The following papers were given at the School’s annual Tionól, 23-24 November, 2001.
Scottish Islesmen and the politics of the Insular world in the tenth and eleven centuries
Political relations in the Viking-Age ‘Irish Sea province’ have been the subject of considerable scholarly endeavour over the last twenty years or so. Much of this has concentrated on the eleventh and twelfth centuries and has elucidated relations between Man and the Isles, Dublin and Wales in this era. The present paper reappraises some of the evidence for the activities of the Islesmen in the eleventh century and sheds new light on the position in the tenth century, a period that has been comparatively neglected in the recent literature.
This paper seeks to examine the old question of where Patrick received his theological and possibly monastic training. Scholars have long been divided on the meaning of Patrick’s words in Conf. 43: `non id solum sed etiam usque ad Gallias uisitare fratres et ut uiderem faciem sanctorum Domini mei’. Some have taken this passage to mean that Patrick sojourned in Gaul prior to his mission to Ireland and wished to return there before his death. Others have characterised the words as wishful thinking. The seventh- and eighth-century lives by Muirchú and Tírechán both assign Patrick a stay in Gaul: Muirchú places him in Auxerre, Tírechán sets him in the Tyrrhenian isles. However, Binchy’s highly influential `Patrick and his Biographers’ argues that later accounts of Patrick’s training are largely worthless, and only Patrick’s `ipsissima verba’ count as evidence. Thus Muirchú’s account of Patrick at Auxerre with Germanus and Tírechán’s depiction of him in a Mediterranean monastic environment are to be regarded as equally valueless. Given this state of affairs, there has been no agreement either about the meaning of Patrick’s words in Conf. 43 or his earlier training. Opinions range from Gaul to Britain and even to Ireland itself.
I shall argue here that Patrick’s theological orientation may shed some light on the problem. Some time ago D.S. Nerney produced impressive evidence to show that Patrick’s writings had knowledge of anti-Pelagian sources and reveal an anti-Pelagian orientation; he went so far as to suggest that his letters were directed against Pelagian superiors in Britain. In my forthcoming book with Shirley Ann Brown – Christ in Celtic Christianity – I adduce further support for this position. In my Mission and Monasticism I called attention to Patrick’s pro-Gaulish and anti-British statements.
It is well known that Germanus of Auxerre was a powerful and effective opponent of Pelagianism; he is credited with twice suppressing it in Britain. Muirchú’s report that Patrick passed a long period of tutelage under Germanus at Auxerre is at the very least consistent with Patrick’s own anti-Pelagian stance and his praise of Gaulish Christians. Moreover, Patrick’s theological outlook serves to discredit Tírechán’s thesis of a sojourn in the Mediterranean isles, notorious for their alignment with the semi-Pelagian position. Given the `most natural’ interpretation of Patrick’s words `usque ad Gallias uisitare fratres’, it seems reasonable to conclude that Patrick did sojourn in Gaul, and at some centre known for an anti-Pelagian stance.If one adopts the `orthodox’ dates for Patrick, he could have trained under Germanus before 429, when Germanus launched his first crusade against the Pelagians in Britain, begun his mission in the early 430s, but still have suffered from the machinations of Pelagian enemies who had good reason not to want Patrick in Ireland; these forces continued to be powerful in Britain down to the alleged second visit of Germanus in the 440s.
One might object that Patrick could as easily have been trained by anti-Pelagian elements within the British Church. This possibility cannot be disproven, but I have not found any evidence in the fifth or sixth century of British-based writers in sympathy with the grace-drive theology of Augustine. Gildas, who I think wrote in the early sixth century, displays a skillful neutrality. Patrick’s depiction of himself as an involuntary instrument of God’s grace is anomalous for a British writer of the fifth or even sixth century. There may be a grain of truth in Muirchú’s account after all.
Old Irish airthenn refers to a type of grass, and has been identified with Modern Irish fiorthann (farthann, etc.) ‘creeping bent-grass’, anglicised as fiorin. In this paper, I discuss the various etymologies which have been proposed for this word.
The Irish annals all agree with the Féilire of Aengus and the Roman Martyrology that Colum Cille died on the fifth ides of June (9 June); however the published editions of the annals do not agree as to the year, placing it variously in the last decade of the sixth century. In 1857 William Reeves combined the annalistic data with the detail given by Adomnán in his Vita Columbae, that Colum Cille had died on a Sunday, to deduce that the year in question was AD 597. Ever since then it has been accepted by most scholars that Sunday 9 June 597 was the date of Colum Cille’s death, indeed it has sometimes been described as the only ‘secure’ date in the Irish history of the sixth century. Regarding the length of Colmcille’s life Reeves observed that the annals gave dates for his natus ‘ranging from 518 to 523’, and he concluded that ‘calculation from Adamnan’s data gives 521 as that most likely’. Nevertheless, ambiguity regarding the chronology of Colum Cille’s life has persisted on account of the fact that the Annals of Ulster, which have been regarded as the principle source for the chronology of early Irish history, provide duplicate natiuitates and obits for him, and that their various data do not reconcile with Reeves’ conclusions.
However, recent research has shown that of all the Irish annals the combination of the Annals of Tigernach and the Chronicon Scotorum best represent the chronology of the earliest phase of Irish annals, that of the Iona Chronicle, and these two agree in placing Colmcille’s natus in AD 520 and his obit in 593. Furthermore, critical examination of Adomnán’s account of Colum Cille’s death discloses internal inconsistencies, so that it is no longer possible to accept confidently Adomnán’s assertion that the death occurred on a Sunday, with the result that the basis for Reeves’ argument no longer stands. Rather, as will be shown, the chronology of Tigernach/Scotorum reconciles plausibly with their own entry for his exile to Scotland and their statement of Colum Cille’s age at both his exile and death. Since the evidence shows that the Iona Chronicle was maintained in Iona from the mid-sixth century, there are good grounds, therefore, to accept this as an accurate chronology for Colum Cille’s life.
Reference: W. Reeves, The Life of St. Columba, (Dublin 1857) pp. lxix, lxxvii, 309-12.
Líofacht agus cruinneas: tréithe na Gaeilge a tháirgeann páistí a shealbhaigh í faoi choinníollacha srianta an tumoideachais
Ar dtús caithfear a mhíniú cad chuige a ndeirim gur coinníollacha srianta iad na coinníollacha faoina mbíonn páistí i gcláir oideachais trí mheán na Gaeilge. Is é an chéad rud atá le rá nó nach gcluin na páistí oiread agus focal den sprioctheanga go dtí go dtéann siad ar naíscoil agus faoin am sin bheadh cuid mhaith de rialacha comhréire agus gramadaí na chéad teanga ar eolas acu agus iad á gcur i bhfeidhm ina n-urlabhra sa teanga sin. Ní féidir béim go leor a chur ar thábhacht na heaspa seo teagmhála leis an dara teanga go hóg ina saol. Creidtear go dtarlóidh an mhíorúilt nuair a chaitheann an leanbh bliain nó dhó ar naíscoil ach ní bliain nó dhó atá i gceist nuair a amharctar go géar ar an achar a chaithfeas an leanbh i dteagmháil leis an teanga. Cluinfidh an leanbh an Ghaeilge ar feadh dhá uair a chloig sa lá. Cad é an pointe teagmhála a bhíonn ag na páistí seo? Stiúrthóirí naíonra agus i gcuid mhór cásanna ní hé an cumas is fearr sa Ghaeilge a chuala tú riamh a bhíonn ag na stiúrthóirí céanna. Mar sin de an t-am is mó a mbíonn cainteoir dúchais Gaeilge nó a chomh-mhaith teangeolaíoch ag teastáil ó na foghlaimeoirí óga, ní bhíonn sí sin ar fáil dóibh.
Sa pháipéar seo ba mhaith liom cuid de mhórghnéithe agus de na mórcheisteanna a bhaineann leis an ábhar a chur os bhur gcomhair. Caithfidh an leanbh roinnt blianta sa bhunoideachas ach arís is é an múinteoir an t-aon fhoinse amháin líofa sa dara teanga, agus ní bhíonn mórán teagmhála idir é agus foinsí eile líofa sa dara teanga. Scrúdóidh mé cuid de na hiarmhairtí a éiríonn as na coinníollacha seo i sealbhú na Gaeilge.
Interpretations of early Irish literature have in some cases achieved canonical status. Two varying interpretations of a sample piece of that literature will be looked at and two possible further interpretations offered.
Is iomaí sin bearna inár gcuid eolais ar chóras forainmneach na Gaeilge. Pléifear roinnt tréithe de Ghaeilge Iorras Aithneach ar beag an trácht a déanadh orthu go dtí seo:
- An forainm taispeántach siud
- Uaimse ~ uaidh mise
- Ceistniú sna réamhfhocail chomhshuite
- An mhír dhá i leagan céasta ainm briathardha mar tá fataí dhá chur
The sixteenth-century rewriting of this popular saint’s Life must be seen as part of the ongoing revising, rewriting and translation of earlier texts of the time. There was among fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Irish chiefs a need to refer to their twelfth-century (pre-Norman) predecessors. When there was no such predecessor, something had to be made up. In this paper I will try to show that the new revised text had two major ends. In addition to providing people with a new version of the Life intelligible to all, as is explicitly claimed in its preface, the text was also meant also to present the O Domhnaills with the appropriate genealogy. I will further argue that it in order to serve these two ends a differentitation is not made between the ‘original’ of Adomn n and later developments of the Columban legend.
The biography of Gruffudd ap Kynan has been preserved in a 13th manuscript written in Middle Welsh which is thought to be a translation of an original Latin life. Several copies of a Latin life have been preserved from the sixteenth century but these have always been thought to be translations from the Welsh life. The earliest of these Latin lives which is preserved in a Peniarth MS in the NLW is an extremely messy and untidy text; it has in parts been heavily edited. The editing seems to have been intended to bring it in line with the Welsh text. The underlying Latin text, however, in places diverges significantly from the Welsh text. It will be argued that the simplest explanation is that the underlying Latin text is in a direct line of descent from the original Latin life. The historical implications are considered.
In DIL and in LEIA the OIr. word for the ‘christian heaven’ ríched is given with a long i. Both dictionaries basically accept the etymology of Kuno Meyer, who explained the word as an old compound *rigo-sedon ‘royal seat’. In my paper I want to show that in Old Irish literature evidence can be found which points to an original short i. On the basis of this observation another etymology is defended, which Whitley Stokes had proposed more than a hundred years ago.
The recent publication of the 300-odd curse tablets from Bath and their 80 or so counterparts from the temple site of Uley in Gloucestershire have received relatively little attention from Celtic linguists although Roger Tomlin’s suggestion that there may be examples of written forms of British amongst the Bath artefacts is well known. The purpose of this paper is to draw attention to the different formulae used for personal names which can be found in this corpus of material and to compare these with the name-forms found in the ‘Recueil des Inscriptions Gauloises’.
In this short paper I will discuss the incidence of i-affection in the Cornish and Breton verbal systems. I will show how i-affection has almost entirely disappeared from Modern Breton and that a similar loss of i-affection can also be seen in the later Cornish texts, e.g. sevys > savas ‘he stood’, leverys > lavaras ‘he said’, etc. If the language had survived, i-affection would probably have disappeared altogether. Although this is rather a dry topic, I will attempt to make it as interesting as possible, particularly to those with no previous knowledge of Breton or Cornish.