O'Maelchonaire, Fearfeasa (DNB00)

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O'MAELCHONAIRE, FEARFEASA (fl. 1686), Irish chronicler, belonged to a family of the hereditary men of letters in Connaught, where he was born, probably at Cluainnahoidhche, near Lochnahoidhche, in the parish of Clooncraff, co. Roscommon. He was one of the authors of the 'Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland' [see O'Clery, Michael], and, with the three other chief writers, was included by Colgan in the designation 'Annales Quatuor Magistrorum' (Preface to Acta Sanctorum Hiberniæ, p. 7), which has become the popular name of the book. A trace of his influence in the work is the record of more than forty of the Ui Maelchonaire. Of these, two were distinguished ecclesiastics: Thomas, archdeacon of Tuam, who died in 1266; and Flathri, son of Fithil, archbishop of Tuam, who died in 1629, and is described under Florence Conry, the name by which he is known in English state papers. Neidhe, who is described as a aeancnaidhe or historian, is the earliest of the family. He died in 1136.

Duinnin, who died in 1281, was ollamh of the Sil Muireadhaigh, the O'Connors, and allied clans, and was succeeded in office by many others of the family; Macileoin the Deaf (d. 1266); Tanaidhe mor, son of Duinnin (d. 1270); Dubhsuilech (d. 1270); Conaing (d. 1314); Tanaidhe (d. 1385). Gregory, son of Tanaidhe (d. 1400), was heir to the office, and qualified for it, but was killed by a dart thrown at him by William MacDavid Burke, who mistook him for a foe. His importance is indicated by the eric of 126 cows which was paid as compensation for his homicide. Donnchadh the Fair (d. 1404) wrote a poem of 172 verses still extant, 'Eisdigh a eigsi Banbha' ('Attend, O learned of Ireland'). It recounts the succession and deeds of the kings of Connaught. Maoilin (d. 1441) wrote a poem on the kings of Ireland, of which four lines are quoted under the year 1384 in the 'Annals of the Four Masters.' He was buried at Kilbarry, co. Roscommon.

Torna (d. 1468) is described as 'ollamh a seanchus agus a filidhecht' ('professor in history and in poetry'). He lived at Lisfearhain, co. Roscommon, and was buried at Elphin.

Erard (d. 1483) succeeded Toma as ollamh of Sil Muireadhaigh, and is described as learned both in Latin and in Irish. He was buried at Elphin, co. Roscommon.

Siodhraidhe {d, 1487) succeeded him, and is praised by the chronicles for jocularity.

Maurice (d. 1487) went to Donegal to teach poetry and there died.

Maurice (d. 1543), son of Paidin, was rich as well as learned. He made a copy in a fine Irish handwriting of the 'Old Book of Caillin,' now called the 'Book of Fenagh,' in 1516, for the coarb of Fenagh, Tadhg O'Róduighe. This copy was in the possession of the catholic bishop of Ardagh, himself a member of the family of O'Maelchonaire, in 1875. The book is a statement in prose and verse of the tributes and privileges of the abbey of Fenagh, the ruins of which are still to be seen a few miles from the foot of the mountain Sithmor, co. Lieitrim. In its general plan it resembles the more important Leabhar na g'Ceart, which states in prose and verse the rights and duties of the king of Ireland and his subject kings. In the manuscript Maurice O'Maelchonaire states that the coarb O'Roduighe asked him to reduce to prose some of the verse of the original manuscript, and that he had done so (Book of Fenagh, pp. 310, 312). A printed edition was prepared in 1871 by W. M. Hennessy and D. H. Kelly.

Maoilin (d. 1519) was ollamh of Sil Muireadhaigh, but was later made their ollamh by the Fitzgeralds, and died at Abbeyderg, co. Longford.

John (fl. 1566) wrote an interesting poem on Sir Brian-na-Murtha O'Rourke [q. v.], of 136 verses, 'Fuair Breifne a diol do shaeghlann' ('Breifne has obtained her due of a prince').

Maurice (fl. 1601) wrote 'Orpheus og ainm Eoghain' ('Young Orpheus is the right name for Eoghan') (a harper named O'Halloran). He took part for one month (Colgan, Preface to Acta Sanctorum) in the compilation of the 'Annals of the Four Masters.' Diarmait (fl. 1601) wrote three poems on Our Lady, of which copies are extant, and which were prepared for publication by Dr. John Carpenter, catholic archbishop of Dublin. Peter (fl. 1701), son of Fearfasa, was poet to the O'Roduighe, and lived in Leitrim. He wrote a poem of 224 verses in praise of his patron's family: 'Niamhadh na huaisle an eagna' ('Wisdom is the beauty of nobility'); one of sixty verses, in March 1696, on the illness, and one of sixteen verses on the want of liberality, of his patron; and one on the misery of the Irish. There are copies in the Royal Irish Academy.

[Annala Rioghachta Eireann, ed. O'Donovan, Dublin, 1851; Colgan's Acta Sanctorum Hiberniæ, Louvain, 1646; The Book of Fenagh, ed. Hennessy and Kelly, Dublin, 1871; Irish Archæological Miscellany, vol. i.; O'Reilly in Proceedings of Iberno-Celtic Soc. Dublin, 1820.]

N. M.