Catalogue of Gaelic Manuscripts in the National Library of Scotland

© Ronald Black, 2011

Adv. MS 72.1.40


Mackinnon, pp.91, 153; Mackechnie, p.192.

15–16th cent. Vellum. 90 pp. Quarto, 21.5 x 16.5 cms. and under. Consists of five distinct layers of manuscript (pp.1–12, 13–28, 29–48, 49–68, 69–76) and their former covers (77–90). The layers are fairly uniform in size, pp.13–28 being the smallest (20 x 15.5 cms). Pp.13–48 are written in double columns, the rest in single.

Hands :

1. Text, pp.1–11; notes, pp.2, 73. Firgailli or Ferghal, writing apparently for Seaán Mac Céin (pp.2, 11 z). His hand is like that of Eoghan Carrach Ó Siaghail, Adv.MS.72.1.29. At p.2 he seems to describe his work as “the book of the grey man of Berraman”; there are places of that name in Bréifne and other parts of Ireland (Hogan’s Onomasticon). See also note on covers below.

2. Text, p.10, 11. 1–9. Possibly Seaán Mac Céin? (P.11 z.) A strong, confident hand.

3. Notes, pp.1, 3; text, p.12, 11. 1–30. Perhaps more than one hand. Resembles hand 8 of Adv.MS.72.1.27.

4. Text, p.12, 11. 31–5. Perhaps to be identified with hand 9.

5. Text, pp.13–28; notes, pp.17, 25. Grosjean suggested (SGS 2, p.112) that the redactor of this text may have been working in Scotland. The fact that, uniquely, this hand also appears in the Kilbride Collection (Adv.MS.72.1.31, ff.6–7) increases the likelihood of its being Scottish. Neat, squarish; some rubrication in red at p.13.

6. Text, pp.29–48. Heavily seriffed. Fine decorative initials. Capitals coloured red, yellow, green. Coloured initials D and T from pp.37b26 and 45b30 respectively are reproduced in Ossian Report, frontispiece. A portion of text from p.46a is in plate 3, no.2, of the same work.

7. Text, pp.49–68; notes, pp.?42, 53, 67. A good bold hand written with split point. Seanchán mac Gille Críst mhic Eóin, Minaird, 1537 (p.67). Meyer (Celt. Mag. 12, p.215) points out that there is a Minard in co. Kerry, but it seems much more likely, as J.C. Watson suggested ( Mesca Ulad, p.ix), to be Minard in par. Glassary, Argyll, by then in possession of Archibald, 4th Earl of Argyll: a not unlikely patron. Seanchán expressed the 7 of 1537 by writing “v” and placing one minim on top of another; MacLachlan read these minims as “i”, Graves correctly as “ii”, Meyer and Watson as “3”. Initial capital and some rubrication in red and green, pp.49–53. Seanchán seems to have possessed pp.29–48, see hand 11.

8. Text, pp.69–75. A good careful hand.

9. Note, p.12. Domhnall Ó Dálaigh, fl. 1634–45; hand x of Adv.MS.72.2.2. His hand also appears at: Bodleian MS. Wood F 50, ff.14–15 (Antrim MacDonald poems, see SGS 1, p.113); TCD MS. 1337 (H.3.18), part ii, pp.780–5 (MacDonalds’ descent from Colla Uais, published by Skene, Celtic Scotland 3, p.462, Knott, Bardic Poems of Tadhg Dall Ó Huiginn 2, p.228, and Ó Donnchadha, Leabhar Cloinne Aodha Buidhe, p.50); TCD MS. 1363 (H.4.22), sect. XVI, two slips – in Rev. John Beaton’s transcript from Adv.MS.72.1.1 – bearing MacDonald poems, one of which is on Domhnall mac Iain Mhùideartaich and is signed “Domhnall O Dalaigh do roinn an da rannsa”. Cf. hand 4.

10. Note, p.12 (secretary hand). John Grey?

11. Some of emendations to text at pp.29–37. Others seem to be by hand 7.

12. Emendations to text, p.32.

13. Part of alphabet and other scribbles, pp.48, 68, ?69. Almost certainly the hand of Domhnall MacMhuirich, cf. Adv.MS.72.2.2, Adv.MS.73.2.20.

14. Notes, pp.49, 51.

15. Note, p.75, referring to St. Ciarán mac in tsaeir of Clonmacnois, cf. Stokes, Lives of Saints from the Book of Lismore, p.117.

16. Note, drawings, p.75.

17. Notes, p.76. Resembles hand on cover of Adv.MS.72.1.39.

18. Note, p.76. Donald? (Not, however, the hand of Domhnall MacMhuirich as it appears in his signature in SRO GD 201/2/4 and 201/5/1257/5.)

19. Note, p.76.

At least one layer, then (pp.49–68), is Scottish in origin, while pp.1–12, 29–48, and 49–68 can all be associated through their marginalia with the Antrim MacDonalds or the Clanranald or both. Perhaps pp.1–12 were brought to Scotland on the occasion of the return from Ireland of Domhnall mac Iain Mhùideartaich and Iain, son of Brian MacMhuirich, c.1650 (Rel. Celt. 2, p.206). As for pp.13–28, Martin Martin states (1703): “The life of Columbus, written in the Irish character, is in the custody of John MacNeil, in the Isle of Barry; another copy of it is kept by MacDonald of Benbecula”. (Description, 1934 ed., p.292; cf. SGS 2, p.113.) James Macpherson, making his tour of 1760 (which included Benbecula, but not Barra), would have been well aware of the Martin reference. The sum of evidence therefore points overwhelmingly to the MacMhuirichs of Stadhlaigearraidh as the source of the manuscript in its present form, and it may also be conjectured that Seanchán mac Gille Críst mhic Eóin was connected with Gilcrist and John Makwerich, who held land in Bute c.1496–1519 (TGSI 43, pp. 288–9, 294).

The manuscript is no.4 of the HSL Collection, and is described in John Mackenzie’s inventory of 1803 as follows: “A Quarto Vellum Manuscript, about same size as No.1. all Prose, and chiefly written in two Columns on a Page, containing 42 leaves, of which four are loose. Several letters in the double column part of it are coloured red. The Binding is torn off, except a few tattered pieces of Vellum and Leather. Signed on the first and last leaves, London 5. Jan.ry 1803, John Mackenzie.” Mackenzie’s inscriptions are on pp.1 and 75. “IV” appears at p.79, presumably part of the former front cover, with what appear to be Lewis Gordon’s initials and the later number “XL”. Donald Smith described the manuscript for the HSS Ossian Committee in their Report, Appendix, p.310. Ewen MacLachlan had it 1811–13. He called it “the Deerskin Quarto”, and excerpted it as “Bianfhéidh” for the HSS Dictionary. He described it in Adv.MS.72.3.4, p.95, and in two letters, Ingliston MS. A.i.3, nos.4 and 6. Some of his transcripts may be found at Adv.MS.72.3.5, p.224. His hand appears at p.67, where he interprets the date in Seanchán’s colophon as 1536. Graves examined the manuscript in 1848, describing it in Proc. RIA 4, p.256. Meyer’s descriptions are in Academy 26 (1884), p.344 (a brief notice) and Celtic Magazine 12 (1887), pp.208–18.

The manuscript was bound in boards by Waterston’s in 1913. Its make-up is difficult to determine. It seems to consist of simple gatherings, except for pp.49–68, in which the conjuncts of pp.55–6 and 67–8 are excised without loss of text. The stub of the latter appears following p.76. The manuscript has been badly affected by damp at the edges and corners, resulting in a good deal of textual loss in the first and last layers. Creased corners seem to have worsened the problem. Friction has obscured several outer pages of layers, notably pp.1, 28, 68. Rents at pp.33–4, 41–2 repaired in blue thread. Many leaves foliated (in roman numerals, at top) by Smith. Pagination by MacLachlan, now extended to covers. Modern foliation at foot. Pagination is used below, with foliation in brackets for reference.

The former covers consist of: a ragged piece of deerskin with hair adhering (pp.77–8, 89–90), repaired by thread; a piece of patched sheepskin, also ragged and repaired by thread (pp.79–80, with broad stub stuck to p.88); and the tattered vellum remains of a Latin religious book or work (pp.81–8), bearing traces of binding thongs with early thread repairs and modern patching. Pp.83–6 are a fragment, together forming a strip 4.5 x 20 cms. stitched sideways into the binding. Pp.83, 86 and 88 are illegible. P.81 is largely illegible, pp.82 and 87 partially so. The text-hand is uncial, and displays some remarkable similarities to the capitals employed by hand 1. Note especially the two types of A in CID DIA TA, p.5.8, one of which is characteristic of p.82 and the other of p.87. The text is probably devotional, though apparently not biblical: it is arranged in verses similar to those of the Psalms, with large coloured initials (red, yellow, brown) in left margin on alternate lines. Three or four other hand appear, all Gaelic in style. The smallest (pp.82, 84–5, 87) adds interlinear glosses and what appears to be extensive commentary in Latin. The others are only visible at p.82: “comortus….”, “amen …..finis”.


No. of hand given in brackets after entries.


2 (1v) “L(e)bar fh( )r glaisi Berramain 7 fuil meoir Fhirgailli .i. mac rig Erenn” (1).

12 (6v) “Misi Domhnall O Dalaigh sg….us” (9). “Johne Grey” (10).

48 (24v) “…beannachtsa” (?).

49 (25r) “Cinnus sin” (14).

51 (26r) “Cionnus sin a duiph so am laimh 7 ni me a gcunntapart” (?) (U.V., 14).

53 (27r) “Fuil meoir na hingeni duibi do tairingead tre nim a seirce” (7).

68 (34v) Part of alphabet (13).

75 (38r) “….ai in t-oglach Ciaran mac in tsoir gen shaint gen uaill gen……..gen egn……..ihc.m.” (15). “Bnocht is….”, with rough trials of decorative initials (16).

76 (38v) “…..lair cruinn dubh 7 lair maol bhuidhe…….nach grisen liath” (17). “Donald” (18). “braighdhe” (19).


1 (1r)1 AIDED CHONCHUBAIR. Beg. illegible ….. 7 do cuirethar imarbag 7 comr……… 7 Loegairi mBuadhac. Ends “conid hi adaid Conchubair conuici sin”. Ed. Meyer, Death-Tales of the Ulster Heroes (RIA Todd Lecture Series 14), p.4, Cf. Adv.MS.72.1.5, f.7v.b1.

3 (2r)8 GOIRE CONAILL CHERNAIG I CRÚACHAIN and AIDED AILELLA OCUS CONAILL CHERNAIG. Beg. Bai fer amnus do Ultaib, Conall Cer nach mac Aimairgin, loech is dech ro bai a nErinn. Ends “Adaid Ailella 7 Conaill Cernaig conuici sin”. Ed. Meyer, ZCP 1, p.102.

5 (3r)8 AIDED FERGUSA MAIC RÓICH. Beg. Cid dia ta adaid Fergusa maic Roich? Ni ansa. Bui Fergus for luinges i Conachtaib. Ends “Conid hi adaid Fergus conuici sin”. Ed. Meyer, Death-Tales of the Ulster Heroes, p.32.

6 (3v)7 AIDED MEDBA. Beg. Cid dia ta adaid Medba Cruachan .i. ingen Echach Feidlig o Temraig? Ends “Adaid Meidbi 7 Clotrainni et reliqua”. Ed. Hull, Speculum 13, p.52.

7 (4r)10 AIDED CEIT MAIC MÁGACH. Beg. Cid dia ta adaid Ceit maic Magach? Ni ansa. Luidh Cet fecht ann a crich nUlad. Ends “Conid hi adaid Ceit 7 Belchon Brefni cona macaib in sin”. Ed. Meyer, Death-Tales of the Ulster Heroes, p.36.

8 (4v) z AIDED LÓEGAIRI BÚADAIG. Beg. Cid dia ta adaid Loegairi Buadaig? Ni ansa. Aed mac Ainninne doco mraic re Mughain Aitincairchech. Ends “Conid hi adaid Loegairi conuici sin”. Ed. Meyer, ibid., p.22.

9 (5r)12 AIDED CELTCHAIR MAIC UTHECHAIR. Beg. Cid dia ta adaid Cealtcair maic Uithechair? Ni ansa. Fer amra do Ultaib .i. Blai Bruga. Ends “Conid hi sin adaid Blai Brugad 7 Congoncnis 7 Celtchair maic Uithechair. Finit”. Ed. Meyer, ibid., p.24.

11 (6r) i The scribe fills up 2¼ lines remaining after the last text as follows. Fuicarlan mac Fici Fáici, 1 q. (cf. Adv.MS.72.2.9, f.11v). “Oroid sunn d’ fir in liupairsi .i. Sean (monogram) mac Cein (monogram). Misi pod gan seir 7 Fergal atamcomnaic”. (“I am a ?boot without a heel and I am F.”, cf. RIA Contribb. s.v. 1 ad-cumaing.) See Celt. Mag. 12, p.213.

12 (6v)1 (A buiden?)………..tum . leis nach ail comann aonfhir, 23 qq. Illegible at beginning and elsewhere; dúnadh is “A b u”.

12 (6v)25 Gnomic text on bad traits: 7 items, the first being I n-as mesa do rioghaibh, a mbeith drochsmachta do uirigill. Hand 4 writes “cionus rom beó” and repeats items 1–4.

13 (7r)a1 BETHA COLUIM-CHILLE. Beg. (E)xi de terra tua 7 de cognatione 7 domu pat ris tui 7 uade terram quam tibi mostrauero .i. faguibh do thir. Ends 28(14v)a20 “Ailim trocaire De tre impighdhi C.C. gu roisium uili an aentoigh sin, gurus airaill 7 gurus aittreabam in secu la seculoorum. Amen”. (Text of p.20(10v)b16–26 then repeated). Ed. Grosjean, SGS 2, p.111, and 3, p.84. Cf. Skene, Celtic Scotland , 2, p.467.

28 (14v)b2 Mairg nach teid fo g(uth clui)g, 1 q. Cf. Uí Maine 10(46)v.b22 (attrib. Colum-Cille).

28 (14v)b6 Gebe techtus i n-egluis n-ur, 2 qq.

28 (14v)b14 Eglus fuar . 7 cleirech tana truag, 1 q. SGS 2, p.170. Cf. ZCP 7, p.297; Uí Maine 10(46)v.b28 (attrib. Senán).

28 (14v)b17 Fuil treighi . diana buighech ri greine, 2 qq. SGS 2, p.170. Cf. LB 225.

28 (14v)b23 Bairin arain eorna ain, 1 q. Cf. SGS 2, p.171.

29 (15r)a1 OIGED GUILL MAIC GARBADA OCUS OIGED GAIRB GLINDE RIGE. Beg. Geasa et ilberta nobidis for Chon Culaind. Ends “Conad hi sin” with title as above. “Finid. Amen. Finid.” Ed. Stokes from LL at RC 14, p.396, with variants from present text at p.432. Cf. EUL Carmichael-Watson MS. 56 (Watson’s transcript).

37 (19r)b26 TÁIN BÓ FRAÍCH. Beg. Tain Bo Fraich ann so. Fraeach macc Idhaig do Chonnachtaib, mac side do Bé Finn a sidaib. Ends “Conad luid la hOilill 7 Meidb do thain na mbó a Cuailgne. Finid amen”. Ed. from this text, Anderson, RC 24 (1903), p.127. Editions which include variant readings from the present text: Meyer, ZCP 4 (1903), p.32; Meid, Táin Bó Fraích (Dublin, 1967); Meid, Die Romanze von Froech und Findabair (Innsbruck, 1970); Meid, Táin Bó Froích: Editio minor (Innsbruck, 1970).

45 (23r)b29 PEANNAID ÁDAIM. Beg. Do roine Dia talum do Adum 7 do Eba iar n-imarbus a parrthus. Headed “Peannaid Adaim ann so sis”. Ends 48(24v)b10 “Finit amen”, followed by blank. Ed. Anderson, RC 24, p.243.

49 (25r)1 MESCA ULAD. Beg. Ri firen foirglidhe ro gabustar flathas 7 forrlamhus for Erinn. Ends “Conad e baotrem Ulad co Teamra Lucra conige sin. Finid, amen. Ocus a Minaird do graibneadh 7 dob e aos an tigerna an tan sin .vii. bliadna .xxx. 7 .v. c. 7 mile .b. Mksk sfbnchbn mbc gkllcrkst mkc fpkn” (Misi Seanchan mac Gille Crist mic Eoin). Ed., with variant readings from this text, J.C. Watson, Mesca Ulad (Dublin, 1941); translation, SGS 5, p.1. See also Ériu 13, p.95.

67 (34r)20 Mithi dhamh cuma Chelbe, 16 qq. Ends illegible: incomplete? Cf. Gwynn, The Metrical Dindshenchas 3 (RIA Todd Lecture Series, vol.10), p.54.

69 (35r)1 CENNACH IND RÚANADO from FLED BRICREND. Beg. Fecht n-aen di Ultaib ind Emain………r sgis oinaich 7 cluichi . Headed “…… ruanado”. Ends “…..7 ceandac an ruanado ind Eamuin Maca 7 totem nOlad do Chruachnaib Aiea. Finitt”. Ed. Meyer, RC 14, p.450; Henderson, Fled Bricrend, p.116. Cf. Ériu 29, p.64.

72 (36v)10 CÁIN DOMNAIG. Beg. Soire Domnuig o trat esparton Dia Shathairn go fuinedh maitni Dia Luain. Ends 75(38r)8 “7 no-duinfitis flaith nime ma chotistais connacon biad cumsanadh indi do gres”. Ed. Hull, Ériu 20, p.151; cf. also Donald MacLean, The Law of the Lord’s Day in the Celtic Church. For entries at pp.75–6 see marginalia.

77- 90 Covers, see above.

© Ronald Black, 2011