Scríobh Seán Ó Donnabháin in Ulster Journal of Archaeology, 1859: ‘The next etymologist who laboured in the same field was General Vallancey, who made Irish and Celtic literature the laughing stock of the truly learned of Europe by his false translations and his absurd and fanciful etymologies.’ Is é a bhí i gceist ag an ársaitheoir T.J. Westropp (1860-1922) nuair a thug sé óráid uachtaránachta san Acadamh Ríoga in 1916: ‘ . . . the older antiquary had no such doubts as to his own competency. His portrait usually shows self-confidence and rock-like immobility: he sits in dignity in his chair, at a table covered with learned, if irrelevant, books, delivering oracles on Irish affairs from his inner consciousness, as the Danish Ota delivered her oracle from the altar at Clonmacnoise. You cannot reason with, or confute an inspired, omniscient antiquary.’ Ach le cothrom a thabhairt dó seo é breithiúnas Airt Uí Ghríofa: ‘The value of the enthusiasm, energy and fearlessness which he displayed for over forty years in an unpopular and unprofitable cause is overlooked. It is forgotten that he was the first man of weight and influence in Anglo-Ireland to espouse the claim of the despised native Irish to an illustrious place among the nations . . . the first champion of the Irish language in the house of its enemies.’ I bhfad roimh Ó Gríofa duirt Tomás Dáibhis: ‘General Vallancey’s erroneous theories, like Dr Stakeley’s in England, no longer mislead, but their enthusiasm stirred up an interest in archaeology which was the nurse of our later knowledge.’ Níos gaire dár n-aimsir féin dúirt an scoláire E.G. Quin: ‘... Vallancey who, like Macpherson with his Ossianic forgeries, did more for Irish studies by drawing attention to them than by any intrinsic value in his own somewhat irresponsible publications’ (The Royal Irish Academy, a bicentennial history 1785-1985, 1985).

Tá cuntas fada cuimsitheach air ag Monica Nevin in Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 1993. Is mar seo a chuireann Nevin tús lena cuntas: ‘General Charles Vallancey was, in many ways, larger than life and although not an Irishman, he bestrode the world of Irish antiquarians for almost half a century.’ Tá cuntas gairid aici ar Vallancey in Dictionary of National Biography. Francach i seirbhís na Breataine, a chaith uaidh an sloinne De Vallance, ba ea a athair. Deir sí nach in Windsor a rugadh é, mar a dhearbhaítear de ghnáth, ach i bhFlóndras. Dealraíonn sé gurbh in Eton a bhí sé ar scoil. Fuair sé coimisiún innealtóra in arm na Breataine agus tharraing mapa de Gibraltar in 1750. Bhí sé i gCorcaigh le tamall roimh 1759 agus bhí i gCarraig Fhearghais um Meitheamh 1760 le caoi a chur ar an gcaisleán i ndiaidh ionradh Thurot. D’éag a chéad bhean i Mala ar 12 Iúil 1760 agus d’fhág deichniúr clainne ina diaidh. Ó 1761 amach is i mBaile Átha Cliath a bhí sé ag obair, é ina cheannfort ar innealtóirí. Phós sé in 1765 Ann Blosset, bean de bhunadh Úgónach a bhí deich mbliana níos sine ná é. Ceapadh ina leifteanant-ghinearál é in 1798 agus ina a ghinearál in 1803.

Tuairimítear gur i gCorcaigh a chuir sé spéis sa Ghaeilge an chéad lá. Is cosúil gur fhoghlaim sé cibé beagán a bhí aige ó Mhuiris Ó Gormáin ach mhaígh sé uair gurbh é a bhí ann féin ná ‘master of the ancient language of Ireland’. Bhí baint aige ó 1763 le Cumann Bhaile Átha Cliath (RDS) agus spéis ar leith aige san ársaíocht. Ba é faoi deara gur cuireadh coiste ársaíochta ar bun sa Chumann in 1772. Rud fíorcheannródaíoch ba ea é a bhláthódh ar ball in obair Acadamh Ríoga na hÉireann. Ba iad ba thúisce a d’iarr ar an Chevalier Tomás Ó Gormáin lámhscríbhinní Gaeilge a lorg sa Fhrainc. I measc na mball bhí an tArdeaspag Carpenter, Cathal Ó Conchubhair, an Tiarna Charlemont, an Dr Thomas Leland, Leabharlannaí Choláiste na Tríonóide, Sir Lucius O’Brien, agus d’fhostaigh siad Muiris Ó Gormáin mar amanuensis. Vallancey a shocraigh go raibh post sa Chumann ag John Lanigan. Nuair a theip ar choiste Chumann Bhaile Átha Cliath lean sé ar aghaidh leis an obair san Hibernian Society of Antiquaries. Bhí sé ar dhuine de bhunaitheoirí Acadamh Ríoga na hÉireann. Rinneadh ball den Royal Society de; bhí Richard Kirwan (1733-1812) ar na baill a mhol an onóir sin a thabhairt dó.

Cheana féin bhí tús curtha ag Vallancey, in 1770, leis an tsraith sé imleabhar de Collectanea de Rebus Hibernicis a leanfadh go 1804. Sa tsraith sin atá an saothar seo leis: A critico-historical dissertation concerning the antient Irish Laws ... (1774-5); Translation of a fragment of the Brehon Laws ... (1781); Description of the Banqueting-Hall, of Tamar or Tara (1783); A vindication of the history of Ireland (1786); The Uraikeft [sic], or Book of Oghams (1790). Bhí Cathal Ó Conchubhair agus Edward Ledwich i measc na scríbhneoirí a chuidigh go luath leis san fhiontar sin. In 1772 bhí An essay on the antiquity of the Irish Language, being a collation of the Irish with the Punic Language curtha ar fáil aige. Foilsíodh A grammar of the Iberno-Celtic, or Irish language leis in 1773; sa dara heagrán in 1782 bhí curtha aige leis ‘an Essay on the Celtic Language; shewing the importance of the Iberno-Celtic or Irish dialect, to students in history, antiquity, and the Greek and Roman classics’. Leabhair eile leis is ea: Ancient History of Ireland proved from the Sanskrit Books agus Prospectus of a Dictionary of the Language of the Airi Coti, or Ancient Irish (1802). Deir Moore: ‘Vallancey may be regarded as the founder of a school of writers who theorise on Irish history, language and literature, without having read the original chronicles, acquired the language or studied the literature, and who have some influence in retarding real studies but have added nothing to knowledge.’ Bhí de thuairim aige go raibh gaol gairid ag an nGaeilge le teangacha mar an tSínis agus an Chailmícis agus gurbh ó theanga na bhFéiníceach a shíolraigh siad.

Tugann Walter D. Love cuntas in Hermathena, Iúil 1961 (‘Edmund Burke, Charles Vallancey and the Sebright Manuscripts’) ar an usáid a bhain sé as na lámhscríbhinní a bhronn Sir John Sebright ar Choláiste na Tríonóide agus tuairimíonn gurbh é faoi deara iad a theacht chun na hollscoile: ‘The Collectanea and his other fanciful works have been forgotten and are utterly useless to modern scholars. But should he not, funny old Quixote that he was, have some of the credit for the present possession of the Sebright manuscripts by Trinity College? In all fairness we must say, yes.’

Ba é a dhear Droichead na Banríona i mBaile Átha Cliath agus deir Maurice Craig faoi seo: ‘ ... for his bridge with its niches and its judicious rustication, we could forgive him much.’ ‘Oldest and most beautiful of Dublin’s bridges’ an moladh a thugann Lord Killanin agus Michael V. Duignan dó in The Shell Guide to Ireland. Rinne sé obair innealtóireachta ar fud na hÉireann; luaitear oibreacha i gcuan Chorcaí, i gCionn tSáile, i nDún Laoghaire, i gCill Chainnigh. In 1787 rinne sé cóipeanna de léarscáileanna an Down Survey leis an Ridire William Petty. Ghoid fórsaí na Fraince iad in 1707 nuair a bhí siad á gcur go Londain. 214 díobh a chóipeáil sé in Bibliotheque du Roi, Páras, obair chúig mhí a loiteadh nuair a dódh na Ceithre Cúirteanna in 1922. Bhí baint aige le bunú Ghairdín na Luibheanna i nGlas Naíon.

Bhí a shaol príobháideach casta freisin. Phós sé ceithre huaire agus bhí muirear dháréag air, rud a d’fhág imníoch faoi airgead é ar feadh a shaoil. D’éirigh leis pinsin rialtais a fháil dá iníonacha. D’éag sé ar 8 Lúnasa 1812 agus cuireadh i reilig Naomh Peadar, Baile Átha Cliath, é. Scríobh Dáibhí de Barra dán á mholadh. Bhunaigh J. A. Froude carachtar air ina úrscéal The two chiefs of Dunboy agus thug Paul Durcan ciorclaíocht leathan arís dá ainm lena dhán ‘General Vallancey’s Waltz’ (in O Westport in the light of Asia Minor, 1975). Foilsíodh Charles Vallancey 1725-1812; Ginearál, Innealtóir agus ‘Scoláire Gaeilge’, 2009 le Mícheál Ó Bréartúin.

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Diarmuid Breathnach

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