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HE following Chorographical Description of the Territory of West or H-Iar Connaught, now first printed, was written in A. D. 1684, by Roderic O'Flaherty, author of the Ogygia, or Chronology of Irish events. It is one of many similar treatises, compiled about that period by several learned individuals, for the purpose, as is said, of illustrating the celebrated Down Survey of Ireland, by Sir William Petty. After a general view of the boundaries, extent, and baronies of H-Iar Connaught, the author, p. 7, defines its borders, beginning with Lough Measg (Mask), in the north of the barony of Ross, and proceeding, by the eastern limits, towards the south, including Lough Orbsen (Corrib), he turns to the west, by the Bay of Galway, and thence continues northward, along the shores of the Atlantic, to the Killary harbour, which flows inland, in the direction of Lough Mask, where he began. A general description is then given of the state and appearance of the interior, its mountains, mines, woods, soil, rivers, and lakes; the bays and harbours round the coast; the productions of the country, as fish, fowl, beasts,
beasts, &c.; the ruins of ancient churches, chapels, and other religious places; and, finally, the natural disposition of the natives. After which, p. 17, the two great lakes, Mask and Corrib, with some of the islands in the latter, are particularly described; p. 27, the river, town, and bay of Galway; p. 44, the half barony of Ross; p. 52, the barony of Moycullen; p. 65, the three islands of Aran; and p. 92, to the end, the barony of Ballynahinch (Conamara), which completes the district. The boundaries, extent, and remarkable places so described, may be traced by their ancient names on the annexed map of IarConnaught, and of Ui Briuin Seola, the present barony of Clare, in the County of Galway, as they existed in and previous to the sixteenth century.
In this work Mr. O'Flaherty has given additional proofs of his discrimination, judgment, and learning. That he has far exceeded his contemporary contributors, will appear by a comparison of his treatise with the others produced at the same time, and for the same purpose. One only of these has been hitherto published, being a Description of the County of Westmeath, by Sir Henry Piers, printed by Vallancey in the first Number of his Collectanea de Rebus Hibernicis, and also in a separate form; but the puerility, prejudice, and irrelevant disquisitions which pervade that "Itinerary," render its inferiority to this of our author at once manifest. Some of the other treatises alluded to still remain in MS. in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin. Among them is a short description of the County of Leitrim, compiled by Thady Rody, which appears deserving of preservation; and is, indeed, the only one of the entire, worthy of being classed with the following description of West-Connaught.
As nearly two hundred years had elapsed since our Author collected the information contained in this curious treatise, it was found necessary, as soon as its publication had been resolved upon by the Irish Archæological Society, to illustrate the text with
various explanations, and some additional information. At the request of friends, who were pleased to think more favourably of the Editor than he is conscious of having merited, he was induced to undertake that task, and the result of his labours will be found in the Notes and Appendix which follow. Among those are interspersed several original documents, never before published, which have been carefully transcribed by the Editor, from various public repositories and private collections; and these original papers may now be considered as so many authentic additions to the materials of Irish history. Most of them have been introduced as illustrative of the territory treated of, and others as connected with the province at large. Many will be found of curious import, containing interesting information; particularly those relating to the Provincial Composition of A. D. 1585; a proceeding with which our historical writers for the two last centuries appear to have been but little, if at all, acquainted. A consideration of the imperfect state of Irish history in general, and of that of this western province in particular, has led to the insertion of many of those documents; and the opportunity was considered favourable, as a means for their preservation. Some of them may prove useful to future writers; and the correctness and authenticity of the entire may be safely relied upon. The humble, but laborious duty which devolved on the Editor, he has thus endeavoured to perform, "et communi ductus officio, et amore quodam operis." No pains have been spared to render the publication in some degree worthy of the reputation of the author of the Ogygia, and the high character of our Archæological Society, which is silently achieving so much good for the history of Ireland. How far the Editor may have succeeded is not for himself to determine. But if this work shall be found to have promoted, even in the slightest degree, any of the objects of the Society, he will feel, as expressed on a former occasion, amply requited for all his labour. "Ex hoc quocunque labore, si utilitatem aliquam percipias,
cipias, me operæ non pœnitebit, imò horas succisivas ità impensas, me benè collocâsse existimabo."- Waraus noster, lectori Antiq. Hiberniæ.
To the natives of H-Iar Connaught, or the descendants of its old families, the Editor is not indebted for much information, written or otherwise, except some few traditional narratives; and of the latter, such as could not be verified from other sources have been rejected. Several extracts relating to the islands of Aran, the Civil Distribution, temp. Car. II., and other subjects connected with the district, have been omitted, rather than trespass on the indulgence of the Society, which has liberally permitted this volume to be increased far beyond its intended limits. It is hoped, however, that sufficient has been given to illustrate our author's description, and to diffuse a knowledge of this part of Ireland, which may eventually lead to the moral and social improvement of its population. This work may, moreover, indicate what might be expected, in the way of documentary history, from other parts of the kingdom, when even so much could be elicited from so unpromising a locality as H-Iar Connaught. A series of publications on a similar plan, from each province or county, accompanied with original documents, would add considerably to our national lore, and, probably, form an important part of the true "Materia Historica" of the country.
To his erudite friend, John O'Donovan, the Editor stands obliged for several judicious observations, together with the map which accompanies this work; and to Dr. Todd, of Trinity College, and Dr. Aquilla Smith, of Dublin, he is likewise indebted for many facilities of obtaining information, and for much useful assistance, to which particularly may be attributed the general correctness with which the entire has passed through the press. The untiring zeal of these learned members of the Irish Archæological Society, on the present and every other occasion, to promote its interests, entitles them to the warmest acknowledgments of that body.