Ba é an príomhaistritheoir é in obair an Sean-Tiomna a thiontú go Gaeilge d’Uilliam Bedell . Ba é Ó Cionga is mó a bhí ina fhear comhair san aistriúchan a rinneadh ar na sailm tar éis gur fág Uilliam Ó Domhnaill ar lár iad in Leabhar na nUrnaithe gComhchoiteann, 1608. Chuir Cosslett Ó Cuinn eagar ar an gcuid dá obair aistriúcháin nach ndearna Bedell ná Andrew Sall aon leasú air: Scéalta as an Apocrypha, 1971. Deir an Dr. Roibeard D’Uidheas Mac Siacais [Robert Wyse Jackson] sa réamhrá: ‘Mar sin de is luachmhar againn na scéalta seo as an Apocrypha mar fhianaise ar an chinéal Gaeilge a scríobh Muircheartach Ó Cionga sular chuir daoine eile as a riocht é. Ní féidir a chuid Gaeilge a mholadh go hard, mar go bhfuil a bheagán nó a mhórán de lorg an aistriúcháin uirthi ach ní féidir a cháineadh go géar ach oiread. Níl sí ró-uasal ná róléannta ach tá sí simplí sothuigthe. Tá sí nadúrtha go leor, agus ní chloínn sí go mór le cúigeachas.’ Tá cuntas níos mine air féin agus ar a mhuintir ag Terence McCaughey in Dr. Bedell and Mr. King: the making of the Irish Bible, 2001; aguisín sa leabhar sin is ea ‘The Ó Cionga family in the 63.3 Fiants List (1570–1602)’. Tá eolas ina thaobh freisin in I bprionta i leabhar ... 1567–1724, 1986 le Nicholas Williams agus in Calendar of state papers of Ireland, 1633–34.

B’as ceantar Chill Chuairsí in Uíbh Fhailí dó agus bhí talamh aige ann. Margery ab ainm dá bhean agus deirtear gur fhill sí ar an gcreideamh Caitliceach agus gur sa chreideamh sin a tógadh a bpáistí. Deir McCaughey: ‘What we can say is that the Muircheartach Ó Cionga that we are concerned with in this study was one of a learned poetic family of the name who are referred to quite frequently in the sources, some of whose poetry survives (a good deal of it religious), and that they are located in the barony of Kilcoursey in Fox’s Country.’ Caitliceach é a d’iompaigh ina Phrotastúnach le linn réimeas Shéamuis I (1603–25). Bhí Gaeilge á múineadh aige i gColáiste na Tríonóide. I gcló ag Williams tá sliocht as litir Bhedell chuig an Ardeaspag James Ussher in Iúil 1628: ‘We haue brought Mr King to read an houre every day to those that are already chosen, to frame them to the right pronunciation and exercise of the language, to which purpose we haue gotten a few coppies of the booke of Common prayer, and do begin with the Catechisme which is therein .... The translation of the Psalmes into prose and verse, whereof I spoke to your Grace, would be a good worke, and Mr King has giuen us an assay in the first psalme ...’ Ceithre bliana ina dhiaidh sin bhí sé socair ina aigne ag Bedell go rachadh sé i mbun aistriú an tSean-Tiomna. Is é an chaoi a gcuireann Henry Monck Mason síos ar an gceapachán a rinne Bedell: ‘...after much inquiry, he selected, by the advice of the Primate and other intelligent men, an individual by the name of King, who had been a Roman Catholic, but was converted many years before. Mr King was considered to be the most elegant writer then living in the Irish language, both in poetry and prose. He was about seventy years at the time; and, as the bishop thought hime not only fully qualified for this employment, but for the ministry also, he ordained him ...’ (Life of William Bedell, 1843).

Bhí Bedell sásta go raibh a dhóthain eolais ag Ó Cionga ar an gcreideamh agus thug beinifís dó chun go mbeadh ioncam aige fad a bheadh sé ina aistritheoir. Deir J. B. Leslie in ‘Biographical Succession list of Kilmore’ (lámhscríbhinn sa Leabharlann Náisiúnta) gur oirníodh é ar 23 Meán Fómhair 1632 agus gur chaith sé tamall ina bhiocáire i dTeampall an Phoirt. Gearánadh Ó Cionga le hUssher go raibh sé róshean don bheinifís agus mí-oiriúnach. I measc na ngearán faoin teideal ‘A sum of the matters objected against Murtagh King’ sna páipéir stáit tá an liosta insuime seo: ‘He is ignorant of the Bible .... Cannot read distinctly and intelligibly. Causeth his parish clerk, who is a layman, to execute the office of priest. Left his congregation desolate in a church one Sunday, and went to the alehouse. Another Sunday, refused to perform service, saying his occasions led to the mass house. Went to Mass on the Sunday. Baptised a child with words but without the element of water, and then with water but without the words. Baptised another with gloves on. In administering the Holy Communion he did not use the appointed words but said, “Eat this according to our Saviour’s meaning.” Committed a battery and bloodshed. Suffers his children to go to mass. When his son asked him for money, he said, ‘Poor slave; woe’s me, that am going to hell to get you maintenance’, insinuating that he was conformable against his conscience.’ Gearán eile a dhéantaí nach raibh a bhean géilliúil dó i gcúrsaí creidimh.

Is dóigh le Williams go raibh Ussher in amhras ar aon nós i dtaobh obair sin na Gaeilge (ach féach ar thuairimíocht eile sa chuntas ar Ussher). Baineadh an bheinifís den Chiongach agus caitheadh i bpríosún é i 1638 tar éis do John Bramhall, easpag Dhoire, é a thabhairt os comhair coimisiúin i mBaile Átha Cliath (Cromwellian Ireland; English Government and reform in Ireland 1649–1660, 1975 le T. C. Barnard). Deir William O’Sullivan (Irish Historical Studies XVI, 1968): ‘Bishop Reeves, in a note in TCD MS. 1072 p203 suggests that the outing of King was probably the work of William Hilton, Ussher’s brother-in-law who was also his registrar.’ Chuir Bedell impí chuig Iarla Strafford um Nollaig 1638: ‘Mr King is a much more competent man than he is represented to be. He has few matches as an Irish scholar in the kingdom. He has now been imprisoned for four or five months, and that most unjustly, and has been too sick to defend himself. Surely the man who translated God’s Word into Irish deserves better treatment. I pray you do him justice.’ Ní raibh toradh ar an impí agus d’éag Ó Cionga bocht go luath ina dhiaidh sin.

Diarmuid Breathnach

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