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THE CHIEFTAINS OF FERMANAGH
BY REV. PAUL WALSH
THE first part of a History of Enniskillen was issued about a year ago. This work is to be completed in three volumes. The author is W. Copeland Trimble, editor of the Impartial Reporter, and further described on the titlepage as ' author of the "Historical Records of the 27th Inniskilling Regiment" and "Lyrics of Lough Erne"; Justice of the Peace; and Fellow of the Institute of Journalists.' To these imposing qualifications, it may now be added, that the writer on a recent occasion1 desiderated the re-appearance of Oliver Cromwell to relieve the woes of Ireland. He tells us in his Preface that, the need of a history of Enniskillen being long apparent, he has set himself the task of supplying the want. My great object,' he writes, is to rescue and preserve before I pass awayand with me many materials which I only possess-information concerning local history,' and he further assures us that notwithstanding many difficulties, such as the numerous engagements and employment of a strenuous career,' he is induced to proceed 'lest some of the materials which have been gathered together, and sketches and pictures, should be completely lost to posterity.'
Notwithstanding this announcement, the History of Enniskillen must be pronounced a failure. A more faulty production could scarcely be thrown together. Lack of order, want of information, perversions, repetitions, bad grammar, worse spelling and style, and dozens of misprints, disfigure the whole book. Occasionally one meets with remarks which are downright silly; for example: 'The Abbey of Lisgoole had a character and history of its
1 'The Impartial Reporter in a leading article says: 'Ireland may have to be reconquered. . . . A modern Oliver Cromwell is needed, but we do not find him in the Prime Minister, who admires men like the Protector, but will not imitate him." -Irish Independent, March 26, 1920.
FIFTH SERIES, VOL. XV-MAY, 1920
own.' What abbey in Ireland, or elsewhere, has not had a 'history of its own'? At p. 18 we learn that the Annals of Ulster contain a number of references to Lisgool, which are more for the ecclesiastical student than the ordinary reader.' In the paragraph immediately preceding this statement the writer gives a list which purports to be a collection of entries from the Four Masters, and which is of exactly the same nature as the Annals of Ulster references here described as of no interest to the ordinary reader. One can only conclude that Mr. Trimble has never read the Annals of Ulster, or else that no edition of that chronicle finds a place on Mr. Trimble's book-shelves. There is, however, one feature of his work which has some value; the book has about a dozen illustrations, and these will be of use and interest to the future historian of Enniskillen. But even in regard to these the author displays the same carelessness which characterizes the rest of the volume. Page 59 has a reference to a picture' which is inserted in the book as far back as page 4, while there is no entry of it at all in the List of Illustrations at the beginning.
It would require a long volume to expose in detail the errors that swarm in Mr. Trimble's pages. After the manner of the colonist historians, he lays great stress on the treachery and the love of killing one another which the Irish chieftains are said uniformly to display. The stock vocabulary of that school abounds in terms like 'natives,' savage, 'barbarous,' ' nomadic,' wigwams,''aboriginal, etc. A passage from the Irish Times, quoted by Mrs. Alice Stopford Green in one of her books, is typical of the attitude of this class of historian: 'If the Nationalists want for ever to live in the glories of the past and to harp upon them, why do they not go far enough back. to the time when they ate their grandmothers and indulged in all sorts of hellish rites.' The advocates of the 'savage theory of Irish history have been met and answered by the distinguished authoress just mentioned, by Eoin Mac Neill, by Kuno Meyer, by Heinrich Zimmer, and others, and I do not propose wasting space and ink in this connexion on Mr. Trimble of the Impartial Reporter. I shall confine myself in the remarks that follow to showing his incapacity
1 See Alice S. Green, The Old Irish World; The Making of Ireland and its Undoing; Irish National Tradition; MacNeill, Phases of Irish History; Meyer, Ancient Irish Poetry; Learning in Ireland; Zimmer, The Irish Element in Mediaeval Culture.
for the performance of the task he has undertaken, and to pointing out some of the blunders that disfigure his opening pages. I shall then, from reliable sources, give a sketch of the Succession of the Chieftains of Fermanagh, a subject on which our author touches with disastrous results.
Page 1. A county town was needed for the Maguire territory, which had been converted in 1569 by Sir Henry Sydney, the Irish Lord Deputy of Queen Elizabeth, into a county under the name of Fermanagh.'-This statement is wrong, for the county of Fermanagh was not created until many years after Sir Henry Sidney's time. Mr. Litton Falkiner, who made a special study on the origin of the Irish counties, says: In 1575 Sir Henry Sidney made a journey to Ulster with a view to dividing the province into shires, but had failed to effect anything.' Dealing with the defects and omissions' in that Deputy's work in Ulster, Sir John Davys writes in his Discovery that, though the greatest part of Ulster were vested by Act of Parliament in the actual and real possession of the Crown, yet was there never any seizure made thereof, nor any part thereof brought into charge.' The same authority states definitely in another place that after him [Sidney] Sir John Perrot reduced the unreformed parts of Ulster into seven shires, namely, Armagh, Monaghan, Tyrone, Coleraine, Donegal, Fermanagh, and Cavan, though in his time [June 1584-June 1588] the law was never executed in these new counties by any sheriff or justices of assize.' On September 18, 1585, a commission was appointed under the statute of 11 Eliz. (1569) to survey the counties and territories in the province of Ulster not being shire ground, or being doubtful to what shire they belong, to divide them into as many counties as they may think fit.' A little later we have the grant of Fermanagh to Sir Cuchonnacht Maguire, which states that the grantee undertook to assist the Queen's officers in Fermanagh' when his country is made a county.' So that Fermanagh was not formed into a county for at least seventeen years later than 1569. Mr. Trimble quotes the last-mentioned document at page 45 of his book with the characteristic blunder 'when his country
1 Illustrations of Irish History, p. 127.
2 Ireland under Elizabeth and James, p. 328. 3 Cit. apud Falkiner, p. 128.
4 Fiant of Elizabeth 4763.
5 January 17, 1586, Fiant 4809.
shall be made into a country'! He also mentions at page 2 a statement of Stuart to the effect that Fermanagh was made a shire in 1586, so that the error on the preceding page was made with open eyes.
Page 2. The Flight of the Earls on the 14th of September, 1607, old style, etc.'-Not to mention the Four Masters and O Cianain, who use the new style of dating, and give the date as the 14th, it would be interesting to know how Mr. Trimble would reconcile his statement with the fact that Lord Deputy Chichester reported the Flight on September 7, and the Lord Deputy and Council on September 9.2 If the Earls sailed on September 14, old style, the English officials must have known of the affair a whole week before it occurred.
Page 3. Sir Hugh Maguire, head of the Magwire sept, had in 1595, or a year later, joined his father-in-law, O'Neill, in rebellion.'-This is a case of putting the cart before the horse, for Maguire was in rebellion from the summer of 1593 onwards. There is no mystery at all about the period when he and O'Neill joined forces. Maguire operated with Cormac mac Baron, the Earl of Tyrone's brother, in 1595, and Cormac was then, and previously, known to be acting for Tyrone. On May 5 they assaulted the Castle of Longford, and plundered all the adjoining country, and on May 18 Enniskillen was reported in their hands. A little later Maguire was negotiating with the Deputy about a pardon, and on July 20 he writes from Enniskillen that he will do nothing hurtful until he receives an answer.' ' Meanwhile Tyrone had opened his campaign with a sharp defeat of Sir Henry Bagenal at Clontibret in the end of May.R O'Sullivan says Sir John Norris commanded the English in this engagement, but in this he, Mitchel, and others who follow them are in error. Norris landed from England about May 8 at Waterford, and he did not reach Dundalk till June 19.8 Some engagements with O'Neill followed, and a despatch of July 20 states that the English learned of the presence of the Earl, O'Donnell, Maguire,
and all their forces' not far from Newry sometime earlier in that month. Negotiations about a peace commenced in August. The Deputy wished to deal separately with Maguire, but 'Tirone kept Maguire so jealously that he could not have him dealt with. The chiefs remained in close alliance till Maguire was killed near Cork, in 1600.
Page 4. The O'Donnell, Earl of Tyrconnell.'-The first Earl of Tyrconnell was Rury, brother of Aodh Ruadh. He was never inaugurated according to the ancient Irish custom, and hence should not be styled 'The O'Donnell.'
A note on this page 4 states that the Archduke who was so friendly to the northern Earls was ' of Austria.' Mr. Trimble may have been thinking of a certain Archduke who was assassinated in 1914. Anyhow, the personage so named in 1607 was of Flanders.'
Again, on the same page, we learn that 'Constantine Maguire died at Geneva.' This is wrong. Cuchonnacht, or Constantine,' Maguire died at Genoa on August 12, 1608. This was not the same year' as that in which he left Ireland. The substitution of Geneva for Genoa is due to Mr. Trimble's inability to read the Irish Annals. His only acquaintance with them is through the hopelessly bad English version of Connellan.
Page 5, the Four Masters are said to describe Cuchonnacht as a man of superior figure and personal figure.'One might note that there is no great distinction in a chief, or anyone else, possessing a 'personal figure,' but this is not what the Four Masters say of Cuchonnacht. of great wisdom and personal beauty' is the description. they give. Even Connellan is right here.
Page 11. Lisgabhal or Liesgabhail, Ford of the River Fork.' These names are intended for the Irish form of 'Lisgoole.' Neither is correct, though the second is probably a misprint for Liosgabhail, which is the proper Modern Irish form. Every schoolboy knows that lios means a fort, not a ford.
Page 12. In the year 1106 the religious house of Saint Hugh was endowed by MacNoelus MacKenlif, King of Ulster.'-A King of Ulster might be supposed to have an Irish name, but the name in this passage, if it be any language, is certainly not Irish. The Kings of Cenéal Eoghain claimed suzerainty over the rest of Ulster at the period in
1 Calendar of State Papers, p. 408.