Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Maccartain, William
MACCARTAIN, WILLIAM (fl. 1703), Irish poet, was of an Ulster family, but was born in Munster at Doon, co. Cork. He was a fervent catholic and royalist. He wrote on 14 July 1700 a poetical address to Sir James FitzEdmond Cotter (Egerton MS. 154 in British Museum), which contains, as has been pointed out by Standish Hayes O'Grady, the true name of the slayer of John Lisle [q. v.] at Lausanne on 11 Aug. 1664. Thomas MacDonnell, the name given in the English accounts, was a pseudonym circulated to avoid discovery, and this Sir James FitzEdmond Cotter, in Irish Sémus mac Emoinn Mhic Choitir, who lived safely in Munster till after 1700, was well known in his own country to be the real man who killed Lisle. The address praises the valour and the generosity to literary men of this popular hero. On 29 Dec. 1701 MacCartain wrote a poetical epistle to John Baptist MacSlevin, the catholic bishop of Cork, Cloyne, and Ross, thanking him for the loan of a book of old Irish literature, beginning ‘A leabhair bhig trath do dhail dam sult ar fhiannaib’ (‘O little book that for a while hast afforded me amusement about the Fianna’). The bishop was afterwards banished on 27 Feb. 1703, under a provision in the penal laws then in full force, and went to Portugal. MacCartain composed two poems on his exile (all three in Egerton, 154). On 28 April 1703 he wrote a poem called ‘The Lion of the Province of Ulster,’ and on 29 May 1703 a song to the air of Grainne Mhaol, in which he deplores the ruined state of the native gentry, and again alludes to the bishop's expatriation. All his works are in Irish, and, excepting those printed by S. H. O'Grady in his ‘Silva Gadelica’ (1892), have circulated exclusively in manuscript.
[Egerton MS. 154, articles 41, 43, 45, 47, in Brit. Mus.; information kindly given by Standish Hayes O'Grady, who has for the first time printed and translated some of MacCartain's poems; S. H. O'Grady's Cat. of Irish MSS. in Brit. Mus.; E. O. Reilly's Trans. of Iberno-Celtic Soc. Dublin, 1820, p. 206.]