Catalogue of Irish Manuscripts in the National Library of Ireland

G 1200

DUANAIRE MHÉIG SHAMHRADHÁIN

G 1200, the Book of Magauran, Duanaire Mhéig Shamhradháin, is a fourteenth-century vellum manuscript, and the earliest surviving example of a family poem-book. Up to the time of its acquisition by the National Library of Ireland, this manuscript was in the possession of the O'Conor Don family of Clonalis House, Co. Roscommon.

An edition of its contents was published in 1947 (Lambert McKenna, The Book of Magauran : Leabhar Méig Shamhradháin (Dublin: DIAS 1947)), and it is hoped in the future to include some texts from that edition on this site.

The following is an extract from the late Professor Brian Ó Cuív's description of the manuscript in his 1973 lecture The Irish Bardic Duanaire or 'Poem-Book' (Dublin [1974]) 30-32).

At present the Book of Mág Shamhradháin (or MacGovern) consists of twenty-seven leaves of vellum, the largest measuring 12" X 8", with a few cut short to 11". The fact that the first poem and the last are incomplete points to loss of leaves at the beginning and end but it is impossible to say how many have, in fact, been lost. Thirty-three poems in whole or in part remain, and these were edited by Lambert McKenna and published by the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies in 1947. Several scribes seem to have taken part in the work but the main one was Ruaidhri Ó Cianáin who recorded in a note on what is now page 1 that he wrote the duanaire for Tomás mac Briain Mhéig Shamhradháin who, we know, was chief of Teallach nEachach which is now Tullyhaw in Co. Cavan and who died in 1343. Ó Cianáin himself died in 1387 forty-three years after the death of his patron. Yet the opening pages of the book, which are certainly in his hand, contain poems for Tomás's father Brian who died in 1298, his brother Maghnus who died in 1303, his sister Gormlaith who died in 1305, and another brother Fearghal who died in 1322. The conclusion which we can most reasonably draw from this fact is that Ó Cianáin had available to him an earlier manuscript containing poems to Brian Mág Samhradháin and to other members of his family and that when he undertook the task of writing down the poems belonging to Tomás's own duanaire, of which ten or possibly eleven are in his hand, he included in the volume these earlier poems of which ten remain. A puzzling feature about the manuscript as it is now is that the main part of what I might call duanaire Thomáis Mhéig Shamhradháin, written by Ruaidhri Ó Cianáin, is separated from the poems for Brian and his other children by five poems for Tomás's son Niall who died in 1363 and for Sadhbh daughter of Cathal Ó Conchubhair who became Niall's wife in 1349 or later. These latter poems, as well as another for Niall near the end of the volume, were written, I should say, by a scribe other than Ruaidhri Ó Cianáin although it is not impossible that they were written by Ó Caináin at a later date than the first part. The hands of two or possibly three further scribes can be discerned in the manuscript and one of these interpolated an elegy on Tomás Mág Samhradháin between the poem on Gormlaith and an elegy on Maghnus composed about 1303.