Perigrine O' Clereigh


Signatures of Four Masters.
Annals of the Four Masters
From Annals
ODomnail from Annals
Gofraid Groban from Annals
Ruins of Kilbarron Castle at Greeevy.
Donegal Friary.

Not much material is available about this scholar apart from his work during the 1600’s. He was a very accomplished Scribe. He deserves to be mentioned and remembered for his work.


The O’ Cléirigh family lived at the princely residence of the Oilamhs, bards and antiquarians of the people of Tirconnell, the illustrious family of the O’Cléary’s. Kilbarron Castle at Creevy near Ballyshannon in Co. Donegal.   A memorial Plaque adorns the ruins of the Castle.  Perigrine O’ Cleirigh was a son of the celebrated Scholar Lughaidh O’ Cléirigh plus a cousin of the Chief Scribe Michael O’ Cléirigh.  At the time the Annals were written Perigrine O ‘Cléirihgh was the head of the family plus the official Chief of the Ollamhs of Tirconnell.   [i]


Brother Michael O’ Cléirigh (on leave from the Monastery in Louvain) the noted antiquarian plus poet had an idea that he could produce a new all – encompassing book by collecting ancient vellums of local annals, that would incorporate the reigns, deaths, genealogies of the Irish High Kings plus the provincial kings, distinguished families, chiefs plus men of science, historians etc.  From January 22nd 1632 to August 10th 1636 along with Cu Choiridhe O’ Cleirigh, Fearfeasta O Maol Chonais plus the Chief compiler Brother Micheal O’ Cléirigh of Crevy, this project was completed under the Patronage of Feargal O’ Gadha, M.P Coolaire, Co. Sligo.   This was a chronicle of Medieval History of Ireland entries from the Deluge 2242 following Creation up to 1676 A.D. written in the Irish Language. They were written at a Franciscan Friary near the Drownes River, Co. Leitrim initially called the “Annals of the Irish Kingdoms,”  it later became known as “The Annals of the Four Masters.”  Two autobiographical copies were produced; one for Fearghai O’ Gadha plus one for the Franciscan Brotherhood at the Irish College of St. Anthony at Louvain.


Works attributed to O’ Cléirigh are a poem to Mary, a sister of Red Hugh O’Donnell that is now among the Phillips Manuscripts at the National Library of Ireland.  He also penned the ‘Life of Aodh Ruaidh O’ Domhaill’.  The O’Clery books mentioned in the Will of Cocugry, remained for years in Co. Mayo.  [ii]


Following the completion of the “Annals” it is believed that Perigrine O’Clérigh moved to the West of Ireland as a copy of these were used as a source by Dubhallad McFhirbhisign in Galway during 1679.  In his will at Curr –na – hEilte, dated 8th February 1664 he stated that ‘“I bequeath my Soul to God Almighty and I charge my body to be buried in the Monastery of Burgheis Umhaill….”    [iii]  (See page 35 / 36 of Cathair na Mart Journal for a translation of Will, taken from O’ Curry, Manuscript Materials, pp 560 – 2) When he died at Gortnaheilia, Glenhest his wishes were carried out.)  It is believed that his descendants are the Cleary and Clarke families of Brockleagh, Glenhest, also Burrishoole.    [iv]


During 1846 the noted Historian and Poet Owen Connellan transcribed the Annals into the English Language. The volumes were annotated by Philip Mac Dermott M. D. who created the first family location Map of Ireland.  During the years of 1848 to 1851 the noted Scholar John O’Donovan translated the books into five – large volumes set, these were later translated into seven slimmer volumes.  [v]


The four scribes are honoured in a Memorial Bridge over the River Drowes at Mullinaleck in Kinlought, Co. Leitrim.    [vi]  Their lives are celebrated in the annual O’ Cléirigh School held at Rossknowlagh Friary in Co. Donegal.  [vii] In Donegal town they are commemorated with a ten metre high obelisk with their names inscribed that was erected in 1938 at The Diamond. [viii]  There is a Cycling Club plus a GAA Club (founded in 1932) named after them.

Bernadette Cunningham has written about the Four Masters in “The Annals of the Four Masters; Irish history, kingship and society in the early 17th century.”  [ix]  John Healy Archbishop of Tuam wrote “Irish Essays; Literacy and Historical.” 1908   Other publications mentioning the scribes are; “The Four Masters, studies in Paleography and Texts” by Padraig A. Breatnach 2013 Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies, Dublin. [x]   “The Irish Annals; their genesis, evolution and history” by Daniel P. Mc Carthy (2008),  [xi]  “The four Masters and their work” written by Fr. Paul Walsh (edited by Colm O’ Lochlain) 1944 Sign of the Three Candles, Dublin.  Fr. Walsh followed this with “Irish Men of Learning; studies” (edited by Com O’ Lochlain) 1947 Sign of the Three Candles Dublin.  [xii] Perigrine O’ Cléirigh is mentioned in “The Dictionary of Irish Biography.”  He is discussed quite thoroughly by Bro. Angelo Mac Shamais, OSF, in “Notes on Cuchoigcriche O ‘Cléirigh, One of the Four Masters” in the Cathair  na Mart  Historical Journal, Edition No.21, 2001 (pages 27- 44.)    [xiii]

A collaborative Exhibition of the five Manuscripts was held from October 9th to December 21st 2007 at the Long Room in Trinity College, Dublin between Irish Franciscans, the Royal Irish Academy, Trinity College plus University College as part of the Louvain 400 Anniversary Commemoration of the Irish Franciscan College of St Anthony in Louvain in Belgium.  [xiv]

Several copies of the Manuscripts are held in Dublin at the National Library of Ireland, Trinity College Dublin, and University College plus at the Royal Irish Academy.  Copies of The Annals were donated from the Charles Haughty private library to the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life at Turlough, Co. Mayo. (Gratitude is extended to Museum staff for their assistance.)


Francis Holohan subscribed an article to the site of Abbey & District Heritage re ‘The Book of Duniry’ where one of The Four Masters Micheal Ó ‘Cléirigh  transcribed the life of St. Ceallach from the book plus its link to Kilnalahan Monastery at this link:


[ii] rootsweb – o clery books











[xiii] Cathair  na Mart  Historical Journal, Edition No.21, 2001 (pages 27- 44.)


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