Maguire, Cathal Macmaghnusa (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 35
Maguire, Cathal Macmaghnusa

by Norman Moore
Cathal Óg Mac Maghnusa in the ODNB.

MAGUIRE, CATHAL MACMAGHNUSA (1439–1498), Irish historian, was born in 1439 on the island of Loch Erne, called in modern Irish Ballymacmanus, but in old writings Seanait, and by the English Belleisle. He was eldest son of Cathal, son of Giollapatraic. His paternal great-grandfather was Maghnus, whence his name MacMaghnusa, and Maghnus's father was Donn Carrach, who died in 1302, the first lord of Fermanagh of the Sil Uidhir, a tribe which included the MacAmhalgaidhs, MacMaghnuses, and MacCaffraidhs, as well as the Maguires. Cathal became chief of the MacMaghnus sept of the Maguires. He took orders and became rector of Inishkeen, a church in upper Loch Erne, canon of Armagh, and in 1483 archdeacon (‘fer ionait epscoib,’ erroneously translated ‘coadjutor’ by O'Dono- van, iv. 1242) of Clogher. He collected a fine library of manuscripts, and compiled the history variously known as ‘Leabhar airisin bhaile mec Maghnusa’ (Annala Rioghachta Eireann, 1498), as ‘The Historical Book of Ballymacmanus,’ as ‘Annales Senatenses’ (Harris's edition of Ware, p. 90), and as ‘Annals of Ulster’ (ed. Hennessy, Rolls Ser. 1887). This valuable work, which owes its latest title to the fact that it gives the fullest account of the affairs of Ulster, begins with the reign of Feradach, A.D. 60, and extends to the commencement of 1498. Like the book afterwards composed by the O'Clerys, and commonly known as ‘The Annals of the Four Masters,’ it is written in the form of an annual register, giving a summary of the events of each year, with characters of some of the more important men who had died. The author gave minute attention to chronology, and with his aid the errors of other Irish historical writers may often be corrected. Two vellum manuscript copies are extant: Rawlinson 489 in the Bodleian, and H. 1. 8 in the library of Trinity College, Dublin, where there is also a transcript of this manuscript made by E. O'Curry in 1841. The part from 431 to 1056 was published with translation and notes by W. M. Hennessy in 1887, under the direction of the Royal Irish Academy, but without any mention of the codex used for the edition. Further volumes of this edition are to appear, edited by the Rev. B. MacCarthy. Continuations of these annals to 1604 are also extant. Cathal is stated by Paul Harris [q. v.] to have written additions to the ‘Felire’ of Oengus, and annotations to the ‘Register of Clogher.’ He was famous for his hospitality no less than for learning, and Rory O'Cassidy, who was the first continuator of his annals, and who knew him, says ‘he was a precious stone, and a bright gem, and a shining star, and a treasury of knowledge, and a fruitful branch of the Canon law, and a fountain of charity and meekness and mildness, and a dove in cleanness of heart and chastity, and the person to whom the learned and the pilgrims and the poor of Ireland were most thankful—one full of grace and knowledge in every science to the time of his death, in law, divinity, physic, and philosophy, and in Irish attainments.’ He died of small-pox at Ballymacmanus, co. Fermanagh, 23 March 1498, at the age of fifty-nine.

[Annala Rioghachta Eireann, ed. J. O'Donovan, vols. iii. iv.; Sir J. Ware's Writers of Ireland, Dublin, 1704; E. O'Curry's Lectures on the Manuscript Materials of Ancient Irish History, p. 83, App. xlii.; E. O'Reilly in Transactions of Iberno-Celtic Society, 1820.]

N. M.