The Annals are mainly a compilation of earlier annals, although there is some original work. They were compiled between 1632 and 1636 at a Franciscan friary near the Drowes river now in County Leitrim, and on the border with County Donegal and County Sligo. The patron of the project was Fearghal Ó Gadhra, a Gaelic lord in Coolavin, County Sligo.
The entries for the twelfth century and before are sourced from medieval annals of the community.
The later entries come from the records of the Irish aristocracy (such as the Annals of Ulster, and the seventeenth-century entries are based on personal recollection and observation.
The chief compiler of the annals was Brother Mícheál Ó Cléirigh from Ballyshannon, who was assisted by, among others, Cú Choigcríche Ó Cléirigh, Fearfeasa Ó Maol Chonaire andPeregrine Ó Duibhgeannain. Although only one of the authors, Mícheál Ó Cléirigh, was a Franciscan friar, they became known as 'The Four Friars' or in the original Irish, Na Ceithre. The Anglicized version of this was "The Four Masters", the name that became associated with the annals themselves.
The annals are written in Irish. The several manuscript copies are held at Trinity College Dublin, the Royal Irish Academy,University College Dublin and the National Library of Ireland.
The first substantial English translation (starting at AD 1171) was published by Owen Connellan in 1846. The Connellan translation included the annals from the eleventh to the seventeenth centuries. The only version to have a four-colour frontispiece, it included a large folding map showing the location of families in Ireland. This edition, neglected for over 150 years, was republished in the early twenty-first century. The original translation was followed several years later by a full translation by the historian John O'Donovan. The translation was funded by a government grant of £1,000 obtained by the notable mathematician Sir William Rowan Hamilton while he was president of the Royal Irish Academy.
The Annals are one of the principal Irish-language sources for Irish history up to 1616. While many of the early chapters are essentially a list of names and dates, the later chapters, dealing with events of which the authors had first-hand accounts, are much more detailed.
The English sustained a great defeat from Mageoghegan, three thousand five hundred of them being slain in the contest, together with some of the Dalton’s, and the son of the Proud Knight.
William Dalton and the Sheriff of Meath were slain by the Kinel-Fiachach, and byO'Melaghlin.
Owen Sinnach Fox, Tanist of Muintir-Tadhgain, was slain by the Dalton’s.
Manus, the son of Hugh Mac Dermot, was also slain by the Dalton’s.
Heremon O'Melaghlin was slain by Magawley and the Dalton’s.
Cucogry Oge Mageoghegan, Chief of Kinel-Fiachach, was treacherously slain after he had gone to Athlone with the Bishop of Meath: it was the Sinnach Mac Mearain (one of William Dalton's people) that killed him, with one thrust of a lance; and he Mac Mearain himself was afterwards torn asunder, and his body was cut into small pieces, for this crime.
Philip, son of Nichol, i.e. the Dalton, Lord of Westmeath, died.
Owen Sinnach Fox, Tanist of Muintir-Tadhgain, was slain by the Daltons.
Niall, the son of Cucogry Oge Mageoghegan, materies of a lord of his tribe, was slain by William Dalton and his son.
Manus, the son of Hugh MacDermot, was also slain by the Daltons.
Heremon O'Melaghlin was slain by Magawley and the Daltons.
Farrell Roe Oge, the son of Farrell Roe, the son of Donough, son of Murtough More Mageoghegan, a captain of great repute and celebrity was killed and beheaded at Cruach-abhall, by the son of the Baron of Delvin, and the grandsons of Pierce Dalton. They carried his head to Trim and from thence to Dublin for exhibition; but it was (afterwards) brought back and buried along with the body in Durrow-Coluim-Chille.
Ir, the son of Cathal Roe Mac Rannall, Tanist of his own territory, and worthy to become lord of it for his clemency and veracity died a week before Michaelmas; and in the same week Ir, the son of William MacRannall, was slain by Gilla-Glas Dillon, while he was with his mother's brother, William Dalton.
A great attack was made by O'Kelly upon Muine-Liath. The English of Westmeath, viz.,
the Tuites, Petits, Tyrrels, Darcys, and Dalton’s, came up with him. O'Kelly was defeated; Donough O'Kelly and many others were taken prisoners, and a party of their foot soldiers and kerns were slain.
Rory O'Melaghlin was slain at Clartha, by Richard Dalton and his kinsmen, in a nocturnal assault; and it was for the interests of Kedagh O'Melaghlin they committed this slaughter.
Source: Copied from the Internet.
Ambrose son of Walter son of Ristug Dalton was accidentally killed by Pierce Dalton's son.
A raid by Muiris son of Conchobhar [Ó Fearghail] on the son of William Dalton at Ceall
The son of William Dalton, an excellent foreign youth, died of the same epidemic.
Edmund son of William Dalton was killed in Breaghmhuine, and Thomas son of John son of Filbug Dalton along with him—a sad event. Great raids were made by the Daltons on the Dillons because of this, and Druim Raithne and Dún na Móna were burned by them also.
Dillon, i.e. Maurice, was killed by the Daltons between his two castles, i.e. Dún na Móna and Druim Raithne—a sad event.
A joint attack was made by ÓCeallaigh, i.e. Maol Sheachlainn, king of Uí Mhaine, together with a host of Connachtmen, Ó Conchobhair Failghe, Cormac Ó Maoil Sheachlainn, and the men of Midhe against Dalton. They all assembled at Baile Locha Seimhdille, and they set fire to the district, including houses and corn, but Dalton's granary at Ráith Sgiach was valiantly defended against them by himself and a few others.
A great raid was made by the son of Pierce Dalton at Coill Phérais on Dalton, and he took many cows. The Daltons overtook him and Cormac Ó Maoil Sheachlainn at Cairtann, and they fought a valorous, doughty, venomous battle, and Pierce's son and many of his people were wounded, and Dalton and Hubert Dalton received grievous wounds from their own kin in that battle.
Numerous raids were made by the son of Pierce Dalton on the Galls, and he burned Sonnach, including houses and churches, and destroyed a great part of Oirmhidhe.
A raid by the family of Hubert Dalton and by Nicholas Dalton on Calraighe
Incursions by the Daltons and some of the people of Anghaile into Muinntear Thadhgáin against the family of Art Ó Maoil Sheachlainn, and a number of them were wounded, and they returned without gain.
The castle of Baile na Cloiche was built by the son of the son of Luke Dalton, i.e. Gerard.
The same Fearghal Ruadh conspired with the family of Maol Mórdha Ó Conchobhair Failghe on the border of Baile an Rátha, and they enticed the two sons of Dalton, i.e. Henry, into the conspiracy with them. They killed Filbín Dalton, the best youth of his age in Midhe for hospitality and power, and Nicholas [Dalton] was captured grievously wounded, after quarter was granted to him by Réigín son of Maol Mórdha.
Attacks by Ó Conchobhair Failghe and Cinéal Fiachach on the Daltons. They killed Mac anRéabaire, constable of Dalton's gallowglasses, and ten people along with him.
A treacherous foray by the son of the son of Éamann Ó Ceallaigh on the family of Hubert Dalton, and he took many cows.
A foray by the people of Anghaile and the Uí Ghiollagáin on Miles Dalton at Forgnaidhe.
A great foray by Dalton and ÓFearghail on Cinéal Fiachach, and they took twenty score cows, or a few more, and eight score horses.
Peace between Cinéal Fiachach and the Daltons.
A great war by Brian ÓConchobhair, An Calbhach ÓConchobhair, and Cinéal Fiachach on the Daltons, and they did much destruction, and burned Ráith Sgiach, i.e. the most flourishing town in Ireland in its time, i.e. Henry Dalton's town.
The castle of Imper was built by Andrew son of Henry son of Nicholas Dalton.
A war between the Daltons themselves, i.e. between Dalton and Miles Dalton. Attacks were made by Dalton on Miles in the castle of Muileann Miadhacháin, and Miles Dalton was killed in the castle by a single arrow-shot, and the castle was captured by Dalton and handed over to Pierce son of Hubert Dalton. Loss of revenue and great weakness resulted to the descendants of Nicholas Dalton from this deed.
The church of Forgnaidhe was burned by the family of Robert Dalton, and Patrick's church atImper was burned by the family of Miles Dalton, and it was after this that Miles Dalton was killed.
The same war continued between the Daltons, and the descendants of Nicholas Dalton left the country and went into Cinéal Fiachach mic Néill. Incursions were made by the Daltons and by Cathal son of Tomás Ó Fearghail into Cinéal Fiachach, and the Daltons and Cinéal Fiachach engaged each other. Cinéal Fiachach were defeated, Nicholas Cerr son of John Dalton was killed by the Daltons, and William son of John [Dalton] was captured by them. They went into the country after that and burned the house ofFearghal Ruadh MacEochagáin and Baile ÍBhraonáin, and attacked BaileHuiginn Í Bhraonáin.Cinéal Fiachach overtook them, but they defeated them, and three sons of Brian son of Domhnall Ó Fearghail were killed there, i.e.Maol Sheachlainn, Diarmaid, and TomásRuadh, and Cairbre son of Art ÓMaoil Sheachlainn was captured there.
Caisleán Nua was taken by the family of Conchobhar son of Cathal [Ó Fearghail] and the family of Tomás son of Cathal Ó Fearghail, and they divided Forgnaidhe between them with the consent of Dalton.
Incursions by Baron Hussey, i.e. the sheriff of Midhe, and the Daltons intoBreaghmhuine, and Ó MaoilSheachlainn, the [men of] Breaghmhuine, and Dillon overtook them in the territory. They inflicted a defeat on the Galls, and people were killed, and twelve or thirteen horses were taken from them. Edmund son of Hubert Dalton was captured by Domhnall Ó Braoin on that occasion.