Roderick O’Flaherty, in Irish, Ruaidhri Ó Flaithbheartaigh (1629–1716/18), was an Irish aristocrat whose father Hugh held the castle and manor of Moycullen, Co. Galway. He was an eminent historian and collector of Irish manuscripts and, as author of Ogygia seu rerum hibernicarum chronologia
(London 1685), he enjoyed a high reputation for his learning in the profound antiquities of Ireland. For this reason the great Welsh scholar Edward Lhwyd (1660–1709), when touring Ireland in 1700, visited Ó Flaithbheartaigh at his home in Cois Fhairrge, Co. Galway. From this meeting a correspondence developed, fitful at first but regular from 1704 to 1708. During this period Ó Flaithbheartaigh read and commented on the sheets of Lhwyd’s Irish–English Dictionary, which was published as part of his Archaeologia Britannica
(Oxford 1707). A substantial part of those comments still survives, a window on the making of Lhwyd’s book and on the learned Ó Flaithbheartaigh’s command of his native language. The correspondence between the two, almost unknown until now, opens up to us the world of a great Irish scholar in the late-seventeenth and early-eighteenth centuries. In this book, the letters are published and commented upon for the first time by leading medievalist Richard Sharpe FBA, Professor of Diplomatic at Oxford and Fellow of Wadham College. Starting with the 29 letters from Ó Flaithbheartaigh to Lhwyd, Sharpe has framed a unique portrait of a Gaelic lord, Latin author, learned historian, and unique witness to Irish antiquarian learning. Ó Flaithbheartaigh’s Iar Connaught
(1684), a lively description of the barony of Moycullen, was written for the philosopher, scientist, member of parliament and political writer, William Molyneux (1656–98), translator of Descartes and founder of the Dublin Philosophical Society. Sharpe also brings together Ó Flaithbheartaigh’s surviving letters to William and the correspondence between Ó Flaithbheartaigh and Molyneux’s son Samuel (1689–1728), who would visit the 80-year-old Ó Flaithbheartaigh in 1709. The letters are edited with rich annotation, and they are preceded by an exceptionally detailed and original biographical study of the life and learning of the author. Ó Flaithbheartaigh lost his estate through the policy of transplantation under Cromwell and made his home at Park between Spiddal and Furbo. During the reign of King James II, he appears to have returned to Moycullen, but he lost almost everything when King William’s government began to assert control over Galway in 1696. The correspondence from late in his life shows Ó Flaithbheartaigh’s continued involvement at a distance with the world of books and learning in Dublin and Oxford and provides a remarkable insight into scholarly engagement and interchange across cultures and countries.
(source: Royal Irish Academy)