Owen Connellan (1800-69)

[1797-1841;] Irish antiquarian; b. Sligo, a lineal descendant of the Ui Neill kings, he was brought up as a Protestant and later acted as a prosletyser; worked as an RIA amanuensis for 20 years; translated George IV's Letter to the Irish People, and was appt. Irish historiographer royal; produced Fonna Seanma, a series of songsbooks containing versions of many of those in Hardiman’s later Irish Minstrelsy; copied the Book of Lecan and Ballymote; Irish historiographer in reigns of George IV and William IV; appt. to Chair of Irish at Queen's College, Cork, from 1845; quarrelled with Sir Robert Kane, then president of the College; retired 1863; moved to Dublin'

issued Practical Grammar of the Irish Language (1844) - ‘adhering to the Connaught [Connacht] dialect’; he translated The Annals of Ireland from the Irish of the Four Masters, with notes by Philip MacDermott (1846), supplying the full Irish text; also issued a translation-edition of Imtheacht na Tromdháimhe, or Proceedings of the Great Bardic Institution (1860), a tale relating how the Tain Bó Cuailgne was recovered by Senchán Torpéist in the time of St Ciaran;

engaged in controversy with Henry J. Monck Mason, founder of the Irish Society ded. to the propagation of Scripture in Irish and author of a Grammar of the Irish Language (1830); Mason contrib. a letter on “The Irish Language” in the Christian Examiner (Sept. 1833), attacking Connellan’s edition of the Irish prayer-book and including Connellan’s cousin Thady in object of his assault; Connellan replied in a letter to the Examiner revealing the numerous faults of Mason's Grammar and the inaccuracies of the pocket edition of Bishop Bedell’s Bible issued by the Society (CE, Oct., 1833, pp.729-732);
Connellan was supported by Charles Orpen and John O'Donovan in this controversy; he afterwards published his his reply to Mason in its unedited form independently of the Christian Examiner as A Dissertation on Irish Grammar (1834); in his preface to A Practical Grammar of the Irish Language (1844), Connellan writes of William Betham as a philological pioneer and accepted his theory of the derivation of Irish from ancient Etruscan; issued a translation of the Annals of the Four Masters, translated from the original Irish of the Four Masters (1846) - covering the period from 1171 to 1616; d. 4 Aug. 1871, at his house on Burlington Rd. ODNB JMC DIB DIW RAF OCIL

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Annála Ríoghachta Éireann: The Annals of Ireland, translated from the original Irish of the four masters by Owen Connellan, with annotations by Philip MacDermott, M.D. (Dublin: Published by Bryan Geraghty 1846), [16], 736pp.; with index, pp.[745]-34; ill. [2 pls.; frontispiece in 4 cols.; fold-out map of the location of the main Irish families of Gaelic Ireland], 26.5cm.; ded. to Sir William Betham. Note: A copy was presented to Marsh’s Library by J. L. Richardson in 1963.

Also ...

Practical Grammar
of the the Irish Language.

by Owen Connellan

Irish Historiographer to their late Majesties, King George the IV. and King
William the IV. Author of “Grammatical interlinear version
of the Gospel of St. John” - the “Grammatical Praxis on
the Gospel of St. Matthew - the “Dissertation
on Irish Grammar - Compiler of the “Annals of Dublin,” in Pettigrew
and Oulton’s Directory,
&c. &c.


Ded. to Lord George Augusta Hill, MRIA, Member
of The Royal Society of Antiquaries, &c., &c.

In this Grammar I have followed the systems of Neilson and Haliday, as being the most correct. In the pronunciation I have adhered to the Connaught dialect, which will be foiund to represent as closely as posible the proper orthography of the modern language, except very few instances. It would be almost endless,and perhaps a useless undertaking, to give the varieties of sounds used throughout Ireland, as applied to several letters and words, which may be either localisms or corruptions. The pronunciation, however, which I have used (so far as I could represent the words by English letters,) is that spoken and taught by the Irish Professors of the Dublin University; of the Royal Belfast Institution; and of the new College of St. Columba at Stackallen.

I have given many words and phrases collected from ancient Irish MSS, in order to assist the learner in reading the nearly obsolete language in which they are written. While I was myself engaged in studying the ancient manuscripts, I found these phrases and idions one of the greatest difficulties to overcome, and the examples now given will supply a key to the elucidation of many passages, otherwise, perhaps impossible to understand. In a dictionary which I was many years compiling, most of those antiquated idioms are fully explained.

I acknowledge with gratitude the kindness of Sir William BETHAM, who has given me his valuable opinion on many points in the Grammer - an opinion which must now be considered of the greatest weight on any point connected with the Irish language, since he has rendered so great a service to Celtic Literature by the discover of the identity of the Irish and Etruscan languages - an identity which I have no hesitation in stating, he has, in my humble judgement, clearly and fully established in his Etruria Celtica.

I conclude with my warmest acknowledgements for the liberal encouragement which has enabled me to publish this Grammar, trusting it will promote the cause of Irish literature, by facilitiating the acquisition of perhaps one of the most ancient, as well as one of the most beautiful and expressive languages of Europe, and thus establish a medium of communication between the higher and lower orders of society in Ireland. [End.]

In the orthographical introduction, Connellan lists the Irish Alphabet under the columns:
Forms - caps/small : Corresponding English letters : Names : English spelling : Translation of names - the translations being ‘trees’, i.e., palm, birch, hazel, oak, aspen, alder, ivy, yew, quicken, vine, ash, broom, dwarf-elder, elder, willow, furze, heath, white-thorn. Vowel incl. diphtongs and triphthongs. (p.1.)
The Sounds of the Vowels
The organs of speech admit only a limited number of essentially different positions formative of articulate sound; but, as the slightest approximation of neighbouring positions must produce a corresponding diversity of audible effect, it happens that hardly two languages exist, in which all the sounds are strictly identical. Similarity, therefore, and not identity, is sometimes all that can be furnished in the following illustrations, by means of corresponding English sounds and spelling; and, where even this cannot be found, the deficiency will be supplied from other languages, or by description. (p.2.)
The Grammar is succeeded by short bilingual of which the last is from the Annals of the Four Masters from A.D. 1171 to A.D. 1188, the last entry reading [in translation]:
‘The English of the Castle of Moycoba and a party from Iveagh in Ulidia, went on a predatory excursion into Tyrone, and advanced as far as the Leap of M’Neill, where they seized some cattle. Donal O’Loughlin with his followers pursued them and overtook them at Cavan of Granard. A battle ensued between then in which the English were defeated with slaughter.’ / Crioch. (p.120.)
Printed by Goodwin, Son & Nethercott, Printers, 75, Marlborough-street, Dublin [colophon].
[Available at Google Books online; also at Internet Archive online (copy in Oxford Library).]

[See note on Sir William Betham, infra.]

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Donal O’Sullivan, Thaddeus Connellan and his Books of Irish Poetry [q.d.; cited in Máire Mac an tSaoi, Introduction to Hardiman’s Irish Minstrelsy [1831], Irish Univ. Press Edn. 1971, p.vii].

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Irish Literature, gen. ed. Justin McCarthy (Washington: University of America 1904); gives extracts from ‘Annals’ [‘The Capture of Hugh Roe O’Donnell’, as 1587; and The Escape of Hugh Roe’], and one other translation, being ‘The Hospitality of Cuanna’s House’. On Hugh: ‘His arrival after that manner was immediately known all over the city, and the Lord Justice and the council were delighted at his having come, although indeed it was not for love of him, and they commanded to have him brought before them; having been accordingly brought they discoursed and conversed with him, scrutinizing and eliciting all the knowledge of him they could for a long time; they at length, however, ordered him to be put in a strong stone castle which was in the city, where a great number of the noble sons of the Milesians were in chains and captivity, as well as some of the Fionn Ghaill (normans or English), whose chief subject of conversation both day and night was complaining to each other of their injuries and troubles, and treating of persecutions carried on against the noble and high-born sons of Ireland in general’. On his escaping, ‘his faithful people were rejoiced at the arrival of the heir to the chieftaincy, and although they owed him sincere affection on account of his family, they had motives which made him no less welcome to them, for the country up to that time had been plundered a hundred times over betweeen the English and the Irish.’ [Note printing error: ‘Cuailogue’ for Cuailgne.]

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Patrick Rafroidi, Irish Literature in English, The Romantic Period, 1789-1850 (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1980), Vol. I; A Dissertation on Irish Grammar (Dublin 1834); The Annals of Ireland ... with annotations by P. Mac Dermott (1846), and trans. post-1850. See also Proceedings of the Great Bardic Assembly under Dallán Forgaill.

Cathach Books (Catalogue 1996-97) lists The Annals of Ireland, translated from the Original Irish of the Four Masters [...] with annotations by P. MacDermott; Intro. by Bryan Geraghty (Dublin: Published by Bryan Geraghty 1846), 736pp. [£295].

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Emerald Isle Books (Cat. No. 95): Do. (Dublin: Geraghty 1846), 4°; cold. eng. title, Map of the Clans of Ireland; pres. copy from Dr. MacDermott to Dr. O’Reilly of NY [£225].

Belfast Public Library holds Proceedings of the Great Bardic Institution (1860); trans. Annals of Ireland by the Four Masters (1846); Gospel According to St. John in Irish (1830).


Sir William Betham (1779-1853):

Betham - the dedicatee of the Annála Ríoghachta Éireann - was a native of Suffolk served as Ulster King of Arms from 1820 to his death. He worked on Irish genealogies between 1807 and 1828, making chart pedigrees corresponding to the information he transcribed from the prerogative wills in the Public Records Office, a source which was destroyed by fire in the Four Courts in 1922 - thus rendering his charts an indispensable substitute for the lost documents. He is buried in Carrickbrennan Churchyard, Monkstown, near his home at Rockford Hse, Stradbrook, Co. Dublin. His philological theories were not ‘deemed satisfactory’ (Gentleman's Magazine, London, 1731-1868; cited in Webb, Compendium, 1878). Betham rejected Petrie’s interpretation of the Round Towers of Ireland (1833, 1845), holding the pagan-origin theory, and supposedly withdrawn from the RIA for many years on account of it.
  Connellan rather credulously cites him on the identity of the Irish and Etruscan languages in his Practical Grammar [supra] while, in the General Introduction to his Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry (1843 Edn.), William Carleton lists him among the antiquaries of Ireland when he writes of the ‘charms, old ranns, or poems, old prophecies, religious superstitions, tales of pilgrims, miracles, and pilgrimages, anecdotes of blessed priests and friars, revelations from ghosts and fairies’ known to his own father - going on to write:

‘[...] I have hardly ever since, during a tolerably enlarged intercourse with Irish society, both educated and uneducated - with the antiquary, the scholar or the humble senachie - any single tradition, usage, or legend, that, as far as I can at present recollect, was perfectly new to me or unheard before, in some similar or cognate dress. This is certainly saying much; but I believe I may assert with confidence that I could produce, in attestation of its truth, the names of Petrie, Sir W. Betham, Ferguson, and O’Donovan, the most distinguished antiquaries, both of social usages and otherwise, that ever Ireland produced.’ (Barbara Hayley, ed., Traits and Stories [...] by Wiliam Carleton [1843], rep. edn., Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1979, p.ix.)

An Index to the Prerogative Wills of Ireland, 1536-1810 [1897], was produced by Sir Arthur Edward Vicars in 1897; see also P. B. Phair, ed., ‘Sir William Betham’s Manuscripts’, in Analecta Hibernica, 27 (Shannon: IUP 1972), pp.1-99 [available at JSTOR - online].
See J. T. Gilbert, ‘Betham, Sir William (1779–1853)' and Do. [rev. by Michael Erben] (2004) - online with password.

Sir William Betham (2): Betham’s work on the Prerogative Wills supplies the principal element in the National Library of Ireland record of lost materials in the Public Record Office fire of 1922 - consisting in 241 volumes of abstracts prepared by him for genealogical purposes and mainly drawn from Prerogative Wills 1536-180 together with some Diocesan Wills and Marriage Licence Bonds. The NLI archive also holds 8 volumes of Betham Correspondence dealing with genealogical research with addition extracts from records. (See Guide to the National Archives of Ireland > Transcripts, prepared by Sean. J. Murphy - online.)

Note that P. Beryl Eustace, Will Abstracts of the Genealogical Office, [1954] cites Arthur Vicars, Index [... &c.] 1536-1810 [n.d.], and remarks that Betham compiled what he called his ‘genealogical analysis’ of the Wills up to the year 1800 [sic], adding: ‘His notebooks are now at the Records Office, Dublin, while his Wills Pedigrees drawn from these notes fill 31 vols. at the Genealogical Office. A copy of the series is at the Record Office, Belfast, but lacks the countless annotations of successive Officers at Arms which have added greatly to the value of the volumes at the Genealogical Office.’ (See at Scribd online; accessed 3.11.2011 - but note that this this site contains advert. material and browser-retarding script.]

Vide P. Beryl Eustace, ed., Abstracts of Wills, 3 vols. (Dublin: Stationary Office 1954-1956), Vol. 1: 1708-1745; Vol. 2: 1746-85; Do., ed. by Eilish Ellis (1984): Vol. 3: 1785-1832.

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