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

Parish of Moynoe (b)

The Island of Inis Cealtra lies in an arm of Loch Dergdheirc, opposite this Parish but now belonging to the Co. of Galway, though in the list of Parishes in the Co. of Clare preserved in a MS. in Trinity College, Dublin, the Vicarage of Iniskealtragh is placed in the Barony of Tullaghnenaspull in the Co. of Clare. As Mr. O’Conor examined this island last season and described the ruins as well as he could, I shall only make a few observations on a few subjects which have not occurred to him. But I shall first translate the few references which are found to this island in the Annals of the Four Masters:-

A.D. 548. St. Columb of Inis Cealtra, died.
A.D. 780. Mochtighern, the Wise, son of Kellach, Abbot of Inis Cealtra, died.
A.D. 836. The Churches of Laichtreine, Inis Cealtra and Kill-Finche, were burned by the Danes.
A.D. 898. Cosrach, who was usually called Truaghan (i.e., the Meagre) Anchorite of Inis Cealtra, died.
A.D. 951. Dermot, the son of Caicher, Bishop of Inis Cealtra, died.
A.D. 967. Maolgorm, the son of Maol-Keallaigh, Abbot of Inis Cealtra, died.
A.D. 1009. The Coarbs of Columb Mac Criomthuinn, of Tirda Ghlas, of Inis Cealtra and of Killaloe, died. - Quat. Mag.

On the passage above translated under the year 898, I have here to make a few observations, as Dr. O’Conor has misprinted the text and entirely misunderstood the meaning of it. He prints the word Truaghan as Turaghan, for which he invents a new meaning (that is, he finds by etymological magic a meaning for a word which never existed except in his own fancy) viz., Fire-Tower, the word, according to a note to which he appends at the bottom, being derived from tur a tower, and aghan to kindle, i.e., the Kindle Tower, i.e., the Fire Tower, i.e., the Tower used by the worshippers of Fire in the Pagan Irish times. He understands the whole passage thus:-

“Coscrach the Anchorite, from whom the Fire Tower of Inis Cealtra was called, died” i.e., Coscrach the Anchorite, after whom the Fire worshippers’ Tower on Inis Cealtra was called Tur-Coscry, i.e., the Tower of Coscrach, the ancient name by which it was known in Pagan times having been changed when this Anchorite took up his abode in its top.

What an extraordinary inference from a passage so plain and simple! In translating this passage as he has it, Dr. O’Conor was obliged to commit the crime of forgery in decyphering the MS. and to tell a lie in the translation! See it word for word: Cosgracus cui dicebatur Gracilis (i.e., the Meagre) Anachoreta Insulae Keltra, obiit. Coscorach, fris a ráité Truaghán, Angcoire Inse Cealtra, décc.

An epithet of poor Cosgrach was metamorphosed into a fire worshippers’ tower! Is it not extraordinary to find a learned doctor come forward in the first quarter of the 19th century to humbug antiquarians with such forgeries as the preceding? But any paltry shift to support a theory by which one makes himself famous or notorious. My only ambition is to be known to posterity as a detester of forgers, fabricators and liars, and more particularly of those who wish to make the world believe that they are possessed of knowledge of which they are entirely ignorant (devoid).

                                                                                                 Your dutiful and obedient servant,
                                                                                                              John O’Donovan