Fir Scéinne - Tuath Dearmadta na hÉireann  /  Men of Scéinne – A Forgotten Tribe of Ireland

An Tús

 

Ní fada ó shin, d’fhiafraigh bean díom faoina luath-shinsir Éireannacha.  Is é ‘Hession’ (.i. Ó hOisín) as Co. na Gaillimhe an sloinne di.

 

I leabhair ghinealais

 

Ba dheacair dom aon ní a fháil ar a luath-shinsir sna gnáth-fhoinsí.  Faoi dheireadh, fuair mé achoimre ghinealais dá fine i Leabhar Mór Mhic Fhirbhisigh Leacain scríofa idir 1397 agus 1418 le Giolla Íosa Mór Mac Fir Bhisigh le cabhair ó Ádhamh Ó Cuirnín agus Murchadh Riabhach Ó Cuindlis, agus beagnach an achoimre chéanna i Leabhar na nGenealach scríofa i 1650 le Dubhaltach Mac Fhirbhisigh. [i]  Bhí mé in ann tuairisciú di gurb é “Méig (.i. Mic) Oisín” clann-ainm (‘clan-name’) a fine agus go dtagann siad anuas ó na Fir Scéinne, [ii] craobh desna Fir Bolg [iii] a ainmni/odh as a mbandia Scéinne.  Is é seo achoimre na bhFear Scéinne i Leabhar Mór Mhic Fhirbhisigh Leacain:

 

De fearaib Sceindi annso .i. Mag Riabaich a taoiseach 7 Ó Gormgaili 7 Ó Caemocan 7 Ó Muirrthaili 7 Ó Fichthillich 7 Ó Muroici 7 (Ó) hUicing 7 Mac Mailin 7 Mac Oisin [iv] 7 Ó Lonan 7 Ó Corra 7 Mc. (Mic) Danair 7 Mc. (Mic) Mairtin 7 Ó Dondgaili 7 Ó Crechnua 7 Ó Drucan 7 Ó Dudacan 7 Ó Beandan 7 Ó Bethnachan 7 Mac Domnaill 7 Mac Landacan 7 Mc. (Mic) Gilli Maine 7 Ó Timanaich 7 Ó Birn 7 Ó Mail Phail 7 Ó Loacan 7 Ó Duibabrad 7 Ó Dobran 7 Mc. (Mic) Coind 7 Mc. (Mic) Gilli Glacaich 7 Mag Scalbuidi cona connaicsib. [v]

 

 

Áfach, cé gur féidir linn lua a fháil ar chuid desna sloinnte seo i leabhair nua-aimseartha, níl aon tagairt ar bith ar na Fir Scéinne nó a sloinnte in aon cheann desnár lámhscríbhinní ginealais eile mar Leabhar Genealach Uí Chléirigh le Cúchoigríche Ó Cléirigh, Leabhar Laighin, an “Craobhscaoileadh” le Seathrún Céitinn, an lámhscríbhinn iomráiteach ar a dtugtar “Rawlinson B. 502”, Leabhar Bhaile an Mhóta, 7rl.  Gan amhras de dheasca seo, níl na Fir Scéinne luaite mar thuath ar bith sna bun-fhoinsí ginealais is cuimsithí na 20ú haoise.  Níl trácht ná tuairisc le fáil ar na Fir Scéinne mar thuath ar an idirlíon (atá lán le ginealas ársa na hÉireann na laethanta seo).  Ar an dul céanna, go bhfios dom, níl tada le fáil ar na Fir Scéinne in aon stair scríofa sa 20ú haois. 

 

 

 

An cosc ar sheanchas na bhFear Scéinne

 

An fáth?  Bhí cosc, agus b’fhéidir geis ag am éigin, ar Sheanchas  na bhFear Scéinne.  Go dtí an 17ú haois, bhíodh stair, dlí, agus ginealas nasctha le chéile, foghlamtha le chéile, agus cleachtaithe le chéile, agus tugadh ‘Seanchas’ ar an gcomhcheangal sin.  I bhfocail eile, bhí cosc ar stair, ghinealas, agus chearta faoi dhlí na bhFear Scéinne a chaomhnú toisc go raibh siad aicmithe mar chuid desna Fir Bolg, mar ar léirigh Seathrún Céitinn breis agus 350 bliain ó shin:

 

 

Bíodh a fhios agat, a léaghthóir, go bhfuilid sé cinéala Aitheachthuath nó Daorchlann i nÉirinn air nach cóir seanchus do leanmhain, tar ceann go bhfuil drong díobh do Ghaedhealaibh agus drong oile nach do Ghaedhealaibh.  An céadchinéal díobh iarmhar bhFear mBolg ... [vi]

 

An fáth don chosc seo?  Chreid na Gaeil gur chuid desna hAitheachthuatha iad na Fir Bolg agus go raibh na hAitheachthuatha faoi smacht dian na nGael fadó.  I gcuid desna scéalta faoi na hAitheachthuatha, b’iad Buan, Cairpre Catchenn, agus Monach a dtaoisigh ag an am sin, agus thug Monach a ainm dosna ‘Seacht dTuatha Monach’, cuid desna Fir Bolg. [vii]  Bunaithe ar chomhairle ón dtriúr seo, d’éirigh na hAitheachthuatha amach agus mharaigh siad uaisle na nGael, beagnach gach ceann acu.  D’éalaigh dornán amháin díobh.  Nuair a d’fhás sliocht an dornáin seo i gcumhacht arís, mharaigh siad mórán desna hAitheachthuatha, chuir siad an chuid eile faoi smacht arís, agus (mar a fheicimid) dhiúltaigh mórchuid sheanchaidhthe na nGael (a oibrigh mar staraithe, dlíodóirí, agus gineolaithe araon go dtí an 17ú haois) seanchas na nAitheachthuatha “do leanmhain” fiú amháin “gur gabsad a cclanna cennas mór ‘na dhaigh sin, go h-áiridhe a cConnachtaibh.” [viii] 

 

Ach, go háthasach, bhí dearcadh eile ag ollaimh sa scoil Mhic Fhirbhisigh ag Leacan, mar a dúirt Dubhaltach Mac Fhirbhisigh:

 

 

 ... ar a n-annmha (.i. annamhacht) anosa (.i. anois) agus ar a ndaoírse anallana (.i. anallód) ... raidhid (.i. deirid) dronga égin nach oircheas seanchus do leanmhuin ar na sé cineluibh athachtuath, nó daorchlann, filid (.i. atá) in Érin ...  Gidheadh (.i. Gidh), fiafraighim cionnus gebhtar (.i. a fhaightear) geneluigh ináid (.i. nó) erndaile (.i. earnálacha) aile an tseanchasa re a síoladh (.i. chun iad a dháileadh) gan sgriobhadh ar íslibh agus ar uaislibh, ar saora agus daora fa seach mar sin, óir aderid na diadhaire (.i. diagairí) fén nach raibhe rí nach tainig ó dhaor, ná daor nach tainig ó righ; féch Dáibhidh ‘na aoghaire caorach agus Saul ‘na coimheadaigh banasal riasiú bhadar (.i. roimh go raibh siad ina) riogha ... [ix]

 

Buíochas leis na Mic Fhirbhisigh agus a ndearcadh ar leith, is féidir linn finte ársa na bhFear Scéinne a ainmniú.

 

I nDinnseanchas

 

Scríobh Seaán Mór Ó Dubhagáin an rann seo sa 14ú haois:

 

Seantaoisigh Mhuighe Luirg láin,

ní dhlighmid féin a bhfágbháil,

Mág Eóach, Mág Maonaigh Mhóir,

is Mág Riabhaigh an ríoghshlóigh. [x]

 

 

Bhí ríthe ag mórán tuath in Éirinn go dtí deireadh na Meán-Aoiseanna.  Is comharthú an focal “ríoghslóigh” sa líne is deire go raibh na Mic Riabhaigh ina ríthe dosna Fir Scéinne ag am éigin roimh gur scríobhadh an rann seo.  Is féidir linn feiceáil freisin go raibh na Mic Riabhaigh ina seantaoisigh (.i. iar-thaoisigh) Mhagh Luirg nuair ar scríobh Ó Dubhagáin an rann seo.  Agus i Leabhar Mór Mhic Fhirbhisigh Leacain, scríofa idir 1397 agus 1418, chonaiceamar cheana féin go raibh na Mic Riabhaigh curtha síos mar thaoisigh na bhFear Scéinne ag an am sin.

 

A dtír sna Meán-Aoiseanna

 

Ag tosú leis an eolas go raibh na Mic Riabhaigh (taoisigh na bhFear Scéinne) lonnaithe ar Mhagh Luirg an Daghda (‘Moylurg’) sna meán-aoiseanna, [xi] is féidir linn dul ar an nglacadh nach mbeadh finte eile na bhFear Scéinne áitithe ró-fhada ó na Mic Riabhaigh i gConnacht.  Ag baint feidhme as Sloinnte Gaedheal Is Gall le Pádraig de Bhulbh (1923) agus Surnames of Ireland le hEdward MacLysaght (1969), is féidir sloinnte na bhFhear Scéinne i Leabhar Mór Mhic Fhirbhisigh Leacain a aicmiú mar seo:

 

 

   * Ní féidir an sloinne a fháil a thuilleadh in aon chúige na hÉireann:  9 sloinne

 

   * Ní féidir an sloinne a fháil i gConnacht, ach tá an sloinne le fáil i gcúige eile:  10 sloinne.  Mar shampla, bhí fine eaglasta ar a dtugadh ‘Ó Drucáin’ (.i. Ó Druacháin) ag Ard Mhacha agus bhí airchinnigh ar a dtugadh ‘Ó Lonáin’ ag Cill Rannaileach (Kilranelagh, Co. Chill Mhantain).     

 

   *  Tá an sloinne le fáil i gConnacht ach mar chraobh de thuath eile nach Fir Scéinne:  4 shloinne.  Mar shampla, tá an sloinne Ó Dondgaili fós i Sligeach mar Ó Dunnghaile ach comháirithe mar chraobh desna hUí Fhiachrach. 

 

   *  Is féidir an sloinne a fháil i gConnacht agus an fine a chomháireamh mar Fhir Scéinne:  8 sloinne, beagnach cothrom le 25% desna finte céannaithe mar Fhir Scéinne i Leabhar Mór Mhic Fhirbhisigh Leacain.  Is iad seo a leanas na finte gur féidir fós a chéannú mar Fhir Scéinne i gConnacht:

 

Mag Riabaich / Mac Riabhaigh –  Co. Ros Comáin

 

Méig Oisín / Mic Oisín / Ó hOisín, Co. na Gaillimhe agus Co. Mhaigh Eo  (Mar sin, bhí mé in ann insint don bhean a chuir mé ag obair ar an dtaighde seo go dtagann sí anuas ó na Fir Scéinne.  Fíric shuimiúil eile – Is léir gur tháinig máthair Mhícheál Uí Lócháin, bunaitheoir Chumann Carad na Gaeilge, anuas ón sloinne seo.  Ba í a sloinne í seo, agus ba as Co. Mhaigh Eo di.)

 

 

Mag Scalbuidi / Mac Scalaidhe – Co. Ros Comáin agus Co. na hIarmhí

 

Ó Bethnachan / Ó Beannacháin – “fine na bhFear Bolg i Sligeach” de réir de Bhuilbh

 

Ó Dobran / Ó Dobharáin – le fáil fós i gConnacht ach “annamh” de réir de Bhuilbh

 

Ó Dudacan / Ó Dubhdacáin – “fine annamh i Sligeach” de réir de Bhuilbh

 

Ó Gormgaili / Ó Gormshúiligh – De réir de Bhuilbh, beireann fine sa Cho. Mhaigh Eo an t-ainm seo agus iad ina dtiarnaí ar an mbarúntacht Cheara anallód, agus fine sa Cho. Ros Comáin a bhí ina n-airchinnigh ag Ail Fionn.

           

Ó Loacan / Ó Lócháin? – Níl mé lánchinnte, ach sílim gurb iad na hUí Lócháin i gCo. na Gaillimhe iad seo.  Más iad, tháinig bunaitheoir Chumann Carad na Gaeilge, .i. Mícheál Ó Lócháin, anuas uathu ar thaobh a athar.

 

Mar sin, tá bunús maith againn a ghlacadh gur shín críoch na bhFear Scéinne tráth ó Shligeach sa tuaisceart síos trí Mhaigh Eo agus Ros Comáin comh fada le ceantair i dtuaisceart na Gaillimhe.

 

I bhFéineachas (‘Brehon Law’)

 

Tá fáth maith ann nach féidir linn ach thart faoi 25% desna Fir Scéinne a chéannú inniu.

 

De réir Féineachais, mar craobh na bhFear Bolg, aicmíodh na Fir Scéinne mar ‘Aitheachthuath’.  Is é an chiall do ‘Aitheachthuath’ ná ‘tuath a íocann cíos’.  Mar a chonaiceamar cheana féin, ba ‘dhaoir’ iad so.  Bhí sé ar na daoine seo cíos a íoc do thiarnaí áitiúla na nGael chun áis a bhaint as a dtalamh.  Bhreathnaigh na Gaeil orthu mar sheirbhísigh. [xii]  Freisin, faoi Fhéineachas, ní raibh lóg n-enechenechlann (‘face-price’, ‘honor-price’) acu. [xiii]  Mar sin, is léir go raibh an stádas céanna acu faoin dlí agus a bhí ag ‘deorad’ (deoraí) nó ‘ambue’ (neamh-dhuine), .i. bhí Gaeil in ann iad a ghortú nó a mharú gan éraic (‘wergild’) a íoc. [xiv] 

 

 

Is féidir linn feiceáil nach raibh sé inmhianaithe do fhine nó thuath a bheith aicmithe mar aitheachthuath nó daorchlann.  Rinne cuid desna daoine seo iarracht ar a nginealaigh a athrú, ag éileamh gur Ghaeil iad.  Rinne finte eile triall chun a ngairmeacha beatha a athrú chun saor-stádas a fháil, ag dul isteach san eaglais mar fhine oidhreachta eaglasta, nó ag cleachtadh filidheachta, seanchais, breithiumhnais, leighis, nó ealaín léannta eile mar fhine oidhreachta.  Ba ionann enechlann ollaimh na n-ealaíon léannta seo agus enechlann suí litrefer légind (saoi i léann eaglasta) agus enechlann rí tuaithe. [xv]  Ní hionadh é, mar sin, go raibh Éire lán le naoimh agus scoláirí mar na hUí Dhruacháin, na hUí Lonáin, agus na hUí Ghormshúiligh thuasluaite.

 

 

 

Tá a fhios againn gur éirigh le finte áirithe a nginealaigh nó a ngairmeacha beatha a athrú.  D’éirigh leis na hUí Dhálaigh Midhe an bheirt acu a athrú.  Ba cheann desnár bhfinte oidhreachta is mó i bhfilidheacht iad.  Freisin, d’éiligh siad gur tháinig siad anuas ó na Fir Teathbha, craobh desna hUí Néill In Deiscirt, cé gur chuimhnigh na Mic Fhirbhisigh go maith gur tháinig na hUí Dhálaigh Midhe anuas i bhfírinne ón gCorcu Ádhaimh, cuid desna Fir Bolg. [xvi] 

 

 

 

Ní féidir linn thart faoi 75% na bhFear Scéinne a chéannú inniu.  B’fhéidir nach maireann cuid acu, nó gur theith siad as Connacht, nó gur athraigh siad a n-ainmneacha, nó mar Uí Dhálaigh Mhidhe, gur athraigh siad a nginealaigh agus a ngairmeacha beatha.  Cinnte go raibh fáth maith acu.

 

Deireadh na bhFear Scéinne

 

Roimh 1033, bhí an ríshliocht Ua hAedha (O’Hea) na nUa Fhiachrach in iomaíocht don teideal ‘Tiarna Muighe Luirg’. [xvii] Bhí Uí Mhaol Ruanaigh, craobh an ríshleachta Shíol Mhuireadhaigh na gConnacht in iomaíocht don teideal céanna roimh 1159. [xviii]  Roimh 1187, chuir na hUí Mhaol Ruanaigh an t-ainm Mac Diarmada orthu, agus ghabh siad Muigh Luirg ó na Mic Riabhaigh. [xix]  Ón dtríú haois déag anuas, bhí sé ar na Mic Riabhaigh cíos a thabhairt dosna Mic Diarmada. [xx]  Tar éis céadta ag maireachtáil i gcumhacht agus i saoirse in aice Mhagh Luirg, íslíodh na Fir Scéinne faoi dheireadh go leibhéal na haitheachthuaithe seanda.  I liosta fhinte na bhFear Scéinne i Leabhar na nGenealach, scríofa i 1650, níl an teideal “a dtaoisigh” le fáil a thuilleadh. [xxi]             

 

An t-am is deire a raibh na Fir Scéinne luaite sna hannála ba é sa bhliain 1238.  Is é Annála Chonnacht an bun-fhoinse:

 

Cathal Mag Riabaig toisech Fer Scedni mortuus est. [xxii]

 

Leis an dtagairt seo, chuaigh na Fir Scéinne as ár leabhair staire, agus ar ball, as ár seanchas go léir.

 

 

The Beginning

 

Not long ago, a woman asked mé about her early Irish ancestors.  Her surname is ‘Hession’ (i.e., Ó hOisín) from Co. Galway. 

 

In books of genealogy

 

It was difficult for me to find anything about her early ancestors in the usual sources.  Finally, I found a summary of the genealogy of her extended family in Leabhar Mór Mhic Fhirbhisigh Leacain written between 1397 and 1418 by Giolla Íosa Mór Mac Fir Bhisigh with help from Ádhamh Ó Cuirnín and Murchadh Riabhach Ó Cuindlis, and almost the same summary in Leabhar na nGenealach written in 1650 by Dubhaltach Mac Fhirbhisigh.  I was able to report to her that “Mic Oisín” is the ‘clan-name’ of her family and that they descend from the Fir Scéinne, a branch of the Fir Bolg named for their goddess Scéinne.  Here is the summary of the Fir Scéinne in Leabhar Mór Mhic Fhirbhisigh Leacain:

 

Of the Men of Sceinne here i.e. Mag Riabaich their leader & Ó Gormgaili & Ó Caemocan & Ó Muirrthaili & Ó Fichthillich & Ó Muroici & (Ó) hUicing & Mac Mailin & Mac Oisin  & Ó Lonan & Ó Corra & Mc. (Mic) Danair & Mc. (Mic) Mairtin & Ó Dondgaili & Ó Crechnua & Ó Drucan & Ó Dudacan & Ó Beandan & Ó Bethnachan & Mac Domnaill & Mac Landacan & Mc. (Mic) Gilli Maine & Ó Timanaich & Ó Birn & Ó Mail Phail & Ó Loacan & Ó Duibabrad & Ó Dobran & Mc. (Mic) Coind & Mc. (Mic) Gilli Glacaich & Mag Scalbuidi with their relations.

 

However, although we can find mention of these families in modern books, there isn’t any mention at all of the Fir Scéinne or their families in any of our other genealogical manuscripts like Leabhar Genealach Uí Chléirigh by Cúchoigríche Ó Cléirigh, Leabhar Laighin, the “Craobhscaoileadh” (Branching) by Seathrún Céitinn, the famous manuscript called “Rawlinson B. 502”, Leabhar Bhaile an Mhóta, etc.  Nó doubt because of this, the Fir Scéinne are not mentioned as a people at all in any of the most comprehensive genealogical sources of the 20th century.  There is nothing to be found about the Fir Scéinne as a people on the internet (which is full of the ancient genealogy of Ireland these days).  Similarly, as far as I know, there is nothing to be found about the Fir Scéinne in any history written in the 20th century. 

 

The prohibition on Seanchas of the Fir Scéinne

 

The reason?  There was a prohibition, and perhaps a geis (taboo) at some time, against the Seanchas of the Fir Scéinne.  Until the 17th century, history, law, and genealogy were linked together, learned together, and practiced together, and the combination was called ‘Seanchas’.  In other words, there was a prohibition against preserving the history, genealogy, and rights under law of the Fir Scéinne because they were classified as part of the Fir Bolg, as Seathrún Céitinn explained over 350 years ago:

 

Let it be known to you, o reader, that six kinds of Tribute-Paying Peoples or Servile Peoples are in Ireland upon whom it is not right to trace Seanchas, even though some of them are of the Gaeil and others are not of the Gaeil.  The first type of them is a remnant of the Fir Bolg

 

 

The reason for this prohibition?  The Gaeil believed that the Fir Bolg are part of the Aitheachthuatha and that the Aitheachthuatha were under the hard rule of the Gaeil long ago.  In one of the stories about the Aitheachthuatha, their leaders at that time were Buan, Cairpre Catchenn, and Monach, and Monach gave his name to the ‘The Seven Peoples of Monach’, part of the Fir Bolg.  Based on advice from these three, the Aitheachthuatha rebelled and killed the nobles of the Gaeil, almost every one of them.  Only a handful escaped.  When the progeny of this handful grew in power again, they killed many of the Aitheachthuatha, they conquered the rest, and (as we see) most of the seanchaidhthe (who combined the functions of historian, jurist, and genealogist until the 17th century) of the Gaeil refused “to follow” the seanchas of the Aitheachthuatha even though “their descendants attained great headship afterwards, especially in Connacht.”

 

 

But, happily, the ollaimh (masters of knowledge, professors) of the Mac Fhirbhisigh school at Leacan had a different view, as Dubhaltach Mac Firbhisigh said:

 

... because of their rarity now and servitude long ago ... some groups say that it is not proper to follow the history of the six classes of vassal tribes, or servile families, who are in Ireland...  However, I ask how can genealogies or other categories of Seanchas be gotten for their seeding (distribution) without writing of low-born and high-born, for the theologians themselves say there was not a king who didn’t come from a servile person, or a servile person who did not come from a king; look at David the young shepherd and Saul who cared for female asses before they were kings ...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to the Mic Fhirbhisigh and their distinct perspective, we can name the ancient extended families of the Fir Scéinne.

 

In the ‘Seanchas of Places’

 

Seaán Mór Ó Dubhagáin wrote this rann in the 14th century:

 

Old-Leaders of the full Plain of the Track,

We do not legitimize their leaving,

Mág Eóach, Mág Maonaigh Mhóir,

and Mág Riabhaigh the royal-host.

 

Many tuatha in Ireland had kings until the end of the middle ages.  The word “ríoghshlóigh” in the last line is an indication that the Mic Riabhaigh were kings for the Fir Scéinne at some time before this rann was written.  We can see also that the Mic Riabhaigh were seantaoisigh (i.e., former taoisigh, former hereditary leaders) of Magh Luirg (Moylurg) when Ó Dubhagáin wrote this rann.  And in Leabhar Mór Mhic Fhirbhisigh Leacain, written between 1397 and 1418, we already saw that the Mic Riabhaigh were described as “taoisigh” of the Fir Scéinne at that time.

 

Their country in the Middle Ages

 

Starting with the knowledge that the Mic Riabhaigh (taoisigh of the Fir Scéinne) were settled on Magh Luirg an Daghda (‘Moylurg’) in the middle ages, we can assume that the other extended families of the Fir Scéinne would not be located too far from the Mic Riabhaigh in Connacht.  Using Sloinnte Gaedheal is Gall by Patrick Woulfe (1923) and Surnames of Ireland by Edward MacLysaght (1969), the surnames of the Fir Scéinne in Leabhar Mór Mhic Fhirbhisigh Leacain can be classified as follows:

 

   * The surname cannot be found any longer in any Province of Ireland:  9 surnames

 

   * It is not possible to find the surname in Connacht, but the name is to be found in another province:  10 surnames.  For example, an hereditary ecclesiastical family called Ó Drucáin (i.e., Ó Druacháin) was at Armagh and erenaghs called Ó Lonáin were at Cill Rannaileach (Kilranelagh, Co. Wicklow)

 

   *  The surname is found in Connacht but as members of other tuatha who are not Fir Scéinne:  4 surnames.  For example, the name Ó Dondgaili is still in Sligo as Ó Dunnghaile but counted as a branch of the Uí Fhiachrach.

 

   * It is possible to find the name in Connacht and to count the family as Fir Scéinne:  8 surnames, approximately equal to 25% of the families identified as Fir Scéinne in Leabhar Mór Mhic Fhirbhisigh Leacain.  The following are the families who can still be identified as Fir Scéinne in Connacht:

    

Mag Riabaich / Mac Riabhaigh –  Co. Ros Comáin

 

Méig Oisín / Mic Oisín / Ó hOisín, Co. na Gaillimhe agus Co. Mhaigh Eo  (Accordingly, I was able to tell the woman who put me to work on this research that she descends from the Fir Scéinne.  Another interesting fact – it’s apparent that the mother of Mícheál Ó Lócháin, founder of the Philo-Celtic Society, descended from this family.  This was her surname and she was from Co. Mayo.)

 

Mag Scalbuidi / Mac Scalaidhe – Co. Roscommon and Co. Westmeath

 

Ó Bethnachan / Ó Beannacháin – “a family of the Fir Bolg in Sligo” according to Woulfe       

 

Ó Dobran / Ó Dobharáin –still found in Connacht but “rare” according to Woulfe

 

Ó Dudacan / Ó Dubhdacáin –Woulfe reports that this is “a rare Sligo surname”.

 

Ó Gormgaili / Ó Gormshúiligh – Woulfe reports that this is the name of a Mayo family “who were anciently lords of the barony of Carra” and of a Roscommon family “who were formerly erenaghs of Elphin”.

           

Ó Loacan / Ó Lócháin? – I’m not completely certain, but I think these are the Uí Lócháin in Co. Galway.  If so, the founder of Cumann Carad na Gaeilge, i.e., Mícheál Ó Lócháin, descended from them on his father’s side.

 

Accordingly, we can reasonably conclude that the territory of the Fir Scéinne once stretched from Sligo in the north down through Mayo and Roscommon as far as districts in the north of Galway. 

 

 

In Féineachas (‘Brehon Law’)

 

There is a good reason why we can identify only about 25% of the Fir Scéinne today.

 

According to Féineachas, as a branch of the Fir Bolg, the Fir Scéinne were classified as an ‘Aitheachthuath’.  The meaning of ‘Aitheach-thuath’ is ‘rent-paying people’.  As we have already seen, they were daoir (‘un-free peoples’).  They had to pay rent or tribute to local lords of the Gaeil to use their land.  The Gaeil looked on them as servants.  Also, under Féineachas, they had no lóg n-enech or enechlann (‘face-price, ‘honor’ price).  Accordingly, it’s clear that they had the same status under the law as a ‘deorad’ (exile) or ‘ambue’ (non-person), i.e., a Gael could wound or kill them without having to pay éraic (wergild).

       

We can see that it was not desirable for an extended family or tuath to remain classified as an aitheachthuath or daorchlann.  Some of these people tried to change their genealogies, claiming that they were Gaeil.  Other families tried to change their profession in order to become saor (‘free’), going into the church as hereditary ecclesiastical families, or practicing filidheacht (prophet-poetry), seanchas (law, history, genealogy), breithiumhnas (law), medicine, or other learned arts as hereditary families.  The honor-price of a master of these arts was equal to the honor-price of a suí litre or fer légend (a master of ecclesiastical learning) which was equal to the honor price of a king of a tuath.  It is no wonder, therefore, that Ireland was full of saints and scholars like the Uí Dhruacháin, Uí Lonáin, and Uí Ghormshúiligh mentioned above.

    

We know that certain extended families succeeded in changing their genealogies or their professions.  The Uí Dhálaigh Midhe (Ó Dalaigh family of Meath) succeeded in changing both.  They were one of our greatest hereditary families in the field of prophet-poetry.  They also claimed that they descended from the Fir Teathbha, a branch of the Uí Néill of the South, although the Mic Fhirbhishg remembered well that the Uí Dhálaigh Midhe actually descended from the Corcu Ádhaimh, a branch of the Fir Bolg.  

 

We can’t identify roughly 75% of the Fir Scéinne today.  Maybe some of them didn’t survive, or they fled out of Connacht, or they changed their names, or like the Uí Dhálaigh Midhe, they changed their genealogies and their way of life.  Certainly, they had good reason.     

 

The End of the Fir Scéinne

 

By 1033, the Ua hAedha (O’Hea) dynasty of the Uí Fhiachrach were competing for the title ‘Lord of Moylurg’.  The Ó Maol Ruanaigh branch of the Síol Mhuireadhaigh royal dynasty of the Connachta were in competition for the same title by 1159.  By 1187, the Uí Mhaol Ruánaigh took the name Mac Diarmada (‘MacDermot’) and Magh Luirg from the Mac Riabhaigh.  From the thirteenth century on, the Mic Riabhaigh were obliged to pay tribute to the MacDermots.  In the list of the families of the Fir Scéinne in Leabhar na nGenealach, written in 1650, the title “their taoisigh” is no longer to be found.                

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last time the Fir Scéinne were mentioned in Irish annals was in the year 1238.  The source is Annála Chonnacht (‘The Annals of Connacht’):

 

Cathal Mag Riabaig leader of the Fir Scéinne dies.

 

With this reference, the Fir Scéinne faded from our histories, and eventually, from all our seanchas.

 

 

NÓTAÍ DEIRIDH / ENDNOTES

 

[i] Cé gurb é an nós anois an sloinne do Dhubhaltach a litriú mar “Mac Fhirbhisigh”, shín sé a shloinne féin mar “Mac Firbhisigh” mar is féidir a fheiceáil ina lámh féin i Leabhar na nGenealach i mbailiúchán an Choláiste Ollscoile Bhaile Áth Cliath ag ISOS: http://www.isos.dias.ie/irish/index.html

[ii] litrithe freisin mar Fir Scedni, Fir Sceindi, Fir Scedne, Fir Sgenne, Feara Scene, agus Fir Scéne

[iii] Mac Firbhisigh, Dubhaltach.  Leabhar na nGenealach / The Great Book of Irish Genealogies.  Eagartha le Nollaig Ó Múraíle.  Baile Átha Cliath:  De Búrca Books, 2003.  Imleabhar III, leathanach 64, paragraf 783;  leathanach 358, paragraf 1025.2

[iv] Tá “Meg Oisín” (.i. Méig Oisín nó Mic Oisín) le fáil sa liosta céanna i Leabhar na nGenealach le Dubhaltach Mac Fhirbhisigh.

[v] Ó Raithbheartaigh, Toirdhealbhach, eagarthóir.  Genealogical Tracts I.  Baile Átha Cliath:  Coimisiún Láimhscríbhinní na hÉireann, 1932.    paragraf 168, leathanach 180, roghnaithe de Leabhar Mór Mhic Fhirbhisigh Leacain 

[vi] Céitinn, Seathrún.  Patrick S. Dinneen agus David Comyn, eagarthóirí.  Foras Feasa Ar Éirinn / History Of Ireland, Volume IV - Genealogies and Synchronisms.  London:  Cumann na Sgríbhinn nGaedhilge, 1914, 1987. leathanach 13

[vii] Ó Raithbheartaigh, Genealogical Tracts I.  paragraf 122, leathanach 82, roghnaithe de Leabhar na nGenealach 

[viii] Ó Raithbheartaigh, Genealogical Tracts I.  paragraf 126, leathanach 86, roghnaithe de Leabhar na nGenealach 

[ix] Mac Firbhisigh, Leabhar na nGenealach.  Imleabhar III, leathanach 358, paragraif  1026.1-1026.2  

[x] Carney, Topographical Poems … leathanach 26, línte 707-710

[xi] Carney, James, eagarthóir.  Topographical Poems by Seaán Mór Ó Dubhagáin and Giolla-na-Naomh Ó hUidhrín.  Institiúid Ard-Léinn Bhaile Átha Cliath, 1943.   leathanach 26, línte 707-710

[xii] Kelly, Fergus.  A Guide to Early Irish Law.  Early Irish Law Series, Volume III.  Institiúid Ard-Léinn Bhaile Átha Cliath, 1998.   Leathanach 10, fo-nóta 63  

[xiii] Kelly, A Guide to Early Irish Law.  leathanach 11  

[xiv] Kelly, A Guide to Early Irish Law.  leathanach 5

[xv] Kelly, A Guide to Early Irish Law.  leathanaigh 41, 46

[xvi] Ó Raithbheartaigh, Genealogical Tracts I.  paragraf 156, leathanach 106, roghnaithe de Leabhar na nGenealach 

[xvii] Ó Cléirigh, Mícheál; Cú Choigcríche Ó Cléirigh; Fearfeasa Ó Maolchonaire; Cú Choigcríche Ó Duibhgeannáin; Conaire Ó Cléirigh.  John O'Donovan - editor.  Annála Ríoghachta Éireann - Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland by the Four Masters, from the earliest period to the year 1616.  Dublin.  Hodges & Smith.  1848-51.   Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition, University College Cork:  http://www.ucc.ie/celt , par. 1033.13 for the year 1033

[xviii] Annála Ríoghachta Éireann, par. 1159.13 don bhliain 1159

[xix] Annála Ríoghachta Éireann, par. 1187.4 don bhliain 1187

[xx] MacLysaght, Edward.  More Irish Families.  Dublin:  Irish Academic Press, 1982.  p. 117

[xxi] Mac Firbhisigh, Leabhar na nGenealach.  Imleabhar III, leathanach 64, paragraf 783;  leathanach 358, paragraf 1025.2

[xxii] Freeman, Alexander Martin - Editor.  Annála Connacht, A.D. 1224-1544.  Institiúid Ard-Léinn Bhaile Átha Cliath, 1944.  leathanach 70, don bhliain 1238

 

 

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