MacFirbis, Duald (DNB00)

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MACFIRBIS, DUALD (1585–1670), Irish historian, wrote his name in Irish Dubhaltach MacFirbhisigh, and in English letters Dudley Ferbisie {Clarendon MS. 68, fol. 59 b). It was latinised Firbissius by O'Flaherty (Ogygia, p. 219), from which Charles O'Conor (Ogygia Vindicata, p. ix) constructed the form under which he is now generally known in English books (O'Curry, Lectures , i. 120; Hennessy, Chronicum Scotorum, p. i). His family were the hereditary historians of O'Dubhda, and the inauguration of that chief was performed by MacFirbis raising 'a wand above his head and pronouncing his name. The chief members of the family, known as hereditary historians, are: Gilla Isa Mor MacFirbis (d. 1279), Sean MacDonchadh MacFirbis (d. 1362), Amhlaibh MacFirbis (d. 1362), Fearbiseach MacFirbis (d. 1379), and Donnchadh MacFirbis (d. 1376). Other members of his family of historical note are: Domhnach MacFirbis, who wrote at Lackan, co. Sligo, in 1390 'Leabhar buidh Lecain' (now H. 2, 16, library of Trinity College, Dublin), a collection of historical and ecclesiastical pieces in prose and verse, an account of the contents of which is given in O'Curry's ' Lectures on the MS. Materials of Irish History,' p. 191; and Giolla Iosa Mor MacFirbhisigh, who wrote at Lackan in 1416 'Leabhar Lecain,' a manuscript of six hundred pages, of small folio size, containing a great variety of history and genealogy, now in the library of the Royal Irish Academy.

Duald was the eldest of the four sons of Giolla Iosa Mor MacFirbhisigh, the third son of Dubhaltach, who wrote a 'Leabhar Gabhala,' and was born in 1585 in the newly built castle of Lackan. His father was a scholar of some distinction, and sent him to study literature, history, and Brehon law under the famous legal family of MacAedh again in Ormond, co. Tipperary. Besides Irish learning he acquired Latin, English, and some Greek. When his education was finished he returned to Tireragh, co. Sligo, and lived there till the death of his father, the final dispossession of O'Dubhda and ruin of the Irish interest in that district in 1643, when he migrated to Galway. He there Became acquainted with Roderic O'Flaherty [q. v.] and Dr. John Lynch [q. v.], both of whom speak gratefully of receiving instruction in Irish history from him. He copied three fragments of Irish annals (571–910) for Dr. Lynch in 1643 from a vellum manuscript of Giolla na naemh MacAedhagain — printed in the volume of the Irish Archaeological Society for 1860. His transcript was edited by John O'Donovan. For five years he was engaged on a great treatise on Irish genealogy, which he finished in 1650, and called 'Craobha coibhneasa asas geuga geneluigh gacha gabhala dar ghabh Ere' ('The Branches of Kindred and Genealogical Boughs of every Plantation of Ireland'). The original manuscript is in the collection of the Earl of Roden, and there is a copy, made in 1836 by Eugene O'Curry, in the library of the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin. The book gives an account of all the existing Irish clans, of their saints and kings, as well as of the mythical Tuatha de Danaan and Firbolg, who were believed to have preceded the Gaedhel in Ireland. In the same year he wrote two poems on 'O'Seachnasaigh of Gort' (O'Curry, Lectures, p. 123). In 1655 Sir James Ware [q. v.] brought MacFirbis to Dublin to do literary work for him, and lie continued to translate and transcribe Irish manuscripts till Ware's death in December 1666. He then left Castle Street, Dublin, returned to Lackan, and lived, as so many Irish gentlemen then did, as a poor landless sojourner in a cottage on the former estate of his family. Much of what he wrote in Ware's house has since disappeared, but there remain translations (1) of the 'Annals of Ulster' (in British Museum); (2) of the 'Annals of Inisfallen;' (3) of 'Annals' from 1443 to 1468 (printed by Irish Archæological Society, 1846, edited by J. O'Donovan); (4) of the 'Registry of Cionmacnoise' (in British Museum, printed by Kilkenny Archæological Society, 1857). These are all in English, with occasional brief notes in Irish explaining the translation. Thus to the statement ' Dermot the second of Moylurg died,' he adds the word 'tanaiste,' to explain that this Dermot was the heir and not the successor. At the same period he wrote ' An Account of Extinct Irish Bishopricks ' and 'A List of Irish Bishops,' both in English (holograph manuscripts in British Museum, Clarendon 68). In Irish he wrote during the same period, in 1656, an unfinished composition, 'Ughdair na h-Erend' ('The Authors of Erin, with an Account of their Authorship and their Paternity'). The ma- nuscript is in the Bodleian Library (Rawlinson 480). The authors are those who treat of 'Senchas' (history), 'Dligh' (law), 'Liaighais' (physic), with the aesdana or poets, but the account does not get beyond those mythical authors whom every Irish literary man knew by name, and ends with Naente nae Brethach, whose death is computed to have taken place two centuries before the Christian era. In 1666 he prepared an abridged edition of his genealogical treatise. It was probably in this period that he transcribed the Irisn chronicle known as 'Chronicum Scotorum,' edited by W. M. Hennessy in the Rolls Series in 1866. The date of a collection of glossaries in his hand, in the library of Trinity College, Dublin (II. 2, 15), is not known. It includes copies of Cormac's 'Glossary' [see Cormac, 836-908] and of O'Davoren's. In 1670 he began a journey to Dublin. It was probably to be performed on foot, and his reputation as a learned man would open every Irish door on the way to him. One evening he rested in a small shop in Dunfiin, co. Sligo. A Mr. Crofton came into the shop flushed with drink, and attempted to kiss the girl in charge. She tried to stop him by saying that the old gentleman in the next room would see him, when he took a knife which lay on the counter, and rushing up to MacFirbis stabbed him to the heart. MacFirbis was a tall man, with brown hair, of dignified aspect. He was the last of the hereditary sennachies of Ireland, and in moderate prosperity and extreme adversity, in youth, and till old age, was constantly devoted to the preservation of Irish literature and history. He wrote a clear Irish hand, with large, well-formed letters, not all joined together, slightly sloping, and looking as if rapidly written. His English hand is also clear, with now and then a reminiscence of the Irish character in the letters.

[Clarendon MS. 68, Brit. Mus.; O'Donovan's Three Fragments of Annals, 1860; Tribes and Customs of Hy Fiachrach, 1844; Annals of Ireland, 1846 (Irish Archaeological Society); O'Curry's Lectures on MS. Materials of Ancient Irish History, 1873; W. M. Hennessy's Chronicum Scotorum (Rolls Ser.), 1866; O'Flaherty's Ogygia, London, 1685 ; O'Flaherty's Ogygia Vindicata, ed. C. O'Conor, 1775; J. Lynch's Cambrensis Eversus (Celtic Society), 1850; Annala Rioghachta Eireann, ed. J. O'Donovan, Dublin, 1851.]

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