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MS Táin Bó Cuailnge


Pádraig Ó Macháin

Táin Bó Cuailnge is the central tale of the Ulster Cycle, recounting the exploits of Cú Chulainn as single-handedly he defends Ulster against an invasion from Connacht. Irish Script on Screen contains the first and second recensions of this tale, as found in Leabhar na hUidhre and the Book of Leinster respectively, both dating from the 12th century. The present manuscript is one of the last copies to be made of the tale, and it represents a sub-class of what has been established as Recension IIb of the Táin; see the Introduction to Cecile O’Rahilly, The Stowe Version of Táin Bó Cuailnge (Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies 1978).

This manuscript was made by one of the last of the professional Gaelic scribes, Seosamh Ó Longáin (1817–80). He belonged to the third generation of a family of traditional scribes from Co. Cork, who generated a prodigious amount of Gaelic manuscripts, particularly in the 19th century. Seosamh himself was responsible for the production of in excess of 100 manuscripts. This copy of the Táin appears to derive from one made by his brother Peadar in 1843, which is now Royal Irish Academy MS 24 B 1 (234), pp. 43–182.


Pádraig Ó Macháin

19th cent. Paper. 26.5 × 20.5 cm. Pp. [ii] + 266, paginated in pencil. Scribe: Ioseph mac Mhichíl Óig Ui Longáin, 1862 (p. 256).

Bound in half leather; gold tooling on covers and spine; marbled paste-downs and first free endpapers front and back; two small labels (with ‘I’ and ‘41’ respectively) pasted to outside front cover; binder’s label inside front cover: ‘Bound by Francis Guy 70, Patrick-St., Cork’. Lower half of pp. [i]–[ii] cut away, with loss of inscription. Stub between pp. 78 and 79, no loss of text. Ruled in pencil, 23 lines; catchwords; ornamented initials pp. 1, 39. Double column pp. 15–16. Stamp of Newman College, University of Melbourne first front endpaper, verso, and pp. [i], 11, 53, 103, 197. Notes: (a) p. [i]. ‘To go to the Melbourne Public Library some day!’ (hand of Dr O’Donnell). (b) p. 221, outer margin, pencil. ‘See appendix XXIII O’Curry.’

Note on provenance by former owner, Dr Nicholas Michael O’Donnell [1862-1920], first front endpaper, verso: ‘Bought by me from Mr John Casey Elizabeth St Melbourne 22/1/03 – who informed me that it was written by Longan Co. Cork who belonged to a race of Irish writers / N M O Donnell / North Melbourne / Casey lived in Elizabeth St. Carlton near the intersection of Queensbury St & was a fair Gaelic scholar I fancy he brought it from Ireland. / The description of the Táin bo Cuailgne (pronounced Thawn bó Chooley) is found in detail in Dr Douglas Hyde’s
“Literary History of Ireland – p 319 to 340. At page 256 of the present manuscript is Finit finished by Joseph son of Michael Óg O’Longan the first day of March in the year of the Christian era 1862 / It is a copy of an ancient saga / A translation into English by Joseph Dunn, Professor at the Catholic University, Washington, has been published 1914 by David Nutt painstaking & correct / N. M O Donnell 12/9/1918.’ An article by Dr O'Donnell, in the Advocate (Melbourne) 1 October 1904, describing how a new sign 'Cuideachta na nGaedheal' had been ererected over the new Celtic Club rooms in Elizabeth Street, says: 'The letters have been beautifully and accurately painted in gold on a dark green base by Mr Casey, the house decorator, of Elizabeth Street North' (information from Val Noone, Melbourne).

Enclosure (single leaf) loose inside back cover contains jottings by Dr O’Donnell: list of words extracted from text, with some numbers in pencil (recto); extract (in pencil) from tale concerning Fionn mac Cumhaill (verso, numbered ‘3’).


1.‘Tain Bo Chuailgne anso sis.’ Beg. Feacht naon dOilioll agus do Mheidhbh air neirge asa righleaphtha dhoibh a cCruachainraith Connacht go ttarla comhchinn ciorchoille eotorra. Includes: ‘Toighcheasdal fhearaibh Chonnachta go Cruachain Aoi’ (p. 8); ‘Mathghniomhartha Cuchuloinn annso’ (p. 39); ‘Comhrac Liathain fria Cuchuloinn’ (p. 68); ‘Comhrac Natcrandal agus Cuchuloinn’ (p. 91); ‘Comhrac Cuir fria Cuchuloinn’ (p. 97); ‘Comhrac Loich fria Cuchuloinn’ (p. 104); ‘Oidhe Aongaois mhic Aonlaimhe Gaibhe annso’ (p. 126); ‘Iomroll Bealuighe Eoin annso’ (p. 127); ‘Toighe an Tamhain ann so’ (p. 127); ‘Comhrac Fearguis fria Cucholoinn’ (p. 128); ‘Cinnit Fhearchoin Loingsidhe’ (p. 130); ‘Comhrac Chailitín cona sheacht macuibh fithchid fria Cuchuloinn’ (p. 132); ‘Comhrac Firdia agus Cuchuloinn annso’ (p. 136); ‘Fiacailghleo Fiontain a ndighail a mhic annso’ (p. 187); ‘Ruamna Ruice Minn annso’ (p. 189); ‘Baingleo Reochaidhe annso’ (p. 190); ‘Meillghleo Iliach annso’ (p. 191); ‘Oireagair nAraighe’ (p. 194); ‘Oslaige Aimhirgin’ (p. 195); ‘Siorbhugha Subhaltaigh’ (p. 197); ‘Toighcheasdal bfear nUlladh annso’ (p. 200); ‘Cath Gairidhe budheasta’ (p. 238). Ends (p. 256) cona é iomthusa an Duinn Chuailgne agus tabhairt na tana le Meadhbh inghean Eochaidh agus le Oillioll mor mac Magach agus le hOlltaidhe go nuige sin. ‘FINIT / le Ioseph mac Mhichíl Óig Ui Longáin an chead la do Mharta, san mbliadhain daois Chriost MDCCCLXII.’ Foll. (pp. 257–8) by note on copy of Táin in Stowe No. 32 [now Royal Irish Academy C vi 3 (740)], citing ‘Bibliotheca MS Stowensis Vol 1 p 156’.

259.Nonbur noebh sil Conuire. 6 qq. written as prose. Pp. 260-66 blank.