David O'Duigenan - Scribe of Shancough

"A nEnach hi Bhethnachain damh agus anfa an lacha anal dom buaidhredh"
[In Annagh Ivenaghan am I, and the storm from yonder side of the lake is upsetting me.] (7)

This comment is taken from a manuscript written in the Chancing area by the scribe David O'Duigenan between the years 1671-74. The manuscript is currently housed in the Royal Irish Academy (R.I.A. Ms. B:iv:I) and it contains an important collection of tales such as 'The Frenzy of Suibhne' and 'The Battle of Mag Rath'. He was also responsible for one of the two surviving independent versions of 'The Second Battle of Moytirra'. The above remark comes from a colophon (a marginal note) that mentions Annagh Ivenaghan, the old name for Kingsborough, situated on the northern shore of Lough Arrow (the lake he refers to).

Evidence from the manuscript indicates how harsh working conditions were for professional scribes. David's marginal notes make constant references to the cold, the monotony of his work, and how tired and weary he felt. The conditions were made even harder for David as he was infirm of both hand and foot. It seems his lameness was a permanent condition and he comments regularly on the discomforts he experienced: "I am the Lame David O'Duigenan and let each one who shall read this bestow a blessing on my soul... I am sad and weary on my disabled leg". (8)

Other marginal notes in his manuscript tells us of where he worked. The majority of the manuscript was compiled at Shancough, where David lived, but he also mentions Annagh Ivenaghan, Geevagh, Kilkere and Ballindoon. David married one of the Mac Con Midhe family of Heapstown (the Conmees) however there is nothing further known about his wife. His mother was Una Reynolds, daughter of Tirlagh Mergagh Magranell of Sheebeg (in the parish of Kiltubbrid, Co. Leitrim). His father was Matha Ghlais O Duibhghennain of Kilronan. The O'Duigenans were a famous family of professional historiographers whose chief patrons were the McDermotts of Moy Lurg and the McDonaghs of Tirerrilll. The family traced their descent to Maine, son of Niall Naoighiallach (of the Nine Hostages). The family are closely associated with the foundation of the church of Kilronan in County Roscommon and they became lay proprietors that precinct. They also had connections with Choille Foghair, or Castlefore in County Leitrim. Under the forms Dignan, Duignam, Dinan, Deegan, etc., the family are now dispersed through the country and few among them realise they come from a line of famous scribes and scholars.

David died in 1696 and was buried inside Ballindoon Abbey. The slab on the floor in front of the gravestone of Terence McDonagh marks his resting place. However Charles O'Connor, the Gaelic historian of Ballinagar, prides himself with the following remark he inserted in a manuscript of David's:

"'I was born in Kilmactrena beside Shancoe, and I know that the writer of this book [David O'Duigenan] was a noble, well mannered man, and there is kindly remembrance of him to this day in Tirerrill, A.D.1772'. (9)

(8) Walsh P., 1947, p25
(9) ibid., pgs 32-3

The Moytura Record