D. A. Binchy (1900–89)

[Daniel Anthony Binchy; Daniel A.]; Irish scholar; ed. UCD and Munich; served as Irish Minister to Berlin, 1929-32; studied Celtic law under Rudolf Thurneysen; issued Church and State in Fascist Italy (OUP 1941, rep. 1970); ed. Críth gablach (1941), a 7th or 8th c. compilation on the law of persons in verse, known by its catalogue number as H.3.18;
ed. Corpus Iuris Hibernici, 6 vols. (1979), a comprehensive collection of ancient Irish law; wrote on Irish law, notably in ‘The Linguistic and Historical Value of the Irish Law Tracts’ (1943), seeking to relate ancient Irish law with Sanskrit prototypes in the Rigveda, espec. the law of the ‘appointed daughter’ (or banchomarba/female heir) - an aetiological conjecture now largely discredited;
appt. Snr. Prof., DIAS; he was a close friend of Frank O’Connor; the jurist William Binchy and the novelist Maeve Binchy are his son and dg.; with Osborn Bergin and R. I. Best, he is famously the subject of a comic verses by Flann O’Brien [infra]; the novelist Maeve Binchy was a neice. DIW OCIL

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  • ed., Breatha Crolíge and Sick Maintenance in Irish Law (OUP 1934), 134pp. [prev. in. Ériu, XII, Pt. 1].
  • ed., Críth gablach [Mediaeval & Modern Irish Ser., XI] (Dublin: Stationery Office 1941), xx, 109pp. [details].
  • Church and State in Fascist Italy [ Royal Institute of International Affairs] (OUP 1941), ix, 774pp., and Do. [rep. with new Pref.] (1970), xiii, 774pp.
  • ‘The Linguistic and Historical Value of the Irish Law Tracts’, in Proceedings of the British Academy, XXIX, 1943).
  • ‘The Saga of Fergus mac Léti’, in Ériu, 16 (1952). pp.33-48.
  • ‘The Background of Early Irish Literature’, in Studia Hibernica, 1 (1961).
  • ‘The Fair of Tailtiu and the Feast of Tara’, in Eriu, 18 (1958), pp.113-38 .
  • ed., Scéla Cano meic Gartnáin (1963).
  • Celtic and Anglo-Saxon kingship : the O'Donnell lectures for 1967-68 [Oxford Univ., 23 & 24 May 1968] (OUP 1970), vii, 53pp.
  • Foreword to Irish Bardic Poetry: Texts and Translations, compiled by David Greene & Fergus Kelly with an introductory lecture by Osborn Bergin (Dublin: DIAS 1970), xi, 320pp.
  • Appendix to The Irish Penitentials, edited by Ludwig Bieler [Scriptores latini hiberniae, 5] (Dublin: DIAS 1963, 1975), x, 367pp. [Latin or Old Irish texts and English translation on facing pages]
    ed., Corpus iuris hibernici ad fidem codicum manuscriptorum recognovit, 6 vols. (Baile Átha Cliath: Institiuíd Ard-Léinn Bhaile Átha Cliath [DIAS] 1978), xxviii, 2,343pp. [details]
  • ‘A Pre-Christian Survival in Mediaeval Irish Hagiography’, in Ireland in early Medieval Europe, ed by D. Whitelock; et al. (1982). pp. 165-178.

See also Liam Breatnach, A Companion to the Corpus Iuris Hibernici [Early Irish Law Ser., 5] (Dublin: School of Celtic Studies/DIAS 2005), xv, 499pp.

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Bibliographical details
Críth gablach, ed. & trans. ed. D. A. Binchy [Mediaeval & Modern Irish Ser., XI] (Dublin: Stationery Office 1941), xx, 109pp. [Irish text transliterated; Introduction and Notes in English [pp.25-38]; ‘Abbreviated titles, p.[x]; Legal glossary [p.69-109] - see translation text as attached.

Corpus iuris hibernici ad fidem codicum manuscriptorum recognovit, ed. D. A. Binchy, 6 vols. (Baile Átha Cliath: Institiuíd Ard-Léinn Bhaile Átha Cliath [DIAS] 1978), xxviii [“Introductory matter”; issued as a separate booklet], 2,343pp. [26 cm.]; incorporates Text in Old Irish and annotations in English; also “List of manuscripts according to present location” [p.xxvi].

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Myles Dillon & Nora Chadwick, The Celtic Realms [History and Civilisation] (London: London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson 1967), p.155: ‘Dr Binchy has drawn attention to the resemblances in certain points between the Irish and Indian law-books. In both countries the law consists of canonical texts, invested with a sacred origin, and interpreted exclusively by a privileged caste. There were law-schools in each with varying traditions of interpretation. The relations between pupil and teacher (Irish felmac and fithithir; Sanskrit sísya and guru) were similar, with eventual right of succession. The Hindu sapinda, a family group of four generations, descendants of a common great-grandfather, seems to have the same significance and functions as the Irish derbfine and the Welsh gwely. The basic family unit was the same in both systems […; &c.]’ (Bibl., Binchy, ‘The Linguistic and Historical Value of the Irish Law Tracts’, 23, 27, 30, Proceedings of the British Academy, XXIX, 1943 [q.p.]; here p.11). Further [comparing Indian and Irish legal systems]: ‘We can even claim agreement in the number of forms of marriage, form Binchy has suggested that two of the Irish “unions” are a later development’ [cites Studies in Early Irish Law, p.vi] (p.12; and see footnote 2: ‘I am heavily indebted to Dr. Binchy for advice about [the] similarities beween Hindu and Irish law’ (idem.). The authors further write: ‘In an illuminating article Professor Binchy has recently set the ceremonial with which Medb is traditionally invested in a wider context, demonstrating its archaic character and its relationship to royal investiture of other Irish kings, and to kings in other parts of the world which imbued them with divine powers.’ (citing Ériu, XVIII, 134f.)

Donnchadh Ó Corráin, ‘Early Ireland: Directions and Re-directions’, in Bullán: An Irish Studies Journal, 1, 2 (Autumn 1994), pp.1-15: calls Binchy the ‘former of opinion’ in relation to the idea that early Irish literature is rooted in orality rather than in literary tradition [see further under Ó Corráin.]

Binchy and Bergin and Best” - by Flann O'Brien [Brian O'Nolan]
‘My song is concernin’ / Three sons of great learnin’ / Binchy and Bergin and Best, / They worked out that riddle / Old Irish and Middle, / Binchy and Bergin and Best, / they studied far higher / Than ould Kuno Meyer / And fanned up the glimmer / Bequested by Zimmer / Binchy and Bergin and Best. [...; see further under Flann O'Brien - infra.]

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The Diplomacy of the Vatican’, [article] in International Affairs, Jan. 1946): ‘The Vatican as a religious Power and the Vatican as a political Power cannot really be separated, but for a great many purposes they have to be distinguished [...] The relation between politics and morality is an extremely difficult problem, and I do not believe that the Papacy, any more than any other Power, has succeeded in solving it. One result of this is that papal pronouncements on questions of international morality have to be made with an eye to the repercussions of such statements on the interest of the Church not merely in the world as a whole but in one particular area; hence the tendency so often noted in such pronouncements, to enunciate only the most general principles. Again the necessity of considering the interests of the Catholic Church as a whole in a changing society leads to what may be called flexibility - or, if you prefer, opportunism - in various aspects of papal policy. More important still the wider view which is generally taken in the Curia often comes into conflict with local nationalism.’ (Rep. in The Bell, May 1946; quoted in Sean O’Faolain, The Irish 1947, p.115, ftn., where it is called ‘a very interesting essay’.)

Two Blasket Autobiographies’: ‘I have often wondered about the nature of the difference, at once so subtle and so infinite, between the people of the Gaoltacht [sic] and the bulk of their compatriots whose mother tongue is English ... in reality they belong to quite a different world. Tralee, Cork and Dublin are almost as ‘foreign’ to the Blasket Islander as London or Glasgow. Indeed, by a curious irony of circumstance, they are much more remote from him than Springfield, Mass., where so many of his kith and kin ale congregated. In a sense he is a stranger in his own land, singularly indifferent to the questions which agitate his English-speaking countrymen. He knows little of the wrangles of our politicians (each group of whom vies with exalting him to the skies), almost as little as he knows of that political nationalism which owes its introduction to the descendants of English colonists and its progress to the spread of the English tongue.’ (Studies Vol. 23, 1933 [q.pp.]; cited in Luke Gibbons, Transformations in Irish Culture, Field Day, Cork UP 1996, p.97.)


There is a wikipedia entry on Binchy [online]; ditto Irish National Biography (RIA 2009) [online]. Ssee also bibl. item in Denise Inglis, Celts Bibliography, in Ibiblio/Gaelic [online] and other such listings.

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Kuno Meyer: Binchy’s personal library incl. a separately bound copy of ‘An old Irish prayer for long life’ by Kuno Meyer [q.v.], being a reprint from A Miscellany presented to J. M. Mackay, LL.D. (Liverpool UP; London: Constable 1914), [420pp.], pp.226-32 [added boards, front matter, and 1p. publisher’s listing at end]. The cloth-bound pages were previously held in the Library of Daniel Binchy and now in the J. M. Kelly Library of Toronto University, with an insert bookplate stating that the ‘presence of this book has been made possible through the generosity of Stephen. B. Roman.’ [Available at Internet Archive - online; accessed 20.04.2024.)