The Annals of Nenagh

Argentine Ptolemy Ireland, 1513 (note HyBrazil to left)

The below is an essay on a 17th century manuscript I studied while researching my post-grad thesis at Trinity College Dublin.

      The Annals of Nenagh originated at the Franciscan Friary in Nenagh, Co. Tipperary.   Copies of sections of the original document have survived throughout the ages, and it was from these that my document was taken.    While the original document(s) of the Annals of Nenagh have not been recovered, these copies of parts of the original manuscripts survive in the British Museum and Trinity College, Dublin.  One section of the document I received can be found in the Manuscripts department at Trinity College Dublin, in a collection of Ussher’s manuscripts dating from the seventeenth century.  
     The manuscript at Trinity College Dublin is now catalogued by Abbott as 578, was previously catalogued by Lyon as E.3.10, was catalogued before this by Bernard as 193,336, and 421, prior to this catalogued as I.113., I. 112., and I.115 by Foley .  Before Foley’s time, Ussher had catalogued the manuscript as III.8, while the manuscript was originally received by the university by 1670, when it was catalogued as R1.1., R1.2., and R1.4.  This itself shows how this seventeenth century manuscript copy has had a long history in and of itself.   This manuscript at TCD falls under the heading of Annales Nenaghtenges, contains only one page, and lists entries for the dates of 1342, 1345-48, 1353-54, 1359, 1361-62, 1365, and 1373.
     Another document taken from the Annals of Nenagh resides in the British Museum as a part of a transcript of Ware’s in the Lansdowne manuscripts, and contains other entries in addition to the ones listed above.  This part of the manuscript has an interesting history as well.  In the Lansdowne manuscripts, an entry beside the Annals of Nenagh states “penes Dermitium O’Meara Medical Doctorem ” which can be used as evidence for the argument that the manuscript was copied from a manuscript in the possession of Dr. O’Meara, perhaps he even possessed the original document.  There is at least one other document containing the Annals of Nenagh to be found in the British Museum, but this, like the document in the Ussher manuscripts contains only that information found in the Lansdowne document, and does not add any new entries.  
     The two different manuscripts were not printed together until 1943, when Dermot F. Gleeson printed them both in the Annalecta Hibernica 10-12, 1941-1943.  While this is not the source from which the copy of my document was taken, it does list every entry I have had to translate, and interestingly, lists some entries differently than they appear in my document.  While the first entry in my document states:  “Desideria filia Geraldi Fitzmaurice magna benefactrix hujus domus (Ardfert) obiit in festo S. Johannis Evang. et sepulta jacet in ecclesia monasterii Fratrum Minorum de Ardart.”, the entry in the Annalecta Hibernica states: “In festo Johannis Evangelistae mortua eat Desideria filia Geraldi fitzMorris magna benefactrix fratrum monorum sepultaque eat cum eisdem fratribus in Ardart , which has influenced me in as much as I am encouraged to translate Desideria as a name, instead of an adjective. 
     The document I have received refers to many places, including “Ardart” (Ardfert), “Nenach” (Nenagh), “Ardmacia” (Armagh), “Ponte” (Bridgetown), “Lymerico” (Limerick), “Cluainremada”/ “Inis” (Ennis), and  “Laon” (Killaloe).  From the book, Medieval Religious Houses in Ireland, I have gathered information pertaining to those areas in which the document places emphasis during this time.   The religious houses of Ardfert, Nenagh, Limerick, and Ennis, were all associated with the Franciscan Friars, and established in the thirteenth century.  The House of St. Francis, for Conventuals, was founded at Ardfert around 1253 by the Lord of Kerry, Thomas FitzMaurice Fitzraymond , and there is still some evidence to suggest that the FitzMaurices played an integral part in Ardfert in the next century as they are listed as benefactors to this house in the Annals of Nenagh.  The religious house in Limerick was founded by the Burke (de Burgo) family in 1267, while the order of Friars Minor in Ennis was founded around 1242 by  Donatus Carbrac O’Brien , and as the Annals of Nenagh list one “Donati Ybrien” in relation to the house at Ennis, it is probable that this family continued to exert some influence over the house as they did in the general vicinity of Clare.  
     The house of Franciscan Friars at Nenagh certainly became the most important of the four since it became in the later part of the thirteenth century, “...the head of the essentially Irish custody of Western Ireland” , as it was made the leading house of one of the five divisions in Ireland that existed at this time .  In the early part of the fourteenth century, it is apparent that the friars played a large role in the Gaelic Revival, and while the founding of the house possibly occurred around 1252, there is no consensus concerning this.  The founding of the house is often attributed to an O’Kennedy, and the friars here were known for giving the early Norman Earls of Ormond a hard time .     
     As for the people mentioned in my document, I have only been able to locate three, all found in  A History of the Diocese of Killaloe.  Odo O’Neill died of the Black Plague in Armagh, having previously been warden of Nenagh, and although I find no mention of a William O’Mulcahy who died in 1349, there is mention of a Thomas O’Mulcahy of unknown relation dying in this same year.  Both bishops of Killaloe, Thomas O’Hogan and Thomas  O’Cormacain are listed as being bishop for twelve and twenty-eight years, respectively.  Gleeson cites the Annals of Nenagh as stating that Norman knights in the area were buried in the church of the friars in 1355, as they were benefactors of the house, and this is perhaps also applicable to the daughter of Geraldi FitzMaurice, who died in 1345.  The reference to the “deaths of men unheard of” in 1348 in the document obviously refers to the Black  Plague.
     Concerning the positions that the people in my document held, there are five: bishop, lector, warden, counsellor, and deputy-warden.  The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church defines lector as a part of the Minor Orders of the ministry, responsible for liturgical reading.  Bishop, is defined as the “..highest order of Ministers in the Christian Church,”  in a more privileged position as priests as they are able to administer Holy Orders and Confirmation.  Warden has been described in A History of the Diocese of Killaloe as simply the superior of a priory.  As listings of the other positions are not to be found, this would suggest a faulty translation on my behalf. 
     Concerning the text of the document itself, I have translated it as:

1345.  Desideria, the daughter of Gerald FitzMaurice, the great benefactor of this sort of the house (Ardfert) died on the feast of St. John the Evangelist and the funeral rites were laid out in the church of the monastery of the Friars Minor of Ardfert.

1348.  Quickly after the feast of St. John the Baptist Friar Odo O’Neill died, formerly warden of Nenagh and lector of Armagh...It began in Ireland, the deaths of men unheard of, first in Bridgetown, afterwards in Dublin, and in the land adjacent, to such an extent that the villas without amercement were left by the inhabitants.

1349.  Likewise on the feast of St. Lawrence the martyr [10 August] Friar Robert O’Finan died who was distinguished deputy-warden in rank, of whose stewardship one good arched roof in the convent of the Friars of Nenagh was built.  Likewise died Friar William O’Mulcahy lector from Nenagh Wednesday within the eighth day after the feast of St. Louis the bishop and confessor.  Likewise died Thadeus McMahon lector of the Friars Minor from Limerick a little before the feast of All Saints [1 November].  Likewise died Matthew Cecus McNamara, a man namely in having been appointed by Papal provision counsellor, in death honoured, in work faithful: himself for example having built the refectory and sacristy of the Friars of Ennis and in the very same place having been buried in the habit of the friars.

1350.  Theodore son of Donald O’Brien died in inauguration, and having been buried with the Friars Minor near Ennis.

1354.  On the vigil of All Saints died lord Thomas O’Hogan bishop of Killaloe, and five [otherwise three] days near the Friars Minor of Nenagh having been handed down for burial, who was succeeded by Thomas O ’Cormacain.  
Page from the Annals of the Four Masters, via Wikimedia Commons


1.  “Annales Nenaghtenges,” in MS 578, TCD.
2.  Cross, F.L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. (Oxford 
        University Press, London), 1957.
3.  Gleeson, Dermot F. & Gwynn, Aubrey.  A History of the Diocese of Killaloe. (M.
         H. Gill & Son LTD., Dublin), 1962.
4.  Gwynn, Aubrey & Hadock, R. Neville. Medieval Religious Houses Ireland.
         (Longman, London), 1970.
5.  Gleeson, Dermot F. “Annals of Nenagh”, in Analecta Hibernica vol. X-XII, 1941-
          1943. (Stationery Office,  Dublin), 1943.
6.  Latham, R.E., ed. Revised Medieval Latin Word List: From British and Irish 
        Sources. (Oxford University Press, London), 1965.
7.  O’Sullivan, William. “Ussher’s Manuscripts”. Manuscript Room, TCD.

        (Publisher & Date not found in text)


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