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The medieval Gaelic manuscript in the National Library of Scotland called Advocates’ ms 72.1.1 is made of vellum measuring 23x19cms and consists of two sections. The first, folios 1–9, constitutes what is strictly speaking the ‘1467 Manuscript’. The second, folios 10–25, is the Rev. John Beaton’s ‘Broad Book’, which was written about 1425 by Ádhamh Ó Cuirnín, and contains the sort of material (metrics, grammar, ancient wisdom, mythological genealogy) which would have formed the curriculum of a medieval bardic school.

The first section, folios 1–9, was written in 1467 by Dubhghall Albanach mac mhic Cathail (‘Scottish Dugald son of the son of Cathal’). Judging from his name and his interests, he was clearly a Scottish Gael, probably a member of the MacMhuirich bardic family (whose most characteristic name in a later period was Cathal) and a native of Kintyre, the principal base from which his family served the Lords of the Isles until 1490 as poets and historians.

With the exception of the first folio, which contains the genealogies of the Highland clans, the ‘1467 ms’ is as religious in content as the ‘Broad Book’ is secular. It is, I think, worth while to list here the texts which fill folios 2–9, as they are carefully written and probably more representative of Dubhghall’s personal interests than the genealogies. They are: a sermon ascribed to King Solomon; accounts of the death (‘passion’) of St Philip, St Andrew, St James, Christ and John the Baptist; part of the homiletic ‘Liber Scintillarum’, clearly translated from Latin, as is revealed by the chapter headings ‘De oracione’, ‘De confesione’, ‘De umilitaiti’, ‘De induligencia’, ‘De conpunccione’, ‘De timore’, ‘De virginetate’, ‘De penitensia’; a poem telling how John the Baptist was executed by a Gael; a series of pious little anecdotes and notes on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, on adulterous priests and deacons, on why there are no snakes in Ireland, on the devotion of Baithín, on the physical appearance of Christ and the apostles, on Anna and her descendants, on Christ’s apostles, disciples, deacons and womenfolk, on the Agnus Dei, and on virginity; then finally an account of one of the desert fathers, St Paphnutius.

It is normal in medieval Gaelic manuscripts for the scribe and his friends to tell us a little about themselves in margins and other spaces. At folios 4r–5r Tánaidhe Ó Maol-Chonaire embellishes the manuscript for Dubhghall with the measurements of Christ’s feet in the house of MacEgan, brehon (judge) of Ormond. Dubhghall gives us his own name at folios 3r, 5r, 7r and 8r. At folio 7r he adds that he is writing in the presence of Elizabeth Butler in what he calls baile I Buagh—, presumably for baile Uí Bhuadhaigh or baile Uí Bhuadhacháin. The location of this place is strongly suggested by the fact that the Butlers were earls of Ormond (Co. Tipperary).

The Highland genealogies on the first folio appear to have been copied, at least partly by dictation, from a text dating from about 1400. However, the fact that they are untidily crushed into the folio in irregular columns of close script (note the way the scribe returns from the end of column bc at f. 1v to fill up column c, lines 1–16) suggests that until now f. 1 had been left blank as a cover for the rest of the manuscript, and that it was being hastily employed as the only available material on which to write the text – very much the modern ‘back of an envelope’. This would point to 1467 or after as the date of writing, and would make it likely that the genealogies were written in Scotland on Dubhghall’s return. In confirmation of this it may be noted that the only marginalia post-dating Dubhghall in ff. 1–9, and the only marginalia of any kind on f. 1, are by two hands familiar in Scottish manuscripts, those of Fearghus Ó Fearghail and John Beaton.

Fearghus Ó Fearghail identifies himself quite clearly on f. 1v. Other notes by him, or by Rudhraidhe Ó Fearghail (his father or grandfather), appear at ff. 6v, 7v, 9v, 10v, 12v, 17r, 21v and 25v. Notes by another Irishman well known to have travelled in Scotland, Fearghal Óg Mac an Bháird (fl. 1583–1608), appear on ff. 10v (?) and 25v. This allows us to say that, whereas it was clearly Dubhghall Albanach himself who brought the ‘1467 ms’ to Scotland, it must have been Mac an Bháird or an Ó Fearghail who brought the ‘Broad Book’ from Ireland, and it would have been an Ó Fearghail who put them together. They were subsequently obtained by the Rev. John Beaton, who had a number of vellum manuscripts in Tiree in 1700, and he appears to have brought both the ‘1467 ms’ and the ‘Broad Book’ to Coleraine in 1700 when he met the Welsh scholar Edward Lhuyd. They were somehow acquired by the Rev. David Malcolm of Duddingston, who was an enthusiastic correspondent of the leading Gaelic scholars of his day. He presented the ‘1467 ms’ to the Edinburgh Philosophical Society in 1738, and presumably followed it up with the ‘Broad Book’; by 1813, when the two parts were bound together, they were in the Advocates’ Library. Among other binding errors made at that point and since corrected, ff. 2–7 were reversed, giving the historian W. F. Skene (who came upon the manuscript in the library about 1834) the impression that the genealogies came last in the 1467 ms.

Dubhghall’s work on the genealogies is in every respect of poor quality, occasionally declining into meaningless scratches of the pen. Additional rubbing and staining appears to have resulted from f. 1 forming the cover – whether front or back – for the ‘important’ part of the 1467 ms. Skene used chemical reagents on the most difficult portions, and the resulting brown, green and blue stains, while in some cases improving direct legibility, have the unfortunate result of preventing fluorescence under ultra-violet light.

Skene presented an approximate text of the ‘1467’ pedigrees in Collectanea de Rebus Albanicis (Iona Club, 1847) under the title ‘GAELIC MS., WRITTEN CIRCA A.D. 1450’, and in an appendix to Celtic Scotland, vol. 3 (1880), entitled ‘LEGENDARY DESCENT OF THE HIGHLAND CLANS, according to Irish MSS.’ Labouring under many difficulties, he omitted words, phrases or entire genealogies which he could not read or understand, and in Celtic Scotland he used Irish manuscript sources to fill in some of the many gaps. Unfortunately Skene’s improved but hybrid text in Celtic Scotland became synonymous with the term ‘1467 ms’, many writers failing to note that Skene did not pretend that it was the last word on the subject, or that it was an accurate, literal and verbatim rendering of the text in Adv. ms 72.1.1. He was, after all, primarily a historian – Historiographer Royal for Scotland, no less – and not a student of language, literature, palaeography or genealogy. For over a century and a half Skene’s material in Collectanea and Celtic Scotland, for all its confusions, inaccuracies and imperfections, has provided the historians of almost every Highland clan with the kernel of their first chapter.

Overall descriptions of Adv. ms 72.1.1 are available in three sources. The first, Donald Mackinnon’s Descriptive Catalogue of Gaelic Manuscripts in the Advocates’ Library Edinburgh, and Elsewhere in Scotland (Edinburgh, 1912), provides a general and very readable account of what was then known as ‘Gaelic ms I’, distributed amongst his chapters ‘Religious and Ecclesiastical’ (at pp. 72–79), ‘History and Genealogy’ (at pp. 106–08), ‘Legal, Lexical, Grammatical’ (at pp. 180–81), and ‘Maxims, Triads, and Proverbs’ (at pp. 186–87, 188–89, 190–91). The second, John Mackechnie’s Catalogue of Gaelic Manuscripts in Selected Libraries in Great Britain and Ireland (Boston, 1973), provides a much more detailed (but occasionally garbled or inaccurate) account of specific texts. The third, my own ‘Catalogue of Classical Gaelic, Irish and Welsh Manuscripts in the National Library of Scotland’, is the source from which this introduction has been compiled. It was written between 1973 and 1979, and provides a detailed history of the manuscript and its transmission, with a list of scribes and a separate entry for each genealogy, with readings of the first few words and references. This catalogue is not published as yet, but is available in typescript in the Manuscripts Reading Room of the National Library, and preparations are currently under way for placing a searchable version online.

Over the past three or four decades, specific aspects of these genealogies have been discussed in detail in publications by such scholars as the late John Bannerman, David Sellar (now the Lord Lyon), Dauvit Broun, and Martin MacGregor. They and other Scottish historians have recognised the pressing need for an account of the 1467 ms which tells us exactly what Dubhghall Albanach wrote. This website attempts to fulfil this need, and arises from discussions that took place as long ago as the 1970s and 1980s between the present editors, John Bannerman and David Sellar. We hope to improve the site gradually in the course of time, for example by developing a bibliography of references to the manuscript.


The two later hands appear here and there in the margins of f. 1. A third of the way down the broad right margin of f. 1v, writing neatly in black ink, is that of the Irishman Fearghus Ó Fearghail, who lived about 100 years after Dubhghall. He gives us his patronymic, Fearghus mac Rudhraighe, compares his writing with Dubhghall’s, and says a little prayer. All other notes and scribbles on both sides of the leaf are by the Rev. John Beaton, who lived about 200 years after Dubhghall. He uses reddish ink, and his words are often difficult to decipher. In the left margin of the recto he says something about Aedan mac Gubhrain ri Alban, ‘Aedan mac Gubhrain king of Scotland’. At the top of the page he writes Genilach… above the pedigree of Lulach, repeats Dubhghall's heading for the Mackintosh pedigree, and adds something illegible towards the right. In the lower margin he declares Is olc an diol badh cóir dona finecaib so fuas… ‘These clans above deserve ill treatment…’, then says something obscure about the treatment of the Beatons at the hands of the earl of Argyll (Mac Mhic Duibne), and finishes with his signature: Eoin Maigbheatha. On the verso, he copies Dubhghall's heading for the MacQuarries in the upper margin, writes Maine mac Muiridag mhic Eogain mhic N.9.G. in the top right-hand corner, then, below Fearghus’s note, scribbles various other genealogical notes inspired by Dubhghall's text, e.g. aig Anradan condregaid genelach mhic Laclainn oig 7 clann Neill Naighiallaigh ‘at Anradan there come together the pedigree of the son of young Lachlan and the children of Niall Naoighiallach’.


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