Dorsey, a rapparee who was executed in Dundalk in 1717; the Cardinal’s mother was a Carragher. He unravelled the history of the O’Neills of the Fews in a series of articles in Seanchas Ard Mhacha. These were published in one volume by Cumann Seanchais Ard Mhacha in 2003. However, one of the Cardinal’s great interests was the poets of the borderland of South-East Ulster and North Leinster and, as he explained himself in an article ‘The Political and Social Background of the Ulster Poets’ in Léachtaí Cholm Cille (I, Litríocht, 1970 ), this ‘refers to the southern parts of counties Armagh, Monaghan and Down together with the adjacent parts of North Louth and North Meath’.
South-east Ulster, as he says, had no poetic tradition before the seventeenth century. Literary activity lay more to Breifne and Tír Chonaill. What was the reason for the transfer from the west to the south-east? The Cromwellian wars and confiscation destroyed the aristocratic patronage of the professional poets; poetry moved to the non-poetic families who used the metres of the ordinary people, a change from the classical metres of the professionals. A lead in the move was given by some priest poets. An examination of the names of the poets in south-east Ulster would indicate that the new poets of Oirialla were immigrants into these secluded areas. There the political power of the O’Hanlons and the O’Neills had waned through confiscation of their lands and emigration to France and Spain; at home members of these families began to enter the clerical ranks, in particular the Franciscan order. ‘Land’ and ‘religion’ were natural themes of the new poets but they also commented, as Tomás Ó Fiaich says, on the simple day-to-day events of the country-side.
The Oirialla poets (and Cathal Buí Mac Ghiolla Gunna from Breifne is classed among them) were presented to us in early editions of their works by Seosamh Laoide, Énrí Ó Muirgheasa, Fr Lorcán Ó Muireadhaigh (‘Muireadhach Méith’) and Éamonn Ó Tuathail. These poets and their poetry, scribes associated with them, and some pioneering scholars are now honoured in modern scholarship, especially in the series of books produced by Éigse Oirialla. Editions of their poetry have been published and in some cases accompanying booklets have been provided in English. This series from 1969-1989 covered the great Oriel poets, scribes and some of the scholars: Peadar Ó Doirnín, Amhráin (1969, ed. Breandán Ó Buachalla); Art Mac Bionaid, Dánta (1970, ed. Tomás Ó Fiaich and Liam Ó Caithnia); Séamas Dall Mac Cuarta, Dánta (1971, ed. Seán Ó Gallchóir); Cathal Buí, Amhráin (1975, ed. Breandán Ó Buachalla); Pádraig Mac a Liondain (1977, ed. Seosamh Mag Uidhir); Lorcán Ó Muireadhaigh (1983, Anraí Mac Giolla Chomhaill); Peadar Ó Dubhda (1981, Aodh Ó Cearra and Séamas Céitinn); Braithrín Bocht Ó Dhún (1985, Anraí Mac Giolla Chomhaill); Aodh Mac Domhnaill: Dánta (1987, ed. Colm Beckett); Nioclás Ó Cearnaigh: Beatha agus Saothar (1989, ed. Seán Ó Dufaigh and Diarmaid Ó Doibhlin); Peadar Ó Gealacáin, Scríobhaí (1992, Ciarán Dawson); Lámhscríbhinn Staire an Bhionadaigh (ed. Réamonn Ó Muirí, 1994, - MS ‘Comhric na nGaodhil agus na nGall le Chéile’ now in possession of Breandán Mac Eoin, Downpatrick, written for Edward Augustus Maginnis, Baker and Flour Merchant, 8 North St, Newry; photostat copy in Ó Fiaich Library/Archive).
To these one can add other accompanying works of scholarship: ‘Arthur Bennett’s Correspondence with Robert S. MacAdam’, ed. Séamus P. Ó Mórdha, Seanchas Ard Mhacha, (Vol. 2, No. 2, 1957); Séamus P. Ó Mórdha ed. ‘Robert S. MacAdam’s Louth Correspondents, 1831-1845’, Seanchas Ard Mhacha (Vol. 3, No.1, 1958); Fealsúnacht Aodha Mhic Dhomhnaill (1967, ed. Colm Beckett); ‘Peadar Ó Doirnín agus Lucht Scríte a Bheatha’, Studia Hibernica, (3, 1965); I mBéal Feirste Cois Cuain (1968, Breandán Ó Buachalla ); Peadar Ó Doirnín (1969, ed. Seán de Rís ); Clár na Lámhscríbhinní Gaeilge i Leabharlann Phoiblí Bhéal Feirste (1962, Breandán Ó Buachalla); ‘Art Mac Cooey and his Times’, Tomás Ó Fiaich, Seanchas Ard Mhacha, (Vol.6, No.2, 1972); ‘Irish Poetry and the Clergy’, Tomás Ó Fiaich, Leachtaí Cholm Cille, (IV, 1975); Filí agus Cleir san Ochtú hAois Déag, (Anna Heussaff, 1992); ‘Art Mac Bionaid Scríobhaí’, Breandán Ó Buachalla, Seanchas Ard Mhacha, (Vol. 9, No. 2, 1979); Trí Rainn agus Amhrán (1996, ed. Cathair Ó Dochartaigh, Colm Ó Baoill); ‘The Ulster Poetic Tradition in the 19th Century’, Tomás Ó Fiaich, Seanchas Ard Mhacha, (Vol. 19, No.2, 2003); ‘Gnéithe de Chanúint an Bhionadaigh’, Réamonn Ó Muirí, Measgra Uladh (III, 2004). In 1972 Seosamh Ó Duibhginn published a book on Séamas Mac Giolla Choille (c. 1759-1828), a literary figure active in Dundalk, born in South Armagh and buried in Creggan graveyard. In 1995 Peter Smith produced Oidhreacht Oirghiall: A bibliography of Irish literature and philology relating to the south-east Ulster – north Leinster region: printed sources, and A.J. Hughes contributed ‘Gaelic Poets and Scribes of the South Armagh Hinterland in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries’ to Armagh History & Society (2001). Gearóid Trimble contributed an excellent guide to Oriel literature, ‘Filí, Mionfhilí agus Rannairí in Oirialla’ in Féilscríbhinn Anraí Mhic Giolla Chomhaill (eag. Réamonn Ó Muireadhaigh, 2011). With the emphasis on music and song Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin compiled a major work A Hidden Ulster, People, Songs and Traditions of Oriel (2003) and ‘A Drogheda List of Melodies: Implications for the Song Tradition of Oriel’ in Dear Far-Voiced Veteran: Essays in Honour of Tom Donnelly (Old Kilfarboy Society, 2007).
Two priests stand out as custodians of Irish manuscripts in Oirialla, Fr Pádraig Ó Luain (Lamb), c. 1790-1860, Cullyhanna, Irish speaker and enthusiast for the language to whom Art Mac Bionaid (1793-1879) bequeathed his Irish manuscripts, and Fr Luke Donnellan. Fr Ó Luain was born in Baile an Achaidh (Mounthill), in the parish of Upper Creggan, South Armagh, and was educated for the priesthood at the College of the Fathers of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, Rue Picpus, Paris. He was curate in Lower Killeavy, 1831-45, and acted pastorally in Cullyhanna 1844 to 1860. He gathered manuscripts and he himself transcribed local lore and poems. His manuscripts were scattered after his death; some were lost, others were destroyed. There is a description of the fate of his manuscripts in Seanchas Ard Mhacha (Vol.1, No.1, 1954) and see Énrí Ó Muirgheasa, ‘Art Mac Cooey and Fr Lamb’, Louth Archaeologicala Journal, VII, 3, 1931. A few of his manuscripts are in the Royal Irish Academy and Cambridge University.
Almost all of the Irish manuscripts in the Ó Fiaich Archive were collected by Fr Luke Donnellan and were bequeathed by him to St Patrick’s College, Armagh. In my book Lámhscríbhinn Staire an Bhionadaigh I gave an account of Fr Donnellan and his manuscripts, of which the following is a summary. He was born near Crossmaglen in 1878, lived for a period in Armagh City, and was educated in St Patrick’s College, Armagh, and St Patrick’s College, Maynooth where he was ordained on 20 June 1902. He served as curate in the following parishes: Eglish, near Dungannon, 1902-03, Dromintee, Co. Armagh, 1903-10, Crossmaglen 1910-37; he was administrator of the parish of Loughgall, 1937-52. He died in the Nursing Home, Courtenay Hill, Newry, 21 February 1952, and is buried in Loughgall, Co. Armagh. Tomás Ó Fiaich wrote a note on his collection of songs, now in the Folklore Commission, University College, Dublin, in Seanchas Ard Mhacha (Vol. 1, No. 2, 1955). Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin made use of them in her book A Hidden Ulster: People, Songs and Traditions of Oriel (2003). In the years 1908-12 Fr Donnellan wrote some articles on the music and songs of Oirialla in the County Louth Archaeological Journal.
Éamonn Ó Tuathail visited Fr Donnellan and got some of his manuscripts on loan. In 1924 he catalogued 19 manuscripts in Donnellan’s possession This catalogue and two letters from Donnellan, one dated 1924, are listed as Ó Tuathail MSS 50, 46 in the Irish Folklore Commission archive, University College, Dublin. Art Mac Bionaid wrote Don 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and part of 10, 12, 13, 19.
On 10 July 1977 Archbishop Tomás Ó Fiaich gave Donnellan’s manuscripts on long-term loan from the archdiocese of Armagh to St Patrick’s College, Maynooth; he left a detailed document and letter with St Patrick’s College, Armagh, that St Patrick’s College, Armagh, had the right to enter into possession of them as it required. The Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich Memorial Library & Archive received them back in 2006. Fr Pádraig Ó Fiannachta catalogued them in Clár Lámhscríbinní Gaeilge, Leabharlanna na Cléire agus Mionchnuasaigh (Fascúl II, 1980): Don 1-3, 6, 9 –‘14’. ‘Rev. L. Donnellan, Dromintee, Newry’ is written on Don 3; ‘MS F’ ‘L. Donnellan C.C. Drominteee’ on Don 6; ‘MS H’ ‘L. Donnellan Crossmaglen’ on Don 9; ‘MS G’ ‘L. Donnellan CC. Dromintee’ on Don 10; ‘MS I’ on Don 12; MS E’ ‘L. Donnellan C.C.’ on Don 13. No letter is marked on Don 11.
One might point out here some aspects of these manuscripts as described by Fr Ó Fiannachta. ‘Don 1’ and ‘Don 2’ , 18th century, poetry of Oirialla; ‘Don 3’, 19th century, contains ‘Fís Mherlino Maligno’, poems and lays, ‘Tuireamh na hÉireann’, Irish poetry of Oirialla, and some English poems; ‘Don 6’, 19th century, ‘Eachtraí agus Scéalta’; ‘Don 9’, 19th century, ‘Comhrádh Caitlicigh agus Eiricigh’; ‘Don 10’, 19th century, ‘Scáthán Spioradálta an Anama’; ‘Don 11’, 19th century, ‘Scáthán Spioradálta: Seanmóir’ – sermon on the Passion of Christ in Irish by Antoine Ó Corabhan, friar of the Convent of Armagh; ‘Don 12’, 19th century, devotional pieces; ‘Don 13’, devotional literature.
Fr Ó Fiannachta named as ‘Don 14’ a little notebook of mathematics written by Pádraig Mac Gatháin. The true ‘Don 14’, as one might say, is catalogued by him in Fascúl VI, Lámhscríbhinní Gaeilge Choláiste Phádraig Má Nuad under MF9; epigrams written by Aodh Ó Néill 1802-3 the contents; ‘L. Donnellan C.C. Crosssmaglen’ is written on it.
Manuscripts Don 4 and 5 are in St Malachy’s College, Belfast. These were presented by Éamonn Ó Tuathail’s widow to Down & Connor diocese in 1956. ‘MS E’ and ‘L. Donnellan C.C. Crossmaglen’ are written on the first page of Don 4, and ‘MS D’ and ‘L. Donnellan C.C. Crossmaglen’ are written on the first page of Don 5.
Don 7 (300 pp, poetry of Oirialla generally, written 1855-6 by Art Mac Bionaid) and Don 8 (120 pp, poetry and prose of Oirialla generally, dated at end 1st July 1856, written by Art Mac Bionaid, marked also ‘MS C’) were once lamented by Tomás Ó Fiaich and others as missing. These had been part of the collection in St Patrick’s College, Armagh. Fortunately they turned up again among the Cardinal’s papers; it may be that whoever had once borrowed them returned them. Don 7 is a beautiful anthology carefully written by Art Mac Bionaid and portraying his own taste: a solid collection of the poems of Peadar Ó Doirnín, Art Mac Cumhaidh, Séamas Dall Mac Cuarta , Pádraig Mac a Liondain, and numerous poems by himself. But there are poems by others: Pilip Mac Brádaigh, poet from County Cavan, formerly a priest, turned Protestant and later vicar in Inis Mac Craith (some of his proverbs and sermon pieces are included); a ‘Dialogue between Michael and Nicholas O Heare’; a penitential poem by Cathal Buí Mac Giolla Ghunna; Raghnall Dall Mac Domhnaill; Niall Oig Mhac Mhurchaigh; Tomás Ua Loinnsigh; an ‘Elegy on the Death of the celebrated Carolan by McCabe’; ‘Pléaraca na Ruaircach’ with translation by Dean Swift; ‘An Elegy on the Death of Owen Roe O Neill …’ by Maurice O Moan. There are ‘seanchas’ and devotional pieces – ‘Duan a Duine Dhoisguidhe … composed by Rev. Bernard Callan PP of Eniskeen Co. Monaghan’; ‘Triamhun na hÉirinne or the Lamentation of Ireland’; ‘Is fáidh bréagach an saoghal so …’ by Séathrún Céitinn; ‘Iomarbhaidh Phádraig is Oisín’; ‘Laoi na Mná Móire’ by Oisín.
Don 8 has some devotional and polemic literature (including pieces by Art Mac Bionaid himself), Fiannaíocht narratives, and poems of Séamas Mac Cuarta, Peadar Ó Doirnín, Pádraig Mac a Lionndain, Cathal Buí Mac Giolla Ghunna, Niall Óg Mhac Mhurchaidh, Thomas Dease, Seafran Fionn Ó Dálaigh. Included in the devotional literature are: ‘Molamh Muire’ by Séamas Mac Cuarta; ‘Duan Aithrigh Pheadar Soigheach’ – ‘Is dubhach m’osnnaoi is ní gan fath’; Psalm 129 as Gaeilge; ‘Do phiantaigh ifrinn an so síos’; ‘Aig soith comhradh an anam dhamanta leis an chorp’; ‘Ag soith tracht air phreimh gcreidigh a ndán’; ‘Faoisidean Fiachra Mhic Bhradaigh agus a bhreitheamhnus aithrigh’; Bonaventura Ó Heodhasa, ‘Truagh a chompain mur gcoir’ agus ‘Tabhair do da aire oganaigh Fhionn’; Seathfran Céitinn, ‘Is mór a chaoinidhis sibh mur n-uaisle’. An historical prose piece by Art Mac Bionaid, quoting sources, would seem to preface his later monumental work ‘Comhrac na nGael agus na nGall le Chéile’; it is dedicated to Fr Patrick Lambe ‘A chléirigh cheansaigh is fearr tuicse is méin’.
MS A49 in the Franciscan Library, Killiney, written by Art Mac Bionaid has ‘L. Donnellan CC. Dromintee’ and ‘MS B’ written on the first page. It was presented to the library in 1951 by Lieut. John A. Dowling. Éamonn Ó Tuathail once had it on loan from Fr Donnellan. One could designate it ‘Don 19’.
Éamonn Ó Tuathail lists four manuscripts by Seaghan Ó hAnnain (Crossmaglen, died 1931 aged 64): Don 15 (proverbs, written in 1905); Don 16 (sayings and words from Irish speakers in South Armagh); Don 17 (Gaelic songs from South Armagh, written in 1910); Don 18 (Songs of the Fews, written in 1910).
Also returned to the Ó Fiaich Library/Archive from St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, were manuscripts listed MF 1-14, collected by Fr Lorcán Ó Muireadhaigh and given on loan to Maynooth by Cardinal Ó Fiaich (hence their listing as MF). They are minutely catalogued by Fr Pádraig Ó Fiannachta in Clár Lámhscríbhinní Gaeilge Choláiste Phádraig, Má Nuad, Fascúl VI. MF 1 is a prayer book written by Tomás do Búrc in Droichead na Bandan in 1789. MF 2, probably 18th century, is a copy of Trí Biorghaoithe an Bháis. MF 3 is a few pages by Art Mac Bionaid. MF 4 is a collection of sermons in Irish by Fr Seán Ó hÉalaí, parish priest of Dunleer, 1797-1822, parish priest of Louth, 1829-1831. Gerry Hicks edited them for an MA thesis in 1947 and Seosamh Ó Labhraí likewise in 1998. Ó Labhraí edited one of the sermons, ‘Seanmóir ar Pháis Chríost’, in Seanchas Ard Mhacha ((Vol. 18, No.1, 1999-2000). The sermons were written phonetically in Roman script. MF 5 is a ‘Life of Christ’ written by John McSolly (Seon Mac Solaidh) in 1720. MF 6 has part of ‘Parrthas an Anma’, written it seems likely by a south-east Ulster scribe. MF 7, 19th century devotional literature, is also in south-east Ulster dialect. MF 8, 19th century, has a copy of ‘Tuireamh na hÉireann’ and is written by the same scribe as MF 7. MF 9, 19th century, was written in Newry, Co. Down; this is ‘Donnellan MS 14, ‘Dánfhocail agus Burdúin’ (a collection of epigrams). MF 10, 18th century, is a copy of ‘Parrthas an Anma’. MF 11, 18th century, is a copy of ‘Trí Biorghaoithe an Bháis’ from Ulster. MF 12 is a shortened version of Neilson’s grammar. The scribe’s note is interesting: ‘Concerning the author, I believe he was a County Down-man, from about Downpatrick somewhere. I never heard when he lived, but I think it cannot be very long ago. It was T. O’(?) Hare of Ballybot (Newry) who lent me this book, and it was he who told me about its author. He gave it to me in February 1868 … Owen Smyth. Newry 11 May 1868’. MF 13, 19th century, contains ‘Varia: Annála’ written by Aodh Mac Domhnaill. MF 14, 19th century (?); the scribe gives his name as Seamas Mac Gilrói (recte Séamas Mac Giolla Ruaidh): copy of Bonaventura Ó Heodhasa’s ‘An Teagasc Críosdaidhe’; devotional literature including ‘Tosach agus Aistriúgha Miorbhuileach Teampoill Lorreto’, and Ó Gallchobhair’s first sermon.
Two manuscripts, once in the possession of Fr James O’ Laverty, historian priest of Down and Connor, were also returned from Maynooth. They are described by Ó Fiannachta in Clár, Fascúl II. Lav 12, 18-19th centuries, is a collection of small manuscripts by different scribes bound together; (a) ‘Iodh Chlann Uisneach’; (b) poetry of Oirialla mainly; scribes: Peadar Ó Doirnín, Dennis Garratty, Edward Haughey. Lav 15, 19th century, copy of ‘Scáthan an Chrábhaidh’; the manuscript is accompanied by a collection of writings and notebooks with various contents including eight copybooks of ‘Surnames of Ireland’ and a collection of music, dances, march tunes, songs and ballads.
In catalogue, Fascúl VI, Fr Ó Fiannachta lists two other MSS donated by Tomás Ó Fiaich to St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, and now returned to Armagh. F1, ‘Beatha Phádraig’, 18th century, written by Tamas O Conelan (‘Thomas Conolan, Creggan Duff … Armagh’). F2, 15th century (?), is an old Latin breviary. Tomás Ó Fiaich got it from Fr Brendan McEvoy, Omeath, (+1965). To complete the gifts to St Patrick’s College, Maynooth of MSS from the archdiocese of Armagh Réamonn Ó Muirí donated four MSS. Two of them relate to Armagh Diocese and were obtained while he was in Monasterboice parish, 1965-67; one of them LM I comes under the heading ‘Tairngireachtaí’ (prophecies) and was written by Nicholas Kearney (Clár, Fascul VII, pp13-14); the other, LM 2, is a copy of ‘Foras Feasa’ and may be in the hand of Peadar Ó Doirnín (cf. Seanchas Ard Mhacha Vol. 5, No. 2, 1970, pp 397-8; Clár, Fascúl VIII, pp 20-4). LM3, probably mid-19th century, contains some Oirialla material (Clár, Fascúl VIII, p. 204). These manuscripts remain in Maynooth. One wonders where the fourth manuscript has gone; Réamonn Ó Muirí described it in Seanchas Ard Mhacha, Vol. 7, No.2, 1974, ‘Lámhscríbhinn as Contae an Chláir sa Tuaisceart’.
Besides MF 13 (1863) by Aodh Mac Domhnaill, there is an uncatalogued manuscript in the Ó Fiaich Library/Archive, described as ‘Leabhar Aodha Mhic Dhomhnaill’ (two dates in MS, 1852 and 1856), but no indication as to its origin. It was probably donated to Cardinal Ó Fiaich. It has historical pieces, poems by Aodh himself such as two copies of ‘Duan Eachtra na Spighog ((Saighog)’, and ‘Turas Sheáin Uí Chonaill chun na Fraince’; poems by Muiris Ó Moghan (Maurice O Moan), Cathal Mhac Ruaidhrí, Séamas Dall Mac Cuarta, Cathal Buí Mac Giolla Ghunna, Pádraig Mac a Liondain, and Bonaventura Ó Heodhasa. It also contains the popular ‘Duan Aithrigh Pheadar Soigheach’, ‘Faoisidean Fiachra Mhic Bhradaigh’, and ‘Tuireamh Phádraig Fléimeann’. Like MF 13 it has a list of herbs and plants; these also form the third chapter of ‘Fealsúnacht’. Aodh Mac Domhnaill (1802-1867) was probably born in Droim Goill near Droim Conrach in north-east Meath, a teacher, associate of Peadar Ó Gealacáin, Nioclás Ó Cearnaigh, Roibeard Mac Ádhaimh, and Art Mac Bionaid. He died in the Poor House, Muinchille, Co. Cavan, 31 March 1867. He is noted for his peculiar spelling. His poems and his great ‘tráchtas’ ‘Fealsúnacht Aodha Mhic Dhomhnaill’ have been edited in masterly fashion by Colm Beckett, and Breandán Ó Buachalla describes his work and manuscripts in Aguisín C of I mBéal Feirste Cois Cuain.
The Ó Fiaich Archive has a leather-bound copy of Focaloir Gaoidhilge-Sax-Bhéarla or An Irish-English Dictionary, Paris, Printed by Nicolas-Francis Valleyre, for the Author, M. DCC. LXVIII, By Royal Approbation and Privilege. It was compiled by John O’Brien (Seán mac Thomáis Í Bhriain), bishop of Cloyne and Ross, who had once studied at the University of Toulouse and the Sorbonne in Paris. It was meant to be of pastoral help to the many students who would later exercise their ministry through Irish. Fr Michael Murtagh, parish priest of Dunleer, donated to the Library/Archive a leather-bound manuscript copy of this dictionary transcribed by Patrick Kelly in the year 1787. This was a gift from the Convent of Mercy, Dundalk.
It would be appropriate also to mention a rare printed work in Gaelic script in the Irish manuscript section of the Archive: Seamora ar na Priom Phoncibh na Creideamh ar na Ttaruing go Gaidhlig, agus ar na Ccur a Ccló a Lunnduin Tre Ebhlin Everingham, 1711: Sermons upon the Principal Points of Religion, Translated into Irish, London, Printed by Elinor Everingham, 1711; To his Grace James Duke of Ormond and Lord Lieutenant General, and General Governour of Ireland etc, Servant and Chaplain, John Richardson. There is also a rare book of sermons in English: The Farewell Sermons of Comfort and Concord Preached at Drogheda in Ireland by Nicholas Bernard, Doctor of Divinity, at the taking leave of his Pastorall Charge there, Febr Anno. 1649. London, Printed by Robert Ibbotson, 1651.
Two interesting school copy-books of Tomás Ó Fiaich, contain notes probably written when he was a student in St Patrick’s College, Armagh, and convey his early interest in the Irish dialect of South Armagh. One is entitled ‘Gaeilge Oirghialla’ ; it has vocabulary, phrases, and phonetic remarks, and there are some Gaelic songs on notepaper from St Patrick’s College, Armagh. Enclosed in it also are official letters, September 1946, announcing that he had gained prizes in the Oireachtas for two poems, ‘An Traen ó Iubhar Cinn Trágha’ and ‘Narbh aoibhinn leat mar shaol’. The second notebook is entitled ‘Notes from Mary Harvessy, Last Gaelic Speaker of Crossmaglen’.
Among the Ó Fiaich papers in the Archive there are many letters and notebooks concerning the poets of Oirialla, some of which had belonged to Fr Lorcán Ó Muireadhaigh; there are for, example, letters of Éamonn Ó Tuathail and Séamus Ó Casaide. One large notebook containing Gaelic names of the parishes and other place names of the Archdiocese of Armagh was compiled by Risteárd Ó Foghludha (1871-1957). He was the first director of Comisiún na Logainmneacha.
In his essay ‘The Political and Social Background of the Ulster Poets’ Cardinal Ó Fiaich quotes from a poem by Art Mac Bionaid composed by him when bequeathing his manuscripts to Fr Lamb. Let us quote it again and extend the prayer for all the Oriel poets:
Bí ag guí ar na hollaimh stuama bhí fuaim-bhlasta, eagnaí, binn,
Ua Doirnin is Mac Cuarta, na subháilce is na siollaí grinn,
Is Mac Cumhaidh a bhí á ruagadh aige stuaire de chailligh dhaill
Is nach bhfuair sé faoiseamh uaire nó gur fhuaraigh a chorp i gcill.
Réamonn Ó Muirí