Dubthalach Mac Firbisigh (?1600-1671)

?1600-1671; [vars. Dualtach Mac Fhirbisigh; Duald mac Firbis or Macfirbis; also Dudley Forbes; dates 1585-?1670; c.1600-71 RIA; 1643-71 Wiki] b. Lackan [Lecan], Co. Sligo, bardic family and chroniclers to O’Dowds [Ó Dubhda] lords of Tireragh, Co. Sligo, living on lands at Lackan (Lecan), where the Book of Lecan was compiled by Giolla Íosa Mór Mac Fhirbhisigh (d.1420);
he was educated by MacEgans and O’Davorens of Ormond [Tipperary] and Clare respectively; copied Annals of Ossory and Leinster; his pupils were John Lynch, author of Cambrensis Eversus, and Roderick O’Flaherty, author of Ogygia; he compiled his Book of Genealogies of the Families of Ireland intially while living in Galway, c.1645-52, and afterwards in Dublin where he fled when Col. Coote invested Galway in 1652, finding shelter for his MSS and employment with Sir James Ware;
he translated the Annals of Innisfallen (571-913 AD) and the Annals of Tigernach (1443-68), both incl. in the Book of Lecan, in 1666; also wrote A Treatise on Authors, a martyrology, and some verse; he began a Glossary of Irish, now lost; he returned to Sligo destitute on the death of Sir James; murdered [at Dunflin] on the road to Dublin by a soldier called Thomas Crofton; the MS of the Book of Geneaologies [Leabhar na nGenealach] was bequeathed to UCD Library by Arthur Cox (solicitor) in 1929; the five vols. were edited by Nollaig Ó Muraíle in 2003. CAB ODNB DIW DIB [FDA] OCIL

[ There is a Wikipedia article online. The article in Dictionary of Irish Biography (RIA 2009) is by Vincent Morley - online.
See also the Dubthalach Mac Firisigh page at the UCD Library Special Collections website - online. ]

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  • John O’Donovan, ed. and trans., Three Fragments copied from ancient sources [copied by MacFirbisigh] ... from a manuscript preserved in the Burgundian Library, Brussels (Irish Archaeology & Celtic Society 1860).
  • William Hennessy, Chronicum Scotorum (1866).
  • John O’Donovan, ed., The genealogies, tribes, and customs of Hy-Fianrach, commonly called the O’Dowd [var. O’Dowda] country (Dublin 1844).
  • Alexander Bugge, ed. & trans., On the Fomorians and the Norsemen, by D. Mc Firbisigh (Christiana 1905).
  • John O’Donovan, ed. & trans., ‘The Annals of Ireland translated from the Irish for Sir James Ware in the year 1666’, in Misc. of the Irish Archaeological Society, 1 (1846), p.198-302, and Do. as The Annals of Ireland (1443-68) (Dublin 1851).
  • John O’Donovan, ed., Annals of Ireland, Three Fragments, copied from ancient sources (Dublin 1860).
  • J. Ó Raithbheartaigh, ed., Genealogical Tracts (Dublin 1932) [incl. Book of Genealogies, Lecan Miscellany, and The Ancient Tract on the Distribution of the Aithech-Tuatha].
Recent edns.
  • Nollaig Ó Muraíle, ed., The Great Book of Irish Genealogies Compiled (1645-66) by Dubhaltach Mac Fhirbhisigh [Leabhar mór na nGenealach], edited with translation and indexes by Nollaig Ó Muraíle, 5 vols. (Dublin: De Búrca 2003-04), 29cm. [Vol. 1: Pre-Gaels; Early Gaels; Northern & Southern Uí Néill; Connacht; Vol. 2: Oriel; Gaelic Scotland; Leinster; East Ulster; Munster; Saints; Vol. 3: Kings, Vikings, Normans; Index; Topographical poems; Shorter book of genealogies. Vol. 4: General volume; Vol. 5: Index of personal names. [See details.]

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Bibliographical details
The Great Book of Irish Genealogies by Dubhaltach Mac Fhirbhisigh compiled [in 1645-66] by Duald Mac Firbis; edited with translation and indexes by Nollaig Ó Muraíle, 5 vols. (Dublin: De Búrca 2003-04) 29 cm. [in slipcase]; Leabhar mór na nGenealach [Contents] Vol. 1: Pre-Gaels; Early Gaels; Northern & Southern Uí Néill; Connacht. Vol. 2: Oriel; Gaelic Scotland; Leinster; East Ulster; Munster; Saints. Vol. 3: Kings, Vikings, Normans; Index; Topographical poems; Shorter book of genealogies. Vol. 4: General volume. v.5: Index of personal names; Ireland Genealogy.


  • Michael Herity, ‘Rathmulcah, Ware and Macfirbisigh’, in Ulster Journal of Archaeology, 33 (1970), pp.49-53 [contrasting antiquarian traditions represented by these].
  • Nollaig Ó Muráile, The Celebrated Antiquary Dubhaltach Mac Fhirbhisigh (c.1600-1671): His Lineage, Lore and Learning [Maynooth Monographs No. 6] (Maynooth 1997), xxiii, 427pp. [See details.]

See also Sir John Gilbert, History of Dublin, Vol. 1 (1865), under remarks on Sir James Ware.

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Eugene O’Curry, Customs and Manners of the Ancient Irish (1873)
On the Manner and Customs of the Ancient Irish: a series of lectures delivered by the late Eugene O’Curry, MRIA [...] ed. with an introduction, and appendixes, &c., by W. K. Sullivan, PhD, Sec. of the RIA, and Professor of Chemistry to the Catholic University and Royal College of Surgeons, 3 vols. (London: Williams & Norgate; W B Kelly; NY: Scribner, Welford & Co. 1873).
See digital copy of Manners and Customs, Vol. III [copy in Columbia U., NY], in Scribd - online; accessed 06.10.2017; also Vol. 1, in Scribd [copy of Internet Archive] - online [accessed at unknown date].


Mac Firbis, in answer to those who would deny the existence of stone-building in ancient Erinn, offers some fair remarks, from which I quote the following passages:

“It is only because lime-cast walls are not seen standing in the place in which they were erected a thousand and a half, or two thousand, or three thousand and more years sinces, what it is no wonder should not be [sic]; for shorter than that is he time in which the ground grows over buildings when they are once ruined, or when they fall down of themselves with age. In proof of this, I have myself seen within (the last) sixteen years, many lofty lime-cast castles, built of limestone; and at this day, (having fallen) there remains of them but a mound of earth; and hardly could a person ignorant of their former existene, know that there had been buildings there at all. Let this, and the workds that were reaied hundreds and thousands of years ago, be put together [compared], and it will be no wonder, were it not for the firmness of the old work over the work of these times, if a stone or an elevantion of earch can be recognized in their place. But such is not the case, for such is the durability of the ancient work, that there are great royal raths and lisses in abundance throughout Erinn; in which there are many hewn, smooth stones, and cellars or apartments, under ground, within their enclosures, such as Rath Maileatha, at Castle Conor, Bally-O’Dowda in Tir Fhiachrach, on the brink of the [river] Muaidhe [Moy]. There are nine smooth stone cellars under the mound of this rather; and I have been within in [sic] it, and I think its walls would be a good height for a cow-keep.”

[O’Curry:] I make this quotation from Mac Firbis only for what it is worth, for he does not absolutely assert that the masonry contained [16] lime and mortar; and there can be no denial of the existence of stone forts in this country from the earliest times, as evidenced not only by our oldest historical records and traditions, but by the very great number of them of the remotest antiquity, whcih still remain in wonderful preservation. (pp.16-17.)

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Joseph Th. Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fior-Ghael: Studies in the Idea of Irish Nationality, Its Development and Literary Expression Prior To The Nineteenth Century (John Benjamins Pub. Co., Amsterdam & Philadelphia, 1986), John Lynch (of Cambrensis Everus) was a student, with Roderick O’Flaherty, of Duald Mac Firbis. Bibl., ‘The annals of Ireland translated from the Irish for Sir James Ware in the year 1666’, ed. John O’Donovan in Misc. of the Irish Arch. Soc., 1 (1846), p.198-302; The genealogies, tribes, and customs of Hy-Fianrach, commonly called the O’Dowda [sic] country, ed. John O’Donovan (Dublin 1844); Annals of Ireland, Three Fragments, copied from ancient sources, ed. John O’Donovan (Dublin 1860).

R. E. and C. C. Ward, eds., Letters of Charles O’Conor (1988), for references to MacFirbis, ‘the hereditary Senchaidhe of the O’Dowda race [who] drew up the genealogies of all our Irish families in 1650 and ended each line with the chieftain existing at that time. His book is ow in the hands of the Earl of Roden, and is complete through my means, having restored to his Lordship a truncated part of the work which luckily fell into my hands forty years since; and the whole is the more authentic, as every line of it is in MacFirbis’s own handwriting ...’. Bibl., William M. Hennessy, ‘Introduction’, Chronicum Scotorum (1866), and Paul Walsh, Irish Men of Learning, Chap VII, ‘The Learned Family of MacFirbhisigh’.

Nollaig O Muráile, The Celebrated Antiquary Dubhaltach Mac Fhirbhisigh, c. 1600-1671; His Lineage, Life and Learning (Maynooth: An Sagart 1996), 427pp. Chap. material incls. Origins of the Clann Fhir Bhisigh; Giolla Iosa, Tomas Cam and the Great Lecan Manuscripts; Others of the Name; Dubthaltach’s Parents, birth and Education; County Sligo of the 1640s; Beginning of Scholarly Career, 1643; Chronicum Scotorum; Seachas Síl ír; Seventeenth Century Galway; Translator to the Poor Clares, 1647; Irish Genealogies: Medieval Roots and Later Developments; Leabhar na nGenealach: Compilation and Contents, 1649-50; Dubhaltach in the 1650s (esp. 1653-7); After the Hiatus 1663-4; Dublin and Ware, 1665; Dubhtaltach’s work in 1666; Final Years and Death; Scholarly Legacy [incl. Edward Lhuyd […] and Roderick O’Flahertym 303; Charles O’Conor of Bellanagare and ‘Duald Mac Firbis’, 309; Dr Charles O’Conor and the Stowe Library, 315; The Early 19th century, 316; John O’Donovan and His Associates, 317; Eoin MacNeill and Paul Walsh, 336, &c. Other matters mentioned in the preface are the purchase of the Lna nGenealach by Lord Jocelyn at the Fergus Sale in 1766; the role of Charles O’Conor of Belanagare as scholar and propagandist and his assocs., esp. Charles Vallancy; the story of O’Conor’s grandson, Rev. Charles, his transfer of the O’Conor MSS to Stowe, and his published descriptions of certain of Dubhhaltach’s writings; also, connections of Theophilus O’Flanaghan, Edward Reilly, and Thadaeus [sic] Connellan; advent of John O’Donovan and his growing appreciation of the Leabhar na nGenealach; various works of Dubhhaltach’s edited by O’Donovan; Bartholomew MacCarthy’s misunderstandings in regard to Dubhhaltach and his writings; the role of Eoin MacNeill as propagandist for Dubhhaltach; encouragement of Ó Raithbheartaigh and Duignan to work on the Leabhar na nGenealach; extensive use by Paul Walsh; work by Carney, Knott, Wainwright, Flower, Jackson, Byrne, Ó Fiannachta, Bannerman, Herit, O Concheanann, Radner, O Riain. Ó Muraile holds that the supposed education of Roderick O’Flaherty by John Lynch in Galway is ‘based on nothing but guesswork on the part of James Hardiman’ [211-12], and further, that ‘the whole question of whether John Lynch was ever in charge of a school in his native town is fraught with difficulty.’ The present work is an adaptation of a doctoral thesis NUI 1991. Note that Ó Muráile emends his bio-dates to c.1600-Jan. 1671.

Michael Cronin, Translating Ireland: Tranlsations, Languages, Cultures (Cork UP 1996), listing material translated by mac Fhir Bhisigh: The Testament and Benediction of St. Clare; The Bull of Innocent IV concerning a grant by Gregory IX; Declarations and Constitutions of St. Colette, preceded by 2 letters addresed [sic] to Collete by Br. William Cassal, Minister-General of the Order of Friars Minor; An Exhortation by Fr. Benignus for the Better observance of thes constitutions; The Obligation of the Rule of St Clare as regards mortal sin; Praisse of the Rule; An Examen of Conscience for the Religious; The 12 Evils which come by venial sin; 9 ways by which we participate in the sins of others; 12 fruits of the Blessed Sacrament; 12 evangelical counsels; malediction of St. Francis. (p.87, ftn. 67.)

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Charles Read, ed., A Cabinet of Irish Literature (3 vols., 1876-78), listed as Duald MacFirbis; Read cites his friendship with Roderick O’Flaherty, author of Ogygia, and John Lynch, author of Cambrensis Eversus; wrote The Branches of Relationship, or Volume of Pedigrees, known as the Book of MacFirbis, held in library of Earl of Roden; arranged list of bishops for Sir James Ware; Chronicon Scotorum, c.1656, when he also completed a treatise on Irish authors; O’Curry called him ‘the last of the regularly educated and most accomplished masters of the history, antiquities, and laws and languages of ancient Erinn,’ giving an account of his death; collection of Glossaries, ed. Whitley Stokes; Litany of the Saints in Verse, preserved BM; Treatise on Irish Authors, RIA; Chronicum Scotorum, ed. W. M. Henessy (1867); Annals of Ireland, ed. O’Donovan (Irish Arch. Soc); Cat. of Extinct Irish Bishoprics transcribed by Henessy, RIA Coll.; his English version of the ‘Registry of Clonmacnoise’, compiled 1216, printed in Trans. Kilkenny Arch. Soc.

Henry Boylan, A Dictionary of Irish Biography [rev. edn.] (Gill & Macmillan 1988), b. Lackan Castle, Co. Sligo; hereditary historians, studied at MacEgan and Davoren schools in Tipperary and Clare; lost estates in 1641-43 and moved to Galway; employed by James Ware; transcribed Chronicum Scotorum, a Chronicle of Irish Affairs from the Earliest Times to 1135 (published 1866); stabbed to death in an inn in Dunflin by a man called Crofton. [See also rem., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, 1991, Vol. 1, 237.]

Kenny’ Books (2004) lists Mac Firbis, Duald, Ó Muraíle, Nollaig. The great book of Irish genealogies compiled (1645-66) by Dubhaltach Mac Fhirbhisigh; edited with translation and indexes by Nollaig Ó Muraíle (Dublin: De Búrca 2003-2004) 5 v. in slipcase ; 29 cm. Original cloth New Copies in box set. At head of title: Leabhar mór na nGenealach. Contents: Vol. 1. Pre-Gaels; Early Gaels; Northern & Southern Uí Néill; Connacht. Vo. 2. Oriel; Gaelic Scotland; Leinster; East Ulster; Munster; Saints. vol. 3. Kings, Vikings, Normans; 'Index'; Topographical poems; Shorter book of genealogies. Vol. 4. General volume -- v.5. Index of personal names. Ireland Genealogy. [ISBN 0946130361 / 0946130361 (OCoLC) ocm55889747; € 635.00.]

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George A Little, Dublin Before the Vikings (1957), p.70, notes that the Genealogical MSS of Mac Firbisigh alludes to Fiachra Dubh, an 8th c. king of Ulster, called the bridge-builder for the number of viaducts he had built, ‘ ... as lais, do ronafh droicheatt na feirsi agus droicheatt Mona Deimh et alios, gona Fiachna dubh croitcheach, a aimn sidhen’ (p.30).

De Burca Books (Cat. 44, 1997), cites John O’Donovan’s report that MacFirbisigh inscribed ‘Senchas Mar’ by way of title on the folio [of Genealogies]. (p.5.)

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