Book of Ballymote

Last updated

Book of Ballymote
Royal Irish Academy, MS 23 P 12
Book of Ballymote 008r.jpg
Book of Ballymote, f.  8r
Also known asLeabhar Bhaile an Mhóta
Place of origin Ballymote
Language(s) Middle Irish, with some Latin
Scribe(s)Solamh Ó Droma, Roibéard Mac Síthigh, Maghnus Ó Duibheannáin
PatronTomaltagh McDonagh
Material Parchment
Size40 × 26 cm
Format Folio
ScriptIrish minuscule
ContentsGenealogy, history, hagiography, topography
Illumination(s) Interlace initials, mainly zoomorphic, tinted with coloured washes [1]
Island of Ireland relief location map.png
Red pog.svg
Location of Ballymote in Ireland

The Book of Ballymote (Irish : Leabhar Bhaile an Mhóta, RIA MS 23 P 12, 275 foll.), was written in 1390 or 1391 in or near the town of Ballymote, now in County Sligo, but then in the tuath of Corann.


Production and history

This book was compiled towards the end of the 14th century at the castle of Ballymote for Tonnaltagh McDonagh, who was then in occupation of the castle. The chief compiler was Manus O'Duignan, one of a family who were ollavs and scribes to the McDonagh and the McDermots. Other scribes of the book were Solomon O'Droma, a member of a famous Co. Fermanagh family, and a Robert McSheedy. The book is a compilation of older works, mostly loose manuscripts and valuable documents handed down from antiquity that came into possession of McDonagh.

The first page of the work contains a drawing of Noah's Ark as conceived by the scribe. The first written page is missing and the second opens with a description of the ages of the world. Patrick and his household; Cormac's instructions to a king; and a physical and geological survey of Ireland. Part of the work is devoted to the sagas of Finn and Brian Boru, and the Lebor na Cert (Book of Rights). It also contains treatises on the metre and the profession of a poet, and on the Ogham writing and language. The book ends with several translations from Greek: the destruction of Troy and the wanderings of Ulysses, followed by a resume of Virgil's 'Aeneid', beginning with Nestor's speech to the Greeks.

The Book of Ballymote, like many of its kind, has made history by its wanderings. For over a hundred years it was a treasured possession of the McDonaghs of Corran. About the beginning of the 16th century, it fell into the possession of the O'Donnells with whom it remained until the Flight of the Earls in 1603. From 1620 until 1767 it was in the library of Trinity College, Dublin. It disappeared from the library and was later found in Burgundy, France. In 1785 it was returned to the Royal Irish Academy where it remained as one of the Academy's most treasured possessions. The work was photographed by the Academy in 1887 and two hundred copies of it were made. One copy is in the diocesan archives and others in libraries.[ citation needed ]


The first page of the work contains a drawing of Noah's Ark. The first written page is lost, and the second page describes the ages of the world.

The book ends with various Greek and Latin fragments on the fall of Troy, including a fragment of the Aeneid .


Related Research Articles

<i>Lebor Gabála Érenn</i> 11th century Irish chronicle

Lebor Gabála Érenn, known in English as The Book of Invasions, is a collection of poems and prose narratives in the Irish language intended to be a history of Ireland and the Irish from the creation of the world to the Middle Ages. There are a number of versions, the earliest of which was compiled by an anonymous writer in the 11th century. It synthesised narratives that had been developing over the foregoing centuries. The Lebor Gabála tells of Ireland being settled six times by six groups of people: the people of Cessair, the people of Partholón, the people of Nemed, the Fir Bolg, the Tuatha Dé Danann, and the Milesians. The first four groups are wiped out or forced to abandon the island; the fifth group represent Ireland's pagan gods, while the final group represent the Irish people.

Dubhaltach Mac Fhirbhisigh, also known as Dubhaltach Óg mac Giolla Íosa Mór mac Dubhaltach Mór Mac Fhirbhisigh, Duald Mac Firbis, Dudly Ferbisie, and Dualdus Firbissius was an Irish scribe, translator, historian and genealogist. He was one of the last traditionally trained Irish Gaelic scholars, and was a member of the Clan MacFhirbhisigh, a leading family of northern Connacht. His best-known work is the Leabhar na nGenealach, which was published in 2004 as The Great Book of Irish Genealogies, by Éamonn de Búrca, more than 300 years after it had been written.

Lebor na hUidre or the Book of the Dun Cow is an Irish vellum manuscript dating to the 12th century. It is the oldest extant manuscript in Irish. It is held in the Royal Irish Academy and is badly damaged: only 67 leaves remain and many of the texts are incomplete. It is named after an anachronistic legend that it was made from the hide of a dun cow by Saint Ciarán of Clonmacnoise.

<i>Book of Leinster</i> C. 1160 manuscript in Irish

The Book of Leinster, is a medieval Irish manuscript compiled c. 1160 and now kept in Trinity College, Dublin, under the shelfmark MS H 2.18. It was formerly known as the Lebor na Nuachongbála "Book of Nuachongbáil", a monastic site known today as Oughaval.

<i>Auraicept na n-Éces</i> Early Irish codex

Auraicept na n-Éces was historically thought to be a 7th-century work of Irish grammarians, written by a scholar named Longarad. The core of the text may date to the mid-7th century, but much material was added between that date and the production of the earliest surviving copy in the 12th century.

A number of Irish annals, of which the earliest was the Chronicle of Ireland, were compiled up to and shortly after the end of the 17th century. Annals were originally a means by which monks determined the yearly chronology of feast days. Over time, the obituaries of priests, abbots and bishops were added, along with that of notable political events. Non-Irish models include Bede's Chronica maiora, Marcellinus Comes's Chronicle of Marcellinus and the Liber pontificalis.

Lebor na Cert, or the Book of Rights, is a book of Early Irish laws, from medieval Ireland. The text details the rents and taxes paid by the King of Cashel, to various others in Ireland. The Great Book of Lecan and the Book of Ballymote contain copies.

Togail Bruidne Dá Derga is an Irish tale belonging to the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology. It survives in three Old and Middle Irish recensions, it is part of the Book of Dun Cow. It recounts the birth, life, and death of Conaire Mór son of Eterscél Mór, a legendary High King of Ireland, who is killed at Da Derga's hostel by his enemies when he breaks his geasa. It is considered one of the finest Irish sagas of the early period, comparable to the better-known Táin Bó Cúailnge.

The Yellow Book of Lecan, or TCD MS 1318, is a late medieval Irish manuscript. It contains much of the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology, besides other material. It is held in the Library of Trinity College Dublin.

Ballymote Castle

Ballymote Castle is a large rectangular keepless castle, built around 1300. It is located in the townland of Carrownanty on the outskirts of Ballymote in southern County Sligo, Ireland. This area was known historically as Átha Cliath an Chorainn, which roughly translates as The Ford of the Hurdles of Corann. It is the last of the Norman castles in Connacht. It was probably built in order to protect the newly won possessions of Richard Óg de Burgh, 2nd Earl of Ulster, in County Sligo, some distance from an earlier motte.

Leabhar na nGenealach is a massive genealogical collection written mainly in the years 1649 to 1650, at the college-house of St. Nicholas' Collegiate Church, Galway, by Dubhaltach MacFhirbhisigh. He continued to add material until at least 1666, five years before he was murdered in 1671. The original 17th century manuscript was bequeathed to University College Dublin (UCD), by Dublin solicitor Arthur Cox in 1929, and can be consulted in UCD Library Special Collections. The manuscript can be viewed online at Irish Script on Screen, which is available in English, and in Irish. Leabhar na nGenealach, was reprinted, and published in a five volume edition in Dublin in 2004 as The Great Book of Irish Genealogies.

An Leabhar Breac, now less commonly Leabhar Mór Dúna Doighre or possibly erroneously, Leabhar Breac Mic Aodhagáin, is a medieval Irish vellum manuscript containing Middle Irish and Hiberno-Latin writings. The manuscript is held in the library of the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin, where it is catalogued as RIA MS 23 P 16 or 1230.

Cín Dromma Snechtai or Lebor Dromma Snechtai is a now lost early Irish manuscript., thought to have been written in the 8th century AD.

Tadhg Dall Ó hUiginn was an Irish poet.

Irish genealogy is the study of individuals and/or families who originated on the island of Ireland.

Leabhar Ua Maine is an Irish genealogical compilation, created c. 1392–94.

Muirgheas mac Pháidín Ó Maolconaire, Gaelic-Irish scribe, died 1543.

Faolán Mac an Ghabhann na Scéal, died 1423, was an Irish writer and genealogist. He was one of the ten scribes of Leabhar Ua Maine, commissioned by Archbishop of Tuam, Muircertach Ó Ceallaigh. His poem, Adham ar n-athair uile is penned in the text by Ádhamh Cúisín. Nothing else seems to be known of him.

Loígis is the name of an Irish tribe, as it is called by contemporary scholars. Formerly, scholars generally called the tribe Laoighis or Laeighis in Irish, Lagisia in Latin, and Leix in English. Loígis is also the name of the territory in western Leinster that the tribe settled during the third century AD, and of the minor kingdom that the Loígis chieftains ruled until 1608. County Laois derives its name from Loígis, although the present county encompasses baronies that were not traditionally part of the territory of Loígis.

Lebor Bretnach, formerly spelled Leabhar Breathnach and sometimes known as the Irish Nennius, is an 11th-century historical work in Gaelic, largely consisting of a translation of the Historia Brittonum. It may have originated in Scotland, although it has traditionally been attributed to the Irish poet Gilla Cóemáin.


  1. Royal Irish Academy. "MS 23 P 12 (The Book of Ballymote)". Meamram Páipéar Ríomhaire / Irish Script on Screen. Retrieved 11 February 2022.