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Ordnance Survey Letters by John O'Donovan and Eugene Curry, 1839

Assorted Letters

10th October 1839.

Mr. O’Donovan and A. Curry set off on yesterday morning from this for the western and northern Parishes of the Barony of Burren, leaving me to get over the part of that Barony bordering on this, until the Books of Inchiquin should arrive.

Yesterday and this, though a wet day, enabled me to dispose of the book allotted to me, and I regret to find that the Books of this Barony have not yet reached me, that no time should be lost on my hands.

If the books are delayed for the purpose of comparing the names with Inquisitions or other documents it is quite unnecessary, as I think we will be able to settle them satisfactorily by the aid of the mass of documents we have already, and the living local authorities still to be met with here.

We want the entire article relative to O’Donnell’s plundering excursion into Thomond in the year 1599, as given in the Annals of the Four Masters and translated by Mr. O’Donovan. This to be sent forthwith and the original as soon as can be afterwards.

I made copies of some original Irish Deeds into one of the Common Place Books at Mr. Petrie’s, and these should also be copied immediately and sent out.

I hope we will be able to make a tolerably good, though I fear, tedious job of this County. This place is full of historical tradition, and the people by one thousand degrees more historically intelligent than the Laginiary or Ossorians.

The Name Books of the Baronies of Ida and Iverk and the extracts, indexes, maps, etc., for Kilkenny were sent into you from Limerick. The remaining Baronies will be soon ready for return.

I send herewith Tighe’s Survey of the County of Kilkenny. The rain has come on again here and promises to be a constant visitor.

I shall not be idle waiting for the Books, as I can visit and examine the numerous ecclesiastical and civil and military ruins in this neighbourhood in the interim.

                                                                                                 I am, dear, Sir,
                                                                                                 Your obedient humble servant,

                                                                                                              Eugene O’Curry.

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October 14th 1839.

Dear Sir,
I returned yesterday evening from the wild rocks of the Burren, where I was hurt by a mule, but not very severely. Burren is the wildest and ruggedest district I have yet seen and I found it exceedingly difficult to cross the single limestone ditches (walls) with which it abounds, but I have not done with it yet. The present lineal descendant of the Chiefs of this formidable Territory is Malachy O’Loughlin who lives at Newtown near Ballyvaughan. I am most anxious that Wakeman should join us immediately, as I have met several ancient Churches in the primitive Irish style and in beautiful preservation, which it is most desirable he should sketch with great care, as perfect specimens of the earliest architecture of Christian times in Ireland. There is scarcely anything in the Baronies of Ida or Iverk in the County of Kilkenny worth sketching.

I want the pedigrees of O’Heidhin and O’Shaughnessy and all the references to Magh Aidhne and Ui Fiachrach Aidhne that occur in the Church Annals. Also the story about the Bothar na Mias in Burren. I believe they were already copied for the Barony of Kiltartan in the County of Galway.

I have a great deal still to write about the County of Kilkenny which will retard my progress in this. The rain is incessant here and I feel very dull from having been under it since last Wednesday. One month of fair weather would now bring us near the end of this season’s rambling, but there is no appearance of dry weather.

                                                                                                 Your obedient servant,
                                                                                                              John O’Donovan

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13th October 1839.

We have this day received from you extracts from Four Masters and Irish Deeds, and we beg further that we may have the entire of the year 1573 (as far as regards Clare) from the translated Annals.

If you have O’Brien’s Irish-English Dictionary at hand we will thank you for sending it; if you have not it, I have a copy at home which may be had at once and sent.

We want to have the account of the O’Brien family as preserved in John O’Maolconaire’s MS., T.C.D. (either A.1. 15. or A.1. 17, Mr. Petrie knows which). It is the Book that contains the Annals of Innisfallen.

We have not written a word on Clare yet. We can scarcely go by Parishes, but by districts, and these are so large and so much involved in each other that we must traverse the whole before we can describe one. Mr. O’D. is gone out to Glencolumkill and Bothar na Mias this day and won’t be home till tomorrow.

We have had sore weather of it since this day week. However, we have not been idle.

I am, Sir,
Your obedient servant,
Eugene Curry.

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October 17th 1839.

Dear Sir,
Since I wrote last I have been travelling through Glencolumbkille and the Parish of Kilkeedy. We shall move on Saturday morning to Inistymon where you will find us for about eight days.

Your obedient servant,
John O’Donovan.

I hope that the Down Survey and Book of Survey and Distribution will be copied for us to illustrate the topography of this very interesting County.

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October 18th 1839.

Dear Sir,
We are now starting for Inistymon, having finished the Baronies of Burren and Inchiquin. I have now an immensity to write and must stop at Inistymon until I put my notes into some order.

I hope Wakeman will soon join us as there is much interesting work for him in the two Baronies of this County which we have traversed.

I send Mr. O’Conor three pounds. Be so kind as to send them to him through Mr. Petrie. I fear he has been distressed in consequence of his long illness. I hope he is now able to attend to his business. If not I shall do everything in my power to assist him till he is convalescent. This, I consider my duty, as, while in health, he did his business like a man.

Your obedient servant,
John O’Donovan.

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Inis Diman, anglicé Ennistimon,
October 19th 1839.

Dear Sir,
I now send you all the Field Name Books of the County of Kilkenny, and also the Book of the Parishes and the Baronies. They have been an incubus on me since my arrival in this County, and still I did not wish to remain within to finish them while I had fine weather to traverse Burren and Boher na Mias.

I have not explained the names of the Parishes and Baronies, because that was already done in the letters.

I am now ready to commence the topography and history of the Dal gCais which will turn out very interesting. I want the pedigree of the O’Cathains or O’Kanes of Liaha in the County of Clare. They descend from a son of Cooey na nGall of Oireacht Ui Chathain in Ulster, who removed to Thomond in the beginning of the 13th century. It will be found in Shane O’Cahan’s MS. in the Library of the R.I.A., and I think Mr. Petrie has a copy of it, but I am not certain. I want the Name Books of the Barony of Moyarta, which is the next we have to traverse after Corcomroe. We intend to move to Milltown-Malbay in about five days, after which we shall move to Kilkee and thence to Kilrush, from which we shall send sírthe to Carrickaholt and Dun Athaigh.

I have as much to write now as would keep me occupied for about ten days working fourteen hours a day, but I must shorten my descriptions as I find that it would take about twelve months to do anything like justice to this County. All we want at present is the Orthography, and if the antiquities or history be ever done, people must be sent to each locality again to investigate it more fully than we can possibly do during our hurried tour for ascertaining the correct names and fixing the ancient localities.

I don’t hear a word about Mr. Wakeman. If he does not come soon we shall be so far ahead of him that he will never be able to overtake us, and if he does not come into this County immediately he cannot possibly be able to finish it this season.

Your obedient etc., servant,
John O’Donovan.

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Ó osráighe ‘nar h-oileadh inn
Triallam siar tar Sionainn
Co crích aoibhinn Chormaic Chais
D’fécham a finedha dúthchais.
Na fágam innte fídh ná gleann,
Foithre, bealach na duibh-bheann
Cathair, lios, caisleán ná cloidhe
Cen scrútain fri súil staróidhe. - S. O’D.
In imitation of Giolla Iosa Mor Mac Firbisse.

Labhram do chloind Chorpmaic Chais
Triallom tar Sionainn sruth-ghlais. - O’Heerin.

Dear Sir,
Having at length shaken off the incubus of the County of Kilkenny “in the English Pale” with which though it is my natale solem I have little or no sympathy, I now enter upon a field of topographical and historical research, which, is truly romantic and full of interest - the Country of the Dal Cais. Its history and ancient topography are better preserved than those of any County I have yet visited, because its ancient proprietors were never driven out, having always found shelter under the illustrious representatives of Brian Boru, who had the good fortune to retain their possessions and power during all the vicissitudes and merry-go-round transfers of property by which this unfortunate island has been agitated. The ancient traditions are here very vivid, and the historical extracts already in our hands are copious but we have not all yet. There are many tracts on the Country of the Dal gCais in the MS. Library of Trinity College which we have not. The following are immediately requested:-

  1. Pedigree of O’Loughlin, Chief of Burren, as given in the Books of Glendalough, Ballymote, Lecan and Duald Mac Firbis.
  2. Pedigree of O’Conchobhair (O’Conor) of Corcomroe, as given in the same authorities.
  3. O’Flanigan’s account of the Ogum incription on Slieve Callan and also Lloyd’s account of the same monument. Old Mr. Casey of Dublin, the herbalist and Irish Serapion, frequently told me that it is a well known fact that this inscription was forged by John Lloyd, a schoolmaster in the County of Clare, who composed several political Irish songs, and published an account of this same (forged) monument; that O’Flanigan was well aware of this generally credited report but suppressed it in his paper published in the Transactions of the R.I.A., and that, when Mr. Casey stated before the then Chief antiquaries of Dublin that it was always believed in Munster that the Ogum on the Callen Mountain was forged by John Lloyd, O’Flanigan was so hurt that he exclaimed “May the Devil jump into that fellow’s heart!” Genus irritabile vatum! When men acquire fame or even notoriety by any means, honest or dishonest, it is an extraordinary fact that they will do their utmost to maintain their character to the last. This was the case with O’Flanigan in the present instance. There is in the possession of Messrs. Hodges and Smyth an original letter of Charles O’Conor’s in which that honest Irishman proves that O’Flanigan was acting the part of the Charlattan in his manner of decyphering this monument. I wish Mr. Smyth would send me a copy of this letter. He can very easily find it.

Part 1