Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 35.djvu/13

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ties. According to the ‘Four Masters’ he died at Clonmacnois in 1023, but the ‘Annals of Tigernach,’ under 990, record that ‘Urard MacCoisse, chief poet of the Irish, died (mortuus est) in penitence at Clonmacnois.’ O'Reilly in his work on Irish writers regarded these entries as referring to different persons; but O'Curry and O'Donovan treat them as both relating to the poet of the eleventh century. On this assumption Dr. O'Donovan proposed to amend the entry in Tigernach by reading moratus est; but, apart from the fact that there are no examples of such an entry, the expression used in the ‘Chronicon Scotorum,’ another version of the ‘Annals,’ is moritur, to which the proposed amendment will not apply. O'Reilly's theory appears the worthier of adoption. Dr. O'Donovan and O'Curry seem not to have been aware that there was another poet of the name, the author of the extremely curious poem on the geography of the world preserved in the ‘Book of Leinster.’ He held the office of prelector in the school of Ross Ailither, now Ross Carbery in the county of Cork, and when the school was destroyed by the Danes, as recorded in the ‘Annals of Inisfallen,’ in 972, he was taken prisoner and carried off by them to Scattery Island in the Shannon, but was ransomed by Brian, afterwards king of Ireland. The ‘Annals of Inisfallen’ are considerably antedated, and these events must have occurred very near 990, when the earlier MacCoisse, on the ruin of the school of Ross, may have retired to Clonmacnois and died there. His christian name is not given, and it is quite possible he also may have been called Erard, as this name, meaning ‘noble,’ and also spelt Urard and Iorard, was of frequent occurrence.

[O'Curry's Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish, 1873, ii. 127–35; Journal Kilkenny Archæological Society, new ser. i. 341–56, Dublin, 1858; Annals of Four Masters, at A.D. 1023; Chronicon Scotorum, Rolls Ser., p. 233; Book of Leinster (facsimile), pp. 135, 136; Irish Nennius, Irish Archæological Association, Dublin, 1848, pp. 210, 211; MS. 23. L. 34, Royal Irish Academy; Rawlinson B. 512, ff. 109–14.]

T. O.

McCOMB, WILLIAM (1793–1873), poet, son of Thomas McComb, a draper, was born at Coleraine, county Londonderry, on 17 Aug. 1793. His mother's name was Foster. After receiving a fair education in his native town, he was apprenticed to Thomas O'Neill, a Belfast wholesale draper, but in a short time left him, and, after undergoing a course of training in connection with the Kildare Place Society, Dublin, became teacher of Brown Street daily school in Belfast. In 1828 he abandoned teaching and commenced business as a bookseller in High Street, Belfast, where he soon had a thriving trade. In 1840 he established ‘McComb's Presbyterian Almanac,’ which became a favourite annual in the north of Ireland. He took a deep interest in many of the charitable institutions of Belfast, and was one of the founders and the first treasurer of the Ulster Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind. In 1864 he retired from business, and on 13 Sept. 1873 died at his residence, Colin View Terrace, Belfast. He was interred in Hillsborough churchyard.

Early in life McComb began to write poetry, his first effusions appearing in local newspapers. In 1817 his ‘Dirge of O'Neill’ was published, ‘The School of the Sabbath’ in 1822, ‘The Voice of a Year, or Recollections of 1848, with other Poems,’ in 1849, and a collected edition of his ‘Poetical Works’ in 1864. He was also author of many fugitive pieces which appeared in his ‘Almanac,’ in the newspapers, and elsewhere. He wrote gracefully and with taste and feeling.

He was twice married, first in 1816 to Sarah Johnson of Hillsborough, who died in 1827, and secondly in 1830 to Eliza Barkley, widow of Captain Robert Walkinshaw Campbell of Belfast, who survived him. He had several children.

[Sketch in McComb's Almanac for 1874; information supplied by Mr. James Cleeland of Belfast, McComb's successor in business; personal knowledge.]

T. H.

McCOMBIE, WILLIAM (1809–1870), journalist, son of a small farmer, was born at Cairnballoch, in the parish of Alford, Aberdeen, on 8 May 1809. His only education was at parish schools, and at an early age he became a labourer on his father's farm. He soon showed a taste for literature, and local debating societies gave him an opportunity of cultivating his talents. His earlier essays were published in London in 1835, under the title of ‘Hours of Thought,’ and were recommended by Dr. Chalmers to his students. While still engaged in agricultural work, he began to contribute articles to newspapers and to the ‘British Quarterly Review.’ In 1849 he joined the staff of the ‘North of Scotland Gazette,’ and afterwards promoted the establishment of the ‘Aberdeen Daily Free Press,’ which first appeared in 1853 under his editorship. He held this position till his death in Aberdeen on 6 May 1870.

McCombie was for many years a mainstay of liberal politics in the north of Scotland, but his interests were very varied, as his works show. His ‘Hours of Thought’ reached