The Great Book of Duniry - An Leabhar Breac

Its link to the Monastery of Kilnalahan

Frances Holohan

Manuscript Pages transcribed in Kilnalahan Monastery, Abbey by Mícheál Ó Cléirigh
Courtesy: Royal Irish Academy

The Great Book of Duniry, An Leabhar Breac, The Lebor Breac or the Speckled Book of the MacEgans are some of the names associated with this ancient Irish Manuscript which is now lovingly cared for in the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin.  Research tells us that An Leabhar Breac was held in the Franciscan Monastery of Kilnalahan in Abbey, Co Galway for most of the 17th century and it was to here that Micheál Ó Cléirigh came in search of this book in 1629.

Mícheál Ó Cléirigh, christened Tadhg, was a Donegal man and a lay Franciscan Friar.  On entering the Franciscan order he took the name Micheál.  He was highly educated and studied at the Irish College of St Anthony in Louvain.  He devoted much of his life to historical research and to collecting and transcribing Irish manuscripts.  He was one of the compilers of the famous Annals of the Four Masters.

When he returned to Ireland in 1626, he travelled the length and breadth of the country collecting and transcribing ecclesiastical material especially information on the lives of the Saints.  In 1629 he was researching the life of St Ceallach and went to Duniry to conduct this research from the ‘Great Book of Duniry’ where he understood it was located.  When he discovered that the book was no longer there he continued to the Franciscan Friary of Kilnalahan in Abbey where he located the book.  While there he transcribed several pages from this manuscript and when he had transcribed what he needed on the life of St Ceallach he wrote the following note:

“In the monastery of the Poor Friars in Kilnalahan Brother Micheál Ó Cléirigh wrote this account of Ceallach having transcribed it from the book called ‘The Great Book of Duniry’, 3 October in the year 1629”. 

The records of the book held in the Royal Irish Academy confirm that Brother Mícheál Ó Cléirigh visited Abbey Monastery when he was researching the life of St Ceallach and transcribed pages 272 to 277 from Volume II of this book.  The records state:

“Since pp. 272-7 were copied by Br. Michael Ó Cléirigh in the convent of Cenél Féichín on 3rd Oct., 1629, it is certain that the ms. was in the possession of the convent of Cenél Féichín during the greater part of the 17th century”.

Pages from the manuscript give an indication of the condition of the manuscript today.  We are indebted to the Royal Irish Academy for permission to put a link on our website to this famous book that has such a historical link to the Monastery of Kilnalahan in our village of Abbey.,_Royal_Irish_Academy,_MS_23_P_16

Contents of Pages 272 to 277 as follows:

272 b m. [Caithréim Cellaig.] Beg. Rig rogab for Condachtu .i. Eogan Bel mac Cellaig. Prose and verse. Includes the following poems : (273 a m.) Mairg treices clerecht er ceird, 6 qq.; (274 a m.) A ocu romuaimniges, 6 qq.; (274 b) As mocean in maiten ban, 20 qq.; (275 a m.) Inmain cách isa corp so, 9 qq.; (275 a i.) Truag toirrsech atúsa sund, 3 qq.; (275 b) As maith do thurus am thig, 3 qq.; (275 b m.) Aithrech in ni do raides, 5 qq.; (276 a i.) As inbaid na hécta sa, 3 qq.; (276 b m.) Leasee liumsa dola for sét, 3 qq.; (276 b i.) Fás anocht aittreb Eogain, 14 qq. As fás aittreb choemChellaig, 12 qq. Ed. S. H. O’Grady, Silva Gadelica I, p. 49, from this ms.; K. Mulchrone, Med. and Mod., Irish Series iv (1933), from Phillips 8214 (YBL).

277 a m. “Incipit Coisecrad Eclaisi indso.” Beg. Líne andso dorigensat hecnaide eolcha.


This page was added on 30/06/2020.

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