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Bartholomew MacCarthy

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Irish scholar and chronologist, b. at Conna, Ballynoe, Co. Cork, 12 Dec., 1843; d. at Inniscarra, Co. Cork, 6 Mar., 1904. He was educated at Mount Melleray Seminary, Co. Waterford, and at St. Colman's College, Fermoy, Co. Cork, afterwards studying at Rome, where he was ordained in 1869. On his return to Ireland he was appointed professor of Classics at St. Colman's, where he remained about three years. He then went as curate to Mitchelstown (where he was at the time of the famous Mitchelstown Massacre), and afterwards to Macroom and Youghal. In 1895 he was appointed parish priest of Inniscarra, near Cork, where he died. He was the author of the following works: (1) "Essays on various Early Irish Ecclesiastical Fragments", written while he was in Rome and published mostly anonymously in the "Irish Ecclesiastical Record" (1864 sqq.); (2) "The Stowe Missal", perhaps his most celebrated work, published in the "Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy", XXVII (1886), 135-268, in which he establishes the date of Moelchaich's recension as about 750 or at least the eighth century, and proves that the so-called Middle Irish corruptions can be paralleled from old Irish manuscripts, none of which are later than the ninth century; he also separates the earlier portion of the text into (a) the original Mass, dating from at least A.D. 500, called "Missa Patricii" in the "Book of Armagh" (A.D. 807), and (b) later augments and Roman contents; (3) Four Dissertations on the Codex Palatino-Vaticanus, No. 830 (Chronica Mariani Scotti), published in the Todd Lecture Series of the Royal Irish Academy, III (1892), illustrated by studies on old Irish Metric, the Synchronisms from the "Book of Ballymote", Paschal computations, and various Irish historical documents; (4) "New Textual Studies on the Tripartite Life of St. Patrick", published in the "Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy", XXIX, 183 sqq., in which he proves that portion of the material of the "Vita Tripartita" must date back to the middle of the sixth century; (5) "The Annals of Ulster". On the death of William M. Hennessey, Dr. MacCarthy was asked by the Government to continue the editing of this most important collection of Irish Annals in the Rolls Series. He published vols. II (1893), III (1895), and IV (1901). In the introduction to the fourth and final volume of these annals he treats in detail of various important questions connected with the history of chronology among the nations of western Europe. Of peculiar interest are his discussions of the ancient Paschal Cycle of 84 years and other Paschal computations in vogue in Ireland, the origin of A.D. dating in Irish annals, the methods of rectifying errors in the same, and the history of the various British or Irish falsifications which appeared during the disputes regarding Easter in the insular churches of the West, such as the "Acts of Caesarea", the "Athanasian Tractate", the "Book of Anatolius", and the "Epistle" of Cyril.

MacCarthy was a man of great ability and wide learning and was recognized as one of the foremost of Irish scholars and as the highest authority on all matters of Irish chronology, especially on those touching the Paschal question. A few months before his death he had been chosen by the Government on the recommendation of the Council of the Royal Irish Academy to edit the "Annals of Tighearnach". As a critic he was excessively inclined to fault-finding. He often spoke slightingly of the labours of his predecessors, for instance of John Colgan, O.S.F., the O'Clerys, Eugene O'Curry, etc., while his carping criticisms of contemporary scholars often led to warm discussions (cf. "Irish Ecclesiastical Record", 1883, and "Gaelic Journal", I, 8, 263). A rather bitter letter of his criticising a favourable review of John Salmon's "Ancient Irish Church as a Witness to Catholic Doctrine" in the "Irish Ecclesiastical Record" (August, 1897, 166-170) led to a learned controversy between these two Catholic scholars, which was carried on in that periodical the following year. At the same time it cannot be denied that his extensive knowledge and critical acumen contributed very much to the elucidation of many an obscure point in Irish history both ecclesiastical and profane.


Irish Catholic Directory (1870-1905); Minutes of the Royal Irish Academy (Session, 1903-04); Gaelic Journal, I, II; Irish Ecclesiastical Record (1864-1898); and the various works of the author.

About this page

APA citation. MacErlean, J. (1914). Bartholomew MacCarthy. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: The Encyclopedia Press.

MLA citation. MacErlean, John. "Bartholomew MacCarthy." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 16 (Index). New York: The Encyclopedia Press, 1914. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Herman F. Holbrook. For the glory of God and in honor of Saint Philomena.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. March 1, 1914. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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