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Signature page from the Annals of the Four Masters
Entry for A.D. 432

The Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland (Irish: Annala Rioghachta Éireann) or the Annals of the Four Masters (Annala na gCeithre Mháistrí) are a chronicle of medieval Irish history. The entries span from the deluge, dated as 2,242 years after creation[1] to AD 1616.[2]

Contents

Text

The annals are mainly a compilation of earlier annals, although there is some original work. They were compiled between 1632 and 1636 in the Franciscan monastery in Donegal Town and along the banks of the river Drowes. The entries for the 12th century and before are sourced from medieval monastic annals. The later entries come from the records of the Irish aristocracy (such as the Annals of Ulster), and the seventeenth century entries are based on personal recollection and observation.

The chief author of the annals was Mícheál Ó Cléirigh, and he was assisted by, among others, Peregrine O'Clery, Fergus O'Mulconry and Peregrine O'Duignan. Even though only one of the authors was an actual Franciscan, Mícheál Ó Cléirigh, they became known as 'The Four Friars' or in the original Irish, 'Na Ceithre Máistrí'. The Anglicised version of this was 'The Four Masters', a name which then became attached to the annals themselves. The patron of the project was Fearghal Ó Gadhra, a lord in County Sligo.

The annals are written in Irish. There are several manuscript copies in existence, which are kept in Trinity College Dublin, the Royal Irish Academy, and University College Dublin.

Translation

The first substantial English translation (starting at 1171 A.D.) was published by Owen Connellan in 1846. The Connellan translation included the annals from the 11th to the 17th centuries, and was the only version to have a four-colour frontispiece and include a large folding map showing the location of families in Ireland. It lay nearly forgotten for over 150 years, but was finally salvaged and republished in the early 21st century. The Connellan translation was followed several years later by a full translation by the historian John O'Donovan. The translation was funded by a government grant of £1,000 that was obtained by the famous mathematician William Rowan Hamilton while he was president of the Royal Irish Academy.

The Annals are one of the principal Irish language sources for Irish history up to 1616. While many of the early chapters are essentially a list of names and dates, the later chapters, dealing with events of which the authors had first-hand accounts, are much more detailed.

Importance

The reliability and usefulness of the Annals as a historical source has sometimes been questioned by presentists on the grounds that they were limited to accounts of the births, deaths and activities of the Gaelic Irish nobility and often ignore wider social trends or events. The reality of life in the Gaelic world was that it was a patrilineal and hierarchical society, and naturally the Annals reflect this.

On the other hand, the Annals, as one of the few prose sources in Irish from this period, also provide a valuable insight into events such as the Desmond Rebellions and the Nine Years War from a Gaelic Irish perspective.

Editions and translations

References

  1. ^ The Age of the World, to this Year of the Deluge, 2242, in Corpus of Electronic Texts translation.
  2. ^ The Age of Christ, one thousand six hundred sixteen, in Corpus of Electronic Texts translation.

External links

See also

They also can be found in the National library of Ireland, in Kildare street, Dublin 2

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