Tighernach and his Annals—Erudition and
Research of our Early
Writers—The Chronicum Scotorum—Duald Mac Firbis—Murdered, and his
Murderer is protected by the Penal Laws—The Annals of the Four
Masters—Michael O’Clery—His Devotion to his
Country—Ward—Colgan—Dedication of the Annals—The Book of
Invasions—Proofs of our Early Colonization.
Our illustration can give but a faint idea of the magnificence and extent of the ancient abbey of Clonmacnois, the home of our famous annalist, Tighernach. It has been well observed, that no more ancient chronicler can be produced by the northern nations. Nestor, the father of Russian history, died in 1113; Snorro, the father of Icelandic history, did not appear until a century later; Kadlubeck, the first historian of Poland, died in 1223; and Stierman could not discover a scrap of writing in all Sweden older than 1159. Indeed, he may be compared favourably even with the British historians, who can by no means boast of such ancient pedigrees as the genealogists of Erinn. Tighernach was of the Murray-race of Connacht; of his personal history little is known. His death is noted in the Chronicum Scotorum, where he is styled successor (comharba) of St. Ciaran and St. Coman. The Annals of Innisfallen state that he was interred at Clonmacnois. Perhaps his body was borne to its burial through the very doorway which still remains, of which we gave an illustration at the end of the last chapter.
The writers of history and genealogy in early ages, usually commenced with the sons of Noah, if not with the first man of the human race. The Celtic historians are no exceptions to the general rule; and long before Tighernach wrote, the custom had obtained in Erinn. His chronicle was necessarily compiled from more ancient sources, but its fame rests upon the extraordinary erudition which he brought to bear upon every subject. Flann, who was contemporary with Tighernach, and a professor of St. Buithe’s monastery (Monasterboice), is also famous for his Synchronisms, which form an admirable abridgment of universal history. He appears to have devoted himself specially to genealogies and pedigrees, while Tighernach took a wider range of literary research. His learning was undoubtedly most extensive. He quotes Eusebius, Orosius, Africanus, Bede, Josephus, Saint Jerome, and many other historical writers, and sometimes compares their statements on points in which they exhibit discrepancies, and afterwards endeavours to reconcile their conflicting testimony, and to correct the chronological errors of the writers by comparison with the dates given by others. He also collates the Hebrew text with the Septuagint version of the Scriptures. He uses the common era, though we have no reason to believe that this was done by the writers who immediately preceded him. He also mentions the lunar cycle, and uses the dominical letter with the kalends of several years.