During that distant time, the Irish had no written language aside from the Ogham alphabet which held a great many limitations. Therefore, people, events, stories, songs, and poetry were held and passed along through an oral tradition. Of course, most of those have been lost or became fragmented through the ages.
The few contemporary writings produced by 6th Century Christian monks primarily concentrated on matters related to the Church. So, they were also subject to limitations—at least as far as I was concerned, for they served little use for my story. Wait, that's not altogether accurate. Those old prayers served as templates offering form and sound for those I wrote into my novel.
During the course of my research, my eyes opened when I stumbled upon an ancient text, “Annals of the Four Masters.” I discovered it on a website managed by CELT, the Corpus of Electronic Texts, under the auspices of University College Cork, Ireland.
The Annals, dating to the 17th Century, were prepared at a friary by Brother Mícheál Ó Cléirigh, Cú Choigcríche Ó Cléirigh, Fearfeasa Ó Maol Chonaire and Peregrine Ó Duibhgeannain—e.g., the Four Masters. The monks spent four years collecting and compiling Ireland’s oral history, plus what written documents they could find, and then presented the Annals to their patron, Fearghal Ó Gadhra, M.P., a Gaelic lord.
What’s so fascinating about that? It chronicles Irish history dating from the years 2952 B.C. to 1616 A.D. Granted, you can't place a great deal of faith in a manuscript making such a claim, but for any writer possessing an imagination, information like that can prove a gold mine. You will note an acknowledgement in the front of my book that reads,
Our thanks to Beatrix Färber, Project Manager at CELT (Corpus of Electronic Texts) for generously granting use of a reference from the mysterious, ancient Irish manuscript, “Annals of the Four Masters”.
If you’re interested in learning more about ancient Irish texts, note the links at the top of the CELT webpage (see below), especially one titled “Published.” There you will discover html links to other fascinating works in their collection. Provided you care to get that far, you might notice reference to Oisin, and the Ossianic cycle. While the name for my main character Ossian arose from those same ancient legends, he is not the same Oisin (or Ossian).
Here is a link to the site that takes you directly to the Annals. Be aware, the manuscript is copyrighted.