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Lismore manuscript – 1824


Lismore Castle Photo: Ingo Mehlin Wikimedia Commons
Lismore Castle
Photo: Ingo Mehlin
Wikimedia Commons

16th  December 16, 1824 (abridged)

In the year 1816, the Duke of Devonshire, the present noble proprietor of the ancient Castle of Lismore, in the County of Waterford, gave directions, that that venerable edifice should be repaired and restored to its pristine state and splendour. In pursuance of his Grace’s command, workmen were employed on the building; and, on taking down a wall that had been built in the place of a door;  they discovered an ancient Manuscript Book, beautifully written in the Irish Character and Language, on vellum of the largest size.

Some parts of the beginning and latter end of the book were entirely decayed. There are also some leaves wanting in different places in the middle; and , in some other places, the mice have eaten away a part of the upper margin, which leaves a few lines defective on some of the pages. The folios of the book were originally numbered with Arabic figures. The last folio, now legible, is marked 293, which would, if the book were perfect, be equal to 473 pages. The number of the pages now remaining are only 260.
This precious relic of Irish genius contains a variety of Tracts, both curious and interesting.  As it stands at present, it begins with the life of St. Patrick, which is followed by those of St. Columbhill, St. Brigid, St. Seanan, St. Finin, of Clonard, and St. Fionaches of Brigoone. These are followed by an account of the establishment of the festival of All Saints; a treatise on King David; the history of Charlemagne; the history of the Lombards; the history of Altrisson of Cashal; son of Fiongaine, King of Munster; Adventures and Wars of Callaghan of Cashel, King of Munster; History of Teigne; Historical Poem on Finin M’Carthy, the M’Carthy reign, the battle of Calonan, Story of Crimthan Cas, King of Connaught; the victory of Drom-dumhghoire; a long tract on Dispersion and Destruction of the Finian Host, or famous Irish Militia; and some other tracts of minor importance.

Saint Brigid's cross Photo: Culnacreann  Wikimedia Commons
Saint Brigid’s cross
Photo: Culnacreann
Wikimedia Commons

The last named Tract is extremely curious, and is most interesting in the Irish Antiquity. It commences at the original folio 201, a sol. 1, now page 185, and continues to folio 239 or present page 260 where it is left imperfect by the loss of the concluding leaves of the book. It is carried on by way of dialogue between various persons; the principal speakers of whom are St. Patrick and Coolte Mac Ronan. The chief subjects treated of are, the unities of the Feal or Irish Militia, in which the great actions of Fionn Mac Cubball (Finn Mac-Coo-all), the Fingal of Mac-Pherian Ossian; Coll Mac-Moran, and his brother, Conan the bold; the Thereafter of the Irish Nisin; Desmond O’Dabhan, and other famous heroes are recited in the course of this Tract are introduced many popular tales of the Irish, and the origin of many ancient customs is accounted for; and, what is most important to the ancient Irish Topographer, the names of innumerable places remarkable in the History of Ireland, but the sites of which are almost totally unknown to the modern Historian, are given; together with the names by which they are called in latter times.
There is nothing in the book, that served to ascertain the period at which it was written, but it contains a poem in the M’Carthy rough, which helps to throw some light on the subject and shows that it could not be written earlier than the 15th century.




B.A., M.A.(Archaeology); Regional Tour Guide; Dip. Radio Media Tech; H.Dip. Computer Science.

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