Ó Cléirigh, Cú Choigcríche (O'Clery, Peregrine)
It is likely that he is the ‘Cuco[. . .]’ who wrote the will pasted into the back of RIA MS 23.D.17. Writing in 1664 at Corr na hEilte, the testator leaves his soul to God, his body to nearby Burrishoole abbey, and his books to his sons, Diarmaid and Seaán. The testator's handwriting closely resembles the quite distinctive scribal hand with which our man is generally associated. This hand is found in all volumes of both autograph copies of the Annals (usually making additions rather than transcribing the main body of the text): (i) RIA C.iii.3 and TCD 1301; and (ii) Franciscan A13, RIA 23.P.6, and RIA 23.P.7. It is also found in the following important manuscripts: (iii) RIA 23.P.24 (Life of Aodh Ruadh O'Donnell); (iv) RIA 23.K.32 (a copy of the four masters’ ‘Book of invasions’); (v) RIA 23.D.17 (known as ‘The O'Clery book of genealogies’); (vi) RIA C.ii.1 (topographical poems); (vii) NLI G131 and RIA 23.N.28 (verse, genealogies, topographical poems); and (viii) RIA B.iii.1 (also topographical).
There is no compelling reason to doubt the identification of this hand as Cú Choigcríche's; however, it is to be noted that the scribe (as opposed to the author or redactor) is not named definitively in any of (i)–(viii) above; that this scribal hand is not that of the single text in which Cú Choigcríche identifies himself as the sole redactor; and that identification of the hand in examples (i)–(viii) as Cú Choigcríche's cannot, in the present writer's opinion, be extrapolated with certainty from his signature, which is to be found in Royal Library of Belgium 5100–04, Franciscan A16 (ff x verso, xii recto), and Franciscan A13. It is also to be noted that the scribal hand of examples (i)–(viii) above is joined by others not only in the Annals but also in manuscripts (v)–(viii) – despite the misleading impression sometimes given of a lonely scribe working in isolation on these manuscripts.
Returning to the question of poetry, in addition to ‘Ní deireadh leóin do leith Cuinn’, Cú Choigcríche the annalist might well be the author (‘Cú Choigcríche Ó Cléirigh’) of the slightly, but not decisively, less proficient ‘Ionmhain an laoidh léaghthar sunn’ (NLI G167, p. 336 ), composed to justify the settlement in Connacht in the mid 1650s (?) of the Donegal nobleman An Calbhach Ruadh O'Donnell; in support of the suggestion that this poet may be our man, we know that he refers explicitly to the Roscommon Ó Maolchonaire family as his friends (‘m'aos ionmhaine’, line 13a) and that the annalist's colleague Fearfeasa Ó Maolchonaire composed a poem on a closely related theme to the same patron. He might equally well be the ‘Cú Choigcríche Ó Cléirigh’ who composed a poem in looser ógláchas metre, ‘Mo mhallacht ort, a shaoghail’ (RIA 24.P.27, p. 104), within a few years of 1655 on the long and eventful – though recently not so happy – life of Toirdhealbhach O'Donnell; it certainly seems to be the case that this poem and ‘Ionmhain an laoidh léaghthar sunn’ are of common authorship.
It is also possible that he is the ‘Cú Choigcríche Ó Cléirigh’ who revised Dubhthach Óg Ó Duibhgeannáin's 1600 poem, ‘Leanam croinic clann nDálaigh’, a combined chronology of past O'Donnell rulers and record of the martial adventures of Aodh Ruadh O'Donnell (qv). Unlike ‘Ionmhain an laoidh léaghthar sunn’ and ‘Mo mhallacht ort, a shaoghail’, this revision cannot be placed definitely in the middle decades of the seventeenth century (and might, for instance, have been completed by Cú Choigcríche son of Mac Con Ó Cléirigh (see below); nevertheless, Breatnach argues convincingly that it bears the hallmarks of the work of our man, the annalist, Cú Choigcríche son of Diarmaid. It is conceivable that he is the ‘Coochogery O'Clery’ who, according to a contemporary inquisition, rented lands in the parish of Killybegs Lower in 1631–2 (Inquisit. Car. I, Donegal, ‘17); however, the certainty with which this identification is made by John O'Donovan (qv) ((1844), 395) and others is unwarranted. O'Donovan's statement (AFM, i, p. xxvii) that Cú Choigcríche the annalist was ‘the head of the Tirconnell sept of the O'Clerys’ seems completely unfounded, and his assertion that Cú Choigcríche was the author of the Life of Aodh Ruadh is, of course, incorrect.
Our man, the annalist Cú Choigcríche son of Diarmaid, is not to be confused with his mid-sixteenth-century namesake, Cú Choigcríche son of Diarmaid son of Tadhg Cam Ó Cléirigh, or with the Cú Choigcríche son of Mac Con Ó Cléirigh who composed ‘Rug cobhair ar Chonallchaibh’ for Ruaidhrí O'Domhnaill in 1603 and probably also ‘Urra ag oighreacht Éireamhóin’ in the same uncommon metre for Cú Chonnacht Mág Uidhir (qv) (d. 1589). Nor is he to be confused with his alleged contemporary, the ‘Cú Choigcríche son of Lughaidh’ found only in the uncorroborated pedigree of one John O'Clery/Seaán Ó Cléirigh (d. 1846), written in Irish by John himself at the end of a manuscript he completed in 1838: ‘Seaán Ó Cléirigh son of Pádraig son of [An] Cosnamhach son of Cairbre son of Diarmaid son of Cú Choigcríche who died in 1664 son of Lughaidh son of Mac Con’ (RIA 23.M.5, 247). It is not, of course, impossible that John's pedigree is entirely correct in itself; for instance, there is no conflict between the pedigree and the dates we have for the well known Lughaidh son of Mac Con Ó Cléirigh; also, although we have no suggestion anywhere else that Lughaidh had a son named Cú Choigcríche (or, indeed, any son), we know that he had at least one grandchild. Nor is it impossible that John was the rightful owner, as he himself claimed, of many of manuscripts (iii)–(viii) above. Difficulties only arise when ‘Cú Choigcríche son of Lughaidh’ is wrongly named as the annalist, or when, admitting that he cannot have been the annalist who penned examples (i)–(ii) above, it is still argued that he is the scribe of examples (iii)–(viii) above, despite the evidence that examples (i)–(viii) are the work of one hand. All of the indications are that the last two names in John's pedigree are a mistake and that Ó Muraíle ((2002), 117) is right to describe ‘Cú Choigcríche son of Lughaidh Ó Cléirigh’ as a ‘figment’ and a ‘will-o'-the-wisp’ whose supposed existence has led many scholars ‘a merry dance’.