Annals of the Four Masters

Ó Cléirigh (Mícheál) • Ó Maoil Chonaire (Fear Feasa) • Ó Cléirigh (Cú Choigcríche) • Ó Duibhgeannáin (Cú Choigcríche) • Ó Cléirigh (Conaire) • Ó Maoil Chonaire (Muiris mac Torna)
  • Early Modern Irish
  • prose
  • Irish annals
Annals of the Four Masters
The compilation was known originally as Annála ríoghachta Éireann (‘Annals of the kingdom of Ireland’). The work is also referred to as Annales Dungallenses, after the Franciscan monastery of Donegal (bar. Tirhugh), in which proximity it is thought to have been compiled. More famously, it came to be named after the ‘Four Masters’ since John Colgan applied this term to Mícheál Ó Cléirigh and his three chief assistants, even if two other scribes were involved in the project.(1)n. 1 John Colgan referred to the Quattuor Magistri in his introduction to the Acta sanctorum Hiberniae. Joep Leerssen, Mere Irish and Fíor-Ghael: studies in the idea of Irish nationality, its development and literary expression prior to the nineteenth century (1986): 478.
Mícheál Ó CléirighÓ Cléirigh (Mícheál)
(d. 1643)
O'Clery (Michael)
Irish scholar, historian and scribe.
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Fear Feasa Ó Maoil ChonaireÓ Maoil Chonaire (Fear Feasa)
(fl. 17th century)
Irish scribe; one of the scholars known as the Four Masters
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Cú Choigcríche Ó CléirighÓ Cléirigh (Cú Choigcríche)
(d. in or after 1664)
Irish scholar, poet, historian and scribe; one of the so-named ‘Four Masters’.
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Cú Choigcríche Ó DuibhgeannáinÓ Duibhgeannáin (Cú Choigcríche)
(fl. 17th century)
Irish scribe, known as one of the Four Masters
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Conaire Ó CléirighÓ Cléirigh (Conaire)
(s. xvii)
A brother of Mícheál Ó Cléirigh and one of the occasional assistants of the Four Masters.
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Muiris mac Torna Ó Maoil ChonaireÓ Maoil Chonaire (Muiris mac Torna)
(d. 1645)
Irish scholar, poet and scribe of the Ó Maoil Chonaire family. He is known to have made a small contribution to the Annals of the Four Masters.
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The chief compiler and scribe is Mícheál Ó Cléirigh (d. c. 1643), a Franciscan friar from St Anthony at Louvain, who for many years had been active as a scribe and historian in his native Co. Donegal and further afield. Between 1632 and 1636, he undertook the project with a small team of assistant scribes, Fearfeasa Ó Maoilchonaire, Cú Choigcríche Ó Duibhgeannáin and Cú Choigcríche Ó Cléirigh (the other three ‘Masters’). In addition, occasional assistants were Conaire Ó Cléirigh and at one time, Muiris Ó Maoilchonaire.
  • Early Modern Irish
Compiled, in two successive stages, between 1632 and 1636.
Franciscan house of refuge at Drowes, Co Donegal.
prose (primary)
verse (secondary)
Textual relationships
Related: Lebor gabála ÉrennLebor gabála Érenn
Associated items
A h-aon noí ccét cethre deichA h-aon noí ccét cethre deich

A single quatrain cited in the Annals of the Four Masters (s.a. 941), on the obit of Muirchertach mac Néill, and there attributed to a certain Mugrón.

Mórchath Ocha fersaitirMórchath Ocha fersaitir

An item of verse attributed to Becc mac Dé and quoted in a number of annalistic and similar historical contexts. It refers to the battle of Ocha (dated c.482) and the death of Ailill Molt.

Muinter Pádraig na paiterMuinter Pádraig na paiter

Middle Irish poem containing a long list of members of St Patrick’s household and attributed to Flann, possibly for Flann Mainistrech.


Irish annalsannals and chronicles, Irish histories
Irish annals
id. 35113



Primary sources Text editions and/or modern translations – in whole or in part – along with publications containing additions and corrections, if known. Diplomatic editions, facsimiles and digital image reproductions of the manuscripts are not always listed here but may be found in entries for the relevant manuscripts. For historical purposes, early editions, transcriptions and translations are not excluded, even if their reliability does not meet modern standards.

[ed.] [tr.] OʼDonovan, John [ed. and tr.], Annala rioghachta Eireann: Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland, by the Four Masters, from the earliest period to the year 1616, 7 vols, 2nd ed., Dublin, 1856.
CELT – edition (vol. 1): <link> CELT – edition (vol. 2): <link> CELT – edition (vol. 3): <link> CELT – edition (vol. 4): <link> CELT – edition (vol. 5): <link> CELT – edition (vol. 6): <link> CELT – translation (vol. 1): <link> CELT – translation (vol. 2): <link> CELT – translation (vol. 3): <link> CELT – translation (vol. 4): <link> CELT – translation (vol. 5): <link> CELT – translation (vol.6): <link> Internet Archive – multiple copies: <link>

Secondary sources (select)

Cunningham, Bernadette, The Annals of the Four Masters: Irish history, kingship and society in the early seventeenth century, Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2010.
Mc Carthy, Daniel P., The Irish annals: their genesis, evolution and history, Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2008.  
comments: Contents: Chronicles and annals: origins, compilation, taxonomy and nomenclature (p. 1); Witnesses to the annals: the primary manuscripts (18); Annalistic literature (61); World history in Insular chronicles (118); The Iona chronicle (153); The Moville and Clonmacnoise chronicles (168); Liber Cuanach and its descendants (198); The Armagh and Derry chronicles (223); The Connacht and Fermanagh chronicles (245); The Regnal-canon chronicles (271); Final compilation stages (304); Reliable annalistic chronology (342); Epilogue (355); Twelve centuries of Irish chronicling: from Bethlehem to Bundrowes (355); Necessity for a comprehensive analysis of chronicle features (357); Outstanding chronicle compilations (358); Manuscript witnesses to the annals (361); Survey of annalistic verse up to A.D. 1000 (364); The regnal-canon (368); Bibliography (375) and index (393).
Walsh, Paul, The Four Masters and their work, ed. Colm O Lochlainn, Dublin: Three Candles, 1944.
Walsh, Paul (ed.), Irish men of learning: studies, Dublin: Three Candles, 1947.  
A collection of articles by Paul Walsh nearly all of which were published previously in the journals Studies: An Irish Quarterly, Irish Ecclesiastical Record and The Catholic Bulletin.
C. A., Dennis Groenewegen
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January 2011, last updated: March 2022