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The Early Years

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The Early Years

Michael O'Hair was pure Irish or Celtic; but almost half of the population of Ulster or Northern Ireland, where he was born, was of Scotch-Irish descent. The Scotch-Irish and Anglo-Irish came from Scotland and England. The Scotch-Irish were, to a very great extent, of Irish and Danish descent. The Danes occupied Scotland for many years and intermarried with the Irish who had migrated from Ireland to Scotland.

The information that follows was obtained from a book translated from the original Irish of "The Four Masters." This book comprises the history of Ireland from the earliest times to the seventeenth century. The events were recorded by four monks who lived in County Donegal and are considered one of the most important works ever written on Irish history. "It may be observed here, that the topographies of O'Dugan and O'Heerin were transcribed by Peregrine O'Clery, one of the Four Masters, and by Duald Mac Firbis, one of the learned historians of Leacan in Sligo, and from these two transcripts, the translator has made copies, and also had access to various other copies in the library of Sir William Betham, all of which he has accurately compared, to make the topography as perfect as possible, Sir William Betham having given free access to all his valuable MSS. on Irish history and antiquities, with his usual liberality, always anxious to patronize and promote the interests of Irish literature.

"The following verses descriptive of Clare have been translated from O'Heerin...O'Haithchir or O'Hehirs, chiefs of Hy Flanchadha and Hy Cormac, districts in the barony of

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Islands, county of Clare, and according to O'Halloran, of Callan, in the county of Clare. They are thus designated by O'Heerin:

'Of the race of Eogan of Oirir Cliach
Are the Hy Cormac of the fine fair plain,
To O' Hehir belongs the fertile country,
The lord from whom great nobles sprung.

Chiefs who were powerful in each house
are of the noble clans of O' Hehir,
They rule over Hy Flancha of hospitable
They are noble and well armed Fenian
     warriors. ' " 1

According to Connellan, "The Four Masters" are undoubtedly the most impartial historians. In the extensive range of events which they recorded, they give faithful representation of affairs, showing the vices as well as the virtues of their countrymen. All the histories previously written are extremely defective, none of them containing one-sixth the history of Ireland and what they do contain is full of mistakes and misrepresentations.

The Celts were the first inhabitants in Europe after the flood. The Scythians were conspicious people in the ancient history of Asia and were among the most warlike and valiant people of antiquity. They worshiped the Sun and God of War. They were originally settled in Asia beyond the Caspian Sea and later settled between the Black and Caspian seas on the borders of Europe and Asia about 1500 B.C.

The various colonies that peopled Ireland in the early ages are the Partholanians, Nemedians, Firbolgs, Danans and Milesians. They were all Celts or Celto-Scythians. All spoke the same or various dialects of the Celtic language from which, in later years, evolved the Irish language.

The DeDanans, a branch of the Celtic race, came to North Briton where they settled colonies and from there they moved into Ireland. They were skilled in the arts and sciences. The round towers of Ireland were built by the Danans. They ruled Ireland for two centuries. They originally came to Briton and Ireland from Greece about 1200 B.C.

The Fomorians are mentioned by an ancient annalist

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as being among the first inhabitants of Ireland. They were African pirates, descendants of Ham, and were men of great strength and stature. These Fomorians are considered to have been Phoenicians who were expelled from Palestine about 1500 B. C.

The Firbolg Celtic race originally came from Scythia and sailed to Ireland from Greece about 1000 B.C. They also established settlements in Belguim and France, many of these settlers later emigrated to Ireland. They spoke the Celtic language.

The DeDanan Irish conquered the Firbolgs and the DeDanans were conquered by the Milesians, who became masters of Ireland. The arrival in Ireland of the colonies of Firbolgs from Belguim, and the DeDanans from Northern Briton is placed by an old chronologer from twelve to fifteen centuries B. C., and the arrival of the Milesians about 1000 B.C .

"The Milesians, according to Keating, O'Flaherty, and the old annalists, were originally a colony from Scythia, near the Euxine [Black] and Caspian seas, on the borders of Europe and Asia, about the country now called the Crimea. These Scythians, called by the Roman writers Celto-Scythae, were the most ancient inhabitants in Europe after the deluge. The Celts peopled the greater part of Europe in those early ages, [approximately 4000 B.C.] and the chief nation of them were the Gauls, or ancient inhabitants of France and Belgium . . . The Scythians made settlements on the coast of Africa and from thence sent a colony to Spain . . . A descendant of the Scythians in Spain became king of Spain, and his posterity were called Clanna Mileadh, a term anglicised to Milesians. This Milesius having gone to Egypt as a military commander, married Scota, daughter of the king of Egypt. The Milesians of Spain sent a force under Ith, Uncle of Milesius, a valiant warrior to Eire or Ireland, but he was killed by the deDanans. After the death of Milesius, his sons having fitted out a powerful fleet and a large force for the invasion of Ireland, and setting sail from the tower of Brigantia, which was near Corunna, landed at Inver Sceine, now the bay of Kenmare in the county of Kerry. The deDanans collected their forces to oppose them. A great battle was fought between them. The commanders of the Milesians were Heber, Heremon, and Ir, the sons of Milesius. They totally defeated the Danans, and became masters of Ireland. The island was divided between

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them. The period of the arrival of the Milesians in Ireland is placed about a thousand years before the Christian era. The descendants of Heremon, or the Heremonians, divided into various branches, became the kings and chiefs of almost the whole of the ancient kingdoms of Meath, Ulster, Leinster and Connaught. The race of Heber Fionn, or Heberthe Fair, called Heberians, became the kings and chiefs of Munster, but some also of the race of Ith, uncle of Milesius, called Ithians, became kings and chiefs in Munster, and several of the race of Heber were also monarchs of Ireland; . . . The race of Ir, called Clanna Rudhraidth, from Rudhraidh, one of their ancestors, who was king of Ulster in early times, were chiefly settled in Ulster, of which province they were kings for many centuries, and several of them also monarchs of Ireland. The Irians or Clanna Rory, are mentioned by O'Connor and various writers, under the name of Rudricians, and they continued kings of Ulster to the fourth and fifth centuries. . . The colonies of Firbolgs, Danans and Milesians, were all originally Scythians or Celto-Scythians, and all spoke dialects of the same language, namely the Celtic, which was also the language of the ancient Gauls and Britons. From the Milesians, called also Scoti or Scots, Ireland got the name of Scotia." 2

The monarch of Ireland was elected from the kings of the five kingdoms of Ireland. "From the earliest period to the fifth century the monarchs of Ireland were occasionally elected from the descendants of each of the three sons of Milesius, namely, from the races of Heber, Heremon, and Ir. From the fifth to the eleventh century, during a period of six hundred years, the Hy Naills of the race of Heremon, held exclusive possession of the Irish monarchy, until A.D. 1002, when Brian Boroimhe, king of Munster, of the race of Heber, dethroned Malachy the second, and became monarch of Ireland." 3  Brian Boroimhe is the same monarch referred to later in this book in condensed information from Rev. Patrick Woulfe, as Brian Boru, whose reign as monarch extended from A.D. 1002-1014.

"The Southwestern province, Munster, used to be reigned over, says Keating, alternately by the two races that inhabited it, the Ithians, descendants of Milesius' uncle, Ith, who occupied the extreme Southwestern angle, comprising the remote corners of the modern counties of Cork and

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and Kerry - and the [H]Eberians, descendants of Milesius through [H]Eber, who occupied the remainder of the province.  There was an amicable arrangement between these two races that each in turn should rule Munster. And when one race supplied the king, the other supplied the chief judge, and vice versa." 4

In the third century, a colony of Milesian Scots from Ireland settled in the north part of Briton, called Alba, and conquered the Picts and Caledonians who inhabited the territory. The Milesians became kings of the country and gave it the name of Scotia, or Scotland. The kings of Scotland and the royal house of Stuart were descended from the ancient Scotish kings of the Irish Milesian race.

In ancient times the Celtic, or Celto-Scythian race called Gauls, predominated in Belgium, France, Germany, Northern Italy, Asia Minor, Greece, Scotland and Ireland. In modem times the Irish are the principal nation of the Celts. The Irish are the only Celtic people who preserved their ancient language, literature, manners and customs to any great extent. Presently there are some districts in which the Celtic language is spoken in Europe: Scotland, Wales, Cornwell in Briton, and in France. Part of the populations of France, Belguim, Germany, Italy and Briton belong to the Celtic race.

The Celtic language has become nearly extinct in most countries, but is being renewed in Ireland. German inhabitants speak the Gothic or Teutonic language. The Germans originated somewhere beyond the Caspian sea and some of them settled in Scythia.  From Scythia they migrated to Central Europe, to the territory which is now Germany.  When the Celts inhabited Germany, they lived apart from the Teutonic people and maintained the purity of the Celtic race.

The Celtic race is described by ancient and modern writers as quick of temper, fiery, non-conforming, clannish, closely adhering to customs, careless of riches, hospitable, generous, friendly, great talkers, quick to laugh, full of wit and satire, clamorous and boastful, impatient, enthusiastic, fierce and impetuous. Their principal form of government organization began with the clans. The clans were headed by chieftains over which were provincial kings, and over them a supreme king, and all of their rulers were elective. The religion of all the ancient inhabitants of Ireland was Paganism,

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which also was the religion of Britons and other Celtic nations. Saint Patrick came to Ireland as representative of the Pope in 432, and, converted most of the population to Christianity during his active lifetime.

In 1537 A. D. a great Parliament was held in the towns of Dublin, Kilkenny, Limerick and Cashed, under the lord deputy. The Act to abolish the Pope's authority in Ireland, and to appoint Henry VIII supreme Head of the Church, to grant to the king the lands and revenues of the religious orders, and to suppress the abbeys and monasteries was enacted.

In 1541 a great Parliament was assembled in Dublin by the lord deputy in which the title of King of Ireland was conferred on Henry VIII and his successors. The King of England until that time was a Lord of Ireland. This Parliament was attended by almost all of the earls, barons and bishops of English descent, and also by many of the Irish chiefs. In Ireland the kings were the supreme rulers, next to them came the lords. During the reign of Henry VIII there were about 200 lords in Ireland, each possessing a territory equivalent to a barony (about the size of an average American township). Next in rank came the chiefs, all heads of clans, who were the most influential and powerful leaders in Ireland. Each chief possessed a territory equal in extent to a parish or sometimes two parishes or more, and varying in size from ten thousand to fifty thousand acres. All these lords and chiefs were subordinate to the provincial kings.

In the latter end of the 16th century from 1500 to 1600, the wars of the Irish princes and chiefs against Queen Elizabeth are the most remarkable events in the Anglo-Irish history. These wars were incessantly continued for a period of about forty years, principally in Ulster, during which time the Northern Irish fought many fierce battles against the English forces. During this period Michael O'Hair's forefathers were driven from their homes and forced to live like animals in the hills and woods.

The Plantation of Ulster was established in consequence of the adherence of the Irish chiefs to Hugh O' Neill, Earl of Tyrone, in the war against Elizabeth. A complete breaking up of the Irish princes, chiefs and clans took place in the later part of the 16th century in the reign of Elizabeth. Six counties in Ulster - Armagh, Tyrone, Derry, Donegal,

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Fermanagh and Cavan - were confiscated and seized by the crown. In the reign of James I, in the beginning of the 17th century from 1610 to 1620, these territories were transferred from the Irish chiefs and clans to various British settlers, some of whom were English, but most of them were Scottish.

In ancient Ireland the historians and the poets who wrote history in the form of poetry were called bards. The pagan priests were called druids, but they became extinct after the introduction of Christianity. The judges were called brehons. They delivered their judgements and proclaimed the laws to the chiefs and to the people assembled on the hills on public occasions, usually at the conventions of Tara and other great assemblies. Righ or High King was the term applied to each of the five provincial kings of Meath, Ulster, Connaught, Leinster and Munster, and was the designation of the monarch or supreme soverign. The epithet "high" was also applied to a prince. There were about 300 princes in Ireland. Each of their principalities comprised a territory varying in extent from two or three baronies to a county, and sometimes two or three counties. These princes comprised the first class of Irish nobility. The second class of the Milesian nobility were designated lords, signifying the possessor of a territory equal in extent to a barony or more, and they held rank equal to that of a baron. There were about 200 lords in Ireland in the 16th century. The third class of nobility were called chiefs. The term in Irish signified the chief leader or head man of the clan. The chieftians wore armor in battle and had a coat of arms.

Under the laws of tanistry, the kings, princes, lords and chiefs were elective. The election and inauguration of kings, princes and chiefs took place in the open air on hills at great assemblies attended by the chiefs, clans, bards and brehans. The senior and worthiest candidate was generally preferred. The chieftian of every clan had no hereditary estate in their lands, but merely held them for life and inheritance rested in no man. When the chieftians died, no sons or next of kin succeeded them, but the clans elected their successor chieftians. When any member of the clan died, his portion was not divided among his sons. The chief of the clan made a new partition of all the lands belonging to the clan and gave everyone a share. "The laws of tanistry continued to be used in Ireland down to the reign of James I when

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they were abolished by an Act of Parliament." 5

Having no central government the Celts were united by their druid priests who constituted a powerful binding force. They maintained intact the religious precepts and traditions throughout the Celtic race. Revered by the Celtic people throughout the Celtic world, the druids performed many services other than religious. They were judges of public and private disputes, family counselors and teachers. They had no books, but instructed from memory and by the spoken word. Aspirants to the druid profession spent up to twenty years in preparatory study, but when admitted were exempt from military service and received compensation from taxes. Their principal precept was reverence to the gods, abstinence from wrong-doing and the practice of courage. "A central doctrine of Celtic religion, as in many of men's faiths -since the dawn of religion, was the immortality of the soul. Otherwise Druidism was a form of polytheistic nature worship, overlaid with magic and prophecy, and formalized by agrarian rites such as the cutting of mistletoe and seasonal fertility festivals. The Celts worshiped not in temples but in forest glades and groves, where they made votive offerings." 6 The Celts contemplated death because of their conviction of the immorality of the soul. They envisaged the hereafter as a continuation of earthly existence, a continuation of life after death as it was on earth.

The Romans occupied Britain almost 400 years from 43 A.D. to 400 A.D. During this time the Celts preserved their culture and identity. During the Roman occupation Latin was the official language, but Celtic remained the language of the Celtic clans. Pressure from the Celts eventually forced the Romans to leave Britany. In the following centuries there was much intermarriage between the Celts, Danes, Norsemen and Britains thus diluting the Celtic strain. Presently many of the inhabitants of Britain are direct descendants of the Celtic race and this is true to a very great extent in Scotland and Wales.

The Celts were generally fair skinned, blue eyed and blond, but some had red hair. They were a feudal society consisting of a warrior aristocracy ruling over a peasant people organized into tribal clans, often involved in bloody feuds, whose temperament often set them to fighting to relieve the monotony of peace.

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Much strife occurred during the first three centuries after occupation and no strong king or leader appeared until Cormac. "Of all the ancient kings of Ireland, Cormac, who reigned in the third century, is unquestionably considered greatest by the poets, the seanachies, and the chroniclers . . . Cormac, supported by Taig, son of Ciann, and grandson of the great Oilill Olum of Munster, completely overthrew the usurper in the great battle of Crionna (on the Boyne). . . Cormac won undisputed possession of the monarchy. Taig was granted a large territory between Damlaig and the River Liffi, since then called the Ciannachta. He became the ancestor of the O'Hara's, O'Gara's, O'Carroll's, and other now Northern families . . . Cormac rebuilt the palace of Tara, with much magnificence. He built the Teach Mi Chuarta, the great banqueting hall, that was 760 feet by 46 feet, and 45 feet high. Until quite recently the outline of the foundations of this great hall, with the traces of its fourteen doorways, were still to be observed on Tara Hill." 7

Cormac was born a few years before the year 200 A.D., the exact date unknown. His full name was Cormac Mac Art. Art was the son of Conn of the Hundred Battles. Conn was a Heremonian, of the race of Heremon; therefore, his grandson, Cormac Mac Art was also of the race of Heremon, one of the three sons of Milesius. Cormac was the Ard-Righ, or High King (Monarch), of all Ireland during the third century. Cormac resigned when his age became advanced. His remaining years were devoted to study and writing. Three great literary works are credited to him. Many historians and chroniclers credit Cormac as having been the greatest of all Irish kings. The Irish scholar and historian, O'Flaherty, said: "Cormac exceeded all his predecessors in magnificence, munificence, wisdom and learning, as also in military achievements . . ." Many people went to Cormac for advice because of his great wisdom. This remarkable king died in the year 267 A.D., more than a century and a half before the coming of Saint Patrick. Cormac Mac Art, the King of Ireland, and Cormac Cas, the King of Munster were both of the Heremonian race. "The Christian faith which the whole Irish people imbibed so readily from Patrick during the fifth century caused a radical change in their character . . . If we compare the history of Ireland in the 6th century, after Christianity was received, with that of the 4th century, before the coming of Christi-

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anity, the wonderful change and contrast is probably much more striking than any other such change in any other nation known to history." 8 St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland in the year 432 A.D.

The Rev. O'Donaghue in his work, "St. Brendon, The Voyager" claimed that "Columbus while maturing his plans for the great expedition, visited Ireland as well as Iceland in quest of information bearing on his theories." Columbus was said to have had an Irish assistant in his research, named Patrick Maguire, who made the famous journey to America. It has been said that the boats bringing Columbus and some of his crew ran into shallow water the eventful morning of the landing. Patrick Maguire jumped from the boat to lighten the load. He waded ashore and is credited with being the first to set foot upon American soil. Other Irish names are on the roster of the ship's crew and are preserved in the archives of Madrid.

Irish history "is necessarily a history of the troubles they suffered on account of their religion . . . the great principle of religious liberty was not recognized in the 17th and the early part of the 18th centuries. The opinion prevailed that it was the duty of the civil government to maintain the church; and, the church being divided into various sects, nearly every sect was striving to obtain government recognition and support, to the exclusion of every other. In nearly all European countries some one church was established by law, and nonconformity to it was regarded as disloyal and punishable; and no doubt some good men believed they were doing God service by trying to crush out all those who followed not with them. And it was too often the case that the persecuted became persecutors when they obtained the power." 9