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17th, 18th & 19th November : School of Celtic Studies Tionól 2016

This year’s Tionól will take place at the School of Celtic Studies, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 10 Burlington Road, Dublin  4 on Thursday 17th, Friday 18th and Saturday 19th November 2016.

Schedule – Download as printable PDF.



Abstracts for the talks are listed below in the order they will be presented at Tionól

Andrew Ó Donnghaile: Túarastal Cána Phátraic: Cáin Dairí and Armagh in Ninth-Century Ireland

In his Companion to the Corpus Iuris Hibernici (2005), Liam Breatnach brought to light a stipulation from the fragmentary ordinance Cáin Dairí that notes dependence on a legal mechanism (túarastal ‘description [of a crime], eyewitness evidence’) in Cáin Phátraic, which itself is known to belong to Armagh. This paper examines how the stipulation in question functions both within a legal setting and the political context of the promulgations of Cáin Dairí in Irish chronicles. From this investigation emerge potential implications for the (re)authorship and enactment of the ordinance. In particular, some evidence will be reviewed that suggests a reworking of the ordinance after the apparent promulgation of Boṡlicht in Munster and before its enactment in Connacht as Cáin Dairí. The responsible factors include the growing relationship between Connacht and Armagh, the need for greater protection of ecclesiastical assets, changing dynamics of overkingship, and the appropriation of local saints for larger purposes. Through such an untangling of dynastic links and networks of influence among prominent ecclesiastics and provincial kings in Munster, Connacht, and the Uí Néill overkingdom, an interesting political situation emerges that may explain more fully the connection between Cáin Dairí and Armagh.

Philip Healy: The treatment of political hostages in Aided Chrimthainn meic Fhidaig ocus Trí Mac Echach Muigmedón

The Middle Irish tale Aided Chrimthainn meic Fhidaig ocus Trí Mac Echach Muigmedón ‘The Death of Crimthann son of Fidach and the Three Sons of Eochaid Mugmedón’ is set in the distant past and relates the adventures of the ancestors of the Connachta. Donnchadh Ó Corráin has placed the tale’s composition during the twelfth-century rule of Toirdelbach Ua Conchubair. One particularly striking episode describes the burial alive of the hostages of Munster at the grave-mound of Fiachra, son of Eochaid Mugmedón. I will argue that in addition to Ó Corráin’s evidence there is more material in the tale which identifies Toirdelbach Ua Conchubair and which shows support for Ua Conchubair’s policies. I will propose that Aided Crimthainn’s presentation of hostages concerns Ua Conchubair’s execution of the son of Mac Carthaig and other Munster hostages in 1124. Given that the execution of hostages was a rare and disturbing practice Aided Crimthainn justifies the Munstermen’s deaths and serves as a warning that those who submit hostages to the king of Connacht should co-operate with him. This new concern with hostages in Irish literature developed further and is found in later twelfth- and thirteenth-century texts.

Siobhán Barrett: Blathmac’s fragmentary quatrains: preliminary findings

The Poems of Blathmac Son of Cú Brettan are two long, 8th century, Old Irish, religious poems preserved in a 17th century manuscript (National Library of Ireland MS G 50, pages 122-144). James Carney’s publication The Poems of Blathmac Son of Cú Brettan (Irish Texts Society, 1964) is the only edition and translation of these two poems. The first poem contains 149 stanzas and the second poem, in Carney’s edition, is 110 stanzas long. However, the manuscript contains more material. The condition of the manuscript disimproves as a result of staining on pages 141 and 142 and only fragments remain of pages 143 and 144. The poor condition of the manuscript resulted in Carney concluding his edition at stanza 259. In an article called ‘The Poems of Blathmhac: The ‘Fragmentary Quatrains’ (Celtica 23, 1999) Nessa Ní Shéaghdha transcribed the previously unpublished stanzas but these have not been translated. Now using the digital copies available on Irish Scripts On Screen and with the help of photo-editing software some additional text is visible. This paper will discuss the preliminary results of work on these stanzas, including tentative translations and consideration of other texts containing similar subject matter.

Sarah Waidler: Relics in Wales and beyond: the view from the saints’ Lives in Vespasian A xiv

This paper will examine the cult of relics as depicted in the collection of Lives of saints in BL Cotton Vespasian A xiv. The Lives in this collection contain several references to both primary and secondary relics, which are of tantamount importance for understanding relics in Wales and the Welsh perception of this important aspect of the cult of saints. The principal focus of this study is to examine the dichotomy of local relics, which the Lives depict as being located at the main cult site of the title saint, and non-local relics, which are often encountered in the Lives via pilgrimage and/or through the interaction of the title saint of a Life with other saints. This theme is particularly noteworthy in a collection that contains the Lives of non-Welsh saints, and the wider manuscript context will be a major factor in understanding why these Lives incorporate such a wide range of locations of relics. This topic allows for an investigation into the importance of the depiction of relics within the hagiography of this manuscript in terms of how it relates to identity, both at the micro and macro level, the use of particular relics and how relics fit into the overall purpose(s) behind the Lives. This study will address these issues by keeping in mind the literary nature of these hagiographic texts and will also seek to be aware of the use of other sources and literary/historical allusions within the hagiographer’s portrayal of relics.

Romanas Bulatovas: Stories from the Law-tracts and Sanas Cormaic

Stories from the Law-tracts (Stories below) are a collection of 14 legal anecdotes in the great legal manuscript TCD MS 1336 (olim H 3.17), which were meant to elucidate and comment on the Old Irish law tract Bretha Nemed Toísech (BNT below). The material is hetegoneous, some narratives could be dated to Old Irish period and other rather belong to Middle Irish stratum. Those stories were first edited, published and translated in the 30ties by Myles Dillon, no dedicated research of those stories as a collection was undertaken since.

As it was established for some time, Cormac’s Glossary contains a lot of legal material gleaned both from the primary laws, and from commentaries on them. As Stories also contain commentary on BNT, it was thus hypothesized that Sanas Cormaic might contain some material derived from Stories. In the paper I will present the results of this investigation. Unexpectedly it appeared that rather than make use of Stories, Cormac’s Glossary itself was used a source for compilation of at least one story and one gloss in the material.

David Stifter, Fangzhe Qiu, Elliott Lash: Chronologicon Hibernicum: the Annals of Ulster and Minor Glosses Databases

Chronologicon Hibernicum (ChronHib) is a five-year project at Maynooth University, funded by a Consolidator Grant of the European Research Council (H-2020 grant agreement #647351). The project’s aims are to refine the methodology for dating Early Irish linguistic changes (phonology, morphology, syntax) and to build a chronological framework of those changes that can be used to date literary texts within the early medieval period. In this paper, members of the team will showcase the project progress after the first year. Focussing on the databases of the Annals of Ulster 554–950 (Fangzhe Qiu) and of the Minor Old-Irish Glosses (Elliott Lash), the principles and structures of ChronHib’s databases will be presented and their possibilities for diachronic and synchronic phonological, morphological and syntactical research will be demonstrated.

Katie Ní Loingsigh: Rangú ar chnuasach nathanna as saothar an Athar Peadar Ua Laoghaire

Tugtar aitheantas don Athair Peadar Ua Laoghaire (1839–1920) go fóill mar mhórscoláire Gaeilge an fichiú haois i ngeall ar an seasamh a ghlac sé maidir le ‘caint na ndaoine’ a chur chun cinn ina scríbhinní agus ar an rian a d’fhág sé ar an teanga. Sa pháipéar seo, cíortar a shaothar agus déantar rangú ar nathanna a thagann chun cinn ina leabhair fhoilsithe. Tugtar léargas ar thraidisiún an taighde ar nathanna faoi scáth réimse na frásaíochta, réimse teangeolaíochta nár tháinig chun cinn mar réimse taighde aitheanta go dtí go luath sna 1980idí. Rangaítear na nathanna ar scála nó ar chontanam nádúrthachta de réir a n-airíonna séimeantacha. Ina theannta sin, leagtar síos scéim rangaithe nathanna Gaeilge a d’fhéadfadh a bheith mar eiseamláir ag taighdeoirí eile amach anseo.

Breandán Ó Cróinín: Bruidhean Bheag na hAlmhan: téacs agus comhthéacs

Tá an scéal próis Fiannaíochta, Bruidhean Bheag na hAlmhan, bunoscionn le bruíonscéalta eile ón sraith chéanna sa mhéid is gur achrann idir laochra na Féinne i láthair bruíne is príomhthéama dhó seachas na laochra céanna a bheith ag troid ar son a n-anama in áitreabh draíochtúil éigint, fé mar is gnáthach i dtéacsanna Fiannaíochta den tsaghas so. Dhealródh sé gur chun grinn ab ea a cumadh Bruidhean Bheag na hAlmhan an chéad lá ach, mar sin féin, dob fhuirist a shamhlú go mb’fhéidir go raibh aidhmeanna eile ag údar an téacsa agus é ag dul i mbun pinn, pé uair a dhein. Sa pháipéar so, tá sé i gceist agam féachaint ar sheachadadh an téacsa sna lámhscríbhinní, ar na heagráin dhifriúla a foilsíodh go dtí seo agus, ina theannta san, ar abhar an téacsa féin sa tslí is gur féidir tuairim mheáite a chaitheamh mar leis an gcomhthéacs inar cumadh an scéal so an chéad lá.

Pádraig Ó Cíobháin: Airec menman (.i. straitéis) léitheora aeistéitiúil ar léamh séimeolaíoch thús Mesca Ulad

Is é atá i gceist agam a dhéanamh le linn na cainte seo, páipéar a thabhairt ar an sórt léitheoireachta nach mór a dhéanamh ar luathlitríocht Ghaeilge na hÉireann más maith linn a ceart féin a thabhairt di. An sórt léitheoireachta ar a dtugtar ‘léamh séimeolaíoch ar théacs’ is fónta d’fhonn a dhéanta-san, dar liom. Is é atá i gceist leis an airec menman, nó an straitéis sin: tadhall a dhéanamh le téacs a bhéarfaidh tuiscint dá léitheoir ar a bhfuil fite fuaite i dteicníocht nó in ailtireacht na huige dá léamh aige, mar cuireadh le chéile an téacs, cad iad na hathshondais nó na macallaí is féidir don léitheoir a bhrath ann, agus an taithneamh breise is féidir a bhaint as a bhfuil san uige sin ag leibhéil éagsúla.

Sa chur chuige agam, i Dréachta Chrích Fódla: Imleabhair 1 (Coiscéim, 2007), ina bhfuil athinsint ar scéalta ón ár luathlitríocht i nGaeilge na linne seo, tá cuid áirithe den obair thaighde, thaithithe, thánaisteach sin déanta agus curtha ar fáil i bhfoirm fho-nótaí bun leathanaigh, mar áis don léitheoir chun sochar níos fearr a bhaint as phléisiúr na léitheoireachta gan mórán struis a chur air féin. Leanfar leis an gcur chuige céanna i Dréachta Chrích Fódla: Imleabhair 2 a bheidh á fhoilsiú go luath, ina mbeidh Mesca Ulad, go bhfuil i gceist agam a thús a léamh go grinn nó go séimeolaíoch le linn na cainte.

Damian McManus: On the use of the Urlann in Deibhidhe

This talk will assess the principle of available syllable-balance in the use of the Urlann in Deibhidhe and other metres and will provide evidence to challenge a literal interpretation of Ó hEódhasa’s statement: As éidir aonfhocul amháin do bheith ar tús na céadcheathramhan ris nach gcuirfidhear comhardadh san dara ceathramhuin agus “urlann” as ainm dhon fhocul sin ‘There may be one stressed word [only?] at the beginning of the first line which will not be matched in rhyme in the second line, and that word is called the urlann’.

Peter McQuillan: “Maith an ceannaighe Cormac”: Tadhg Dall’s poem for Cormac O’Hara

In the 1580s Cormac O’Hara became lord of Leyney in Co. Sligo and Tadhg Dall Ó hUiginn addressed a number of poems to him. This talk will consider one of those poems, the eulogy beginning “Maith an ceannaighe Cormac” (A good merchant is Cormac). According to the poem, Cormac has been buying up as many poems as he can, at a time when there is otherwise no demand for poetry. As the poet argues, the imperishable nature of the fame that he confers on the lord through his praise contrasts starkly with the transient material rewards garnered by him in return. In the contractual exchange between poet and lord, therefore, the latter always has the better of it since the material remuneration received by the poet is ephemeral, while his praise has eternal value. Cormac shows his astuteness by buying up as many of these poems as possible, especially when demand is lowest and therefore the poems are at their cheapest. He is therefore a good merchant. But is he?

The poem engages in a double analogy. In his hoarding of poems, Cormac is compared to the legendary Munster king Mugh Néid who saved his province by buying up food in advance of famine. By imitating the king in his purchasing of poems (rather than food), Cormac obtains the blessing of the poets of Ireland for saving them in the present and for safeguarding future generations from a scarcity of verse. However, if the poem compares poetry to food, it also compares it to gold: Cormac is “a trafficker in the gold of poesy” in Knott’s translation (ceannuighe óir ealadhna). Medieval Europe believed that value was physically, intrinsically present in gold; therefore the more one had of it the better, the wealthier one was (the economic doctrine known as bullionism). This belief was seriously shaken in the sixteenth century by the massive influx of bullion into Europe from the New World which led to rampant inflation and soaring food prices (up by 600% in England, for example, in the period 1500 to 1640). Now more quantity suddenly meant less in terms of value. As with gold and economics, Tadhg Dall suggests, so too with eulogy and linguistics: is all exchange value not nominal, symbolic and fluctuating, subject to external factors such as supply and demand, rather than intrinsic and therefore enduring?  This is the question that gently subverts the poem’s entire premise and has fundamental implications for the traditional relationship between professional poet and lord in a changing world. As Knott remarks in her notes to the poem, the theme of “the transitory nature of material wealth contrasted with the permanence of panegyric” is one “beloved of panegyrists of all ages and climes”; what makes Tadhg Dall’s treatment of it here so effective is that he situates it within the context of a specifically sixteenth-century economic experience.

Máire Ní Mhaonaigh: A poem to Raghnall, King of Man: text and context

This paper will examine the historical context for a poem often considered to be the earliest extant bardic composition, a poem, written in praise of an early thirteenth-century, king of Man, Raghnall son of Gofraid, and great-grandson of Gofraid Méránach who had ruled Dublin and Man. Central to the poet’s portrayal is that Tara, symbolic seat of kingship, will belong to the Manx king and the latter is also presented as a claimant to Dublin. Examining this depiction in the context of the genre within which the poet was writing and in the light of what we know of Raghnall’s career from other sources, it becomes clear that the work provides an important alternative perspective on key events of the period. This analysis is the work of collaborative research between Colmán Etchingham and Máire Ní Mhaonaigh with two Old Norse scholars, Jón Viðar Sigurðsson and Elizabeth Ashman Rowe.

Colmán Etchingham: Gaelic personal names in Iceland’s Landnámabók and the historical antecedent of Kjarvalr Írakonungr

Gaelic personal names — Irish and Scottish — in the Icelandic Landnámabók (‘Book of Settlements’) have attracted comment since they were first collected by Guðbrandur Vigfússon in 1874 and briefly analysed by Whitley Stokes in 1878. W. A. Craigie’s more detailed analysis, published over a hundred years ago between 1896 and 1903, has not been substantially superseded in more recent commentary by Icelandic scholars. These names comprise one of four subjects of a collaborative research project involving Máire Ní Mhaonaigh and Elizabeth Ashman Rowe at Cambridge, Jón Viðar Sigurðsson at Oslo and Colmán Etchingham at Maynooth. This studies a selection of Old Norse and Irish texts and their contexts to reveal how historical and traditional materials were exploited for a contemporary function at the Norse-Gaelic interface of the eleventh to thirteenth centuries. The particular case study of Gaelic personal names in Landnámabók evaluates the claim of leading Icelanders in the thirteenth century, and probably at least as early as AD 1100, to descend from Kjarvalr Írakonungr (‘Cerball king of the Irish’). The total of over forty Gaelic personal names borne by about sixty individuals in Landnámabók sheds important light on medieval onomastic transmission. We add to this corpus of material and re-examine it thoroughly. Our analysis brings out the authenticity of many of the names and what this reveals about the process of transmission, usually oral but in a few revealing cases evidently literate. Beside this, there is substantial fancy or creativity in the transmission of certain names and we consider the ideological function of this aspect. The paper offered here, which would be presented by Colmán Etchingham, summarises our findings in these areas and also proposes that the real historical antecedent of Kjarvalr Írakonungr is likely to have been other than Cerball mac Dúngaile of Osraige, contrary to what has generally been supposed.

Ronan Mulhaire: Resistance and revolt in eleventh- and twelfth-century Ireland

A number of different terms are used in the annalistic sources to describe ‘revolt’, and terminological precision is not easily obtainable. Some terms — like impúd – are used with greater regularity from 1093 onwards. This paper explores why this might be so. This paper also suggest that literary sources, like Maige Tuired Tuired might give us a greater insight into how depositions might have occurred in practice. The paper seeks to explore the ‘power’ of Irish kings in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the ways in which it was negotiated and, on occasion, resisted. Both the phenomena of ‘revolt’ and ‘regicide’ will be discussed.

Éamon Ó Ciosáin: Máirtín Ó Cadhain hag ar brezhoneg: an Cadhnach ag foghlaim agus ag saothrú na Briotáinise

Is cosúil gur le linn an Dara Cogaidh, agus é ina chime i gcampa an Churraigh, a chrom an scríbhneoir Máirtín Ó Cadhain ar fhoghlaim na Briotáinise, i measc teangacha eile (Litreacha as an nGéibheann). Choinnigh sé air níos deireanaí le cúnamh ó chainteoirí Briotáinise a tháinig go hÉirinn mar chuid de ghrúpa náisiúntóirí Briotáineacha tar éis an chogaidh.

Ríomhfaidh an páipéar seo an cúlra seo agus an obair liteartha a bhí mar thoradh air. Foilsíodh roinnt leaganacha Gaeilge de ghearrscéalta leis an údar iomráiteach Jakez Riou (1899-1937) in irisí Gaeilge, leaganacha a rinne an Cadhnach i bpáirt le duine ar a laghad de na Briotáinigh. Aithnítear cnuasach gearrscéalta Riou Geotenn ar Wer’chez (1934) mar scothleabhar gearrscéalta i litríocht nua-aoiseach na Briotáinise agus Riou mar údar tábhachtach a d’fhoilsigh go leor. Tá ábhar spéise sna haistriúcháin chomh maith ó thaobh fhorbairt an Chadhnaigh mar scríbhneoir. Tá bunscríbhinní na n-aistriúchán ar marthain i gcartlann an Chadhnaigh.

The prominent Irish writer Máirtín Ó Cadhain (1906–70) appears to have begun to study Breton (among other languages) while a prisoner in the Curragh Camp during World War 2 (cf the edition of some prison letters ‘Litreacha as an nGéibheann’). Ó Cadhain continued to study Breton in subsequent years, with assistance from at least one of the group of Breton nationalists who came to live in Ireland after the war. This paper proposes to outline the background to Ó Cadhain’s interest in Breton and the resulting literary activity. Ó Cadhain published Irish translations of four short stories from the collection ‘Geotenn ar Wer’chez’ (1934) by Breton author Jakez Riou (1899–1837), with assistance from his Breton acquaintance(s). Riou is recognised as one of the major authors in Breton in the 20th century. The translations are also of interest for study of Ó Cadhain’s development as a writer.

Gregory Toner and Xiwu Han: Temporal text classification: Computer-based dating of medieval Irish texts

Document dating, also known as diachronic text evaluation (DTE), temporal text classification, or text dating, is the task of determining the period when a text was written or published. Traditional linguistic dating is enormously time consuming and often leads to substantially varying results. Computer-assisted document dating offers the advantage of being able to provide a chronology for large numbers of texts with verifiable levels of accuracy on a scale that is not achievable with manual dating.

This paper will explore the use of a multiclass classification algorithm for dating. It has been shown that multi-class classification for dating texts usually outperforms other methods, such as ordinal regression or ranking. One of the issues in using multiclass classification for dating is to determine the optimal time intervals for the training, normally set at short (6 year), medium (12 year) and long (20 year) periods. However, the segmentation into time intervals can neither be linear nor regular, and so the algorithm could be improved by establishing the optimal time intervals for document dating. This paper will describe the approach taken to multiclass classification dating using a greedy grouping algorithm to estimate the optimal time intervals. We trialled this method on three sets of annals (Inisfallen, Ulster and Loch Cé) and achieved improved performance over previous methods. The new algorithm can predict the date of an annal to within +/- 25 years with a 75% success rate and to within +/- 3 years with a 34% chance of success. We will also analyse the results of tests on non-annalistic sources, notably prose texts in Lebor na hUidre and the Book of Leinster.

Máire Ní Chiosáin, Pavel Iosad: Short vowel allophones in Modern Irish

We present the results of a study of the acoustic properties of short vowels in Modern Irish, building on data from all three major dialect groupings. It is well known that short vowels in Irish are realized as back or front depending on the palatalization of the surrounding consonants (thus *liom* [u] but *linn* [i]). In addition, traditional descriptions also recognize that vowels can also have a number of distinct allophones whose distribution also depends on surrounding consonants: for instance, De Bhaldraithe (1945) describes four distinct varieties of [a] in Cois Fhairrge Irish.

We conduct an acoustic and statistical analysis of the pronunciations of short vowels by speakers of all three major dialects of Irish in order to evaluate the relative contribution of the two kinds of consonant influence on vowel phonetics. We show that the distribution of the coarser categories (e.g. [i] vs. [u]) is largely predictable and mostly follows the generalizations that can be extracted from the traditional descriptive literature (e.g. Ó Maolalaigh 1998). However, the finer-grained allophony does not require setting up discrete categories as in the traditional descriptions, but instead emerges from the interplay of various continuous factors.


  • De Bhaldraithe, T. (1945). The Irish of Cois Fhairrge, Co. Galway. Baile Átha Cliath, Institiúid Ard-Léinn Bhaile Átha Cliath
  • Ó Maolalaigh, R. (1997). The historical short vowel phonology of Gaelic. Tráchtas PhD, Ollscoil Dhún Éideann

Róisín Nic Dhonncha: The concept of text and the transmission of traditional Irish song

This paper will outline the ways in which the transmission of songs from the sean-nós tradition has been influenced by literary and textual forms. Literacy has, since the end of the nineteenth century, been an idealised construct in Western society and has facilitated the dominance of vision over other senses in processing and disseminating information. Despite the existence of numerous song texts, including manuscript collections from the nineteenth century, broadsheets, and printed collections of the present time, many sean-nós singers reject printed song texts as a credible representation of their tradition. Such collections tangibly reflect the breadth and the richness of the repository of traditional song and have helped to reconcile the oral tradition with the status-laden medium of print. There is a prevailing attitude, however, that committing songs to paper reduces their traditionality and represses variation. This idealisation of orality calls into question whether printed forms of songs are even aesthetically or artistically valued, and prevails upon us to critically examine the place of text in an orally performed genre.

Seán Ua Súilleabháin: Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire: text and translations

Seán Ó Tuama’s 1961 edition of Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire, along with the abbreviated version in An Duanaire: Poems of the Dispossessed is effectively the only available Irish text of Nóra Ní Shíndile’s first rendering of the lament for Art Ó Laoghaire. Although the published text is not without its flaws it seems to be regarded as canonical even by some scholars of Irish. Textual decisions and errors are re-examined along with their consequences for translators and for the edition of Nóra Ní Shíndile’s second rendering of the lament. Reference is made to other misinterpretations to be found in translations.

Patrick Sims-Williams: Where did Celtic emerge? The Greek evidence

Whether the Celts and their language emerged in eastern Europe, in the Atlantic west, or somewhere in between has been the subject for speculation, owing to the scarcity of written evidence. But there is some evidence to scrutinize. I shall reconsider the writings of Hecataeus c. 560–480 and Herodotus c. 485–424, who were contemporary with the Celtic-language inscriptions in northern Italy and southern Switzerland, in the light of the testimony of some other Greeks writing prior to the Celtic migrations of the third century B.C.

Michael Clarke: A possible new source for the Merugud Uilix, the medieval Irish Ulysses narrative

Studies by Barbara Hillers and others have shown that Merugud Uilix is different in kind from other medieval Irish narratives concerned with Classical mythology and pseudohistory. It is not an expanded translation of a particular Latin text, like (e.g.) Togail Troí or the Irish Aeneid, but a highly original creation in which elements from disparate Classical sources have been combined with extraneous material of non-Classical origin, centred on an example of the tale-type known as ‘the master’s three counsels’. In this paper I hope to shed new light on the composition of the Merugud by proposing that the first part of the text, which recounts Ulysses’ encounter with the Cyclops, is derived directly from a relatively little-known Carolingian mythographic text about the Trojan War, the so-called Anonymous Fall of Troy. The passage in question is a question-and-answer commentary on an episode from Vergil’s Aeneid 3 in which Aeneas encounters one of Ulysses’ men stranded in Sicily. I will argue that the opening sentences of the Merugud are translated directly from this source, and that the Cyclops story is then expanded and developed using cues from the phrasing of the original. More widely I will argue that, if the claim for Irish engagement with the Anonymous Fall of Troy carries conviction, its unique account of the origins of the Trojan War may have influenced the overall generic associations made by the literati in this period between Classical heroic tradition and the Ulster Cycle.

Deborah Hayden: The anatomy of healing from head to toe: on the significance of diseases in a medieval Irish compilation of medical questions

The fourth section of NLS, Advocates’ MS 72.1.2 contains an unpublished collection of questions and answers on fairly practical medical matters, most of which pertain to specific aspects of human anatomy. The compilation is significant for its use of technical terminology that is poorly attested elsewhere, as well as for its inclusion of several passages that find parallels in other early Irish sources, such as the medico-legal tract Bretha Déin Chécht, the grammatical compilation Auraicept na nÉces, and the mythological text Cath Maige Tuired. One of the central thematic links between many of the questions in the catechism is an attempt to describe parts of the body to which injury was considered to be particularly perilous. In addition to this material, however, the compilation also contains a number of questions that deal more specifically with the identification of various types of ailments, including a summary of diseases and their properties, concise anatomical explanations for eye and ear complaints, and advice on the proper way to go about bathing in order to prevent certain illnesses. In this paper, I will discuss some analogues for these sections of the text, with particular reference to a separate collection of medical prescriptions that features a number of passages in verse attributed to Dian Cécht. I will then consider the treatment of diseases in the catechism in relation to other questions in that compilation, with a view to assessing the structural coherence of the collection as a whole.

Richard Sharpe: Michael Casey (c. 1752–1829/32), herb doctor, his Irish manuscripts, and John O’Donovan

I seek to recover knowledge of the medical manuscripts owned or used by Michael Casey and referred to in Warburton, Whitelaw, and Walsh’s History of Dublin in 1818. A dozen or more such manuscripts can be identified, among them a number of vellum manuscripts. What happened to them after his death can also in part be revealed and their route to preservation. Alongside these there is a gathering of his own papers extant, which passed through several hands, among them Brian Geraghty, Sir William Wilde, and Sir John Gilbert. Aoibheann Nic Dhonnchadha will reveal on the basis of Casey’s transcripts other manuscripts that he studies and excerpted. Casey’s claim to fame was to have found a cure for gout from one of his medical manuscripts. and he submitted his readings to scrutiny in 1825, involving three passages which she has now identified. John O’Donovan refers to Casey in several contexts, and there is an argument to be made that O’Donovan’s first steps in reading medieval Irish manuscripts were made with Casey using his vellums, starting perhaps as early as 1824 or 1825.

Aoibheann Nic Dhonnchadha: Michael Casey’s medical transcripts in Dublin City Library and Archive, Gilbert MS 147

Dublin City Library and Archive, Gilbert MS 147, a collection of material in Michael Casey’s hand, is of interest for the light it throws on his activities as student, scribe and translator of medical texts. This paper identifies some of the manuscripts Casey studied and the various treatises with which he engaged.

Helen Imhoff: Burial in medieval Irish literature

Burial features in many medieval Irish texts and is a theme found both in connection with certain burial grounds, such as in Senchas na relec, and in narratives about particular events or people, as for example in Cath Cairnd Conaill. In my proposed paper, I will examine occurrences during the burial of different individuals and argue that, in a number of texts, the presentation of an individual’s burial is deliberately in keeping with the dead person’s character when they were alive. The idea that the grave and/or the dead body reflects aspects of a person’s character is familiar from the depiction of saints, and indeed, in some cases, the occurrences found in connection with the burial of secular, and often pre-Christian, characters are similar or identical to those found in hagiographical texts. Moreover, the practice outlined here is also found in other parts of medieval Europe. My paper will discuss examples from medieval Ireland in order to show how a consideration of burial can enhance our reading of these narratives and to indicate ways in which medieval Irish texts might be profitably compared to sources from other parts of Europe.

Ralph O’Connor: Tecosca ríg at royal inaugurations in mediaeval Ireland: another look at the textual evidence

It has often been suggested that tecosca ríg or specula principum were traditionally read or recited in some form to Irish kings-elect at their inaugurations, and that this practice has roots going back to the early Christian period or even earlier. There is no direct, unequivocal evidence of this practice in Old or Middle Irish texts, as all acknowledge. A close examination of the circumstantial evidence typically held to indicate an early adoption of this practice has, however, been lacking. This evidence includes: a tract on the finding of Cashel by Conall Corc, chronicle entries on the inauguration of Alexander III of Scotland in 1249, sagas narrating the imposition of royal gessi, and the extant tecosca ríg themselves — besides much later material drawn from bardic poetry, early modern Irish inauguration accounts, and Keating’s History of Ireland. My paper will reassess this evidence together, and will attempt to clarify how far it supports the view that tecosca ríg (or something similar) were used in
this way.