Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/O'Dugan, John

O'DUGAN, JOHN (d. 1372), Irish historian and poet, called in Irish Seán mór Ua Dubhagáin, was born in Connaught, probably at Ballydugan, co. Galway. His family filled for many generations between 1300 and 1750 the office of ollav (in Irish ollamh) to O'Kelly, the chief of the district known as Ui Maine, on the banks of the Shannon and the Suck. The duties of the office were several of those included in the modern terms historiographer, poet-laureate, public orator, earl marshal, and lord great chamberlain. The ollav was often of his chief's kin, but O'Dugan was not so, being descended from Fiacha Araidhe of the Dalnaraidhe, one of the kings of Ulster of the ancient line. Another famous literary family, that of Macanward [q. v.], was descended from the same ancestor (Ogygia, p. 327). O'Dugan once made a pil- grimage to the reputed tomb of St. Columba at Downpatrick, and seven years before his death retired into the monastery of Rinnduin on the shore of Lough Rea, co. Roscommon, and there died in 1372. His best known work has been edited for the Irish Archaeological Society by John O'Donovan, from a copy in the handwriting of Cucoigcriche O'Clery [q. v.] It is a poem enumerating, with brief characteristics of each, the tribes of Leth Cuinn, the northern half of Ireland, before the Norman invasion. The poem is written in the complex metre called Dan Direch, in which, besides compliance with other rules, the lines are each of seven sylla- bles, and are grouped in sets of four. The poet evidently intended to describe the whole of Ireland, for the first line is 'Triallam timcheall na Fodhla' ('Let us journey round Ireland'). He begins with Tara, then recounts the tribes of Meath, next goes on to Ulster, beginning with Oileach, O'Neill and O'Lachlainn, then to the Oirghialla and the Craobh Ruadh, then to TirConaill or Donegal, then to Connaught, with its sub-kingdoms of Breifne and Ui Maine. He then begins Leth Mogha, or the southern half, but breaks off after describing Leinster and Ossory, the description of which is not concluded. The poem is of great historical value. O'Dugan's other poetical works are numerous. One beginning 'Ata sund sean-chus riogh Ereand' ('Here is the history of the kings of Ireland'), of 564 verses, deals with the kings from Firbolg king Slainge to Roderic O'Connor [q. v.] Another of 224 verses, on the kings of Leinster and the descendants of Cathaoir mor, begins 'Rioghraidh Laighean claim Cathaoir' ('Kings of Leinster, the children of Cathaoir'). A third, of 296 verses, beginning 'Caiseal cathair clan Modha' ('Cashel, city of the children of Modh'), enumerates the kings of Munster to Toirdhealbhach O'Brien in 1367; of this there is a copy, made soon after the writer's death, in the 'Book of Ballymote' (fol. 60, col. 2, 1. 36), and a more modern copy in the Cambridge University Library. A fourth poem of 332 verses, on the deeds of Cormac Mac Airt, king of Ireland, begins 'Teamhair na riogh raith Cormaic' ('Tara of the kings, Cormac's stronghold') Besides these historical works O'Dugan composed a poem, beginning 'Bliadhain so solus a dath' ('This year bright its colour'), on the rules for determining movable feasts, of which many copies or fragments exist, and another on obsolete words, beginning 'Forus focal luaidtear libh' ('A knowledge of words spoken by you'), of which Edward O'Reilly has made use in his 'Dictionary.'

Other members of this literary family are :

Richard O'Dugan (d. 1379).
John O'Dugan (d. 1440), son of Cormac O'Dugan, ollav of Ui Maine.
Domhnall O'Dugan (d. 1487), who married the daughter of Lochlann O'Maelchonaire, chief of another literary family, and died when he was about to become ollav of Ui Maine.
Maurice O'Dugan (fl. 1660), reputed author of the words of the Irish song known as ‘The Coolin,’ (E. Bunting, Ancient Music of Ireland, p. 88), and of four other poems. He lived near Benburb, co. Tyrone.
Tadhg O'Dugan (fl. 1750), who lived in Ui Maine, and wrote an account of the family O'Donnellan of Ballydonnellan, co. Galway, partly printed in John O'Donovan's ‘Tribes and Customs of Hy Many.’

[Annala Rioghachta Eireann, ed. O'Donovan; Annals of Ulster; O'Donovan's Tribes and Customs of Hy Many, Dublin, 1843; O'Donovan's Topographical Poems of John O'Dubhagain, Dublin, 1862; O'Reilly in Transactions of the Iberno-Celtic Society, Dublin, 1820; O'Flaherty's Ogygia sive Rerum Hibernicarum Chronologia, London, 1685; Book of Ballymote (photograph).]

N. M.