Áirítear é mar dhuine de na staraithe deoiseacha ba mhó riamh in Éirinn. Tugann Fearghus Ó Fearghail cuntais air in Kilkenny: studies in honour of Margaret M. Phelan, 1997 in eagar ag John Kirwan (‘Canon Carrigan: achievement and challenge’) agus in An index to the Rev. William Carrigan’s The history and antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory, 2005 a réitigh Helen Litton. Scríobh Ambrose Coleman cuntas nár foilsíodh, ‘The Life of William Carrigan, D.D., M.R.I.A. Historian of Ossory 1860-1924’, atá i leabharlann Choláiste Chiaráin, Cill Chainnigh. Foilsíodh cuntas eile leis an údar céanna in Irish Ecclesiastical Record, 1927 agus 1928. Tá alt ag Margaret M. Phelan air in Old Kilkenny Review 1/3, 1976 agus tugann John Bradley eolas sa réamhrá le hathchló leabhar Carrigan, History and Antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory, 1981.

I mBaile Sheoin Rua, Baile an Phoill, Co. Chill Chainnigh, a rugadh é agus baisteadh é 29 Lúnasa 1860. Baineann éiginnteacht leis an dáta breithe; luann Coleman Bealtaine 1860. Ba é an té ab óige é den ochtar mac agus beirt iníonacha ag James Carrigan, feirmeoir arbh as Cill Mogharaidh dó, agus a bhean Judith (nó Johanna) Brennan as Coill Fhearna. Bhí sé sa scoil áitiúil ar dtús agus ansin in éineacht lena dheartháir Pádraig (a bheadh ina shagart freisin) i scoil chlasaiceach Michael Alexander MacDonald i gCearnóg Wellington, Cill Chainnigh. Cé go raibh líofacht Ghaeilge ag a thuismitheoirí ní raibh an teanga aige féin ina óige. Deir Coleman gurb amhlaidh a d’fhoghlaim sé féin agus a dheartháir beagán éigin di ó mhúinteoir Gaeilge dar sloinne Meany agus iad amuigh ag siúl na cathrach. Deir Ó Fearghail ( An inndex ...): ‘He did, however, retain a lifelong interest in the language and used it very effectively in his work on placenames, as may be seen throughout his History and antiquities. His father James is said to have given him his interest in deciphering inscriptions, bringing him with him on Sunday outings to local graveyards. He also gave him a taste for folklore, frequently entertaining seanchaithe who recited Ossianic poems and told stories handed down from generation to generation.’ Ó 1873 amach bhí an bheirt deartháireacha i gColáiste Chiaráin. Ba é leas-uachtarán an choláiste, Michael Murphy, a bhí mar mhúinteoir Gaeilge aige ann. An sagart cáiliúil Walter McDonald (1854-1920) a bhí ina dhéan lena linn. Bhain sé céim sa bhfealsúnacht amach in 1877 agus bhuaigh scoláireacht na hOllscoile Caitlicí. Chaith sé cúig bliana i gColáiste Phádraig, Maigh Nuad. Deirtear gur tharraing sé trioblóid air féin lá nuair a thángthas air sa leabharlann agus leabhar le Seán Ó Donnabháin á léamh aige; ní raibh cead ag mic léinn leas a bhaint as an leabharlann! Chinn sé ar shos a thógáil agus chaith seal i mBaile Átha Cliath ag léamh profaí do na foilsitheoirí Gill. Ansin shocraigh sé a intinn ar leanacht ar aghaidh leis an tsagartacht agus d’fhill sé ar Choláiste Chiaráin. Oirníodh é in 1884. Chaith sé tamall ag múineadh sa choláiste, obair nár oir dó. Bhí sé ina chúráideach i mBéal Átha Ragad ó 1886 go 1891. Aistríodh go Conachadh é an bhliain sin, mar phionós, b’fhéidir, toisc gur labhair sé go tréan ar son John Pope Hennessy in aghaidh Parnell sa toghchán i gCill Chainnigh. Dúradh gur tharraing sé ‘the curse of the Living God’ anuas ar cibé nár aontaigh le seasamh na cléire. Bhí sé i dTeampall Fhothram in 1893 agus i Ráth Domhnaigh, Co. Laoise, in 1895. Bhí sé ina chúráideach i nDarú 1897-1909 agus ina shagart paróiste ann gur cailleadh é. D’fhág fliú mór 1918 rian ar a shláinte. D’éag sé de dheasca niúmóine 12 Nollaig 1924. Tá a chuid lámhscríbhinní agus leabhar i gColáiste Chiaráin.

Bhí spéis aige ó thús i stair na deoise agus baint aige leis an Ossory Archaeological Society. Ó 1887 ar aghaidh chaitheadh sé roinnt seachtainí gach samhradh ag déanamh taighde in Oifig na dTaifead Poiblí. In 1890 mhol an tEaspag Brownrigg dó tabhairt faoina shaothar mór. Tá dhá litir ag Coleman (i gcló ag Ó Fearghail) a thugann leide ar a mhodh oibre. Beirt ó Theampall Fhothram a scríobh iad: ‘Whenever he could get away from his own duties in the parish, he always visited the very old people and got from them the various particulars concerning the Irish names of the townlands, the walls, raths and cromlechs, the old graveyards, and any old ruins in the district. He took great pleasure in getting through the fields and hills and moist places in order to find out for himself some additional information which might be gained by a personal visit to those objects in which he was interested’ (James Cahill). Deir James Walsh: ‘A plain C.C. as Canon Carrigan was then, 1893-5, he was the hardest worked priest I ever knew. Whenever weather permitted, his daily routine was generally something like this:- Mass, then visit any sick person under his charge, then without returning home, hunt up some old man to gather local history, what his grandfather told his father or himself, taking pencilled notes, and subsequently correcting or modifying the traditions thus received, by a slightly different version of same incidents obtained from some other old man; and perhaps that same afternoon he’d be on his knees in some neighbouring churchyard rubbing over some semi-undecipherable tombstone trying to correct the narratives thus procured by the guidance of names and dates.’ Deir Ó Fearghail gur dóigh go raibh cuairt tugtha aige ar gach baile fearainn i nDeoise Osraí sular chrom sé in 1897 ar History and antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory a scríobh. Thugadh sé aird ar leith ar sheanGhaeilgeoirí an chontae. Foilsíodh an saothar i 1905 agus moladh go hard é ach thug an critic ‘G.P.O.’ (An tAthair William Healy, údar History and antiquities of Kilkenny, 1907) fogha faoi in Criticism of The history and antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory, 1908. Foilsíodh a aistí in irisí agus páipéir 1886-1924. Chaith sé breis agus 28 bliana ag iarraidh an inscríbhinn ar chros in Eiréil, Co. Laoise, a léamh chun a shástachta agus bhí sé marbh sular foilsíodh a chuntas uirthi. In Studia Hibernica 31, 2000-2001 tá ‘Sloinnteoir an Chorragánaigh’ le hÉamonn Ó hÓgáin (Acadamh Ríoga na hÉireann). Alt é a bhaineann leis na leaganacha Gaeilge de shloinnte a bhailigh Carrigan.

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