Annals of Ireland
by the Four Masters

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On the 22nd January, 1632, this work was undertaken in the convent of Dunagall (Donegal), and was finished in the same convent on the 10th of August 1636.
I am thine most affectionately,
Brother Michael O'Clery.
Although it is just one of several Irish annals, The Annals Of Ireland by the Four Masters is probably the best known account of ancient Irish history (and the one most often referred to). It covers events from the earliest times to 1616 AD. As indicated above it was completed in 1636, and it is believed to be based largely on earlier historical records (some of which have now been irretrievably lost it seems). Brother Michael O'Clery (whose name appears above) was the chief of the Four Masters employed to compile this major historical work.

The first direct mention (we know of) of the "Fionn Sneachta" name by the Four Masters is as shown in item 3 of the table below; and as can clearly be seen, this particular King of Ireland had several very close relatives who were also Kings (both before and after his own reign):

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KING

PERIOD

RELATIONSHIPS

(1) Fiacha Fionn-Scothach 1352 - 1332 BC

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(2) Ollamh Fodhla 1317 - 1277 BC Son of Fiacha Fionn-Scothach
(3) Finnachta (Fionn Sneachta) 1277 - 1257 BC Son of Ollamh Fodhla
(4) Slanoll 1257 - 1240 BC Son of Ollamh Fodhla
(5) Fiacha Finnailches 1228 - 1208 BC Son of Finnachta
(6) Oilioll 1196 - 1181 BC Son of Slanoll
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(1) The Four Masters associate the reign of King Fiacha Fionn-Scothach with events which took place at the large Celtic site named "Cruachain" in County Roscommon (also called Rathcrogan): which is now understood to be one of the most important Celtic royal sites in Europe. According to Brother O'Clery and his colleagues, shamrocks and white flowers appeared in great abundance all over Ireland during the time of his kingship.
(Table Reference)
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(2) King Ollamh Fodhla established Feis-Teamhrach (The Great Feast of Tara). This feast was held each year and attended by the King's friends and dutiful subjects. Ollamh Fodhla means "The Chief Poet of Ireland".  A corrupted version of his name (which was pronounced "Ollav Fola" or "Ullav Fola") gave the present province of Ulster its name. Most of the old province of Ulster is now under the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom. It is generally known as Northern Ireland (or "The Six Counties"), and as such is separate from the Republic of Ireland.

Further information on:
King Ollamh Fodhla

Search engine listing for Ollamh Fodhla (by Google):
http://www.google.com/search?q=Ollamh+Fodhla&btnG=Google+Search

(Table Reference)

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(3) During King Finnachta's 20 year reign, snow fell which tasted of wine. Before this event, he was known as Elim. He died at Magh-Inis - which is located in the area now known as County Down (in the province of Ulster). His name is still preserved in the Celtic surname "O'Fionnachta", which has been Anglicised to "Finnerty". Both versions of the surname have several spelling variations.
In this hit-and-miss way, busy English scribes - who would have had no knowledge of Celtic languages (or very little) - quickly wrote down place names on maps, and drew up lists of tenants' names etc., based on what they heard and what was easiest for them to pronounce. Under these circumstances, ” Fionnachta was transformed into Finnerty by one scribe, to O'Finaghty or Finaghty by another, and so on.  Some of the other variations we know of include: O'Fenaghty, Fenaughty, Finaughity, Feenaghty, Fennaghty, Fennaughty, Finerty, Finnearty, O'Finnearty, Finnarty, Fennerty, Fenerty, Fenety, Fenarty, and Finnesty.  However, and as is believed to have happened with several other Celtic names, some of these variations (such as Fenerty and Fenety for example), may have originated after members of the family had emigrated from Ireland and established themselves in places such as England, Canada, the United States, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.  Also, there is reason to believe that some (at least) of the people with the surnames Fenton, Snow, and possibly White and Whitehead as well, are also Fionn-Sneachta descendants.    ........more

Finnachta is a composite of the two Celtic language words "fionn" (white), and "sneachta" (snow): meaning "snow white".

(Table Reference)

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(4) The reign of King SlŠnoll is associated with a period when the people of Ireland enjoyed extremely good health. The kingdom was free of all manner of sickness. His name is made up of the two Celtic words "slŠn" meaning health, and "oll" meaning massive. The Celtic toast word "SlŠinte!" meaning "Good Health" or "Cheers" in English, is understood to have originated during the years of his reign. Similarly, for related Celtic phrases such "slŠn abhaile!"(safe home), "slŠn leat!" (farewell), and so on. Years after his burial, it was found that his body had not decomposed.
(Table Reference)
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(5)

All of the calves born during the reign of King Fiacha Finnailches were white-headed; and the Celtic word "ceannann" is still used in Ireland to describe cows and horses having a white star on their foreheads. He built a fort in Ceanannus (County Meath) and made his home there. Ceanannus is now known as Kells; and this particular place later gave its name to what is probably the world's most famous book: The Book of Kells.  Spring wells were first dug in Ireland during his reign, and the ears of corn in his time were so full and heavy that the stalks had difficulty sustaining them. 
(Table Reference) 
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(6)

King Oilioll reigned for 16 years, and was slain by Sirna Mac Deyn. Immediately afterwards, the government of Teamhair (Tara, or possibly Turoe?) was violently taken from the "Ulta" (the people of Ulster) who were the descendants of Ir, son of Milesius. 

All six of the above kings are believed to be descendants of Ir, and it appears reasonable to suppose that the word "Ireland" derives from the name Ir. This view seems to be supported by the fact that in European continental languages such as German, French, and Spanish, the words for Ireland are: Irland, Irlande, and Irlanda, respectively. The Italian word for Ireland is also Irlanda: The Land of Ir.

(Table Reference)


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The famous Greek mathematician and geographer Ptolemy (c. 87 to 150 AD) seems to have known about, and to have shown on his map of Ireland at least two (and possibly all three) of the Celtic royal sites mentioned above. These are: (1) Uladh (shown as the northern "Regia" on the map),  (2) Cruachain (as "Rhaeba"), and (3) Teamhair (as the southern "Regia"). The place marked "Laberus" is in the Tara area (in County Meath). However, and unlike the word Regia (from Rex, Latin for king), there is no obvious link (that we known of) which would suggest a royal connection of any kind with the word Laberus: all of which tends to support the view that Teamhair (in Ptolemy's time) meant Turoe in County Galway, and not Tara in County Meath.  Please see: Ptolemy's ancient map of Ireland.

A modern copy of The Annals of Ireland by the Four Masters can be seen in the reference section of the public library in Ballinasloe, County Galway. The version shown in the photograph below (from DE BŕRKA RARE BOOKS, DUBLIN) is the third edition of a translation by John O'Donovan. The first edition of his translation appeared in 1851. The Celtic text appears on left hand pages of the books (even numbers), and the corresponding English translation is set out on the right hand pages (which have odd numbers - as can be seen in some of the scanned images below). The bottom sections of the pages contain numerous explanatory notes, plus cross references to other ancient histories of Ireland.  It is believed that many reference libraries now have copies of the set of books shown below.

Six volumes in reference section of Ballinasloe Library
Annals of The Four Masters (in Six Volumes)

The information relating to the six "Fionn Sneachta" Celtic kings listed in the table above comes from pages 51 to 57 of Volume 1 (on the extreme left above).  Scanned images of parts of the actual pages from the copy shown are provided further down this page, and some of the key-words relating to the Fionn Sneachta kings have been underlined.

Please note that the year numbers used by The Four Masters in the scanned images below are not referenced to the birth of Christ. To normalise them, "The Age of the World" years used by The Four Masters need to be subtracted from 5,200: and the results will give years that are BC.  For example, Age of The World Year 3923 equals 1277 BC (as a result of subtracting 3923 from 5200).

Part of page 51
Scanned section of page 51 (Annals of The Four Masters)

Part of page 53
Scanned section of page 53 (Annals of The Four Masters)

Part of page 55
Scanned section of page 55 (Annals of The Four Masters)

Part of page 57
Scanned section of page 57 (Annals of The Four Masters)

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Opening Page (Origin of "Finnerty" name)

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Most recent update: March 28th 2001
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