Thursday, May 15, 2014

Question from shtove - Verification of MacDonnell quote

Verifying quote: "My Son Hath Many Heads"

The Scottish warlord Sorley Boy MacDonnell was brought to Dublin in 1586 to negotiate a peace settlement with Elizabeth I's government.

An official pointed to the severed head of MacDonnell's son, nailed above the gateway of Dublin Castle. MacDonnell said: "My Son Hath Many Heads".

It's in the old DNB, but I can't trace the quote back to its root, so I'm hoping for assistance.

I tried Clan Donald resources, but my best effort is a history from the 1870s (p.187): "The grief-stricken old man, groaning in spirit, proudly replied My son hath many heads! The knowledge of this striking incident is preserved in a Macdonnell manuscript"


Foose said...

I did some rootling around using the alternative Tudor spelling "my sonne hath many heades" and apparently the account is in Sir James Perrott's Chronicle of Ireland, 1584-1608. Perrott was the illegitimate son of the more famous Sir John Perrott. Unfortunately, his Chronicle is not available on Google Books, as far as I can see.

The Chronicle was edited and published by one H. Wood in 1933. Possibly it was previously the "manuscript" cited by your source, but I don't see how it could be identified as a MacDonnell manuscript. Maybe another contemporary family record does exist.

shtove said...

Crafty - add vowels and consonants here and there to fill out the figure of the phrase.

Do you find rootling around lik that often gives results?

Perrot's father was the governor who brought MacDonnell in. I know of the chronicle (never read). This is the closest I can get with your help (nice Hydra analogy):

It doesn't approach the MacDonnell MS, but that reference may just be romantic histrionics from the 19thC book. So reduced to secondary source again.

Thankes, Foosse.

Foose said...

You're welcome! I often find that to find a Tudor, you must think like a Tudor.

This is where reading the actual letters and documents of the periods can pay off, rather than the versions helpfully translated into readable modern English provided by popular historians - it's hard on the eyes and brain, but you pick up how your quarry thought and spoke and how they framed concepts as well as spelled them.

For a good example, there was a question on this blog a while back about Henry VIII having a banner of the Virgin - so I went hunting through Google using the word "Virgin" and came up empty-handed. Because Tudor people did not apparently say "the Virgin," or "the Blessed Virgin" - they said "Our Lady," or "St. Mary." Only they wrote it as "owre ladye," "oure ladie," "owre ladie" and various other permutations; they did not write "St. Mary," but "saincte marie."

So yes, thinking about how a Tudor-era person might have spelled something is a useful trick when looking for sources.

shtove said...

"To find a Tudor, you must think like a Tudor."

Worth repeating.