Introduction to this edition of The Adventures of Turlough

Printer-friendly version

The Adventures of Turlough Mac Stairn
The Adventures of the Three Sons of Turlough

These two stories, one of which is a continuation of the other are accredited to Micheal Coimín – Michael Comyn, from Miltown Malbay and this does not appear to be disputed.
An article on Coimín by Muiris O Rócháin can be downloaded here and notes by Seosamh Mac Mathúna, in his History of Kilfarboy, may be read here
There is no known autograph version of the text and all Coimín's manuscripts are believed to have been burned.
The translation here is from the printed text by Padruig O Briain published in 1893 in a book called ‘Blaithfhleasg de Mhilseainibh na Gaoidheilge’ – A Garland of Gaelic Selections. Most of the preface by OBriain is not relevant to Coimin except that he says:

“I have made a comparison of four copies [manuscripts] and found little difference between them. I took the clearest and most easily understood pieces from each of them but made no changes of my own. Micheal Coimin is the accredited author of all the copies I examined. I do not believe there is any certainty regarding the year he wrote it. 1755 is the date mooted by Sean Whelan in the copy he made shortly after that time. Another author says it was written in 1749”

Another edition, of the first story only, entitled “Torolbh macStairn do réir Mhíchíl Coimín” was published by Eoin Ó Neachtain in 1923. O Neachtain says in his preface that he had seen nine different texts for the story and found little difference between them.

The texts are presented by O Briain without division into chapters, which presumably is how he found them. For the convenience of the internet I have broken the stories into more manageable sections, thus making 5 parts from the Adventures of Turlough and four parts from the Adventures of the Three Sons of Turlough.
In the translation I have retained the original sentence structure and punctuation as much as possible and I have also tried to retain O Briain’s spelling of personal names which do not have a common English equivalent, even to the extent of repeating O Briain’s inconsistencies.
Where I knew of a common English equivalent of a placename I have used that and given the Irish version in parentheses after its first occurrence in the text. Other names have been left untranslated.
Whether through ignorance or otherwise, Coimín showed little respect for world geography and the ‘four’ continents seem to be movable, even within the texts themselves. While this could have been from ignorance on Coimín’s part, it is likely that he was attempting to indicate the geography of the known world at the period in which the story is set – early in the first millenium A.D.
Likewise with personal names, I have translated them only where there are often accepted ‘English’ versions. For O’Briain’s eponymous hero Toirdhealbhach (O Neachtain’s, Torolbh and John O Donovan’, Turill) I have used Turlough, which is commonly accepted but maybe my ‘Finora’ is a less usual version of ‘Fionnabhartach’.
It is not clear whether Coimín used existing placenames to provide names for his characters or if the legends of these names already existed and were drawn together by Coimín to give authenticity to his novel. Regarding the Cliffs of Mohar, Eugene Curry says:

“I believe the present form of this name [Cliffs of Mohar ] to be no older than about the year 1760, when Michael Comyn, a native Seanchaidhe founded a wild Irish Romance on three remarkable localities in this neighbourhood, namely Mohar-Ui-Ruaidhin, Liscannor and Killstuitheen, a well known reef of rocks that runs across the mouth of the bay here. In this romance Mr. Comyn attempted to derive these topographical names from three pagan brothers called Ruaidhin, Ceannir and Stuiffeen, the two former occupying Moher and Liscannor, and the latter an enchanted palace in the mouth of the bay, over which he had power to draw a watery veil whenever he wished or occasion required.”
Ordinance Survey Letters 30th October 1839

As personal and placenames form an interesting part of the text, I have provided separate notes on these.
Copyright in these translations and notes belongs to Donal De Barra.

Donal De Barra
La Féile Bríghde 2007.