A rare, 19th-century Irish manuscript has been discovered in an old trunk in west Kerry.
The 27-page manuscript contains a complete version of the epic poem or lay known as “Eachtra an Amadáin Mhóir” (The Adventure of the Great Fool), which is sometimes associated with the Fenian tradition, according to RTE's Seán Mac an tSíthigh.
The rare manuscript was compiled in 1857 by Tomás Mhicil Ó Muircheartaigh, a small farmer who lived in Ballyferriter, a Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking region) village in Co Kerry.
In 1857 Tomás Mhicil, a small farmer from West Kerry sold a cow in Dingle to buy the Annals of the Four Masters. The book has been found and within its covers is a precious 19th century manuscript. Both will be donated to the museum in Baile an Fheirtéaraigh pic.twitter.com/H7Kyfyhi7M— Seán Mac an tSíthigh (@Buailtin) March 28, 2019
Relatives of the scribe discovered the manuscript in an old trunk, where it was hidden inside an old copy of the “Annals of the Four Masters” – chronicles of medieval Irish history.
Ó Muircheartaigh purchased his copy of the annals over 160 years ago and a story about the book has survived in local folklore.
In 1857 Ó Muircheartaigh walked a cow nine miles from Ballyferriter to the fair in Dingle.
He sold the cow and purchased the expensive copy of the Annals of the Four Masters with the monies received
The purchase was a source of great wonder and surprise in west Kerry as the area was still recovering from the trauma of the Great Famine.
For years Ó Muircheartaigh’s book was believed lost until it was found by the Ó Cinnéide family.
Both the book and manuscript are inscribed by Ó Muircheartaigh and dated January 24 and May 15, 1857.
Dr. Tomás Ó Murchú, from the Department of Irish at Maynooth University explained the significance of the discovery,
"There are over 180 verses in the version of Eachtra an Amadáin Mhóir contained in this manuscript. That in itself is unusual as in the most complete versions which have survived you normally only find 160 to 170 verses," he said.
Ó Murchú said the other eight-verse poem in the manuscript is of special interest.
He said: "The poem is accentual in composition and appears to date from the 18th century or possibly even earlier. It is a blessing composed by a Muircheartach Ó Gríobhtha and is addressed to a doctor.
"This discovery shows that the manuscript tradition and copying tradition in the area continued after the Famine and it maintains the link with a much older manuscript tradition which includes the work of the great 17th-century poet Piaras Feirtéar, also from Baile an Fheirtéaraigh."
The manuscript also holds another poem composed by Muircheartach Ó Gríobhtha in praise of a doctor.
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