Archive for Four Masters

Bram Stoker’s great grandmother was Eliza O’Donnell…

No wonder my family has such a fascination with vampires …. It all makes sense or does it?
Bram Stoker’s great grandmother was Eliza O’Donnell, daughter of Colonel Manus O’Donnell (died 1767), of the O’Donnell family of Newport. The information we have discovered has NEVER before been connected to Bram Stoker.Through this maternal line, we can trace Bram Stoker’s descent in 12 generations from Manus O’Donnell (Manus ‘the Magnificent’), Lord of Tír Conaill (corresponds to the North and North-West portion of Ireland) who died in 1563. We can further trace this direct lineage back to the 11th Century, because the O’Donnell lords from whom Bram Stoker is directly descended, were one of the oldest recorded lineages in Ireland. This makes Bram Stoker one of the very few Irish people who can trace their family history back over 1000 years. He was not simply a ‘clan member’ he was a direct descendant.
Manus ‘The Magnificent’ O’Donnell.The most informed description of Manus ‘The Magnificent’ O’Donnell comes from the article by Dr. Brendan Bradshaw “Manus ‘The Magnificent’ : O’Donnell as Renaissance Prince”. In his article Dr. Bradshaw paints a picture of a flamboyant character know for his dramatic clothing and appreciation of art and culture.

Manus is known as the first great Irish lord of Tyrconnell who ruled between 1537 and 1555.He is recognised as one of Ireland’s leading political figures of the time.He was also well known in Britain and in mainland Europe. He is described in The Annals of the Four Masters as “a learned man, skilled in many arts, gifted with a profound intellect, and the knowledge of every science.”

He wrote love poetry and satiric verse and undertook to supervise the writing of a life of St Colmcille at Lifford Castle, where he was captive. This was completed in 1536. He described the 6th-century monastic founder as his ‘high saint and kinsman in blood’. This project, because of its commitment to sources and interest in religious reform, has been claimed as an example of Renaissance humanist influence.

Webb (1878) notes in A Compendium of Irish Biography that his clothing is described by St. Leger in a despatch to Henry VIII.: “He was in a cote of crymoisin velvet, with agglettes of gold, twenty or thirty payer; over that a greate doble cloke of right crymoisin saten, garded with blacke velvet; a bonette, with a fether, sette full of agglettes of gold.”

Manus was deposed by his son Calvagh O’Donnell in 1555.

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References:

Bradshaw, Brendan: “Manus ‘The Magnificent’: O’ Donnell as Renaissance Prince”. In: Cosgrove, Art and McCartney, Donal (eds.), Studies in Irish History presented to R. Dudley Edwards, Dublin 1979, 15-36.

O’Donavan, John. Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland by the Four Masters, from the earliest period to the year 1616. Volume I. Dublin: Hodges and Smith, 1854
The Dictionary of Ulster Biography,http://www.newulsterbiography.co.uk/

Webb, A. (1878) A Compendium of Irish Biograpy, DUBLIN: M. H. GILL & SON

Photo: Bram Stoker’s great grandmother was Eliza O’Donnell, daughter of Colonel Manus O’Donnell (died 1767), of the O’Donnell family of Newport. The information we have discovered has NEVER before been connected to Bram Stoker.</p><br /><br />
<p>Through this maternal line, we can trace Bram Stoker’s descent in 12 generations from Manus O’Donnell (Manus ‘the Magnificent’), Lord of Tír Conaill (corresponds to the North and North-West portion of Ireland) who died in 1563. </p><br /><br />
<p>We can further trace this direct lineage back to the 11th Century, because the O’Donnell lords from whom Bram Stoker is directly descended, were one of the oldest recorded lineages in Ireland. This makes Bram Stoker one of the very few Irish people who can trace their family history back over 1000 years. He was not simply a ‘clan member’ he was a direct descendant.<br /><br /><br />
Manus 'The Magnificent' O'Donnell<br /><br /><br />
The most informed description of Manus 'The Magnificent' O'Donnell comes from the article by Dr. Brendan Bradshaw "Manus 'The Magnificent' : O'Donnell as Renaissance Prince". In his article Dr. Bradshaw paints a picture of a flamboyant character know for his dramatic clothing and appreciation of art and culture.</p><br /><br />
<p>Manus is known as the first great Irish lord of Tyrconnell who ruled between 1537 and 1555.He is recognised as one of Ireland's leading political figures of the time.He was also well known in Britain and in mainland Europe. He is described in The Annals of the Four Masters as "a learned man, skilled in many arts, gifted with a profound intellect, and the knowledge of every science."</p><br /><br />
<p>He wrote love poetry and satiric verse and undertook to supervise the writing of a life of St Colmcille at Lifford Castle, where he was captive. This was completed in 1536. He described the 6th-century monastic founder as his ‘high saint and kinsman in blood'. This project, because of its commitment to sources and interest in religious reform, has been claimed as an example of Renaissance humanist influence.</p><br /><br />
<p>Webb (1878) notes in A Compendium of Irish Biography that his clothing is described by St. Leger in a despatch to Henry VIII.: "He was in a cote of crymoisin velvet, with agglettes of gold, twenty or thirty payer; over that a greate doble cloke of right crymoisin saten, garded with blacke velvet; a bonette, with a fether, sette full of agglettes of gold."</p><br /><br />
<p>Manus was deposed by his son Calvagh O'Donnell in 1555.<br /><br /><br />
References:</p><br /><br />
<p>Bradshaw, Brendan: “Manus ‘The Magnificent’: O’ Donnell as Renaissance Prince”. In: Cosgrove, Art and McCartney, Donal (eds.), Studies in Irish History presented to R. Dudley Edwards, Dublin 1979, 15-36.</p><br /><br />
<p>O'Donavan, John. Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland by the Four Masters, from the earliest period to the year 1616. Volume I. Dublin: Hodges and Smith, 1854<br /><br /><br />
The Dictionary of Ulster Biography, http://www.newulsterbiography.co.uk/</p><br /><br />
<p>Webb, A. (1878) A Compendium of Irish Biograpy, DUBLIN: M. H. GILL & SON
Research suggests ‘Dracula’ may have been inspired by Bram Stoker’s O’Donnell Clan ancestryThe centenary of Bram Stoker’s death will occur on Friday
The historian, Fiona Fitzsimmons, has been studying the Dublin-born author’s family tree since November, ahead of the centenary of his death on Friday.She has traced and documented Stoker’s direct descent from Manus “the Magnificent” O’Donnell – an Irish clan leader who led a rebellion against Henry VIII in the 16th century.The O’Donnell family is one of Ireland’s oldest and most powerful families, dating back to the 11th century.
Ms Fitzsimmons says her research shows that Stoker himself knew of these family connections and was influenced by them when he wrote his best known novel.
“We believe that our research will rescue Stoker from his critics, so that ‘Dracula’ can be read and understood as its author intended,” she said.

“Stoker did not use overtly Irish symbols in ‘Dracula’ but his main theme is taken from Irish history, recast in the artist’s imagination. The tale of a decayed aristocracy in possession of a great warrior past, the survivors displaced by the passage of history now living in the shadows is the story of ‘Dracula’ as envisioned by this descendant of Manus O’Donnell.”

The vampire character ‘Dracula’ has traditionally been linked with Transylvania’s Vlad the Impaler – a 15th-century Prince of Wallachia renowned for his cruelty and practice of impaling his enemies. You can learn more about the research into Bram Stoker’s family tree here.

Photo: Research suggests 'Dracula' may have been inspired by Bram Stoker's O'Donnell Clan ancestry</p><br /><br />
<p>The centenary of Bram Stoker's death will occur on Friday<br /><br /><br />
The historian, Fiona Fitzsimons, has been studying the Dublin-born author's family tree since November, ahead of the centenary of his death on Friday.<br /><br /><br />
She has traced and documented Stoker's direct descent from Manus "the Magnificent" O'Donnell - an Irish clan leader who led a rebellion against Henry VIII in the 16th century.<br /><br /><br />
The O'Donnell family is one of Ireland's oldest and most powerful families, dating back to the 11th century.<br /><br /><br />
Ms Fitzsimons says her research shows that Stoker himself knew of these family connections and was influenced by them when he wrote his best known novel.<br /><br /><br />
"We believe that our research will rescue Stoker from his critics, so that 'Dracula' can be read and understood as its author intended," she said.<br /><br /><br />
"Stoker did not use overtly Irish symbols in 'Dracula' but his main theme is taken from Irish history, recast in the artist's imagination.<br /><br /><br />
"The tale of a decayed aristocracy in possession of a great warrior past, the survivors displaced by the passage of history now living in the shadows is the story of 'Dracula' as envisioned by this descendant of Manus O'Donnell."<br /><br /><br />
The vampire character 'Dracula' has traditionally been linked with Transylvania's Vlad the Impaler - a 15th-century Prince of Wallachia renowned for his cruelty and practice of impaling his enemies.<br /><br /><br />
You can learn more about the research into Bram Stoker's family tree here.
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Creen- Irish surname historian, Dr. E. MacLysaght


Irish surname historian, Dr. Edward MacLysaght’s (1887-1986) history of our name:

According to MacFirbis, O’Crean and O’Cregan are synonymous, Crehan again being a variant of Crean.

In Irish Crean and Crehan are Ó Croidheáin (spelt Ó Craidhen by the Four Masters) and Creegan or Cregan is Ó Croidheagáin. These families formed a minor sept of the Cineal Eoghan belonging to Donegal, with a branch in the neighbouring county of Sligo. They are twice mentioned by the Four Masters as wealthy merchants, which is somewhat unusual in the Annals: in 1506 as of Co. Donegal: in 1572 as of Sligo.

The Clongowes manuscript “The State of Ireland in 1598” gives them a higher status: the then head of the family was John O’Crean of Ballynegare, and in another place in the manuscript O’Crean of Annagh is stated to have been one of the leading families of Co. Sligo in the sixteenth century. According to the “Annals of Loch Cé” the Bishop of Elphin in 1582 was an O’Crean, but he was “removed” in 1584. Father Daniel O’Crean (d. c. 1616) of Holy Cross, Sligo, was Provincial of the Dominican order in a period of intensive persecution.

The form Crehan is usual in Co. Galway; in Co. Mayo these are called Crean, Grehan and even Graham. Creegan alone of these variants can be said to belong now to Co. Sligo. Crean is mostly found to-day in south-west Munster, but families of the name in Kerry and Cork are in most cases Creen, recte Curreen, i.e. Ó Corraidhín.

A further complication in regard to the name Crean arises from the fact that Ó Corráin, normally Curran in English, has become Crean in some places. The arms illustrated in Plate VI are those of O’Crean of Donegal and Sligo and do not belong to the Creans of Munster.

“The Annals of the Four Masters” is a compilation of the oral histories of Irish kings recorded from ancient times to 1616AD. This valuable history was archived between 1632-1636 by Franciscan monks, headed up by Michael O’Clery.

Following are the full references MacLysaght cited above. These were extracted from John O’Donovan’s English translation of “The Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland by the Four Masters” Vol. 5, published in Dublin 1848-51.
1506 – Donnell O’Craidhen O’Crean, a pious and conscientious merchant, died, while hearing mass in Donegal.

1572 – Henry O’Craidhen, a rich and affluent merchant of Lower Connaught, died.
“The Annals of Loch Cé” is an account of Irish records dating from 1014AD to 1590. It was transcribed by William M. Hennesy and published 1871 in London by Longman & Co.

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Clan Callahan – Ceallachain

Ceallachan (Callahan, Callaghan, Cellachan, Ceallaghan, Cellachain, Ceallachain) of Cashel (Caisal, Caisil), was the 10th century King of the Irish province of Munster (i.e. the southwestern quarter of Ireland) from whom the family names of Callahan and MacCarthy and their variations (e.g. Callaghan, O’Callahan, O’Callaghan, MacCarthaig, etc.) were derived.

Q: What does Ceallachan of Cashel refer to and what was he like?

A: Ceallachan was called “Ceallachan of Cashel” because he conquered the town of Cashel, in Tipperary (among others), from the Vikings (Bugge 1905:121). Cashel had been the historical capital of the Province of Munster in southwestern Ireland. Professor Alexander Bugge thought he was probably from Kerry (Bugge 1905). His entry in The Dictionary of National Biography, begins by stating: “Ceallachan (d. 954), king of Cashel, called in poetry C. coir, or the just, and C. cruiaidh, or the hard, is the hero of several old popular tales of Munster” (1921-22:1302).

In the Irish medieval saga, Ceallachan was described as fair haired and also as having curly hair (Bugge 1905). According to the saga, he must have been fairly handsome since Lady Mor apparently fell in love with him and warned him on the road to Viking Dublin of her husband Sitric’s plot to kill him.

In the saga, Lady Mor, wife of Sitric, and daughter of Aodh, son of Eochaidli, daughter of the king of Inis Fionnghall, was secretly in love with Ceallachan, and is supposed to have said to Ceallachan:

“I fell in love with your red face,
In Port Lairge [Waterford] on the battlefield,
With your valour as you charged through the battalions,
With your size among the Munstermen.” (Bugge 1905:77).

In describing Ceallachan being shackled, Cormacan Eigas, Chief Poet of the North of Ireland and the author of The Circuit of Ireland said Ceallachan of Cashel (Callaghan the Just) had a “stout” leg (O’Donovan 1841). From the descriptions of Ceallachan at the Battle of Limerick he also sounded like a large, strong man (Bugge 1905:65).

Another possibility is that he might not have looked like the description in the saga. Francis John Byrne has written that: “A feature of the extravagant praise characteristic of bardic poetry is that the patron, whose descent from kings and heroes is elaborated , is not only credited with martial vigor, wisdom, generosity, and deeds of valour, but that there often appears a fulsome, if conventional, catalogue of his physical beauty. A late medieval poet with a puritan cast of mind attacked his colleagues for their patent dishonesty in such matters: . . .

Curling locks on a bald pate
you’re not ashamed to fabricate;
a blinking eye, asquint and blear,
you make ‘steady’ and ‘crystal-clear’.

Though yellow as leather and tanned with grime,
he’s praised in wheedling tones by you:
‘Skin like the swan’s wing, bright as lime,
has our swan-king of handsome hue’.

Certainly by this time the convention had become outworn and its true purpose forgotten. In fact these are the qualities of the bridegroom. The inaugural ode was in origin an epithalamium celebrating the wedding of king and country. . .” (Byrne 1973:16).

The medieval Irish Saga of Ceallachan is quite detailed and I have put a copy online. Click on the link to the saga to read Caithreim Ceallachan Caisil (“The Triumphs of Callaghan of Cashel”). The English translation was about 58 pages long in its original 1905 publication. The explanatory notes and introduction by Professor Alexander Bugge are much longer. Here is a small excerpt describing one part of the Battle of Limerick.

“However, when Ceallachan perceived, that the soldiers were being slain . . . and that Clan Eogan was being slaughtered, then arose his wrath, his rage, and his vigour, and he makes a royal rush, caused by fits of mighty passion, at the nobles of the Lochlannachs [Norwegian Vikings], while the noble descendants of the race of Eoghan protect him. Cellachan reached the warlike Amlaib and made an attack on the rough mail-coat of the warrior, so that he loosened his helmet under his neck, and split his head with hard strokes, so that the Lochlannach fell by him. Then Suilleban [ancestor of the O’Sullivans] with his 150 brave, valiant swordsmen arrived to his defence, and he made a breach of savage ferocity through the centre of the heroic battalion of the Lochlannachs” (Bugge 1905:65).

Q: What does the Saga of Ceallachan of Cashel describe?
A: The Saga describes many details of his life including his preparation for kingship. There are descriptions of battles, treachery, and a suggestion of romance. The Saga of Ceallachan of Cashel was a popular Irish saga and many copies exist. The story would probably make a good swashbuckling Hollywood action/adventure/romance movie. Ceallachan was a popular king and his life was celebrated in poems and sagas that were copied many times. Even his political enemies’ saga expresses considerable respect for him and much later the annals described him as a celebrated king. He was not, of course, particularly popular with the monks of Ui Neill dominated monasteries or the rulers of northern territories that he raided during forays into enemy territory. These annals (from outside of Munster) have tended to be the sources cited by contemporary Irish revisionist historians who explicitly have stated their agenda to portray the Vikings as less threatening and more assimilated than they are portrayed by the various Irish sagas. Historians who draw upon the Annals of Ulster to get a fair picture of a king of Munster (who raided Ui Neill dynasty monasteries) would be akin to a historian of the Vietnam War going to the writings of Ho Chi Minh to get all of his information about LBJ. The level of confidence or doubt one has in statements expressed by Ui Neill dynasty ecclesiatics or the court historians of Donegal in their annals or the negative judgments coming from armchair critics living a thousand years after the events occurred is probably best left as a matter for your own good judgment. Ceallachan was apparently well liked and well thought of by his own people in the years following his death.

Q: Is the Saga a work of fact or fiction?
Like many sagas, it is both historical narrative and historical romance. In today’s terms, which is probably not how it was thought of in the Middle Ages, it is part fact and part fiction. How much and what parts are fact or historical narrative and and what parts are fiction or historical romance will probably be endlessly debated. Certainly there was a Ceallachan of Cashel, King of Munster, in the tenth century who was involved in several military expeditions and the saga describes what people in the twelfth century would like him to have been like. How close the saga is to the real person is something everyone will ultimately have to judge for themselves. At this point it is a “scrambled egg” that is rather difficult to unscramble. In my personal experience most real people are not saints, devils, nor ideal heroes (although there apparently was a Saint Callaghan, or Ceallachan who was a monk at Clontibret i.e. a native of Clonturbet, County Monaghan. His Feast day is Sept 24th. There may have been a second Saint Ceallachan also. No history available. Feast day April 22nd. See the Ancient Order of Hibernians website at http://www.rcnyaoh2.org/saints.htm ). Many heroic sagas, however, are great stories and that is probably the criteria it was judged by in the Middle Ages. As the archaeological discoveries in Greenland and Newfoundland (based on the Norse Sagas) have demonstrated, any historian who dismisses medieval sagas as completely “made up,” or legends, does so at their own risk. When Heinrich Schliemann demonstrated that Troy actually existed, a number of historians had to retract everything they had written about the Iliad as a work of fiction. Irish historian Francis John Byrne has noted that, “Comparative studies in epic literature have shown that legends of an heroic age usually embody a kernel of historical fact” (Byrne 1973:48). Many of the details of the Saga of Ceallachan also suggest that it is an historically based document with some exaggerations (see e.g. Bugge 1905:X-XVIII). Opinions vary widely on this, however. Respected scholars like Donnchadh O Corrain, think it is in the genre of “dynastic propaganda texts” (O Corrain 1998:443), a perhaps overly sinister sounding label, and some think it is improbable that it is historically accurate. Donnchadh O Corrain concluded that it tells us a great deal about the politics of the twelfth century, but really not very much about the tenth. O Corrain’s critical analysis of the saga is problematic for me partly because of his difficulties with identifying the name of the individual in the saga with a name on the genealogical lists and his gross overconfidence that he has actually identified the right person in both documents in an era with no surnames, inconsistent dates or no dates, multiple spellings, and frequent use by many people of the same given names. As Byrne has pointed out “Pedigrees were often remodelled for political ends” (Byrne 1973:11). O Corrain also begins his summary of what he claims the saga said with a gross error which suggests that he did not read the saga all that carefully. O Corrain, in summarizing the saga makes the statement that “He [Ceallachan] is the only king according to the writers [of the saga] who defended Munster against the Vikings from the reign of Artri mac Cathail to the reign of the great Brian” (O Corrain 1974:7). The saga actually did not say that at all. In fact what the saga’s author said was just the opposite. Contrary to O Corrain’s summary the third sentence of the saga begins, “But from the time of Airtri to the good time of Cellachan they [the Vikings] found battles and conflicts” (Bugge 1905:570). Probably what O Corrain was stung by and may have been reacting to was the reference by the saga’s author to the writings of the medieval historians of the time. “It seems from the writings of the historians that from Airtri to noble Brian the heroes or territories of Munster were not freed, except what the nimble-sworded Ceallachan did to defend them” (Bugge 1905:58-9).

O Corrain frequently admits the genealogical lists are themselves historical sources that can be confused, contradictory, at odds with the annals, and subject to problems of accuracy and trustworthiness because of earlier manipulation. Some of the names match up well, such as Suilleban, and some he claims do not. The saga does not give calendar dates of the events described. The genealogy lists also do not list dates for most of the people. This was a period of idiosyncratic spelling. The saga, for example, spells one individual’s name three different ways. The entire exercise of comparing the characters in the saga to genealogy lists (with various levels of trustworthiness) would probably be considered incredibly tedious to read by most casual readers who would most likely just skip to his conclusion. O Corrain repeats his theme so often (that in his opinion some of the saga characters do not match up with his interpretation of the geneaology lists) that someone not reading his exercise carefully might not realize the underlying number of assumptions one would have to make to accept his analysis.

For more on the lively and unresolved general debate about the saga in secondary materials, go to the Opinions page. There have been a broad spectrum of scholarly opinions, and statements occasionally become rather vitriolic. As with all historical writing there are some careful, scholarly, and thoughtful historians, such as Bugge and O Corrain, who state their conflicting conclusions forcefully, and others who merely have repeated verbatim some monastic opinion from one of the annals or the opinions of other historians. A couple however have concocted what I would consider to be outrageous slanders based on their misreading of the primary historical sources.

The saga was not written by contemporaries of the events described but, according to Ellis, was commissioned by Cormac III, King of Munster, (a MacCarthaig) in the early 1100’s ( Ellis 1998).

What many people today do not realize is that literature written in the past was often a deliberate and unselfconscious mixture of fact and fiction. Caesar described unicorns in his book on the Conquest of Gaul and Tacitus did the same kind of thing in Germania. Authors writing in early genre’s did not sort books into our present firm categories of history and fiction. As Myles Dillon wrote in Early Irish Literature: “Epic and romance go hand in hand in Irish literature . . . A story was just a story, whether the matter was legend or history, and the boundary between the two was of less interest in medieval times than it is today” (1948:1).

Williams and Ford (1992), historians of Irish literature, have suggested that this saga was something of a transition saga between the early medieval sagas that were more closely tied to the historical sources of the time and the later medieval romance stories.

J.E. Williams and Patrick K. Ford (citing Dillon) point out in The Irish Literary Tradition that it was the custom of Irish kings, like those of India, to maintain poets to record their activities and sing their praise in poetry (1992:49). These poets were sometimes called sagamen. As Professor Bugge has pointed out, there are some differences between the poems and the prose in Caithrem Ceallachan Caisil, and some of the poems may have been composed earlier than the prose. For all we know today at least one of the poems could have been nearly contemporaneous with the events.

This may be the case regarding the poem about the Battle of Limerick which is introduced within the saga with the statement, “Therefore to testify to this the poet sang the following words in relating the slaughters and triumphs, and in enumerating those who were killed of the great Lochlannochs and those who were slain of the Munstermen in this great battle . . .” (Bugge 1905:66).

Unscrambling the egg, or evaluating exactly how much of a saga is fact and how much is fiction a thousand years later may be a difficult, if not an impossible, task. O Corrain has quoted Irish Historian Francis John Byrne on this thorny problem as it appears in earlier Irish history as follows: “Saga-materials of which Professor Byrne makes extensive use present even greater problems. His principles in the use of saga are clearly stated. He wrote in 1965: ‘Actual events and perhaps real persons are reflected in the literature … but the process is irreversible: we cannot reconstruct history from the sagas’ (Historical Studies v. 39). Here he warns that ‘where we have no contemporary documentation to guide us and reveal the extent of poetic distortion . . . it is impossible to reconstruct the actual course of events from saga-material’ (p. 48). . . . He justifies his own use of these sources:”paradoxically the historian can only make use of sagas when he realizes that they are largely mythology; as such they illuminate deep-lying concepts of ancient Irish kingship’ (p. 62)” (O Corrain 1980:151; citing Byrne 1965:39,48,62).

Contemporary documentation from the tenth century such as the annals, and the Eoghanact genealogies have their own problems of bias, lack of completeness, and questions about their trustworthiness. The numbers of people killed in battles appears exaggerated and rounded off to the nearest 500 or thousand, dates provided for the same event in different annals disagree with each other and dates may be unreliable, events for an entire year may have been recorded at the end of the year, authors of the entries may be repeating hearsay or half-truths, authors may slant the descriptions from a monastic viewpoint, authors may not be aware of events all over the country, and definitions of terms have changed over time. For example, the word “slaughter” meant killed and was often used to refer to people killed during a pitched military battle. The “place of slaughter” is the battlefield (Bugge 1905:64). When Donnchuan fights Flannabra in the saga, the way it is phrased is: “Flannabra, son of Ciarmacan, was captured by them, and there was made a great slaughter of his people, and the Ui Conaill were overthrown in the battle” (Bugge 1905: 73). It does not necessarily mean “massacre of defenseless innocents” as it has come to mean in the 20th century. It may have had a connotation that no prisoners would be taken. The saga says that “Ceallachan . . . said to Donnchuan that he should not kill the king of the Ui Conaill if he happened to fall into his power. Donnchuan gave his word that he should spare no one in battle or conflict even if he had been a friend of his before” (Id.).

In some sources like the Annals of Ulster, however, there are references like “A slaughter of the Deise was committed” which may have meaning as a “massacre” depending on how an Irish translator understands the original phrase but this sounds like Ulster propaganda particularly with the claim that he slew 2000. The Annals of the Four Masters indicate the source of the conflict had to do with their political submission to the Ui Neill even though they were ostensibly part of Munster. It reads that, “A slaughter was made of the Deisi by Ceallachan and the men of Munster, because they had submitted to Muircheartach, son of Niall; and he slew two thousand of them.” According to the saga, after fighting the Vikings of Waterford, Ceallachan’s men proceeded “thence to the country of the Deisi and take hostages and pledges of Domnall son of Faelan. There was concluded a matrimonial alliance and made friendship with him, and Gormflaith, the daughter of Buadachan, was given to him” (Bugge 1905:71). Did the Deisi break an alliance and ally themselves with the Ui Neill when the Ui Neill later showed up with an army?

In reading annals written by Ceallachan’s enemies you are reading history from their point of view and undoubtedly there was another side to this story. Some historians have viewed the annals uncritically but there are many entries that openly display the particular individual viewpoint of the authors. According to Francis John Byrne, who wrote Irish Kings and High Kings (1973:203) the Ui Neill were much better dynastic propagandists than the kings of Munster. A comparison of the Annals of Inisfallen (probably written until 1092 by Diarmat Ua Flainn Chua, bishop and head of the monastic school at Emly, Co, Tipperary, Munster according to Byrne 1979:12)) with the Annals of the Four Masters (written in Donegal) shows how inflated the numbers were by the latter and also how the king of the Desies was part of the slain. This suggests that this was a military battle rather than a “massacre of innocents” which is the impression one would get from the Ulster account. The Annals of Inisfallen record: “A slaughter of the Deisi by Cellachan, king of Caisel, in which Celechair son of Cormac, king of the Deisi, and four hundred along with him, fell.”

Another thing that should be noted are the various dates given by different annals (934, 939, 940, 941AD) for the same event. Byrne indicates with regard to the Annals of Inisfallen that: “Each annal is preceeded by ‘K1’, standing for the Kalends (1st) of January, usually followed by data giving the day of the week and the age of the moon on that day; by comparing this information with Easter tables, the year could be deduced from its place in the cycle. Dating with the year stated in ‘A.D.’ terms came into general use in Ireland only gradually during the course of the 11th and 12th centuries” (Byrne 1979:12). O Corrain added 2 years to the Four Masters and 8 years to the Annals of Clonmacnoise to correct them, which then agree with the dates in the Annals of Inisfallen. For an earlier date he added 6 years (rather than 8 years) to the Annals of Clonmacnoise to obtain agreement with the Four Masters (O Corrain 1974:4).

If the Annals of Innisfallen were commenced around 1015 AD then they are the compilation or annals closest in time and space to the events described in the 940’s (P.W. Joyce 1903). For the sake of historical balance, it is perhaps unfortunate that “a book of annals called the Psalter of Cashel, . . . compiled by Cormac Mac Cullenan . . . has been lost” (P.W. Joyce 1903:526).

Sometimes the leaders of the monasteries that Ceallachan plundered were members of a powerful clergy and were probably also members of the dynasties that were his political enemies. Clonmacnoise was in Ui Neill territory. He did not plunder his own churches. Irish monasteries in the Middle Ages were even known to have raised troops and had battles with each other (O Corrain 1972:83-89). In 760 AD there was a battle between the monasteries of Clonmacnoise and Birr and in 764 there was a battle between the monasteries of Clonmacnoise and Durrow. Five monasteries were sacked by Feidlimid mac Crimthain, a monk who became king of Munster (c. 820-841 AD) and there was an increasing secularization of the church during this period (Id.). O Corrain has noted that, “It is clear that long before the Viking wars the plundering and burning of monasteries was commonplace in Irish society” (Id. at 86).

According to the text of Caithrem Ceallachan Caisil, a learned medieval king was expected to know the sagas and the stories surrounding the history of his ancestry. This was one of the ways of unifying his people and exhorting his soldiers to fight. The text describes and models valued behavior such as bravery, loyalty, learning, and fierceness in battle. Since this “word painting” of Ceallachan was commissioned by one of his descendants, it should perhaps not be entirely unexpected that his portrait was painted in a flattering light. It is a wonderful window into the mind and value system of the Middle Ages (either 10th or 12th) and contains a wealth of descriptive details about dress, the details of warfare, a king’s inauguration ceremony, and the relationships of people.

We are very fortunate that the saga has even survived and that we are able to read it a thousand years after Ceallachan of Cashel’s death. Those who are interested in the origins of their surname do owe a debt of gratitude to the scribes, poets, and historians of the past. We are not here to ‘bask in our ancestors’ reflected glory’ (as Maire Ni Mhaonaigh so humorously put it) but are curious about where our surname came from and have an interest in history. Maire Ni Mhaonaigh seems to me to have missed the more significant point that a learned and competent medieval king was expected to know and to use the knowledge of his ancestry to unify his people, maintain his bond with them, and exhort them to action and bravery before battles. Two political leaders would recall a mutual ancestor and their ancestor’s accomplishments during important decision-making conferences and in order to make and cement alliances. It was an important skill for a king and everyone who elected him knew it. Two political leaders ‘basking in an ancestor’s reflected glory’ was no trivial matter in the Middle Ages and could result in war or peace between groups with competing interests, and life or death for soldiers. It should not be trivialized by ethnocentric historical commentaries today. An appeal to dynastic kinship and dynastic relationships was the basis for an appeal for military assitance in a real pinch.

According to the saga, after Ceallachan’s inauguration, battles were fought at Limerick, Cork, Cashel, and Port Lairge (Waterford) with the “Lochlannachs” (Norwegians, or “Vikings,” and on occassion used as a more comprehensive term that includes Danes). Ceallachan was then treacherously captured by Sitric, King of Viking Dublin (or “Ath Cliath,” the most powerful Viking town) who had offered his sister in marriage. A series of battles ensued resulting in Ceallachan’s release and Sitric’s death by drowning during a pitched sea battle on the Viking warships in the harbor at Dundalk, north of Dublin. Ceallachan had been “bound to the mast” by the Vikings who were going to sail east and kill him when the men of Munster and a fleet of ships arrived to rescue him.

The prose in the Saga of Ceallachan was probably written in the early 1100’s and was transcribed several times into the 15th century. One of the three scribes in the 15th century involved in copying earlier manuscripts into what is now called The Book of Lismore was a friar named O’ Buadachain. Ceallachan was the son of Buadachan.

Various copies, including a section of the Book of Lismore survived, and were compared by Professor Alexander Bugge to make his translation. Some scholars think the later Norse and Icelandic sagas may have been modeled on this and other Irish sagas and the writing of Caithreim Ceallachan Cashel may have been motivated by the appearance of a saga written in the same style about Brian Boru.

Q: When did he live and what was his date of death?
A: According to Geoffrey Keating, Ceallachan of Cashel’s reign lasted ten years (G. Keating, 1913, History of Ireland, vol XV, London: Irish Texts Society, p. 205). The Frys claimed that he ruled from c. 936 to 954 AD (1988:53).

Ceallachan of Cashel d. 952/54 A.D.
“Having survived attempts on his life by Dalcassians and Danes he was struck by lightning [during a thunderstorm]” (Newman 1983:62).

It might be noted that a death from lightning or drowning are special hazards for anyone wearing chainmail.

“…Cellachan of Cashel, the son of Buadachan, died a laudable death at Cashel Anno Domini 952” (Bugge 1905:115).

The Annals of the Four Masters indicates 952 AD and the Annals of Ulster indicates 954 AD.

At present the most frequently seen scholarly estimate with adjustments seems to be that Ceallachan died in 954 AD.
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How do I fit in-
Callahan to me – my genealogy

Irishman John Callahan married Elizabeth. He died in 1766 in Rowan County, North Carolina. It is thought from historic records that our John Callahan was “pure Irish” and a 1741 British legal proceeding in Ireland recorded a “John Callahan” banished from Dublin as a vagabond and ordered shipped to America. (See The History of John Callahan for more information)

John’s son Willian S. Callahan (1737) married Eleanor Beard. Their daughter Mary “Polly” Callahan (abt. 1774) married Dr. Thomas Gillespie Black

Mary and Thomas’ daughter Mary Polly
Black married Jessie DeVore (France). Mary and Jessie’s daughter Hannah DeVore married John Berry (Wales)….

Hannah and John’s daughter Mary Polly Berry married John Berry Compton. Mary and John’s son Edward Berry married Mary Jane Catharine White…

There daughter Martha Ann Compton married James Andrew Armstrong (Native American, Scotland)… and the list goes on until is reaches me and my children.

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