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Four Masters, Annals of the


A title (Annales quattuor magistrorum ) first used by John colgan in the preface to his Acta Sanctorum Hiberniae (Louvain 1645). The Annals are a historical compilation of the Kingdom of Ireland made at the Franciscan friary in Donegal (163236) and cover events from "forty days before the Flood" to the year 1616. The Four Masters were headed by Michael o'clery (Ó Clérigh), known as Tadhg ant Sleibe before he became a friar in Louvain. He was sent by the Franciscans to Ireland to collect materials for their great enterprise of publishing the antiquities and hagiographical texts of early Ireland. His had been a learned family that had compiled the evidence of native Irish learning for more than three centuries. He gathered about him Peregrine O'Duignan (Cúcoigcríche Ó Duibhgennáin) of Leitrim, Farfassa O'Mulconny (Fearfassa Ó Maolconaire) of Roscommon, and a relative, Peregrine O'Clery (Cúcoigcríche Ó Clérigh). These were the principal workers on the project, but P. Walsh has shown that others, Muiris, son of Torna Ó Maolconaire, and Conaire Ó Clérigh, also had worked on the project for a short time.

The importance of the Annals lies in the fact that they present a synthesis of materials still in existence, enabling historians to establish the general reliability of the Four Masters. This allows greater assurance of truth for such periods for which the Annals are the only documents, and for which the originals have long since disappeared. The material was prepared directly for the printer, even to the title, preface, and necessary approbation, but none of the Four Masters ever saw the work in print. Michael O'Clery had planned the project and Fergal Ó Gara was the patron who paid the collaborators, while the community furnished them with food and lodging. Many of the manuscripts were obtained on loan and often a money deposit was required until a book should be returned. It remained for John O'Donovan to edit the Annals with an English translation, copious notes, and indexes.

Bibliography: Annala Rioghachta Eireann: Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland by the Four Masters, ed. j. o'donovan, 7 v. (Dublin 1951). j. f. kenney, The Sources for the Early History of Ireland: v.1, Ecclesiastical (New York 1929) 4344. p. walsh, Gleanings from Irish Manuscripts (Dublin 1933); The O'Cleirigh Family of Tír Conaill (Dublin 1939); "Dating of the Irish Annals," Irish Historical Studies 2 (194041) 355375, esp. 373375; The Four Masters and Their Work (Dublin 1944); Irish Men of Learning, ed. c. Ó lochlainn (Dublin 1947).

[r. t. meyer]

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