Aodh Buidhe Mac Cruitín (?1680-1755)


Life
[anglice Hugh MacCurtin, var. MacCurtain; occas. err. Mac Cuirtín]; b. Kilmachreehy, Corcomroe, Co. Clare, into the family of hereditary poets to the O’Briens of Thomond; educ. under his cousin Aindrias Mac Cruitín at Moyglass, Co. Clare; left Ireland with Patrick Sarsfield in 1691 and served under Lord Clare in the Irish Brigade, 1693; acted as tutor to the Clare family in Paris for seven years; possibly also as a private tutor to the Dauphin; returned Ireland 1714;
 
published A Brief Discourse in Vindication of the Antiquity of Ireland (Dublin 1717), written in English in answer to the Hibernia Anglicana of Sir Richard Cox - though he confesses himself ‘not sufficient to write correctly in the English language’ in the preface - and was then imprisoned either for this [acc. Sir John Gilbert, History of Dublin, 1865] or for satiric verses attacking Cox which were attributed to him; he moved to Louvain on his release and there wrote Elements of the Irish Language (Louvain 1728), being the first grammar of Irish in English;
 
also issued a English-Irish Dictionary compiled by Conchubhar Ó Bealglaioch [Conor Begley] (Paris 1732); returned to Ireland at death of Aindrias in 1738 to take up hereditary officer of ollamh [var. chronicler] to the O’Brien’s; wrote laments for Irish chiefs and the bardic caste (Mac Cruitin wrote a lament over the influence of the English and the disappearance of the bardic caste (‘tá béarla I bhfaisean go tairise is Gaeilge fuar ...’); opened school at Cnoc an Aird, Corcomroe, where he died. ODNB DIB DIW FDA OCIL

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Works
H. Mac Curtin, A Brief Discourse in Vindication of the Antiquity of Ireland (Dublin: S. Powell at the Sign of th Printing-Press in Copper-Alley; for the author 1717), 4o. Also a genealogy of the Butler Earls of Ormond [see Ricorso Archives for facs.].

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Criticism
  • Edward O’Reilly, Transactions of the Iberno-Celtic Society (Dublin 1820);
  • John O’Daly, The Poets and Poetry of Munster (Dublin 1850);
  • Brian O’Looney, ed., A Collection of Poems ... by the Irish Bards (Dublin 1863);
  • John O’Daly & Edward Walsh, Reliques of Irish Jacobite Poetry [2nd edn.] (Dublin: O’Daly 1866);
  • Richard Hayes, ‘Biographical Dictionary of Irishmen in France’, in Studies (June 1944), pp.246-47;
  • T. W. Moody & W. E. Vaughan, Eighteenth Century Ireland 1691-1800, A New History of Ireland, Vol. IV (OUP 1986), pp.394, 396; & refs.;
  • Alan Harrison, Ag Cruinniú Meala (Baile Átha Cliath: An Clóchomhar 1988), pp.49-51;
  • Michael Cronin, Translating Ireland: Tranlsations, Languages, Cultures (Cork UP 1996), pp.91-92.

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Commentary
Joseph Th. Leerssen, Mere Irish & Fior-Ghael: Studies in the Idea of Irish Nationality, Its Development and Literary Expression Prior To The Nineteenth Century (Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins Pub. Co. 1986), quotes from Hugh MacCurtain, A brief discourse in vindication of the antiquity of Ireland (1717): ‘… that the Antient Irish before the coming of the English were no Way inferior to any People or Nation in the known World for Religion, Literature, Civility, Riches, Hospitality, Liberality, War-like Spirit, &c.’ (p.286f.) [364]. Leerssen Remarks, ‘[t]his was the first Gaelic history to be published in Ireland, and for it Sir Richard Cox, as Chief Justice, had MacCurtain clapped in jail, where he produced an Irish grammar, dedicated to John Devenish, major-general of the Austrian army in the Netherlands. (p.367.) [Cont.]

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Joseph Th. Leerssen (Mere Irish & Fior-Ghael, 1986) - further: In his grammar, MacCurtain invites ‘the studious and other ingenious Gentlemen, lovers of Antiquity, that by a little labour they might learn [the Irish language] ... and engage the curious to tast of the sweet streams of Oratory & poetry in the copious language of a long time neglected (p.4f.; Leerssen, idem.) Leerssen quotes: ‘It is certain, most of our Nobility and Gentry have abandon’d it, and disdain’d to Learn or speak the same these 200 years past ... how strange it seems to the world, that any people should scorn the Language, where the whole treasure of their own Antiquity and profound sciences lie in obscurity, so highly esteemed by all Lovers of Knowledge in former Ages, that swarms of foreign Students from all parts of Europe flock’d into the Nation to taste of, and learn the Arts and sciences therein contained’ (p.7.) [Cont.]

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Joseph Th. Leerssen (Mere Irish & Fior-Ghael, 1986) - further quotes: ‘The Irish Gentry have therefore Opportunities enough, still left, for recovering and preserving their Mother-language, and, consequently, are without the least Colour of Excuse if they shamefully continue to neglect it.’ (p.[iv]) [368]. Bibl., Vindication ... authentic (otherwise as in University of Ulster Library, Morris Collection, Catalogue); The elements of the Irish language, grammatically explained in English (Louvain 1728). note also, Tadhg Ó Neachtain’s doggerel deibhí shows 26 Gaelic scholars gathered in the capital, including MacCurtin, Walsh, Dermod O’Connor. Note that Walter Harris draws on MacCurtin and others.

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References
Dictionary of National Biography
lists Andrew [sic] MacCurtin, d.1749, Irish poet and hereditary Ollamh to the O’Briens; and Hugh (1680?-1755), Irish antiquarian.

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Seamus Deane, gen. ed., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (Derry: Field Day 1991), Vol. 1, bio-dates c.1680-1755; selects extract from A Briefe Discourse in Vindication of the Antiquity of Ireland (1717), ‘I am confident, there is no indifferent Reader verrs’d in the genuine Part of Antiquity now living, but will be surpriz’d at the many fabulous Relations written of the Kingdom of Ireland these five hundred and odd Years past, all by Foreign Writers, and stiling them Histories of Ireland, without any Regard to the Antient State and Affairs of that Nation before the Year of Salvation 1171, when the English first got Footing therein. And tho’ every one of those Historians pretends to write of the Origin, Monarchy, Custom, Language &c. of the Gadelians, yet you shall not find two of ’em agree, and will discover in some of them much Malice and Hatred towards the Antient Inhabitants and their Posterity; insomuch, that setting the Nobility almost in general, they write only of the Customs and Manners of the Common People; and in the same, collection several Pages full of Stuff never found in History, but either invented by themselves, or had from others ignorant in the true Antiquity of the nation, and setting the same to the Press, under the Title of The History of Ireland. This is the reason that moves me ..’ [879-882]; BIOG. b. Kilmacreehy, Co Clare, c.1680; learned Irish literature and history from his cousin Andrew, whom he succeeded as titular ollamh to Thomond O’Briens; went to France, c.1707, under patronage of Lord Clare and the Dauphin, in whose house he was tutor for seven years; returned 1714 and wrote poems on death of Donagh O’Loghlen and Lewis O’Brien; his Brief Discourse had 2,338 subscribers, mostly of old Irish families; two parts appeared, a promised third did not; material drawn from Leabar na gCeart, Leabhar Gabhála, and Keating’s History; pt. II includes full accont of deeds of Brian Boru; his Elements of Irish Language (Louvain 1728), written in cooperation with Fr Murphy, a Franciscan, l, has 14 chaps. of grammar follwed by O’Hussey’s Cathecism in prose and verse; published important dictionary with Conor O’Begly in Paris (1732), with introductory poem; poems occasioned by friendship with Andrew [Andrais] and Tadhg Ó Neachtáin; spent some years as wandering poet and then kept school at Knocki-in-aoird, where he died [955] [See Criticism as supra.]

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University of Ulster Library (Morris Collection) holds A Brief Discourse in Vindication of the Antiquity of Ireland, collected out of many authentick Irish histories and chronicles and out of foreign learned authors. Printed by S. Powell at the Sign of Printing ([Dublin] 1717) 315pp.

Brian Cleeve & Ann Brady, A Dictionary of Irish Writers (Dublin: Lilliput 1985), list MacCurtin as Mac Cuirtín [sic fada] .

Harry Boylan, A Dictionary of Irish Biography [rev. edn.] (Gill & Macmillan 1988) styles him a ‘chronicler’ (or ollamh).

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Quotations
The Elements of the Irish Language (Louvain 1728): ‘It is certain, most of our Nobility and Gentry have abandoned it, and disdained to learn or Speake the same these 200 years past. And I could heartily wish, such persons would look back and reflect on this matter; that they might see through the Glass of their own reason, how strange it seems to the world, that any people should scorn the Language, wherein the whole treasure of their own antiquity and profound science lie in obscurity ...’. (quoted in Dominic Daly, The Young Douglas Hyde, 1974, p.41; as Hugh MacCurtain.]

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The Antient Irish: ‘This is the Reason that moves me to give the following Account of the Antient Irish before the year above-mentioned. And tho’ I confess myself not sufficient to write corectly in the English alnguage, yet I promsie myself the Favour of all serious Readers, that would value Truth in a plain poor dress; more than the fabulous Narrations of some Foreign Writers.’ (A Brief Discourse in Vindication of the Antiquity of Ireland, 1717, pp.ix-x; quoted in Michael Cronin, Translating Ireland: Tranlsations, Languages, Cultures, Cork UP 1996, pp.91-92.)

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Posterity of Ir: ‘The ruin of the Posterity of Ir happen’d in this Monarch’s Reign: For Feargus Grandson to the Monarch Rughruidhe the Great, being incens’d against Conor then King of Ulster ... he came first to the Monarch Eochaidh, and crav’d aid against Conor: the Monarch not only promis’d him his Friendship, but also gave him several Gifts in Token of his Favour. Feargus took a strong Party of Armed Men along with him into Ulster, and burnt and destroy’d a great part of that Country, and brought a great Prey to Leinster. Conor seeing how fatal the discord which happen’d between him and his Cousin Feargus was to his Country; he sent his own Brother, a wise and valiant Man, by name Cabhthach, to Feargus, and promis’d, or offer’d him the one half of the Province to be in Peace and Unity with him, as formerly, which Feargus accepted. But a few years after, a much greater difference happen’d between them about the brave Champions Clann Uisneach, i.e. the Sons or Children of Uisneach their own Cousins, who were murder’d by Conor’s wicked contrivance.’ (A Brief Discourse [...], 1717, p.ix; cited in Russell Alspach, Irish Poetry from the English Invasion to 1798, Pennsylvania UP, 1959.) note also that Alspach refers to it as the first English text in which the story of “Deirdre of the Sorrows” is glimpsed, and further notes that the account of Finn and the Fianna is almost word for word from Peter Walsh’s Prospect of the State of Ireland (1682), citing similar text to the former, quoted elsewhere in his study (Alspach, p.79); also notices that Walsh records being given a manuscript-translation of Keating to read by R. H. Earl of Anglesey, Lord Privy Seal (Prospect, p.16; Alspach, p.81), poss. by Michael Kearney, noticed in John Daly’s Edn. of The Kings of the Race of Eibhear (Dublin 1847).

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