Seo é an t-easpag a scríobh Focalóir Gaoidhilge-Sax-Bhéarla or an Irish English Dictionary..., 1768. I bPáras a foilsíodh é ar 20 Lúnasa 1768 agus ba é an chéad fhoclóir Gaeilge-Béarla é dár foilsíodh. Thug Robert Daly eagrán nua amach in 1832.

In The Maynooth Review: Revieú Mhá Nuad: A Journal of the Arts 6, Bealtaine 1980 (‘Foclóirí agus Foclóireacht na Gaeilge’) cuireann Tomás de Bhaldraithe síos ar chuspóir agus ar chineál an fhoclóra seo: ‘Ní le gnáthchúrsaí foclóireachta is mó a bhain cuspóirí an Bhrianaigh. Is é rud a chuir sé roimhe, mar a deir sé sa réamhrá, eolas a thabhairt ar “the most ancient and best preserved dialect of the Celtic tongue of the Gauls and Celtiberians... the most useful for investigating and clearing up the antiquities of the Celtic nations in general”.... Mar sin, tá altanna fada ar chúrsaí staire, ar ainmneacha daoine is ar logainmneacha, agus comparáid le seanteangacha, chomh maith le hiarracht ar shanasaíocht san fhoclóir seo.... Ainneoin cuspóirí an eagarthóra, tá, ar ndó, riar mhór den Nua-Ghaeilge a bhain le gnáthshaol na ndaoine, agus corrthagairt d’fhuaimniú na bhfocal sa leabhar. Ach tríd is tríd ba mar eochair do sheanstair na hÉireann, na hEorpa agus an domhain mhóir, agus mar chruthú ar ársaíocht, ar léann, ar uaisleacht agus ar thábhacht na sean-Ghael a cuireadh an foctóir le chéile.’

Is é an cuntas is iomláine ar a bheatha A Bishop of Penal Times: The Life and Times of John O’Brien, Bishop of Cloyne and Ross 1701–1767, 1981 le James Coombes; ní hé an chuid is lú spéis ann an t-aguisín i dtaobh ghinealach an easpaig, mar thuairimítí go raibh sé gaolmhar leis an Marascal Peadar de Lása (1678–1751) agus leis an Easpag Toirealach Ó Briain (1600–51), mairtíreach Luimnigh. Garmhac lena aint Honora ba ea Edmund Burke dar le Donough O’Brien (History of the O’Briens.... 1949) ach deir Coombes nach bhfuil seisean iontaofa, nach luann sé foinse an eolais sin. Ag Breandán Ó Conchúir tá cuntas in Scríobhaithe Chorcaí 1700–1850, 1982. Tá aiste ag Frederick M. Jones C.SS.R in Irish Ecclesiastical Record, Eanáir 1952 (‘The Congregation of Propaganda and the publication of Dr. O’Brien’s Irish Dictionary, 1768’). Tá cuntas gairid ag Cormac Ó Cuilleanáin in Faiche na bhFilí, Carraig na bhFear, 1962. Scríobh C.J.F. MacCarthy ‘The Bishop’s House at Ballinterry’ in Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Association, 1969. Tá eolas ag an Athair W. Holland in History of West Cork and the Diocese of Ross, 1949. Is iad na cuntais is deireanaí: aiste Dhiarmada Uí Chatháin in Cork History and Society: interdisciplinary Essays on the History of an Irish County, 1993 in eagar ag Patrick O’Flanagan agus Cornelius G. Buttimer (‘An Irish Scholar Abroad: Bishop John O’Brien of Cloyne and the Macpherson Controversy’); an chaibidil ‘Seán Ó Briain / John O’Brien, bishop of Cloyne and Ross’ in Collège des Irlandais Paris and Irish Studies, 2001 le Proinsias Mac Cana. Gan amhras tá liosta ag Ó Conchúir de na lámhscríbhinní a raibh baint aige leo.

I mBéal Átha an Mhadaidh, baile fearainn i gceantar Chill Dairbhre, Co. Chorcaí, a rugadh é. Feirmeoir láidir ba ea a athair Tomás. Ba í Eleanor McEniry, arbh as Luimneach di, a mháthair. Tá an sráidbhaile Rockmills sa cheantar céanna agus is é an áit sin a thugann Holland agus MacCarthy mar áit a bhreithe; is ann atá a thuismitheoirí curtha. Chaith sé an tréimhse c.1720–38 sa Fhrainc agus sa Spáinn: tamall ina ábhar sagairt i gColáiste na nGael in Toulouse i 1725–6: ó 1727 go 1731 ag obair mar shagart sa cheantar céanna: tamall eile ag déanamh léinn in Toulouse agus sa Sorbón: tamall eile fós ina oide tí ag na huaisle agus bhí tamall i dteach Arthur Dillon (1670–1733), gníomhaire Shéamuis III i bPáras. Fuair sé céim sa diagacht in Toulouse 23 Aibreán 1733. Bhí sé tamall de 1733 ina oide tí sa Spáinn. Níl a fhios cathain a oirníodh é. Nuair a d’fhill sé ar Éirinn ceapadh é ina shagart paróiste i 1738 i gCaisleán Uí Liatháin agus Ráth Chormaic. Ó thús bhí trioblóidí ag titim air sa pharóiste. Rinneadh socrú leis an bhfear a bhí sa phost roimhe go mbeadh leath ioncam an pharóiste aige. Ba é Christopher Butler, ardeaspag Chaisil, a rinne an socrú. Cé go raibh Ó Briain ag aontú leis ar dtús rinne sé achainí ina aghaidh agus fuarthas gurbh aige a bhí an ceart. Deir Coombes: ‘It probably marks the beginning of a lifelong feud between John O’Brien and the Butlers of Cashel.’

Bhí sé ina ard-deagánach ar Chluain agus ina Bhíocáire Ginearálta sular ceapadh é ina Easpag ar Chluain agus Ros 10 Eanáir 1748. Deir Coombes: ‘... his cause was firmly entrenched where it mattered most, in the exiled Jacobite court in Rome’. Murach sin ní móide gurbh é a cheapfaí; bhí cléir na deoise ar son sagairt a bhí gaolmhar leis an Ardeaspag de Buitléar agus bhí Pierce Creagh, easpag Phort Láirge, mishásta nuair a chuala sé ráfla go raibh ‘John O’Brien, a simple priest’ ainmnithe. Thréaslaigh Seán Ó Murchadha a ghradam leis sa dán ‘Táid uaisle Bhamba ag atal’. Deir Holland go dtugtaí Bóithrín an Chrá ar an lána go dtí a theach (‘the road of vexation said to be so called on account of the dread the priests had of approaching their Bishop’). Deir Ó Catháin faoin mbéaloideas sin agus faoi aighnis eile a raibh Ó Briain sáite iontu: ‘As bishop, O’Brien seems to have been something of a confrontationalist, perhaps not the easiest person in the world to deal with.’ Deir Coombes an rud céanna, mórán: ‘He was also determined to assert his rights, vis-a-vis the metropolitan, first of all as a parish priest, later as a suffragan bishop. Perhaps further study will reveal some chinks in his simple and armour-plated conviction that he was always right.’ I mBaile an Toireadh in aice le Ráth Chormaic a bhí an teach sin an easpaig ina sheasamh anuas go 1942, agus b’fhéidir ina dhiaidh; thugtaí ‘The Bishop’s Field’ ar an bpáirc ina raibh sé (MacCarthy).

Ó Mheán Fómhair 1756 go Bealtaine 1757 bhí sé ar cuairt chuig coláistí na nGael in Toulouse, Bordeaux agus Lováin. Chuir sé Baile Mhistéala agus an ceantar máguaird faoi urghaire 13 Lúnasa 1758 i ngeall ar an gcaoi gharbh ar caitheadh leis an Easpag Creagh ann. Is cosúil go raibh páipéir fhionraíochta le seirbheál ar shagart sa bhaile agus gur síleadh gur ag an easpag a bhí siad. ‘Creagh was dragged through the streets, beaten with sticks and pelted with stones. He was rescued by a Mr James Butler before the mob could carry out their declared intention of hanging him. The women pelted him with mud as Butler escorted him to a place of safety’ (Coombes). Tá fógra James, an Tiarna Barún Kingston, in Cork Evening Post 18 Meán Fómhair 1758 i gcló ag Holland: ‘Whereas John O’Bryan of Ballinterry, in the County of Cork, assuming the dignity of Lord Bishop of Cloyne, hath as Bishop of said Diocese taken upon him to excommunicate the inhabitants of the Town of Mitchelstown and the Parish of Brigown [Brí Gobhann] and to forbid all persons within said Diocese to hold any correspondence or commerce with the inhabitants of said town or parish upon pain of excommunication on account of some insult alleged to have been given Pierce Creagh who assumes the dignity of Lord Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, and, whereas in consequence of said sentence and orders of said O’Bryan and Creagh, Nicholas [Sheehy], Popish Priest of the Parish of Ballyporeen together with several other Popish Priests... did on August 13th last, in their respective chapels denounce openly and publicly these excommunications...’. Deir Holland: ‘The Proclamation concludes by offering a reward of £20 to any person who will apprehend and commit to jail the said John O’Bryan and Pierce Creagh, or either of them...’. Bhí Ó Briain go mór in aghaidh na mBuachaillí Bána agus bhagair coinnealbhá orthu i dtréadlitir 30 Márta 1762 (i gcló ag Coombes). I 1765 agus 1766 roghnaigh sé 15 shagart cumasacha chun misean a stiúradh ar fud na deoise agus meastar gurbh iad na chéad mhisin ag an eaglais Chaitliceach in Éirinn iad san 18ú céad.

Bhí sé ar dhuine de na scoláirí ba thúisce a chaith amhras ar dhánta Oisíneacha James Macpherson nuair a foilsíodh ‘Memoire de M. de C.’ leis in Le Journal des Sçavans i 1764. Is dóigh le Diarmaid Ó Catháin gur róluath sa chonspóid, chun go dtabharfaí a dhíol d’aird air, a foilsíodh an aiste seo. Aistríodh codanna den Memoire go Gearmáinis.

Faoi 1762 bhí tugtha chun críche aige foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla, saothar a bhí go mór i dtuilleamaí fhoclóir Edward Lhuyd ach a bhfuil ann téarmaí breise a fuarthas i lámhscríbhinní. Ar 12 Lúnasa 1764 scríobh sé litir i bhFraincis ón mBruiséil chuig an gCairdinéal Joseph Maria Castelli, Maor an Congregatio de Propaganda Fide, agus mhínigh gur chun leasa spioradálta an phobail Éireannaigh a bhí an foclóir á scríobh aige, nach raibh aon airgead fágtha aige tar éis dó sparáin a bhunú do choláistí na nGael i bPáras agus i Lováin, go mba mhór an chabhair 150 nó 105 scudi Rómhánacha féin agus go bhféachfadh sé féin le fuíollach chostas na clódóireachta a fháil óna chairde. Ar 20 Aibreán na bliana dár gcionn scríobh sé gur 140 giní a chosnódh an chlódóireacht agus go mba mhór an gar a leath a fháil ón Róimh. Céad scudi a tugadh dó sa deireadh, suim a bhí i bhfad níos lú ná an seachtó giní a d’iarr sé. In achainí chun na Róimhe dúirt sé: ‘The preservation of the Irish language among the clergy and Catholic population of Ireland is essentially connected with the preservation of the true Faith.’ Níorbh é a bhí i gceist aige gur de dhlúth agus d’inneach na Gaeilge an creideamh Caitliceach ach go raibh sé i bhfad níos fusa fear an Bhéarla a iompú chun an Phrotastúnachais (‘experience has taught us it is only those ignorant of Irish or those who become fluent in English who abandon the Catholic religion and embrace that of the Protestants’). Nuair a bhí duine á mholadh do phost cóidiútair i ndeoise eile chuir an Brianach ina aghaidh ar an ábhar nach raibh Gaeilge aige (Ignatius Murphy in The Diocese of Killaloe in the Eighteenth Century, 1991). I litir a chuir Cathal Ó Conchubhair chuig an Dr John Curry 11 Lúnasa 1767 dúirt sé: ‘Dr O’Brien was in town but is gone to London. He sent for me and showed me some curious manuscript pieces of his own writing relative to the history and province of Munster. I am much obliged to him for his good opinion of me. I find he is hunted out of that part of Ireland by bad men.’ Tuairimítear go ndeachaigh sé ó Londain chun na Fraince. Chaith sé na trí bliana deiridh dá shaol i gcathair Lyon agus d’éag ann 13 Márta 1769. San fheartlaoi ar a thuama in eaglais Ainay in Lyon deirtear gur dhuine é de dhírshliocht Chonchubhair Uí Bhriain, rí Mumhan: ‘surnamed na Catharach vulgo slaparsalach’ an t-aistriú a dhéanann Coombes. Tá an fheartlaoi Laidine i gcló ag Mac Cana maille le haistriúchán Béarla.

Scríobh J.C. (‘Nine recent Catholic Bishops of Cloyne’ in Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, XL, 1935) faoin bhfáth ar fhág sé Éire go tobann: ‘His concealed life was finally terminated, when having been warned by a friendly Protestant named Croker, that he was to be arrested, Dr. O’Brien thought it better to seek a refuge in France.... It would appear that sometime before Bishop O’Brien’s intended arrest there was a prominent Whiteboy leader named O’Brien, who was said to have come from France, and it is not improbable that the ignorant and bigoted magistrates in whose hands local government was then invested, may have taken it into their heads that this Whiteboy, O’Brien, was no other than the Bishop, his namesake.’ Caitheann Coombes amhras air sin agus creideann gurbh é an drochshláinte a thug air imeacht agus, ina theanntasan, go raibh drochiompar beagáin de na sagairt ag dul sa mhuileann air. Is dóigh leis gurbh é an fiabhras creathach a bhí air, gur dó sin an tagairt sa dán a scríobh sé: ‘Is tréith’s lag le tamall mé dhom chlaoi / le taomaibh creatha ’om threascairt faon gan bhrí: / níl géag im chalainn, feacht ná féith im chroí / nár réab ar fad, ’s do speal mo ghné ’s mo ghnaoi.’ Cuireann Coombes ceist i dtaobh a phearsantachta: ‘We have no picture of him relaxing in congenial company, no stories of individual acts of kindness. The impression hitherto prevalent that he was an austere and aloof character is heightened by his letters. Who is to say if these qualities developed from pride, from dedication to duty or from sensivity?’.

Ba é údar na n-annála a dtugtar ‘The Dublin Annals of Inisfallen’ orthu. Seán Ó Conaire a rinne an lámhscríbhinn. Tá aiste fhada ina dtaobh agus i dtaobh na conspóide timpeall orthu ag Cormac Ó Cuilleanáin in Féilscríbhinn Torna..., 1947, in eagar ag Séamus Pender. Síleadh ar feadh tamaill gur bhrionnadóireacht iad, mar dh’ea gurbh iad shean-Annála Inis Faithleann (Rawlinson B. 503) iad. Baint ná páirt ní raibh ag an mBrianach féin leis na míthuiscintí ach cuireadh leo, ní foláir, nuair a tharraing John Lanigan eolas astu ina stair eaglasta, amhail is dá mba iad na seanannála iad. Deir Seán Mac Airt, eagarthóir na seanannála (1951): ‘The Bodleian Annals of Inisfallen are to be distinguished from the so-called “Dublin Annals of Inisfallen” (TCD Ms. H.1.7), a compilation made from various sources in the year 1765 by Fr John Conry [Seán Ó Conaire] for the Rev. Dr. O’Brien, bishop of Cloyne. Shortly after the latter work had passed into circulation, it assumed the title of the older chronicle...’. Deir an Cuilleanánach faoin mBrianach: ‘Chuir seisean mórdhua air féin chun cnuasach luachmhar d’fhoinsí údarásacha a bhailiú i dteannta a chéile. Chaith sé a shaothar agus a thalann ag toghadh ábhair as na foinsí sin gur bhronn sé ar Ghaeil lár an 18ú haois an rud go raibh géarghá acu leis .i. stairchuntas dátaithe údarásach ina gcaint féin. An fear a dhein an obair sin de réir a éirime agus a acmhainne is dearbh gur thuill sé rud éigin uainn seachas táinseamh agus tarcaisne agus faillí.’ In Cork: History and Society tá liosta de leabhair a shíltear a bhí ina leabharlann.

D’ullmhaigh sé ‘A Critico-Historical Dissertation concerning the Antient Irish Laws, or National Customs, called Gavel-kind, and Tanistry, or Senior Government’. D’fhoilsigh Vallancey é in imleabhair a III agus IV de Collectanea de Rebus Hibernicis, 1774–5 agus síleadh gurbh é an Ginearál an t-údar. Tá trí sheanmóir leis i gcló in Seanmóirí Muighe Nuadhad, Iml 1, 1906 agus Iml. 2, 1907. Is aistriúchán ar sheanmóir a scríobh Claude de Joli, Easpag Agen, an chéad cheann. Deir Hugh Fenning in DNB gur bhall é de Chumann Ríoga Bhaile Átha Cliath.

Diarmuid Breathnach

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