The Leabhar Oiris, or Book of Chronicles, which is here printed for the first time, as I believe, in the complete form in which it has come down to us, is mainly an account of the battles of Brian Boroimhe from the accession of Maelseachlainn in 979, followed by short annals of events to A.D. 1027. The work has been attributed by O'Reilly, O'Halloran, and Hardiman to Mac Liag, the bard of Brian Boroimhe, whose Life he is said to have written. O'Curry contests this in his Manners and Customs, ii., p. 116, though he is willing to admit that the Cogadh Gaedhel re Gallaibh may have been the composition of Mac Liag. No doubt O'Curry is right. The evidence in favour of Mac Liag is not convincing. It is a Munster compilation, evidently by a zealous partisan of Brian, as is shown by the omission of his less successful exploits. It has been used extensively by the compilers of the Dublin Annals of Innisfallen, many of the entries coinciding.
It was from the Leabhar Oiris that O'Halloran drew the materials for his account of Brian's reign ( History, ed. 1728, ii. 234). He cites it frequently, and refers to it as the Leabhar Oiris, or Book of the O'Maolconneries. O'Halloran must have had before him some other MS. more complete than any I have been able to examine, for he includes several episodes that I do not find in these MSS. Moreover, he states that Mac Liag ends his work with the abdication of Donnchadh in 1064, and doubts whether he could have lived so long. Mac Liag died in 1021, according to these Annals; in 1016, according to the Annals of Ulster. All the copies of the Leabhar Oiris I have seen end abruptly with the year 1027.
Hardiman published the two poems beginning Fada bheith gan aoibhneas ann and Uathmar an oidhche anocht in his Irish Minstrelsy, ii. pp. 202, 208; and he quotes several passages, paragraphs 33, 34, 35, 49, 50, and 51, in his Appendix, where he hesitates not to say that no nation in Europe can produce so old and, at
p.75the same time, so pure and perfect a specimen of its vernacular dialect.
The Leabhar Oiris is also mentioned by Charles O'Conor of Belanagar, in his Dissertations on the History of Ireland, p. 249. The very volume, indeed, from which our text is taken was once in his possession, as a few lines in his handwriting on page 302 testify.
The text here printed is preserved in one of the O'Reilly MSS. in the Royal Irish Academy, formerly classed as No. 13. 5, and now known as 23 E. 26. It is a paper folio of 361 numbered pages, with ten unnumbered pages inserted at the beginning, partly copied by Richard Tipper of Mitchelstown, in the parish of Castleknock, who has set his name as compiler (1717) on the title, and partly by the well-known scribe, John MacSolly, of Stackallen. The Leabhar Oiris occupies pages 194207, and is in MacSolly's handwriting (date 1711). This seemed to me to present the best text. Other versions, more or less incomplete, are contained in the following MSS. I have examined most of them, and collated some. In no instance, however, have I given all the variants of a MS.
(2) The Seancha Muimhneach (pp. 240275), transcribed by Tadhg O'Cronin in 1739, and preserved in the Royal Irish Academy, where it is classed as 23 N 30. This MS., referred to as M, runs closer to MacSolly's text than any of the others, and is, I think, next in importance.
(3) MS. 1287, p. 59 (formerly H 1 13), preserved in the library of Trinity College, Dublin, a paper folio transcribed in 1746 by Hugh O'Daly, and referred to here as D.
(4) MS. 1280, fol. 64 (formerly H 1 6), also in Trinity College, Dublin, Dublin, and transcribed by Hugh O'Daly in 1758, according to Cat., p. 285a badly-written MS. It is here referred to as E.
(5) MS. 1296, p. 214 (formerly H 2 5), in Trinity College, Dublin, transcribed by Dermod O'Connor in 1712. At end of Leabhar Oiris another hand has written Daniel O'Sullivan his book per me scriptum. For description of contents, see Cat., p. 314, et seq. I have consulted this MS. occasionally. It is not so good as the preceding. It is designated in the readings as T.
(6) Egerton 105, in British Museum, fol. 296, a nineteenth-century MS., once in the possession of James Hardiman, who has inserted a list of the contents. See O'Grady's Catalogue, p. 25, where it is described as a copy of
p.76John MacSolly's MS., from the original in the Royal Irish Academy. I have not been able to collate this MS.
A version of the Battle of Clontarf, much the same as that printed here, appeared some years ago in the Gaelic Journal, vol. 7, 1896. This has been of service to me in preparing the present text. The MS. from which it was taken is not cited, however, and the Annals preceding and following the battle are omitted. Some episodes not contained in the Leabhar Oiris are given; for instance, the appearance of Aoibhinn, or Aoibhill, the banshee of the royal house of Munster, on the battle-field, along with Dunlang O'Hartagain, and the metrical dialogue which follows. An interesting account of this is contained in MS. 1289 (H 1 15), Trinity College, Dublin. It is noteworthy that Aoibhinn is not mentioned in the Leabhar Oiris, though reference is made to her in the Cogadh Gaedhel re Gallaibh (p. 201). I have not endeavoured to construct a perfectly uniform text. Wherever I have departed from MacSolly's MS., I have indicated his readings by MS. at the foot of the page, except the following changes, which I have made throughout: 'i', 'in,' for 'a'; 'ea' for 'io' in such words as Éirionn, fichiod, 'ai' for 'ui',
p.77especially in dative plurals, such as fearuibh, &c.; rí, 'king,' in the nom. for rígh, omission of final '-dh' in such words as orradh, &c.; Maoilmhuaidh, Maoilsheachlainn, Murchadha, in gen. sg. for Maolmuadh, Maolseachlainn, Murchaidh; 'gc', 'dt' in eclipsis for cc, tt. Marks of length, which should, I think, always be used sparingly, have in many cases been omitted; on the other hand, I have occasionally supplied them. The aspiration of proper names in the genitive is carried out only sporadically by our scribe, and none of the MSS. are consistent. This is always a difficulty. As the editor of the Cath Cluana Tairbh in the Gaelic Journal truly observes: the rule that such aspiration should take place is an eccentricity. Here, then, I have nearly always followed the MS. I have added an index of names and places, which may be useful for reference, and inserted the dates from the principal Annals, FM., AU., &c. I must express my indebtedness to Dr. Kuno Meyer for many valuable suggestions; and also to Mr. J. O. Bergin, who very kindly read over the proofs with me.