VIII. The Laigin
The Laigin, or Dumnonii, were the third ethno-tribal group to come to
Ireland, coming from Gaul shortly
before the Gaels themselves, sometime during the first century B.C. Branches of the Dumnonii settled
first in the Devon-Cornwall area before others moved on to Ireland (Chapter III).
In southern Britain
their kingdom gave its name to Devon (Dumnonia). In the time of King Arthur
A.D. 500), as the tribe most closely associated with that great Pendragon, these Devon Domnonii
established a dual kingdom which included the north coast of Brittany (Domnonie), from whose royal
house eventually sprang the House of Stewart (which house inherited the crown of the Scots in 1371
and that of England in 1603). The Stewarts are covered under the chapter on the Normans, having
come to Scotland in the wake of Norman conquest of England, in which they served as allies of the
dukes of Normandy.
In Ireland the
Dumnonii were generally known as the Laigin, and originally became overlords
southeastern and central regions, and in Connacht. From there they later spread to other parts of
Gaeldom, as we shall see.
Tribes of the Laigin
The Cianacht encompassed the O’Connors (O Conchobhair) of Keenaght, and the Luighne. The
O’Connors were lords of Keenaght, County Derry, until dispossessed by the O’Kanes shortly before
the Anglo-Norman invasion in the twelfth century. The Luighne were of County Sligo, where they had
settled as fighting men to the Northern Gaels in the early centuries A.D. The Cianacht were closely
related to the Dealbhna and Saithne.
The Luighne or
"race of Lugh," included the families of O’Hara (O hEaghra) and O’Gara
The O’Haras descend from Eaghra, Lord of Luighne (now the Barony of Leyney) in South Sligo, who
died in 926. In the fourteenth century the O’Haras divided into two branches, the heads of which were
known as O’Hara Boy (Buidhe), the Yellow O’Hara, and O’Hara Reagh (Riabhach), the Speckled or
Brindled O’Hara. A branch of the family settled early in County Antrim, and became very important
The O’Garas were
once one clan with the O’Haras, and together their territory, Luighne,
modern baronies of Corran and Leyney in South Sligo, and Gallen and North Costello (Sliabh Lugha) in
Mayo. About the end of the tenth century the two families separated, and divided the territory between
them, the O’Garas taking the Mayo portion. They were driven from their territory by the Jordans,
Costellos and other Anglo-Norman settlers, and resettled in Greagraidhe, in Sligo, now the Barony of Coolavin, and were later known as lords of
Coolavin. They built their stronghold, Moygara, at the northeastern extremity of Lough Gara. Branches
went to Munster before the end of the sixteenth century, and are known as Geary or Guiry. The
O’Duanys or Devanys of Sligo are a branch of the O’Garas.
Eathra and Dealbhna Nuadat
The Dealbhna Eathra and Dealbhna Nuadat were closely related to the Cianacht and Saithne. They
originally comprised a single tribal kingdom in the Roscommon-Offaly area, but in course of time the
various branches of the Deal bhna became separated under different overlordships, just as the Ui Maine
became separated from their collateral kinsmen to the northeast of the Shannon, the Oirghialla, by the
growing apart of the North Gaels which itself resulted in the ultimate overkingdoms of the Connachta
and Ui Neill. The Dealbhna Eathra were situated to the east of the Shannon around Clonmacnoise, as
a semiindependent tribal kingdom nominally subject to the Southern Ui NieII. Their chief families in
medieval times were the MacCoghlans and O’Conrahys.
(Mac Cochla in) descend from Cochlan, lord of Dealbhna Eathra in 1053.
of the family were for centuries the lords of Dealbhna Eathra, and the territory of their tribal kingdom
was in later times called after them "Delvin (Dealbhna) MacCoghlane." Their territory cornprised the
modern barony of Garrycastle, in County Offaly. They were once very powerful, and had ten strong
castles in the Garrycastle area. The O’Conrahys (O Conratha) are a branch of the MacCoghlans.
The Deal bhna
Nuadat were centered on the other side of the Shannon, between it and the
in County Roscommon, and were tributary to the Ui Maine. Their later representatives are the O’Hanlys
(O hAinle) were chiefs of Cinel Dobhtha, called in later tirnes Tuaohanly
Hanly, being a district along the River Shannon north of Lough Ree. The O’Hanleys held this territory
as late as the seventeenth century as tributaries of the O’Connor Don of Ui Maine. In the late sixteenth
century several related gentlemen of the name were given in succession the office of "Seneschal"
("Royal Officer") of "Tohahohanly" under Queen Elizabeth I.
The Saithne were closely related to the Cianacht and Dealbhna. They originally inhabited a territory in
the southern part of the kingdom of Brega, the kingship of which they in ancient times had shared with
kindred groups. Their lands in Brega lay southeasterly, midway between the River Boyne and the River
Liffey. Their later representatives were the O’Caseys.
The O’Caseys (O Cathasaigh) were originally lords of Saithne, in the
north of the present County
Dublin, until they were dispossessed by the Normans under Sir Hugh de Lacy soon after the
Anglo-Norman invasion (twelfth cenwry). Afterwards they became an important Erenagh (church)
family, being hereditary keepers of Kilarduff and Dunfeeny in County Mayo, Cloondara and Tisrara in
County Roscommon, and Devinish in County Fermanagh.
Locha na nAirne
The Ciarraighe Locha na nAirne were originally part of a greater kingdom, the tribal kingdom of
Ciarraighe, centered at Cruachu (the ancient capital of Connacht). This kingdom was fragmented by the
Ui Briuin of the North Gaels during the late eighth century or early ninth century. They may have been,
in more ancient times, closely related to the ancestors of the Oirghialla, the allies of the North Gaels
(in the Heroic Age tales of the North, the "Ulster Cycle," Cruachu is the center of the Gaelic-Laiginian
alliance). The Ciarraighe were indigenous to Connacht. Their main representatives in the Middle Ages
were the O’Kierans (O Ceirin) of northwest County Mayo. The native territory of the O’Kierans was in
the south of the barony of Costello, but they were reduced in power there by the Anglo-Norman
encroachment, and branches in Donegal and Clare became more important.
The Ciarraighe Luachra were the original tribe of North Kerry, a branch of the Ciarraighe. Before the
Anglo-Norman invasion had had a semiindependent kingdom between Tralee and the Shannon. Their
chief family was that of O’Connor (O Conchobhair) of Kerry, whose stronghold was at Carrigafoyle, near
Ballylongford. They held the Barony of lraghticonor in the extreme north of County Kerry after the
southern part of their territory was encroached upon by the Fitzmaurices of Clanmaurice and other
Norman settlers. The O’Connors held lraghticonor down to the reign of Elizabeth, when it was
confiscated by the English and given to Trinity College.
The Eile were originally a tribe of western King’s County (Offaly), where place-names recall their early
residence in that region. After the battle of Druim Derge (A.D. 516), at which battle they were decisively
defeated by the expanding southern Ui Neill, they migrated to the area known after them as "Ely" in the
south of Offaly and including northeast Tipperary. Their chief families in later times were the O’Carrolls
of Ely, the O’Mahers, the O’Riordans and the O’Flanagans.
(O Cearbhaill) descend from Cearbhaill, Lord of Ely, who was one of the
leaders at the
famous battle of Clontarf in 1014. The head of the O’Carrolls was originally lord of all Ely, but after the
Anglo-Norman invasion their power was restricted to South Offaly, which was subsequently called Ely O’Carroll.
The Ui Cairin
or O’Mahers (O Meachair) are of the same stock as the O’Carrolls, and were
lords of Ui
Cairin, now the Barony of Ikerrin, in the old Ely territory in Tipperary. After the Anglo-Norman invasion,
Ikerrin was added to Ormond, but The O’Maher (chief of the sept) was left in control of the territory as
tributary to the Butlers, the Anglo-Norman earls of Ormond, under whom they flourished.
(O Rioghbhardain) are a branch of the O’Carrolls of Ely, and probably descend
Rioghbhardan, son of Cucoirne O Cearbhaill, Lord of Ely, who fell at the battle of Sliabh gCrot in 1058.
As late as 1576 a "Gaven O Rewrdane" was a "freeholder" in Ely O’Carroll, and one of the most
important followers of Sir William O’Carroll. By this time branches had spread into Leix and Kilkenny,
but even earlier the greater portion of the sept had removed to Cork and Limerick. In 1597 Maurice
O’Riordan of Croome was attainted by the English, his lands being given to a George Sherlocke.
(O Flannachain) are of the same stock as the O’Carrolls of Ely, and were
chiefs of a
territory known as Cineal Arga, now the barony of Ballybrit, in southeast Offaly.
The Ui Faitghe
The Ui Failghe, closely related to the Eile, had probably separated from them by A.D. 516, the year of
the defeat of the Eile at Druim Derge by the Southern Ui Niell. The Ui Failge descend from Failge
Berraide, who a few years earlier had won the battle of Fremainn Mide (A.D. 510). This victory probably
accounts for their being able to remain in the more northerly portion of Offaly while their cousins, the
Eile, were forced to migrate south. The chief families of the Ui Failghe include the O’Connors of Offaly,
the O’Mooneys, MacColgans, O’Hennesseys, O’Holohans, O’Dempseys and O’Dunnes.
(O Conchobhair) of Offaly were a powerful and warlike sept of the northeast
of what is
now County Offaly. They descend from Conchobhar, son of Fionn, Lord of Offaly, who died in A.D. 979.
From their stronghold at Dangan, now Philipstown, they successfully defended their territory from the
English of the Pale (i.e. County Dublin) for more than 300 years. They were finally dispossessed by the
English about 1550. The O’Mooneys (O Maonaigh) of around Ballymooney in County Offaly are a
branch of the O’Connors.
The Clann Cholgan
included the families of MacColgan, O’Hennessy and O’Holohan. The MacColgans
(Mac Colgan) were chiefs of the territory around Kilcolgan in the extreme northeast of County Offaly.
The O’Hennessys (O hAonghusa) shared the lordship of Clann Cholgan (i.e., their clan-name was
applied to the territory they possessed) with their kinsmen the O’Holohans (O hUallachain). Their
territory comprised the present barony of Lower Philipstown, a district adjoining the hill of Croghan,
near Kilbeggan, and lying just east of the
O’Connors in northeast Offaly. A branch of the O’Hennessys were chiefs of Gailenga Beg, the district
between Dublin and Tara, until they were dispersed into Offaly as a result of the Anglo-Norman
invasion. Some of the O’Hennessys spread early into Tipperary and Glare. In County Glare they are
now known as Henchy or Hensey.
The Clann Mhaolughra
or O’Dempseys (O Diomasaigh) were chiefs of the territory known after them
Glann Mhaolughra on the River Barrow, which comprised the baronies of Portnahinch in Leix and Upper
Philipstown in Offaly. They were very powerful, and owing to the friendly terms they had with the
English during the reign of Elizabeth I (ca. 1590), their lands escaped confiscation until after the fall of
James II (ca. 1690). Their patron saint was St. Evin, who established the church at Monasterevan.
The Ui Riagain
or O’Dunnes (O Duinn) were chiefs of Ui Riagain in the northwestern corner
Leix. They were, along with their kinsmen the O’Connors and O’Dempseys, one of the chief families of
Leinster. A branch of the family possessed a territory around Tara until dispersed about the same time
as the O’Hennesseys of that area (see above). The clan-name Ui Riagain, Anglicized Iregan, may
reflect some relation to the sept of O’Regan (O Riagain) of the Southern Ui Neill, one of the Tribes of
Tara, which settled in Leix after the Anglo-Norman invasion.
The Feara Cualann
The Feara Cualann, or "Men of Cuala," originally inhabited the territory of that name, Cuala, which
included a large portion of the present counties of Dublin and Wicklow. Their chief representatives in
later times were the O’Cullens and O’Mulryans.
(O Cuilinn) were chiefs around Glencullen in County Wicklow, in which area
dwelt to this day. Though they were overshadowed as a power in the area by the O’Byrnes and
O’Tooles about 1300, Cullen of Gullenstown was counted as one of the leading gentry of County
Wexford as late as 1598, and they appear to have retained considerable influence. Kilcullen, on the
Wicklow border of County Kildare, is named for them.
(O Maoilriain) originated in Leinster, but settled around the north Tipperary-Limerick
border sometime during the thirteenth or fourteenth century. They became very numerous and powerful
in their new home, the territory which is now the baronies of Owney in Tipperary and Owneybeg in
Limerick. In the year 1610, William Ryan surrendered to the King of England all his rights to the lands
of "Owney O Mulrian," in order to receive them back as a royal grant, by letters of patent. These land
were later lost, however, in the mass confiscations of the seventeenth century. The name is numerous
and respectable in Limerick and Tipperary.
The Ui Ceinnsealaigh
The Ui Ceinnsealaigh were the most powerful tribe of Leinster, and usually held the provincial
overkingship until the time of the AngIo-Norman invasion (which their representative, King Dermot
MacMurrough of Leinster, helped bring about). The center of their power lay around the Diocese of
Ferns, in northern Wexford. Their chief families were the Kavanaghs, Kinsells, O’Murphys and
(Caomhanach) descend from Domhnall (Donal) Caomhanach, son of Diarmaid
Murchadha (Dermot MacMurrougb), King of Leinster at the time of the Anglo-Norman invasion (died
1171). He was called "Caomhanach" as a result of his having been fostered by the Co-arb
(blood-related successor) of St. Caomhan at Kilcavan near Corey. The adoption by his descendants of
Kavanagh (i.e., "belonging to St. Caomhan") as a family name is unusual: It is, like Kinsella below, one
of the very few non-patronymic names used among the pre-Norman Gaelic population. The patrimony of
the family included extensive districts in counties Carlow and Wexford, where the name is very
(Cinnsealach,) descend from Enna Cinnsealach, brother of Domhnall Caomhanach
(Kavanagh) and son of Dermot MacMurrogh. They possessed most of the barony of Gorey in the north
of County Wexford, where they remain to this day, but they remained much less numerous than their
kinsmen, the Kavanaghs. Their lands were formerly referred to as "the Kinsellaghs." A branch of the
Kinsellas, the O’Murphys (O Murchadha) of Muskerry, settled early in County Cork, where they
became connected with the barony of Muskerry in the west-central part of that county.
or O’Murphys (O Murchadha) were chiefs of Ui Feilme, now the Barony of
Ballaghkeen in the northeast of County Wexford, all along the coast. They maintained their
independence and identity as a clan down to the first part of the seventeenth century, and are now very
numerous throughout Leinster.
The Ui Dunlainge
The Ui Dunlainge anciently inhabited the Liffey Plain, the territory around the River Liffey, just to the
northwest of the Wicklow Mountains. They were very important in north Leinster, and held the provincial
overkingship of Leinster itself from 738 to 1042, alternating it between their chief clans, the Ui
Dunchada, Ui Faelain and Ui Muiredaig. Their representatives in later times were the O’Byrnes and
The Ui Faelain
included the O’Byrnes (O Broin) and their kinsmen the MacKeoghs or Kehoes
Eochaidh) of Leinster. The O’Byrnes descend from Bran, son of Maolmordha, King of Leinster in 1014.
Maolmordha died fighting on the side of Earl Sigurd of Orkney against Brian Boru, High-King of Ireland,
at the battle of Clontarf in 1014).
The O’Byrnes originally possessed what is now the northern half of County
Kildare, which was called
after the Ui Faelain. They were driven from this territory by the Normans, soon after the Anglo-Norman
invasion, after which they retired to the fastness of the nearby Wicklow Mountains. Here they became
very powerful, and at the head of the Wicklow clans they terrorized the invaders, first the
Anglo-Normans, and later the English, both of whom they defeated in many a fierce engagement. Their
territory in these times was known as Criochbhranach, and Included the Barony of Newcastle with
parts of the baronies of Ballinacor and Arklow.
The Ui Muireadhaigh
or O’Tools (O Tuathail) descend from Ughaire, King of l.einster (died 956),
were chiefs of what is now the southern half of County Kildare, which bore the designation of Ui
Muireadhaigh after their clan-name. They were driven from this territory by Walter de Riddlesford soon
after the Anglo-Norman invasion, afterwards retiring to the mountain fastness of Wicklow, like their
O’Byrne kinsmen. Here their new territory comprised first Ui Mail on the western slope of the
mountains, and later Feara Cualann, in the north. Here, in alliance with their kinsmen the O’Byrnes,
they carried on incessant warfare with the invaders, Anglo-Normans and later English, which continued
over more than 400 years. They maintained their independence as a clan down to the close of the reign
of Elizabeth I (ca. 1600), after which the whole of Fercuolen was confiscated by the English. The
O’Tooles however retained considerable property for a time, and a branch of the family settled as well
in west Connacht, where they became numerous.
The Ui Maine
The Ui Maine were the great Laiginian tribe whose original territory comprised adjoining parts of what
are now the counties of Galway, Roscommon, Clare and OfaIly. The Ui Maine were closely related to
the Oirghialla, for their ancestors were the same as those of the Oirghialla, being the ancient Laiginian
allies of the great tribe of the North Gaels (the names of three of their respective original sub-tribal
groups duplicate each other- the Cann Bhreasail. or Ui Breasail (Macha); the Ui Fiachrach Finn, or Ui
Fiachrach Arda Stratha, and the Clann Chearnaigh. The Ui Maine separated from the Oirghialla at the
same time that the Ui Neill differentiated from their North-Gaelic kinsmen, the Connachta (see Chapter
IX). As the Ui Neill and their Oirghialla allies moved eastward into the rest of Ulster, the Connachta
moved southwards into the rest of Connacht, and thus did their L.aiginian allies, the Ui Maine, acquire
what would become their tribal patrimony.
(O CeaIlaigh) were chiefs of the Ui Maine, and as such ruled over a large
area in Galway
and Roscommon down to the reign of Elizabeth I, at the end of the sixteenth century. They came to be
regarded as one of the "Three Connachts" along with the North-Gaelic tribes of Ui Fiachrach and
Ui Briuin, although they were Laiginian (the original "Three Connachts" included the Ui Neill, who
branched eastwards and started a new and separate dynasty in the early 5th century A.D.). The
MacKeoghs (Mac Eochadha) are a branch of the O’KeIlys, and were formerly chiefs of Moyfinn in the
Barony of Athlone in County Roscommon.
The O’Fahys (O
Fathaigh) were chiefs of a territory known as Poblewinterfahy (Pobal Mhuintir
Fhathaigh), which lay in the Barony of Loughrea in south-central Galway. They remained in possession
of these lands down to the Cromwellian confiscations of the mid-seventeenth century. Fahysvillage, in
Loughrea, recalls their presence there.
(O hUghroin; later O hOghrain) are a branch of the Ui Maine, and were originally
around Clonrush in the south of County Galway, where they remained numerous and held large estates
down to the Cromwellian confiscations of the mid seventeenth century. A branch migrated early to
County Mayo, where they became co-arbs (hereditary successors) of St. Mochua at the abbey of
(O Siodhachain) are a Ui Maine sept of Galway that in the High Middle Ages
(tenth—thirteenth centuries) were hereditary trumpeters to The O’Kelly. They later spread into
neighboring County Clare, and became attached to the ruling dynasty there, under the Ui
Toirdealbhaign or O’Briens, and as a result came to be regarded as Dalcassian.
The Clann Bhreasail
were settled in southeastern County Galway between Lochrea and Ballinasloe.
Their chief family was that of O’Donnellan (O Domhnallain), the head of which family resided at his
castle at Ballydonnellan in the clan territory. The family was famous as ollavs (professors), and
produced several famous poets, mentioned in the Annals.
The Clann Uadach
or O’Fallons (O Fallamhain) were lords of a territory in the barony of
comprised the parishes of Camma and Dysart, in the south of what is now County Roscommon. The
ruins of their castle are at Milltown, in the parish of Dysart.
The Siol nAnmchadha
or O’Maddens (O Madain were of the same stock as the O’Kellys, from whom
they separated and became independent about 1050. They descend from Madadhan (slain A.D. 1008),
son of Gadhra Mor, chief of the Ui Maine from 1014 to 1027. The clan-lands, called after them Siol
nAnmchadha, comprised the modern barony of Longford in the southeast of County Galway, and also
the parish of Lusnagh in County Offaly, on the other side of the Shannon. They held these lands under
the Burke overlordship and remained in possession down to the Cromwellian confiscations of the mid
seventeenth century (some of their confiscated estates were restored to them under the Act of
Settlement in 1677). In 1612, Donal O’Madden, "captain of his nation," settled all of his estates,
including his manor and castle of Longford, on his son and heir, Anmchadh, or Ambrose, O’Madden, in
The Ui Diarmada included the O’Concannons (O Concheanainn) and O’Mullens
(O Maolain). The
O’Concannons were chiefs of Corca Mogha (Corcamoe) in the northeast of County Galway. Their chief
resided at Kiltullagh, in the parish of Kilkerrin, which is also called Corcamoe after their territory. The
O’Mullens are of the same stock as the O’Concannons, and their territory bordered on that of
O’Concannon, in northeast County Galway.
The Ui Fiachrach
Finn included the O’Mullallys (O Maolalaidh)—"grandson of the speckled
O’Naghtens (O Neachtain). The Ui Fiachrach Finn originally inhabited the fertile plain of Maonmhagh,
being the area surrounding Loughrea in south-central Galway, but were dispossessed by the Burkes
soon after the Anglo-Norman invasion, and forced to seek territory elsewhere.
settled in the parish of Tuam in northern Galway, their new territory comprising
lands known as Tulach na Dala (Tullaghnadaly), or Tolendal, four miles north of the town of Tuam. The
O’Mullallys were ardent Jacobites, adhering to the Stewart cause in the wars of the seventeenth
century. James Lally of Tullindaly sat as representative of Tuam in King James’s parliament of 1689.
After the Jacobite defeat he retired to France with his brother Gerald. Gerald married a noble French
lady, and their son and grandson became famous in Europe under the title Count Lally de Tollendal.
The O’Naghtens were chiefs of Maonmhagh before the Anglo-Norman invasion, after which they
removed to the Feadha, or Fews, of Athlone in South Roscommon, where they formed a distinct clan
down to the reign of Elizabeth I (ca. 1580).
The Oirghialla were closely related to the Ui Maine, as mentioned above. They were the Laiginian allies
of the North-Gaelic tribe of Ui Neill, which virtually monopolized the high-kingship of Ireland during the
post-fifth century historical period. The Oirghialla helped the Ui Neill effect the conquest of most of
Northern Ireland from the Ulster Erainn, and later they settled a vast territory there including the
counties of Louth, Armagh, Monaghan and Fermanagh, a territory which is called after them, Oriel. so
important were they in the Ui Neill political sphere that they were given an honorary traditional descent
(which was nonetheless fake and thinly disguised) from the great-grandfather of Nial of the Nine
Hostages, ancestor of the O’NeilIs of the line of Conn. Their representatives in the later Middle Ages
include the MacBradys, O’Boylans, O’Flanagans, O’Mulroonys or Moroneys, Maguires, MacKernans,
MacAuleys, O’Cassidys, O’Corrigans, MacManuses, MacMahons, MacCanns, O’Hanraghtys,
O’Hanlons, O’Lynns, MacEvoys, MacDonalds, MacDonells, MacAlisters, Maclans, MacSheehys,
Maclntyres, MacDougals, and Conns.
(Mac Bradaigh) were a powerful family of Breffny (Cavan and West Leitrim),
chiefs of Cuil Bhrighed or Cuil Bhrighdein, which comprised the district around Stradone in County Cavan, a few miles to the east of Cavan town. They
are traditionally a branch of the O’Carrolls of Leitrim, which family had been lords of all Oriel until the
twelfth century Anglo-Norman invasion. The MacBradys are now numerous throughout Ulster.
The Ui Chremthainn
anciently inhabited the territory between Lough Erne and the River Blackwater,
what is now County Fermanagh and the north of County Monaghan. The chief branches of the Ui
Chremthainn include the Clann Lugain, and also the O’Mulroonys or Moroneys and the O’Boylans.
(O Baoigheallain) were of the same stock as the O’Flanagans (O Flannagain)
northwest Fermanagh. The O’Boylans were, after the Anglo-Norman invasion, lords of all Oriel, a
widespread territory stretching from Fermanagh to Louth. Later, in the thirteenth century, their power in
Oriel was subdued by the MacMahons, and their territory was reduced to what is now the barony of
Dartry in the west of County Monaghan, an area then known as Dartraighe. They did, however, remain
powerful, and in O’Dugan’s fourteenth-century "Topographical Poem" they are called "the bold kings of
Dartry," and are praised for their horsemanship and their blue eyes.
(O Maolruanaidh) were the leading clan of Fermanagh before the rise of
who subjugated them about 1300. A branch of the O’Mulroonys afterwards settled in the northeast of
County Galway, where they were chiefs of Crumhthan (Cruffan), a district comprising the modern
barony of Killyan and part of the adjoining barony of Ballimoe. For the Galway branch, the name has
changed to Moroney.
The Clann Lugain
included the Maguires, MacKernans, MacAuleys, O’Cassidys, O’Corrigans and
MacManuses. The Maguires (Mag Uidhir) are first mentioned in the Annals in A.D. 956. They rose to
great power in the later part of the thirteenth century, and became lords of Fermanagh, where the town
and castle at Maguiresbridge recalls their importance there. They were long one of the most powerful
and influential families in Ulster, and produced many great soldiers and ecclesiastics. During the reign
of James I, in the first part of the seventeenth century, much of the territory of the Maguires was
included in the vast confiscation of Ulster which followed the English conquest of the north. More land
loss followed in the Cromwellian and Williamite confiscations, for the Maguires were ardent Jacobites,
and later they were prominent among the "Wild Geese" in the service of France and Austria. As barons
of Enniskillen their chiefs were accepted as nobility at the Court of France until the title became extinct
(Mac Maghnuis) descend from Maghnus, son of Donn Maguire, chief of Fermanagh,
who died in A.D. 1302. The head of this family resided at Senadh Mic Maghnusa, now Bell Isle, on
Lough Erne. The O’Cassidys (O Caiside) were a distinguished medical family, being the
hereditary physicians to the Maguires. They also provided ollavs (professors or learned men) to the
Maguires, and one, Rory O’Cassidy, Archdeacon of Clogher, is said to have participated in the
compilation of the Annals of Ulster under Cathal Maguire in the fifteenth century. The first literary figure
of the name was Giolla Moduda O Caiside, who died in 1143, and whose Gaelic poetry is still
preserved. Before the end of the sixteenth century, branches of the family had settled in the Midlands
around County Westmeath.
(O Corragain) were an ecclesiastical sept closely related to the Maguires,
and men of
the name long filled abbacies and other church offices in County Fermanagh. By the sixteenth century
the name had already spread into Connacht and the Midlands. Other branches of the Maguires include
the Clann Fearghaile or MacKernans (Mac Thighearnain) , chiefs of the territory called Clann Fearghaile
in central Fermanagh, and the MacAuleys (Mac Amhlaoibh), who gave their name to the barony of
Clanawley in west-central Fermanagh. A branch of the latter settled in Connacht under the form
Gawley (Mag Amhlaoibh).
(Mac Mathghamhna) were one of the most powerful and influential families
They rose to preeminence in Oriel on the decline of the O’Carrolls of Leitrim in the thirteenth century,
having subdued the O’Boylans in the process. They maintained their rank as lords of Oriel down to the
reign of Elizabeth I in the late sixteenth century, and retained considerable property in County
Monaghan as late as the Cromwellian wars of the mid-seventeenth century. Their last chief, Hugh
MacMahon, was betrayed and arrested for complicity in the plot to seize Dublin Castle in 1641, and
sent to the Tower of London. Three years later he was beheaded at Tyburn. Besides many
distinguished chiefs, the family produced many eminent ecclesiastics as well.
The Ui Breasail
Macha or Clann Bhreasail were originally seated in what is now the barony
East, in the extreme northeast of County Armagh. Their chief clan, the Cineal Aonghusa, of which the
MacCanns (Mac Anna) were the chief family, inhabited the south shore of lough Neagh in County
The Ui Meath
Macha, of which the O’Hanraghtys (O hAnrachtaigh) were the chief family,
inhabited the north of County Louth, the O’Hanraghtys being lords of North Louth. They were pushed as
a result of the Anglo-Norman invasion into County Monaghan, where they settled in the modern barony
of that name, Monaghan, County Monaghan.
The Ui Niallain,
of which the O’Hanlons (O hAnluain) were the chief family, inhabited the
territory of that
name, Ui Niallain, now the baronies of Oneilland in the northeast of County Armagh, and at one time
also the territory of Oirthear (now the baronies of Onier), in the east and southeast of the same county.
The O’Hanlons were long known as lords of Oirthear. They were a powerful clan, and had many valiant
chiefs mentioned in the Annals.
They maintained their independence as a clan down to the year 1587,
when the then chief, Sir Oghie
O’Hanlon, surrendered his lands to the English Crown, in order to have them re-granted by letters of
patent in tail male (to be held of the Crown), thus abolishing the chieftaincy. The O’Hanlon was
afterwards hereditary royal standard bearer north of the River Boyne, and owing to his loyalty to the
English, retained most of the clan-lands down to the Cromwellian confiscations of the mid seventeenth
The Ui Tuirtre
of South Derry moved eastward across the River Bann as their lands were
the expanding Ui Neill over-kingdom of Cineal Eoghain in the eighth century. They kept their western
lands (the present barony of Loughinsholin) as a tributary kingdom to the Cineal Eoghain, but resided
in Lough Beg, which lay strategically between their new and old territories. East of the Bann they were
allies of the Dal nAraidi, though they profited by their decline. They were also sometimes overkings of
Ulidia. The medieval representatives of the Ui Tuirtre were the O’Lynns (O Floinn or O Loinn) of South
Antrim, who defeated the Norman John de Courcy when he attempted to invade their territory in 1177.
They maintained their independence until about 1368.
The Ui Macc Uais
Mide were a branch of the Ui Macc Uais of what is now the Barony of Upper
Strabane in the northeast of County Tyrone. They settled in Mide (what is now County Westmeath with
part of Offaly) and came very early to be treated as a sub-kingdom of the Southern Ui Neill (North
Gaels), just as the Ui Macc Uais of Tyrone were treated as a sub-kingdom of the Cineal Eogain clan of
the Northern Ui Neill.
The chief family
of the Ui Macc Uais Mide was that of MacEvoy (Mac Fhiodhbhuidhe), who were
anciently lords of Ui Macc Uais in County Westmeath, now the barony of Moygoish. Later, at some
time before 1563, they settled in what is now Leix (formerly Queen’s County). Here they were known
as Muintear (or Tuath) Fhiodhbhuidhe, being lords of a territory in what is now the barony of Stradbally
which comprised the parishes of Mountrath and Raheen. They came to be regarded as one of the
Seven Septs of Leix. In 1609 the chief men of the family were transplanted by the English to County
Kerry as were the leading members of the other Leix Septs. The rest of the clan remained in the home
territory, however, where they remain to this day.
The Cineal nAlbanaich
were a branch of the Oirghialla that settled in the northwest Highlands
Islands in very early times. Their chief clans descend from Godfraidh Mac Ferghusa (i.e., "Fergus"), a
prince of the Oirghialla in Northern Ireland who came to Scotland, or Albany, in the ninth century as an
ally of Kenneth MacAlpin, first king of the united kingdom of Picts and Scots. The Cineal nAlbanaich
settled north of Argyle in the Hebrides, in the area of Skye, where they acquired Pictish and later
Worse connections. The chief clans which branched from the Cineal nAlbanaich are the Clann
Dhomhnuill and the Clann Dubhghaill.
The Clann Dhomhnuill or MacDonalds (Mac Dhomhnuill) descend from Dhomnuill,
or Donald, son of
Reginald (or Ranald) mac Somerled, King of the Isles and Lord of Argyle and Kintyre (1164—1207).
Ranald’s mother was the daughter of Olav, Norse King of Man and the Isles. It was from her that he
derived his titles in the Isles, his paternal grandfather Somerled being already Lord of Argyle (the
Lordship of the Isles was under the control of the King of Norway until 1266).
The Clann Dhomhnuill
includes the families of MacDonald of Clan Donald and Islay, the MacDonells
Keppoch and MacDonnells of Antrim, the MacIans, MacAlisters, MacSheehys, and the Clan Ranald.
The MacDonalds of Clan Donald, or Clann Uistein, the chief family of the clan (now represented by
MacDonald of MacDonald, and his cadet, MacDonald of Sleat, both of Skye), were the leaders of the
most powerful tribal organization in Scotland, and were long vested in the Lordship of the Isles (the last
Lord of the Isles died in 1503, the title being taken over by a jealous House of Stewart, see Chapter IV).
They descend from Donald, son of John, first Lord of the Isles (from 1354) and his second wife, a
daughter of Robert II of the House of Stewart.
of Islay and MacDonnells of the Glens of Antrim, the Clan Ian Vor, descend
Mor, or "Big John" the Tanist, a younger full brother of Donald, second lord of the Isles who married the
MacEoin or Bissett heiress of Antrim about 1400, thus inheriting lands in Antrim, which were settled by
them in ernest during the first part of the sixteenth century. The Clan Ranald of Lochaber, or
MacDonells of Keppoch, (between Loch Lochy and Loch Spean in Lochaber, or southern
inverness-shire) descend from Alasdair, another younger full brother of Donald.
The Conns, an
old Aberdeenshire family, traditionally descend from William Con, son of
Donald of the
Isles, chief of Clan Donald in the first part of the sixteenth century. They took the name of Conn from
the traditional ancestor of the Clan Donald (see above under Oirghialla). The Conns appear under the
appellation "of Auchry" before 1539, and appear in the district from 1522. They were a prominent
Roman Catholic family in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but were driven into exile soon after
1642 (George Con was the Pope’s agent at the court of the Queen of Charles I).
of Clanranald, captains of the great Clan Ranald "proper," descend from
of John, first Lord of the Isles and his first wife, the heiress of the MacRuaris of Uist Isle and Garmoran,
the mainland district between Skye and Argyle (from Loch Hourn to Loch Sunart), both of which they
inherited (the MacRuaris descended from another son of Reginald mac Somerled). Their younger
branch, the MacDonells of Glengarry (just east of Garmoran) descend from Donald, himself the son of
Ranald, ancestor of the Clan Ranald.
The Clann an
tSaoir, or Maclntyres (Mac an tSaoir) are also a branch of the Clan Ranald.
in Loin, or North Argyle, sometime during the fourteenth century, having come from the Hebrides in a galley "with a white cow," to settle in Glen Oe
(or Noe) just south of Loch Etive. There they were hereditary foresters to the Stewart lords of Lorn. A
branch settled in Badenoch under MacKintosh protection in the fifteenth century, and became
members of the Clan Chattan Confederacy.
The Maclans (Mac
lain), or MacDonalds of Glencoe (just east of Appin in the north of Argyle),
known as the Clan Ian Abrach, descend from John Og, son of Angus Og, Chief of Clan Donald in the
time of Robert the Bruce (early fourteenth century). The Maclans (MacDonalds) or Clan Ian of
Ardnamurchan (the peninsula just west of Garmoran) descend from Angus MacIan, one of the relations
of John, first Lord of the Isles, who was granted Ardnamurchan by King David II. The Clan Alister, or
MacAlisters (Mac Alasdair) of the Loup in Kintyre descend from Alasdair, or Alexander, younger son of
Donald mac Reginald mac Somerled, King of the Isles and eponymus ancestor, or name-founder, of
the Clan Donald.
(Mac Sithigh) descend from Sitheach, great-grandson of the same Donald.
were a famous gallowglass family (galowglasses were heavily armed foot-soldiers) employed as hired
bodyguards by various tribal kings in Ireland, as per Gaelic aristocratic custom. They are first
mentioned in the Annals in 1367, having taken part in a battle that year between two factions of the
Royal O’Connors of Ui Briuin in Connacht. In 1420 they settled County Limerick as constables to the
Earl of Desmond, and built their castle of Lisnacolla, or Woodfort, located in the parish of Clonagh,
about four miles west of Rathkeale in north-central Limerick.
The Clann Dubhghaill
or MacDougals (Mac Dubhghaill) descend from Dubhghaill, King of the Hebrides
and Lord of Lorn (North Argyle) who was the son of the great Somerled and brother of Reginald (or
Ranald), ancestor of the Clann Dhomnuill, or MacDonalds. Lorn was held by Dubhghaill under the
Scottish crown, while the Hebridian islands under his control were held of the King of Norway. Dunollie
Castle in Oban Bay was the principal stronghold of the MacDougal chiefs, whose power declined after
their defeat at the hands of King Robert I the Bruce in the Pass of Brander in 1309. The MacDougals
were related by marriage to the Bruce’s rivals, the Cummins, and thus backed them during the period
leading up to the battle of Bannockburn in 1314. As a result, the MacDougals were forfeited and lost
their vast island territories, although they were later restored to the mainland Lordship of Lorn by King
David II (after their seventh chief married a granddaughter of Robert I). Eventually the MacDougalls lost
the lordship of Lorn, which (like many other old Scottish Dignities) passed almost inevitably to the
covetous House of Stewart. The family further suffered as a result of their support for the Jacobite
cause during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Nevertheless, based upon their proverbial
connection with Lorn, the family has ever been known, both officially and informally, as the
MacDougalls of Lorn.
IX. The Gaels
The original ethno-tribal invaders known as the Gaels were the last
of a series of Celtic invaders that
would come to be considered native to the Emerald Isle after the beginning of the historical period
(about A.D. 500—see Chapter III.) They arrived in Ireland sometime during the first century B.C., and
brought a distinctive language, the ancestor of modern Gaelic, which would come to dominate the
hybridized Gaelic culture that emerged from the prehistoric melting pot of Ireland (hence the later
general appellation "Gaels" which was applied to all Gaelic-speaking people of Ireland—and later
Scotland). Two great tribal nations of Gaels emerged in the light of the historical period: The North
Gaels and the South Gaels or Eoghanach. Between about A.D. 1 and 400 the North Gaels expanded
their foothold in the northwest of Ireland and established themselves as Sacral ("totemistically" sacred)
High-Kings at the ancient site of Tara near Dublin with the aid of their allies, the Laiginian tribe of
Oirghialla. These events are enshrined in the heroic tales of the Ulster Cycle of literature or Red
Branch, one of the three great collections of early Irish literature along with the Finn Cycle and the later
(medieval) Cycles of the Kings (as opposed to ordinary folk-tales). Because of the royal tribal
preeminence of the North Gaels, clans representative of other ethno-tribal groups sometimes tried to
affect genealogical connection to their sacred ancestral tribal stem as a kind of "social climbing," but
only the unstudied were fooled by these generally half-hearted attempts. Similar circumstances
prevailed in the South, among the long dominant Eoghanacht.
The North Gaels
The North Gaels divided into two great branches in the mid-fifth century A.D.: the Connachta and the Ui
Neill. Afterwards the tribal leadership of the Connachta itself divided into three great dynasties, known
as "the three Connachts." These soon spread over the entire western region of Ireland, which they gave
their name to: The province of Connacht. After the decline of the Ui Ailello in the eighth century,
the remaining two Connachts included the tribes of Ui Fiachrach and Ui Briuin, notwithstanding the
fact that the Laiginian tribe of Ui Maine came, with its rise to power in the
southeast of County Galway, to be regarded as filling the remaining traditional "third" of Connacht (the
Ui Maine originated as allies of the Ui Briuin akin to the Oirghialla, and thus were of relatively late
introduction in Connacht. (See Chapter VIII).
The Ui Fiachrach
descend from Fiachra, brother of Nial of the Nine Hostages, ancestor of
the Ui Niell.
Fiachra’s son and grandson were both High Kings in the second half of the fifth century, though after
that the High Kingship of Tara was vested in the Ui Neill. Afterwards the Ui Fiachrach
were the royal tribe of Connacht, although in the early seventh century they began alternating the rather
nominal provencial kingship of Connacht with their Ui Briuin kinsmen until about A.D. 700. After this
time the Ui Briuin monopolized the kingship of Connacht, and in time molded it into an effective
over-kingdom. The Ui Fiachrach, however, continued as the most influential Connacht family until the
middle of the eighth century; then they divided into two great branches, the Ui Fiachrach Muaidhe (of
the Moy) or Northern Ui Fiachrach, and the Ui Fiachrach Aidhne or Southern Ui Fiachrach.
Ui Fiachrach were seated in what are now the counties of Mayo and Sligo.
family of the tribe was that of O’Dowd (O Dubhda), whose chiefs were known as "Kings of the Moy"
from their dominance of the Moy estuary in north Mayo. Before the Anglo-Norman invasion of Connacht
in 1237 the O’Dowds were the ruling family in all lower Connacht, including the greater part of counties
Mayo and Sligo. They were also a great seapower, like the O’Malleys of Iar Connacht, which was
unusual among native Irish families, for seapower was generally given over to the Viking clans of the
Irish Sea. In the fourteenth century the O’Dowds had a series of able chiefs in immediate succession,
and drove the Anglo-Norman settlers out of their territory, though they never regained quite the regal
preeminence they had formerly held. The family suffered in the confiscations of the seventeenth
century. Branches of the family settled in Kerry before the end of the sixteenth century, and are now
known as Doody.
(O Fionnagain) were chiefs in the area of the Galway-Roscommon border,
places called Bally-Finnegan recall their presence in the baronies of Ballymoe and Castlereagh. The
O’Keevans (O Caomhain) of Sligo and Mayo were an important family among the Ui Fiachrach
Muaidhe, and it was the privilege of their chief to inaugurate The O’Dowd in the chiefship of Ui
Fiachrach. The O’Bolans (O Beollain) were seated at Doonaltan, in what is now the barony of Tireragh
in West Sligo.
A branch of the
Ui Fiachrach Muaidhe, the Fir Ceara of central Mayo, included the O’Kearneys
Cearnaigh) and O’Quigleys (O Coigligh). The O’Kearneys held extensive tracts of land around Balla and
Manulla in central Mayo, and a branch of them became leading ecclesiastics among the Dalcaisians,
while another became established as erenaghs of Derry. The O’Quigleys were anciently lords of the
barony of Carra (from Fir Ceara) in central Mayo. After the Anglo-Norman encroachment they were
dispersed throughout Ireland, and are later to be found mostly in western Ulster, but also as far away
as Wexford where the name is spelled Cogley (Kegley is used in Meath).
Ui Fiachrach, or Ui Fiachrach Aidhne were settled in the district of Aidhne
in the extreme
southwestern part of County Galway, on the border of County Clare. This district was co-extensive with
the diocese of Kilmacduagh. They had been pushed into this more restricted area by the expansion of
the Ui Briuin Ai into central Connacht, an action which divided them from their northern cousins, and at the same time forced the Ui Maine of west-central Galway to
encroach upon their territory. The O’Shaughnessys (O Seachnasaigh) were the chief family of Cinel
Aodha in the district of that name (Kinelea), being the territory around Gort in southern Galway. They
alternated the kingship of the southern Ui Fiachrach with the O’Heynes, and became famous in the
wars of the seventeenth century, but lost their lands as a result of the confiscations following the last
Jacobite war towards the end of that century.
The Cineal Guaire
included the families of O’Heyne (O hEidlun) and O’Cleary (O Cleirigh).
O’Heynes descend from Maolruanaidh O hEidhin, lord of Aidhne, who fell (as co-commander of the
Connacht army with The O’Kelly of Ui Maine) at Clontarf in 1014. He was the first to bear the name of
O’Heyne. The O’Heynes’ illustrious seventh-century ancestor was Guaire Aidhne (hence their
clan-name of Cineal Guaire), last Ui Fiachrach King of Connacht, celebrated for his hospitality. The
O’Heynes shared the lordship of Aidhne and the chiefship of the Southern Ui Fiachrach with their
O’Shaughnessy kinsmen, being themselves chiefs of a territory in the north of the present barony of
Kiltartan, around Kinvara (where the fortress of Dunguire recalls the name of their illustrious ancestor).
The Abbey of Kilmacduagh is known as O’Heyne’s Abbey. The O’Shaughnessys and O’Heynes have
kept possession of large tracts of their respective original patrimonies in South Galway.
descend from Cleireach, who flourished about A.D. 850 and was seventh in
from the celebrated Guaire the Hospitable, king of Connacht mentioned above. The O’Clearys were
originally the chief family of the Cineal Guaire, but lost power early in the eleventh century, and by the
thirteenth century they were driven out of Aidhne altogether. After that they are found chiefly in Mayo,
Kilkenny, and Cavan. The Mayo branch was set-tied in Tirawley just west of the Moy estuary. From
there they spread to Donegai, where they succeeded the famous O’Scingins as poets and chroniclers
to the O’Donnells by marriage to the daughter of the last O’Scingin ollav (professor) towards the end of
the fourteenth century. That family of ollavs being.. extinct, the O’Clearys inherited their patrimony and
were granted other lands besides by their O’Donnell patrons, and had their chief seat near
Ballyshannon, the castle of Kiibarron. The O’Clearys won lasting fame as the compiler, of the Annals of
the Four Masters and other invaluable works on Gaelic history, the former being the most distinguished
work of its kind.
(O hUallachain) were originally chiefs in County Clare, where their arms
proximity to Aidhne suggest a clan affiliation with the O’Shaughnessys (both the O’Shaughnessys and
the O’Heynes had important medieval branches settled in just over the Clare border in Limerick). The
O’Houlihans were in any case pushed by Cromwell into Connacht, though; some were dispersed
southward to County Cork, where they adopted the form "Holland," by which name they are still known. In Roscommon and Mayo the name became
Nuallachain, and was Anglicized as Nolan. The O’Scanlans (O Scannlain) of south Galway and Clare
are kinsmen to the O’Shaughnessys and O’Heynes, and a branch of them spread southward as an
ecclesiastical sept, being formerly erenaghs of Gloyne in Gounty Gork.
The Ui Briuin descend from Brion, who was the brother of Fiachra, ancestor of the Ui Fiachrach, and of
Nial, ancestor of the Ui Neill; all mentioned above. The Ui Briuin divided into several branches, including
the Ui Briuin Ai, Ui Briuin Breifne, and the Ui Briuin Seola. These tribes, or more accurately their
respective tribal dynasties, alternated the kingship of Connacht, much as their ancestors had formerly
done with the Ui Fiachrach (this had not been a regular alternation: Sometimes the kingship would
alternate between branches of the Ui Briuin or Ui Fiachrach themselves in immediate succession
before going over to the other tribe). The real expansion of the Ui Briuin dates from about the middle of
the eighth century, from which time they began to extend their power beyond their various sub-tribal
centers in central and northeastern Gonnacht.
The Ui Briuin
Ai rose in the late eighth century to firmly take possession of Cruachu
overlordship of the subject tribes, or "alien tuatha" of Connacht. This they accomplished from their
relatively narrow strip of original patrimony, which lay south of Cruachu in north-central Roscommon,
and extended over the upper reaches of the River Suck into central Connacht. Their chief dynastic
family, which was also the chief dynastic clan of the whole Ui Briuin, were the Siol Muireo.dhaigh
(Silmurray), who derived their name from their ancestor Muiredach Muillethan, King of Connacht, who
died in 702.
The Siol Muireadhaigh
included a number of very important families, chief amongst them the O’Connors
(O Conchobhair). The O’Connors descend from Conchobhair, king of Connacht, who died in 882 (their
name is more directly taken from a namesake of Conchobhair’s in the late tenth century). They
separated into three great branches, the O’Connors of Sligo; the O’Connors of central Roscommon, the
head of which family was known as O’Connor Roe (the Red O’Connor); and the Royal O’Connors
themselves, kings of Connacht, the head of whom is still known as the O’Connor Don (the Brown
O’Connor). Tairrdelbach Ua Conchobair, the first to take the family name, was High King of Ireland in
the mid twelfth century.
(O Maoileoin) are a branch of the O’Connors, and were long distinguished
ecclesiastical family at Clonmacnoise, of which several were abbots and bishops. Several of the family
were prominent Jacobites in the wars of the seventeenth century. The O’Mulconrys (O Maolchonair)
also are a branch of the O’Connors. They were a great literary family, and served as hereditary poets
and chroniclers to their clan, the Siol Muireadhaigh. Their chief seat was at Clonahee, near Strokestown, County Roscommon, where they had considerable land
holdings in right of their profession. A branch settled in Glare, and became famous for their learned
teaching in history, one of them being described as the "chief teacher in history of all the men of Erin in
his own time." The family also produced a number of eminent ecclesiastics.
(O Birn) first appear as stewards to their kinsmen the Royal O’Connors,
and later, after
driving the O’Monaghans out of Tir Bhriuin in north-central Roscommon (a rich territory lying between
Elphin and Jamestown) about the middle of the 13th century, they ruled that territory for over 300
years. The O’Sheridans (O Sirideain) were an ecclesiastical family who were erenaghs (hereditary
abbots) of Granard in County Longford before becoming devoted followers of the O’Reillys. Still later, in
the seventeenth century, the family rose to eminence on the literary fame of its members. One of them,
Thomas Sheridan, was secretary of state under James II.
The Clann Chathail,
a branch of the Siol Muireadhaigh that gave two kings to Connacht during
century, included the families of O’Carry and O’Flanagan. The O’Carrys (O Carthaigh) were a literary
family of Roscommon, three of whom attained the distinction "chief poet of Ireland," being described as
such in the Annals during the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The family later spread into Longford,
Sligo and Donegal. The O’Flanagans (O Flannagain) were the chief family of the Clann Chathail, and
long served as hereditary stewards to the kings of Connacht. They were chiefs of a territory called after
them Clann Chathail, which lay near Elphin in northeastern Roscommon,
The Clann Mhaolruanaidh
included the MacDermots (Mac Diarmada) and their branch-families, the
MacDonoghs and O’Crowleys. The MacDermots were the second most powerful family of the Siol
Muireadhaigh next to the O’Connors, and derived their clan-name of Clann Mhaolruanaidh from
Maolruanaidh, son of Tadhg O’Connor, king of Connacht who died in 1097. From Diarmaid, the
grandson of Maolruanaidh, who died in 1159, they took the family name of Mac Diarmada. About the
middle of the fourteenth century they divided into three branches, each with a chief of its own, namely:
MacDermot of Moylurg, overlord of the MacDermots, who had his fortress at the Rock of Laugh Key
near Boyle; MacDermotroe, or the Red MacDermot, who was chief of Tir-Thuthail (the parish of Kilronan
centered at Alderford) in County Galway, and MacDermot Gall, (the Anglicized MacDermot) who early
fell in with the English. The MacDermots of Moylurg retained their rank as lords of the territory of
Moylurg, now represented by the parishes of Frenchpark and Boyle in northwest County Roscommon,
down to the end of the sixteenth century, after which time they continued to hold considerable property
as princes of the adjoining Sligo territory of Coolavin.
or MacDonoughs (Mac Donnchadha) are a branch of the MacDermots of Moylurg,
and were chiefs of Tirerrill and Corran in County Sligo and had their chief seat at Ballymote in the center of that county. The O’Crowleys
(O’Cruadhlaoich) are also a branch of the MacDermots of Moylurg in County Roscommon, Connacht.
They settled in County Cork as fighting men, or gallowglasses, to the MacCarthys.
were the leading family of the Eoghanacht and were thus the chief family
Cork-Kerry area. Gallowglasses, being heavily armed soldiers (as opposed to kerns, the lightly armed
and armored soldiers from the clan-lands, whose usual occupation was farming), were commonly
imported as chiefs’ bodyguards (and to provide a nucleus of professional soldiers), especially from the
western Highlands of Scotland (the name gallowglass means "foreign youth").
(O Maoilmhichil) are an early branch of the Siol Muireadhaigh, being descended
Maolmhichil, chief of Siol Muireadhaigh in 866. They were originally chiefs of the district of Corca
Sheachlainn in the east of County Roscommon, but lost power at some time prior to the fifteenth
century, though they remained common in the area. Branches settled in counties Clare and Galway in
the sixteenth century, where they are known as Mulville or Melville. The O’Duigenans (O
Duibhgeannain) were a distinguished literary family seated at Kilronan, County Roscommon. They were
hereditary chroniclers or historians to their MacDermot kinsmen, and also to the O’Farrells and
the Siol Muireadhaigh were the Muintear Rodhuibh, or MacGeraghtys (Mag
Oireachtaigh) , who descend from Oireachtach O Roduibh, one of the "four royal chiefs" under the
Royal O’Connors in the latter part of the twelfth century ("Oireachtach" means "a member of the court,
or assembly"). The MacGeraghtys were originally of County Roscommon, where they were important
chiefs over a territory in the barony of Athlone named from their clan-name "Muintear Rodhuibh." About
the middle of the sixteenth century they were dispossessed as a result of the first stages of the
English conquest. However, they still formed a distinct clan in neighboring County Galway as late as
The Ui Briuin
Seola originally inhabited the plains around Tuam in central Galway until
pushed from that
area in the eleventh century by the expansion of the royal ancestors of the O’Connors. Their chief clan
was the Muintear Mhurchadha or O’Flahertys (O Flaithbhearthaigh) who after the expulsion from the
Tuam area settled on the east side of Lough Corrib in what is now the barony of Clare, but which was
known after their clan-name as Muntermorroghoe. They were pushed from this territory by the
Anglo-Normans in the thirteenth century, and afterwards became lords of Iar-Connacht, the western
part of Connacht on the other side of Lough Corrib and Galway City (the mostly Norman inhabitants of
that city had an inscription on one of the city gates: "From the fury of the O’Flahertys, Lord-God deliver
us"—a prayer originally used by churchmen against the Vikings of earlier times). A branch of the O‘Flahertys, the Clann Choscraigh, included the families of MacGarry (Mag Fhearadhaigh) and
also the MacHughs (MacAodha). The MacGarrys or Garrihys were seated at Moygarry in County Sligo
as late as 1585. The name spread into Roscommon and Leitrim as well, and in some cases became
O’Garriga (O Gearaga or O Giorraighe), and was mistranslated from this form into English as Hare. The
MacHughs were seated in the old O'Flaherty territory in the barony of Clare, County Galway.
of the Ui Briuin Seola, of which the O'Lees (O Laoidigh) were chiefs, also
western Connacht. The O'Lees were erenaghs, or hereditary abbots, of Annaghdown, and produced a
number of distinguished ecclesiastics. They are better known as a medical family, and were for many
centuries hereditary physicians to the O‘Flahertys, and sometimes to the Royal O'Conners as well. As
early as the fifteenth century the family had produced a complete course in medicine, written in Latin
and Gaelic. They were widely disbursed towards the end of the sixteenth century, and in north
Connacht used the form MacLee.
The Ui Briuin
Breifne carved out a territory for themselves between Lough Allan and the
river Erne in
central Fermanagh in the late eighth century. They expanded east of the Shannon and into the
wastelands of Cavan in the ninth and tenth centuries, and afterwards played an everincreasing role in
the politics of the midlands. Their chief families were the O'Rourkes (O Ruairc), kings of West Breffny
(County Leitrim), and the Muintear Mhaolmordha or O’Reillys (O RaighailIigh), lords of East Breffny
(County Cavan). The O'Rourkes were, prior to the twelfth-century Anglo-Norman invasion, overlords of
the Ui Briuin Breifne in Leitrim and Cavan, and ruled over a territory which at its widest extent stretched
all the way from Drumcliff in Sligo to Kells in Meath. Three of their chiefs, in the tenth and eleventh
centuries, were kings of Connacht as well. After the Anglo-Norman invasion, their cousins the O’Reillys
became lords of East Breffny, which became known as Breffny O’Reilly, while the O'Rourkes were
lords of West Breffny, thenceforward known as "Breffny O’Rourke." The O’Rourke kings took a leading
part in the wars against Elizaheth I in the late sixteenth century, from which wars they suffered
severely. They did, however, retain considerable property down to the Cromwellian confiscations of the
mid-seventeenth century, after which many of them rose to distinction in the military service of
continental powers, especially Poland and Russia.
Dhunchadha (Household of Dunchadh) or MacTernans (Mac Tighearain), also
Tierans or MacKierans (Mac Thighearnain) descend from Dunchadh, eighth-century ancestor of the
O’Rourkes. Their clan name was given to their territory, now the Barony of Tullyhunco in the west of
County Cavan. The Teallach Eachach or MacGoverns (Mag Shamhradhain, also known as Magaurans,
descend from Eochaidh, son of Maonach (Maonach was a brother of the Dunchadh mentioned above).
The patrimony of the
from Hugh McKiernan
You may like to correct a small error in the last paragraph regarding Dunchadha. He wasn't an
ancestor of the Ruarc - a quo O'Rourke - but of the teallach Dunnchadha or Mac Thighearnain line. One
must go back another few generations to find a common ancestor - Feargna, son of Fergus. Feargna's
two sons , Breanainn and Aodh Fionn begat Dunchadha and Ruarc respectively, Dunchadha having
lived and died several generations before Ruarc.. The (unaspirated) Mac Tighearnain were the even
more distant Clann Fergaile closely related to Maguire (Fergal a quo clann Fergaile was the king of
Fermanagh) and a third sept, also Mac Tighearnain were descended from Tigearnan O'Connor great
grandson of Turlough Mór, the high king of Ireland. MacGoverns lay in the northwest off County Cavan, and was called after them "Tellach Eachach," now
the Barony of TuIlyhaw, where there is a townland called Ballymagauran.
(Mac Seanlaoich), long allied with the Royal O’Conners, are of the same
stock as the
Mac Governs, and were seated in Corca Achlann, also called Corca Seachlan, in the east of County
Roscommon, and also at Ballymacshanly in the south of County Leitrim, where their chief was known
as MacShanley of Dromod. In Leitrim they were often at feud with their neighbors the MacRannalls.
The MacClancys (Mac Fhlamichadha) are an ancient family in the north of of County Leitrim, they
appear from their arms, traditional Milisian descent (see Chapter III) and long identification with Leitrim,
to be collateral kinsmen to the O’Rourkes of the Ui Briuin Breifne.
were lords of Cavan, and in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries they
dominion into parts of Meath and Westmeath, being sometimes lords of all Breffny as well. They
maintained their independence as a clan down to the time of James I in the early seventeenth century,
though they suffered heavily under the Cromweliian confiscations. Many O'Reillys rose to high
ecclesiastical rank, and five of them were primates of Armagh.
The Ui NeiIl were the great royal tribal dynasty of the North Gaels. Having separated from the royal
kinsmen, the Connachta, shortly alter the career of their illustrious fifth century ancestor Niall of the
Nine Hostages, they set out from a base in Sligo and soon (by the beginning of the sixth century)
monopolized the Sacral High-Kingship of Tara, which for hundreds of years they alternated between
their own two illustrious branches, the Nrorthern Ui Neill and the Southern Ui Neill. The Northern Ui
Neill divided into three great clans, the Cineal Eoghain. Cineal Conaill and Cineal Cairbre.
Northern Ui Neill
The Cineal Eoghan were the Royal Clan of the North Caels, associated with the High-Kingship of Tara,
though in the early period they alternated the overkingship of the north with their Cineal ConaiII cousins,
by the end of the eighth century they had monopolised the overkingship of Ulster and with it the
northern representation in the High-Kiiigship, aided by the fact that they had, with their centrally
dominant fortress of Aliech in northeast Donegal, the strategic advantage, together with the energy and
will to exploit it. Their original patrimony included the modern baronies of Raphoe and lnishowen in
Donegal, but from their center at the great fort of Ailech in Inishowen, they soon spread throughout
Derry and much of Tyrone as well (Tyrone, Gealic "Tir Eoghain", the land of Eoghain, is named for
Until the mid-thirteenth century the leading family of the Cineal Eoghain was MacLoughlin (Mac
Lochlainn) of lnishowen; in 1241 they lost a decisive battle to their kinsmen the O’Neills, and
afterwards they declined in power, though a branch became established in County Leitrim under the
The great O’Neills
(O Neill) themselves descend from Niall Glundubh, High-King of Ireland,
fighting against the Vikings near Dublin in 919. His grandson Domhnall, who flourished about 943, was
the first to bear the dynastic name of O’Neill. They were the chief family of the Cineal Eoghain from
1241, and as overlords of Tir Eoghain (which included the modern counties of Tyrone, Derry and those
northeastern parts of Donegal), and kings of Ulster they make a very distinguished group in history
from the eleventh to the seventeenth century. Such O’Neill magnates as Conn, Shane the Proud, Sir
Phelim and Owen Roe are all outstanding figures. A powerful branch of the family settled in Antrim and
Down in the fourteenth century, where they were known as Clann Aodha Bhuidhe, or the O’Neills of
Claneboy. Other branches of the O’Neills include the O’Branigans (O Branagain) of Derry, who provided
eranachs (hereditary abbots) to the churches of Derry in County Derry and Derryvullan in County
Fermanagh; the O’Rahillys (O Raithile) of Kerry, a literary family that settled early in County Kerry near
Killarney, and the MacMartins (Mac Mairtin) of County Tyrone.
(O Cathain) were a great family in County Derry, sub-kings of the Cineal
whose heads were privileged to be one of the hereditary inaugurators of the O’Neill. They rose to great
power during the twelfth century, and were lords of Keenaght, being possessed of the greater part of
what is now County Derry until their lands were confiscated by the English in the Ulster Plantation of
the sixteenth century. A branch settled in Thomond (northeast Munster). There is a sixteenth-century
O’Cahan knight’s effigy at Dungiven in County Derry. The Monros (Mac an Rothaich), derive their name
from a place at the foot of the River Roe in Derry, and according to the Clan Donald tradition, they
came into Scotland in the train of a daughter of the O’Cahan that became a MacDonald princess. They
possessed the vast district of Foulis on the Cromarty Firth in Ross, and also lands in Strathoykell.
The Roses (Rois,
Ros) take their name from the district of Ross in northern Scotland, and
connected with the O’Cahans by the Clan Donald seanachies (historians). Hugh Rose of Geddes
witnessed the foundation charter of Beauly Priory by the Bissets. They acquired their principal
holdings, the Barony of Kilvarnock in Nairnshire, by marriage with an heiress. They may have acquired
their O’Cahan connection win the same way, by marriage, and may originally have been of Norman
The Siol Gillivray
included the families of MacLachlan (Mac Lachlainn), Lamont (Mac Laomainn),
MacSorley (Mac Somhairle), MacNeil (Mac Neill) and MacEwen, and also the MacSweeneys of Ireland
and MacSweens of Skye. They descend from Anrothan O’Neill, the Ulster prince who in the first half of the eleventh century married the joint heiress of the Cineal Comhgall (after whom Cowall is named)
and their collateral kinsmen the Cineal nGabrain of Knapdale. His two grandsons, Donnshleibhe
(Dunsleve) and Domhnall (Donald) O Neill are the ancestors of the branches of the clan. From
Dunsleve, lord of Knapdale in the early thirteenth century are descended the MacLachlans, Lamonts,
MacSorleys, MacSweeneys, MacQueens or MacSweens and the MacEwens. The MacLachlans
inhabited Strathlachlan in Argyle, and had their stronghold, Castle Lachlan, on the south shore of Loch
Fyne. In 1230 the then chief Gilpatrick, son of Gilchrist (ancestor of the MacCilchrist branch of the
family, lords of Glassary—see under Scrymgeour) witnessed a charter granted to Paisley Abbey by
Laomainn, his cousin, ancestor of the Lamonts.
The Lamont territory
was in Cowall, where they were the most powerful family until the great
of several hundred of their men, women and children by the Campbells in 1646, an act of revenge for
the Lamonts’ complicity in the murder of several Campbells by MacDonnells from Antrim a few years
earlier. After foolishly surrendering their castles of Toward and Ascog (on the southern extremity of the
eastern and western peninsulas of Cowall, respectively) the garrisons, now at the mercy of the
Campbells, were cruelly tortured and put to death, and the castles burnt and razed. The grandfather of
Laomainn was the brother of Gilchrist, ancestor of the MacLachlans.
Ferchar, had two sons, Malcolm, father of Laomainn, and Duncan, ancestor
MacSorleys (Mac Somhairle) of Glassary in West Cowall, the majority of whom later assumed what
became the mutual clan-family name of Lamont. The Lyons of Glamis in the Strathmore district of
Angus descend, according to tradition, from a scion of the Lamonts of Cowall. John the son of Lyon
(Johannes fihius Leonis) and Hugo the son of Lyon (Hugo filius Leonis) were members of an inquest on
the lands of Rostinot in 1321—1322. John Lyon had a charter of lands in Perthshire ca. 1342—43 from
David II. Another John Lyon (or "Lyoun") appears, possibly the son of the former, as clerk and
secretary to David II. He was known as the "White Lyon," which suggests an epithetic allusion to the
"White Lyon on Blue" of the arms of the Lamonts, his own arms being a reversal of those colors. He
was later granted the thanage of Glamis as a free barony by King Robert II ca. 1371—72, and soon
afterwards married the king’s daughter. This family later became barons of Glamis (1445) and earls of
Strathmore. Some small broken clans in Angus are recorded as petitioning to "be allowed to take the
name of Lyon, and be counted clansmen of the Strathmores."
(Mac Suibhne) of Donegal and MacQueens or MacSweens (Mac Shuibhne)
descend from Suibhne, son of Dunsleve O’Neill, Lord of Knapdale. His grandson Murchadh was a
captain of Gallowglasses, or West Highland mercenary guards (see above under Ui Briuin Ai), and was
active in Ireland by 1267. Early in the fourteenth century the MacSweeneys made a permanent settlement in Tirconnell (County Donegal) where they served as Gallowglasses to the ruling
O’Donnells. There were three great branches of the MacSweeneys: MacSweeney of Fanad who had
the castle of Rathmullin on a large tract of land in the northeast of the barony of Kilmacrenan, itself in
the northwest of County Donegal; MacSweeney of Baghnagh, now the barony of Banagh in the west of
County Donegal, and MacSweeney, Lord of Tuatha Toraighe, or Tory Island. A branch of the first
mentioned family settled in the barony of Musketry in central County Cork, where they served as
captains of Gallowglasses for the MacCarthys. They had several castles in this area, and were known
for their hospitality. There is a sixteenth-century MacSweeney knight’s effigy at Killebegs, County
Donegal, and another at Sligo, County Sligo dated 1577, but under the variant form of O’Sweeney (O
Suibhne), which is rare. Branches of the family remained in Knapdale around Castle Sween (probably
founded by their ancestor Suibhne), and later also appear at Garafad in Skye, which they held for the
nominal annual price of a salmon as trusted vassals of the MacDonalds of Clanranald.
The "Clan Revan"
MacQueens of the Clan Chattan Confederacy were proprietors of lands in
Strathdearn, where they held Corybrough, and also in Strathfindhorn. They descend from Revan
MacQueen, who accompanied Mora MacDonald of Moidart when she went to the Clan Chattan country
to wed the tenth chief of the MacKintoshes in the early fifteenth century. Revan later fought under The
MacKintosh at the battle of Harlow in 1411.
(Mac Eoghainn) and MacLeays or Livingstones (Mac Donnshleibhe) both represent
early branches of the line of Suibhne; the former were allied with the MacLachlans, while the latter were
followers of the Stewarts of Appin. A branch of latter family was important hereditary ecclesiastics as
keepers of the pastoral staff of St. Moluag and the Castle of Achandan on the Isle of Lismore off the
coast of Appin. Their adoption of the English name of Livingstone during the mid-seventeenth century
was influenced by the fact that the Isle of Lismore was at the time under the authority of a branch of
the Lowland House of Livingston (see Chapter X). The difference in spelling is now significant to family
identification, though in earlier times Livingstone was synonymous with Livingston.
descend from Domhnall O’Neill, mentioned above. They eventually separated
great branches, the MacNeils of Barra and the McNeills of Gigha (both islands off the west coast of
Scotland, the latter lies just off the coast of Cowall). Both families were originally folrowers of the
MacDonalds as vassals of the lords of the Isles (from whose Clanranald branch the MacNeils inherited
the Island of Barra in the Outer Hebrides about 1400), but after the downfall of the MacDonald lords in
the late fifteenth century, the Barra branch followed the MacLeans of Duart, while the Gigha branch,
who also held lands in northwest Cowall, subsequently followed the MacDonalds of Islay. The two
branches were afterwards found fighting on opposing sides in the clan-wars between the MacLeans and MacDonalds. A fourteenth-century branch of the
MacNeills settled in Antrim and Derry.
(O Croidheagain) of the Cineal Eoghain, also known as the Creghans or Crehans,
originally inhabited the Cineal Eoghain lands in Donegal, but later removed to Sligo, where they
became wealthy merchants and landowners. They were one of the few early merchant families of native
(pre-Viking-and-Norman) stock. The O’Donnellys (O Donnghaile) are descended from Donnghal, fourth
in descent from Domhnall, King of Ailech, who was himself the brother of Niall Glundubh, eponymous
ancestor of the O’Neills. The O’Donnellys were originally seated at Drumleen, north of Lifford in County
Donegal; but were expelled from there by the Cineal Connell, and afterwards settled at Ballydonnelly,
now called Castle Caufield, west of Dungannon in County Tyrone. Here the famous Shane O’Neill was
fostered by the O’Donnellys, who were hereditary marshalls of The O’Neill’s forces.
(O hEighceartaigh) of the Cineal Eoghain were chiefs in the present barony
Loughinsholin in the south of County Derry, and by about the beginning of the seventeenth century
some of them settled in the baronies of Barrymore and Carbery West in County Cork. The family was
numerous in the Irish Brigades of France, and several O’Hegartys were, during the eighteenth century,
particularly distinguished in that service.
The Cineal Moen
or O’Gormleys (O Goirmleaghaigh) were a sub-clan of the Cineal Eoghain
seated in what is now the barony of Raphoe, County Donegal. They were expelled from Donegal, as
were their kinsmen the O’Donnellys, in the thirteenth century, and afterwards settled on the opposite
side of Lough Foyle, between Strabane and Derry. They held considerable property until the
confiscations attendant to the Plantation of Ulster in 1608.
(O hAgain) of the Cineal Eoghain descend from Tighearnach, who was a son
Muireadhach mac Eoghain, and thus a grandson of Eoghain, the eponymous ancestor of the clan.
They were divided into two groups: The main being chiefs of Cineal Fearghusa, a territory around
Tullaghoge or Tullahogue in County Tyrone (Tir Eoghain), and the other being chiefs of Cineal
Tighearnaigh in County Derry, where their presence is recalled by the place called Ballyagan (there is
another Ballyhagan in Antrim). It was the hereditary privilege of the O’Hagans to inaugurate The O’Neill
at their seat of Tullahogue (along with the O’Cahans).
(O Beollain) or Gillanders (Giolla Aindreas) of the Cineal Eoghain were
(hereditary abbots) of St. Maelrubha at Applecross in Ross-shire, as discussed in Chapter IV. They
were a powerful princely family, and became earls of Ross in the early thirteenth century. Towards the
end of the fourteenth century they inherited the chiefship of the Clann Aindreas, or Clann Giolla
Aindreas (Clan Gillanders), a native Pictish tribe related to the MacKenzies and Mathesons and among
whom they had long been ecclesiastical and secular leaders. At about the same time they were
artificially dispossessed of the Earldom of Ross by the King of Scots, and afterwards the family adopted as a
surname what had for some time been the descriptive epithet of (de) Ross. They are also known by the
patronymic of MacAndrew (Mac Gille Aindreas) from the clan name, while the original family name of O
Beollain survives as MacBeolain, following Scottish prefix usage. A branch of the O’Beolains became
hereditary abbots (erenaghs) of the Columban church at Drumcliffe in Sligo, and were famous for their
hospitality. Some of the MacAndrews settled in the Clan Chattan country, and sought the protection of
the MacKintosh about 1400. The MacBeolains occupied Glenshiel and the south side of Loch Duich as
far as Kylerhea. Fearcher MacTaggart (Mac an tSagairt—"the son of the priest") of Applecross was
created Earl of Ross in 1234.
It is interesting
that the "three lions rampant" in the arms of the O’Beolain earls of Ross
are unique in
Scotland, and in Ireland occur only in the arms of families with ecclesiastical affiliations with the
Connacht area (witness the arms of the O’Scanlans, O’Horans, O’Garas and O’Kearneys). Even the
"three lions passant" of the Dalcassian O’Briens may reflect a Connacht connection. We need only
consider the short genealogy of the Ui Toirdealbhaigh, their late acquisition of Dalcassian leadership
(which was based on the success of the Ui Toirdealbhaigh against the Vikings), and also the fact that
a number of Connacht families spread south as either ecclesiastical (O’Scanlan) or temporal (O’Heyne
and O’Cahill) families. A number of medieval families considered "Dalcassian" are known to have
origins in Connacht, including the O’Heaneys, O’Hehirs, O’Markahans and O’Kearneys. Though their
primary identification was with Cashel in Munster, the O’Kearneys also had connections with the
Columban foundations at Derry and Drumcliffe.
or Cairdeneys (Cardanaigh) of Foss in Perthshire descend from Sir John
de Ross, son of
the Earl of Ross, who came south in the train of Euphemia de Ross in anticipation of her marriage to
Robert The Stewart in 1355. Not long after the accession of Robert and Euphemia as King and Queen
of Scots in 1371, John de Ross received a grant from the King of the barony of Cardeney near Dunkeld,
in which charter he is styled dilectus consanguineus foster. He assumed the epithet "de Cardeney" to
replace that of "de Ross" (Ross was not yet a surname), and it was apparently his son William who
married Rinald MacNair (Mac an Oighre), the heiress of Foss in nearby Rannoch. Another son, Robert
de Cardeney, was bishop of Dunkeld in the early fifteenth century, and a daughter, Mariota, was
mistress to Robert II. Mariota gave the King a number of natural children (Alexander Stewart of
Inverlunan, James Stewart of Kinfaus, and John Stewart of Cardeney) and also had natural issue by
Alexander MacNaughton, chief of the MacNachtans. This last was Dr. Donald MacNaughton, dean of
Dunkeld during the tenure of his uncle (Robert de Cardeney) whom he succeeded as bishop.
Foss was in the
Appin (abbey land) of Dull which was granted about 1200 to the Priory of
by the then bishop of Dunkeld. The MacNairs are the first family found in possession of Foss after the abbey lands were secularized in the early
fourteenth century. The name Mac an Oighre has a coarbial ring to it (like Mac an tSagairt above and
Mac an Aba Oighre — "the son of the heir of the abbot"—the Gaelic style of the MacNabs of Inchewin
in Glendochart, the old senior line of the MacNabs dispossessed by Robert I), and probably refers to
the heir of the abbey lands of Dull, centered at the mouth of Glen Lyon and the north end of Loch Tay
(see page 9). As the MacNaughtons were also settled here before they were set up as keepers of the
King’s castle on Loch Awe about 1250 (their collaterals the MacLeans, who share with them the
armorial quartering of the "hand holding a blue cross" of the Lismore co-arbial kindred, also returned to
Loin under royal patronage about this time), the MacNairs may represent a twelfth-century
ecclesiastical branch of the clan. In this case, William Cardeney’s connection with Foss may have
precipitated Mariota’s liaison with the chief of the MacNaughtons. The MacNairs remained in Rannoch
until the time of the reformation, by which time Foss had passed from the Cairdeney lairds to the
Stewarts. After that the MacNairs are found with the MacNaughtons in Argyle. The Cairdeneys held
lnchewan (by Dunkeld) and other lands in Perthshire, remained Roman Catholic, and adhered to the
Stewarts, as did the MacNaughtons, who were forfeited for their Jacobite sympathies in 1691. John
Cairny, son of Robert Cairfly of Tulcho in Perthshire, appears in the 1678 muster roll of the King’s Life
Guard of Horse under (the younger) Murray of Atholl.
The Cineal Cairbre
or Clann Chairbre descend from Cairbre, son of Niall of the Nine Hostages.
patrimony was in what is now the barony of Carbury, in the north of County Sligo. One of their line,
Tuathal Maelgarb, was High-King of Tara in 544. But their main representative in later times was the
family of O’Brolan (O Breollain), descended from Ainmire, brother of King Tuathal, being the son of
Cormac Caoch, son of Cairbre, eponymous ancestor of the clan.
The Cineal Conaill
descend from Conall Gulban, son of Nial of the Nine Hostages and were possessed
of the territory of Tirconaill (the land of Conall), now County Donegal. They provided High-Kings of Tara
alternately with their Cineal Eoghain cousins until the end of the eighth century, the Cineal Eoghain
being dominant as overlords of the Northern Ui Niell from the end of the eighth century onward. This
state of affairs was contributed to by the geographical disposition of the. Cineal Conaill in mountainous
and remote west Ulster. In this relatively isolated position, the Cineal Conaill in Donegal lacked the
strategic geographical advantage enjoyed by the Cineal Eoghain at Ailech and in County Derry.
The Clan Dalaigh
or O’Donnells (O’DomhnaiU) of Tirconaill originally possessed the patrimony
Luighdheach (the descendants of Lugaid, son of Setnae, uncle of St. Columba), their original
clan-name, it having been applied to the mountainous district between the River Swilly and the River Dobhar in north-central Donegal: The territory around Kilmacrenan. They derive their clan-name from
their ancestor Dalach, Lord of Tir-conaill, who died in 868, and who was the first of their immediate
ancestors to become Lord of Tir-conaill, a dignity continued by his son Eigheachan, father of their
eponymous ancestor Domhnall. They did not, however, again become chiefs of the Cineal Conaill until
the thirteenth century, when they rose on the downfall of some of their Cineal Conaill kinsmen, the
O’Canannains or O’Cannons (O Canannain) and O’Muldorys or O’Mulderrys (O Maoldoraidh). Both of
these families are now very rare.
O’Donnells established themselves as the ruling family of the Cineal Conaill
Donegal, and continued as such for centuries, until the final submergence of the Gaelic order in the
seventeenth century. The O’Donnells, as princes of Donegal, were consistently one of the most able
families in the Gaelic aristocracy, and not only successfully defended their territory against both the
English and native adversaries alike, but they also made their power respected throughout the north
and west of Ireland. Their most famous chief was Hugh Roe (Red Hugh) O’Donnell, who escaped his
treacherous imprisonment by the English at Dublin Castle (he was rescued, after his bold escape, by
The O’Hagan, and with the assistance of the Wicklow clans) and later fought at Kinsale. Rory
O’Donnell was with The O’Neill in the Flight of the Earls at the beginning of the seventeenth century,
while other famous O’Donnells distinguish the pages of Irish and Continental history during the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. A branch of the family (descended from Shane Luirg, son of
Turlough O’Donnell of the Wine, Lord of Tir-conaill in the early fifteenth century) became established in
Limerick and Tipperary.
(O Firghil) descend from Eoghan, nephew of Sedna, ancestor of the Clann
brother of the illustrious and sanctified prince of the Cineal Conaill who established Iona in the sixth
century: St. Columba (also known as St. Columcille—see Chapter IV). The O’Friels were hereditary
abbots (erenaghs) of Kilmacrenan in the old Clann Dalaigh country in Donegal. The O’Freil had the
privilege of inaugurating The O’Donnell as chief of the Cineal Conaill and lord of Tirconnell (Tir-Conaill).
related to the Clann Dalaigh, being of the same stock within the Cineal
Conaill, are the
O’Boyles (O Baoighill), O’Cullinans (O Cuileannain) and the Cineal Edna. The O’Boyles were one of the
principal families of the Cineal Corinail. Originally chiefs of the Three Tuaths in the northwest of County
Donegal, when these lands passed into the hands of the MacSweeneys, The O’Boyle became chief of
Tir-Ainmhireach in the west of the same county. This territory was afterwards known as Crioch
Bhaoigheallach, or O’Boyle’s country, now the barony of Boylagh. During the wars attendant to the
reign of Elizabeth they spread into different parts of Ireland. The O’Cullinans (the name was changed
after about 1700 to the form Cullen) were chiefs around Mullinashee in what is now the Barony of Raphoe, County Donegal. Several of the family, sons of the
Chief, were important ecclesiastics at the end of the sixteenth and first half of the seventeenth
centuries, Of these, Glaisne O’Cullinan (1558—1584), Cistercian Abbot of Boyle, was martyred (that
is, murdered by the English) and Dr. John Cullinan (1585—1653) was Bishop of Raphoe and suffered
much persecution, ending his career as a prominent supporter of Rinnuccini at the Confederation of
The Cineal Enda
or O’Dohertys (O Dochartaigh) were originally settled in Ardmire (Ard Miodhair)
barony of Raphoe, but about the beginning of the fifteenth century they became lords of Inishowen in
the northeastern corner of County Donegal. Afterwards they were one of the most influential families in
Tirconnell (Tir-Conaill), retaining their position as lords of Inishowen down to the reign of James the
First in the early seventeenth century, at which time their lands were confiscated as a result of the
rebellion of Sir Cahir O’Dogherty. The O’Gallaghers (O Gallchobhair) descend from Maolchobha,
High-King of Tara in 615. They were powerful in Tir-Conaill, and as marshalls of O’Donnell’s forces, they
took a prominent part in all the military actions of the Cineal Conaill during the fourteenth and
subsequent centuries. Many of them were distinguished bishops of Raphoe and Derry.
The Cineal Conaill
in Scotland were known as the Kindred of St. Columba, the great saint who
lona. This epithet was applied to all the descendants of St. Columba’s great-grandfather, Conall
Gulban, but was especially applied to branches within the clan devoted to ecclesiastical pursuits,
especially in Scotland. Thus the Kindred was comprised of several early saints, and also of the
hereditary abbots of Iona, Kells, Derry and Dunkeld, some of whom were descended from the Saint
Columba’s brother. The Kindred of St. Columba remained closely connected to the Abbey at lona
despite changes in political control and the distance from the Cineal Conall homeland in Donegal. In
1164 King Somerled of the Isles (see under MacDonald) invited the chief co-arb (see Chapter IV) of St.
Columba to accept the Abbacy of lona; but the Cineal Connaill would not allow the Columban primacy
(which first went from lona to Kells, and then to Derry in Donegal, the homeland of the Kindred) to pass
from Derry back to the Hebrides.
The Abbacy was
then offered to members of the O’Brollaghan branch of the Cineal Eoghan,
Derry-based ecclesiastical family with splendid masonic skills, but their talented representative at Iona
died in 1203. This left a void at Iona, an absence of the Columban Kindred, and so Ranald, next King of
the Isles had no choice but to follow the Scottish example at Scone and install a foreign order, in this
case the Benedictine Order, at lona. This inevitably led to high-strung local dissension by those who
preferred the native way of the (Celtic) Columban church, which had had hereditary, non-celibate
abbots of the Kindred administering the abbey estates. Finally, in 1204, the Cineal Conaill, led by two
bishops and two abbots all of the Kindred of St. Columba, raided Iona and demolished a monastery erected on Columban land by the new Benedictine abbot, and
proclaimed the then Abbot of Derry, who was a descendant of St. Columba’s brother, to be Abbot of
Iona as well.
The Kindred of
St. Columba had come into the Crown of Scotland in earlier times, when
daughter of Malcolm II, King of Albany married Crinan (ca. 975—1045), Thane (temporal lord) and
(hereditary) Abbot of Dunkeld, and Seneschal (household officer or administrator) of the Isles. Crinan’s
line was probably a branch of the Cineal Luighdheach, mentioned above (Moncreiffe 211). The Cineal
Luigheheach were heads of the Columban church in Scotland since the removal of that primacy from
Jona to Dunkeld several generations before (see Chapter IV). The sons of Bethoc and Crinan were King
Duncan I of Albany (killed in 1040), whose descendants bore arms of the colors red on gold; and
Maldred, Ruler of Cumbria, who married the daughter of the Earl of Beornicia, and whose descendants
bore arms of the colors red on silver (white). From Maldred’s son Gospatric, Earl of Beornicia (which
passed from English to Scottish control during his tenture, and whose original Saxon House is
represented in the male line by the Swintons of that Ilk), are descended the families of Dunbar, Dundas
The Dunbars descend
from the above mentioned Gospatrick, who was also known as Earl of
Northumbria and who was forced to flee that earldom, but was later given the barony of Dunbar in East
Lothian by his cousin Malcolm III, Ceann-Mor ("great-head"), who was killed in 1093, Later his line
acquired additional lands in what is now southwest Scotland. His descendants, the earls of Dunbar,
thus became the head of an important Lowland family. In the fourteenth century their then chief married
the heiress of the Randolf earl of Moray, and by 1579 the Privy Council describes the Dunbars of
northwest Moray as a clan. The Dundases descend from a son of Gospatrick of Northumbria who was
given a charter of the lands of Dundas in West Lothian about the mid-twelfth century. They became an
important landed family around Edinburgh. John de Dundas acquired a charter of the barony of Fingask
in Perthshire in 1364—65.
take their name from the lands of Moncreiff in the parish of Dunbarny in
Perthshire (Strathearn) on the north side of the River Earn near its mouth. From their arms (coat of
arms) and early history they appear to be a branch of the House of Dundas. Sir Mathew of Moncreiff
obtained a charter from Sir Roger de Mowbray, Sheriff of Edinburgh, Linlithgow and Haddington of the
lands of Moncreiff and Balconachin, which in 1248 were confirmed to him and erected into a free
barony by a subsequent charter from Alexander II. He also held the lands of Culdares and Duneaves on
the northeast side of Loch Tay in Atholl, which appear to have been his family’s earliest possessions.
John de Moncreiff was granted a charter of Moncreiff by Alexander III between 1250 and 1286, and all
these lands, including those in Atholl and Strathearn, were formally incorporated into the barony of Moncreiffe in 1455. William Moncreiff of that ilk rode with the earl of Atholl on a raid into
Northumberland in 1296.
The Clann Donnachaidh
or Robertsons (Mac Raibeirt) descend from Conan, bastard only son of Henry,
Earl of AthoIl (died in 1210), who granted Conan wide lands in the Rannoch district of western AthoIl.
Henry was a descendant of King Duncan I, mentioned above. The Robertsons take their clan-name,
which means "children (descendants) of Duncan," from their early fourteenth-century chief Duncan of
Atholl. They take the family name of Robertson from their fourth chief, Raibeirt Riabhach, "Grizzled
Robert" Duncanson, whose lands were erected into the barony of Struan in 1451 by King James II as a
reward for the previous capture of Sir Robert Graham, slayer of James I (see under Graham). The
Robertsons were a vast and powerful clan in Rannoch, and very important in the history of the district.
The Serpent and Dove supporters on the arms of their chief, Straun Robertson, allude to their belonging
to the Kindred of St. Columba, whose name means "dove" of the church (there is an old proverb found
on the privy seal of King Alexander III, a cousin of the line of Conan, which translates "be as wise as
the serpent and gentle as the dove").
The Clan MacDuff
descends from Gillemichael mac Duff, Earl of Fife in about 1133. But the
significance of the name Duff (Dubh) goes back to the line of Duff, King of Albany in 967, whose
descendants’ patrimony was in Fife (the "kingdom" of Fife). His line, the Clan Duff, was collateral with
the line of King Duff’s brother, King Kenneth II, and the two lines alternated the High-Kingship of Albany
until 1034, as both lines had their ultimate origin in sons of King Malcolm I of the line of the Cineal
Gabhran who had inherited the Picto-Gaelic crown (hence their traditional descent, in the female line,
from Conall Cearnach, traditional ancestor of the Cruithne).
Both of these
lines ended in heiresses about the year 1034: The Line of Kenneth II ending
who married Crinan, hereditary Abbot of Dunkeld, of the Kindred of St. Columba, mentioned above; and
the Line of Duff ending in Gruoch, who married Gillacomgan, Mormaer (King) of Moray, of the line of the
Cineal Loam. Their son, Lulach, was thus Chief of Clan Duff (in those presurname times of Picto-Gaelic
succession) and King of Moray, and was as well a rival King of Albany. His daughter and heiress, the
Princess of Moray and heiress of Clann Duff appears to have "married" Eth (Aedh, later Aodh, Gaelic
form of Aethelred), Last Abbot of Dunkeld, who himself was the eldest of the four royal sons of Malcolm
III (whose father was Duncan I, mentioned above, heir of the Royal line collateral to the Clan Duff) by
his second wife, St. Margaret, a daughter of the Saxon King of England (Duncan II, son of Malcolm III
by an earlier marriage, was the ancestor of the famous "MacWilliam" claimants).
Eth seems to
have been debarred from the throne, which could have been because of a
taboo) or perhaps because he was already an Abbot. He was nonetheless the first earl of Fife, probably in right of his wife. His sons included Angus, King of
Moray (killed 1130), and also Duff, Malcolm and Gillecoimded. These sons had a number of important
inheritances to consider. There was the Kingship of Moray, and also the chiefship of the Clann Duff,
and in the male-line, also the senior descent of, or position of precedence within, the royal Kindred of
St. Columba in Scotland. The descendants of Duff (who predeceased his father Eth) took the latter two,
as the senior line, while the descendants of Malcolm and Gillecoimded "MacEth" threw in their lot with
the Moray-men, whose Gaelic laws would prefer the succession of the living brothers of their king,
Angus, over his living nephews, the descendents of Duff. On the death of Eth (Aedh), the Moray-men
rose under King Angus and his brother Malcolm MacEth (Mac Aedh) in an attempt to put Angus on the
throne of the Scots (as a son of the Abbot-Earl Eth, and as representative of the dispossessed Clan
Duff). This was a reaction in part to the Normanizing influence at the Scottish court of David I, and in
fact they were defeated and Angus killed by David’s Norman mercenaries. Malcolm (called "Jan" or
ruler of Moray by the Norwegians) married a daughter of Somerled of the Isles, and carried on the
struggle until one of his sons, Donald MacAedh, was captured by the forces of King Malcolm IV in
At this point
Malcolm became nominally reconciled with the King of Scots, and was made
Ross, a post he held till his death in 1168. His grandson, Kenneth MacAedh, made a final attempt at
the crown of the Scots in 1215, but was defeated and beheaded by the ancestor of the Ross clan, who
subsequently became Earl of Ross (see Chapter IV). During these struggles, in about 1163, King
Malcolm IV attempted to deprive Malcolm MacAedh of the earldom of Ross in order to give it to his own
foreign brother-in-law, the Count of Holland (many knightly Flemings had already settled in Moray).
Accordingly, the King transported many of the Moraymen extramontanas Scociae, that is, beyond the
mountains of Scotland into Caithness, which was still under Norse control (Moncreiffe 145). The Jarl of
Orkney and Caithness at the time was Harold, son-in-law of Earl Malcolm MacAedh.
It is in the
extreme northwest of Scotland, in the district known as Strathnaver in
that the later MacAedh chiefs appear in the early thirteenth century, and here the MacAedh chiefs gave
rise to a very important clan, later known as the Clann Aodha or MacKays (Mac Aodha, earlier
MacAedh), whose chiefs held Strathnaver for many centuries. They were also known as the Clan
Morgan, Morgan having been a favorite name in the royal house of Moray. They adopted their current
arms in the seventeenth century to reflect their traditional kinship with the Forbes clan, but their original
arms were three blue stars on silver, with a hand in chief, that is, the Royal arms and colors of the
Kingdom of Moray, surmounted by a hand symbolizing "true family." They also share the "butcher’s
broom" plant badge (a symbol of tribalism) with their successors in the Kingdom of Moray, the Murrays
and Sutherlands. A branch went early to Ireland as gallowglasses (see under O’Crowley), the name being
Anglicized there as MacCoy.
Duff mac Eth
himself had two sons, Constantine MacDuff, second Earl of Fife, and Gillemichael
MacDuff, third Earl of Fife (ca. 1133). From Gillemichael are descended the later earls of Fife (which
earldom they held "by the grace of God," allodially, and not by feudal charter from the King of Scots),
allies of the kings of Scots of the line of David I. As the descendants of Eth, first Earl of Fife, they bear
as a coat of arms the Royal Arms of the King of Scots undifferenced, that is, without the "Royal
Tressure" (double flory counterflory) that marks the arms of the line of King David 1, younger brother of
Eth. This marks the heraldic seniority of their line to that of the kings of Scots themselves, as per
These earls were
the chiefs of Clan MacDuff, a clan-name combining the sense of "Clan Duff"
"Clan (Gillemichael) MacDuff." As the "senior" kindred and also as the heirs of the Sacred Family of
Dunkeld, these earls held the most honored position of precedence in Scotland, an almost sacred
position born of their lineage. The County of Fife is still referred to as the Kingdom of Fife, and the
Earl’s Kindred were legally accountable under a special code of ancient Scots law known as "the Law
of Clan MacDuff," which meant that they could literally "get away with murder" (for a fee, and if they
could first make it to the sanctuary cross of MacDuff near Abernethy in Strathearn). The earls of Fife
held rich lands in the Lowlands of Fife, Stirlingshire, East Lothian and Midlothian, and these Lowland
tracts were the chief seat of their power, which was centered in Fife. Nonetheless they also held wide
lands in the Highlands of Perthshire, Banffshire, Inverness-shire and Moray.
who inherited the chiefship of the Clan Chattan, are a branch of the Clan
(see under MacKintosh), as are the MacBuffs (MacDuibh), barons of Fandowie in the Strathbran
district of Perthshire (a position they held as late as 1602). Alexander McDuff (sic), brother of the laird
of Balanloan in Atholl, appears in a list of gentlemen on the Atholl estates who took part in the Rising
of 1745. The MacDuffs of Bonhard in Perthshire are nineteenth-century representatives of this family.
most important branches of the House of Fife, including the main branch,
the earls of
Fife, never adopted the patronymic of MacDuff. Instead the various branches of the House of Fife
adopted such names as Wemyss, Abernethy, Spens, and Scrymgeour. The Wemyss take their name
from the lands of that name on the other Fife side of the Firth of Forth opposite the city of Edinburgh.
The ancestor of the family was Sir John de Methkil, son of Michael de Methkil (a place in Fife), who in
1228 witnessed a charter by Malcolm, seventh Earl of Fife, being himself descended of that house. He
held land in east Lothian, and as John de Methkil he granted the church of Wemys (Wemyss) in Fife to
House of Soltre sometime before 1240. His father was also known as Michael de Wemys. Sir David
Wemyss was chosen ambassador to Norway in 1286. The family adhered to The Bruce during the Scottish War of Independence, and in
1316 David de Wemys witnessed the homage of Duncan, Earl of Fife, to the Abbot of Dunfermline. On
the failure of the male-line of the earls of Fife (the earldom was resigned to the House of Stewart by the
last of the original line, a countess, in 1372), and the male-line of the House of Abernethy (by 1334),
the head of the Wemyss family became the senior male-line representative of the House of Fife, and
were later vested in the Undifferenced arms as chiefs of Clan MacDuff.
descend from the hereditary abbots of the Culdee monastery at Abernethy,
the senior cadet (branch) family of the House of Fife. Hugh, Abbot of Abernethy, died about 1150. He
was succeeded by his son Orm de Abernethy, who appears as a charter witness for the Bishop of St.
Andrews before 1162. He may have given his name to the lands of Ormiston in East Lothian, which are
contiguous with those of Salton, which were in the possession of his descendants, under their title of
Lord Abernethy (a title which passed through heiresses after 1334, and ultimately to the Hamiltons by
the sixteenth century). The House of Abernethy possessed the right to inaugurate the King of Scots as
ecclesiastical representatives of the House of Fife branch of the Kindred of St. Columba. Between 1189
and 1196 King William the Lion granted the church of Abernethy to the Abbey of Arbroath, which had
been founded in the early thirteenth century by King William the Lion (of the line of David I and the
Kindred of St. Columba) as the seat of a new order in conjunction with the gradual secularization of the
old Celtic abbeys, a task completed by about 1300 under King Robert Bruce. About the same time
Lawrence, son of Orm de Abirnythy (sic), conveyed to the church and monks of Arbroath his whole
right "In the advowson of the church of Abernethy." This can only refer to the kind of secularization of
the old Celtic abbey-lands referred to in Chapter IV, for Lawrence de Abernethy retained the land and
position of dominus or lord of Abernethy. The seal of Sir Alexander de Abernethy in 1296 bears the
Abernethy coat of arms, a differenced version of the arms of the House of Fife, born on the breast of an
eagle displayed (see under Lindsay).
have long been an important family around Dundee and in the Kingdom of
in the late fourteenth century they inherited a vast territory in Glassary in Argyle from the MacGilchrist
lords of Glassary. The Scrymgeours descend from Alexander Schyrmeschur, son of Colyn, son of
Carin of Cupar, who obtained in 1293 a tack or lease of the land of Torr, or Torer, in the parish of Cupar,
Fife from Thomas de Kylmaron (also in Cupar). He held the office of Royal Bannerman, and in 1298
was made Constable of the Royal castle of Dundee by charter from the great Lowland war leader and
Guardian of Scotland, Sir William Wallace. He was later executed by the English for carrying the Royal
Banner for Bruce at the Battle of Methven. His ancestors appear in Coupar at least as early as the first
half of the thirteenth century, and held the hereditary office of standard-bearer, or bannerman, of Scotland since the days of
Alexander III (1249—1286).
In earlier times
the leadership of the van of battle, which the Bannerman represented, was
held by the
King’s royal Cineal Conaill cousins, the earls of Fife, chiefs of Clan MacDuff (as descendants of the
last abbot of Dunkeld, also first earl of Fife). Taking into account the fact that the Scrymgeours arose in
Cupar, the original demesne of the House of Fife, and also that they long held land in the barony of
Dunkeld, it seems likely that the Scrymgeours inherited the sacred office of bannerman as a younger
branch of the House of Fife. This would be consistent with the common practice of delegating
hereditary duties to younger branches of the parent clan. This is supported by the arms of the family,
which has the Royal "Lyon" of the House of Fife with the colors reversed (a common early method of
marking cadetship or "cadency" in heraldry) and with the addition of a bent or "used" sword, as per the
name. The name Scrymgeour is from the Old French "eskermisor"—"sword fighter" —a descriptive
name which indicates that the original bearer was a skirmisher, that is, one who fights in the
preliminary encounters of two opposing forces.
The task of the
Bannerman was to carry the vexillum regi urn—the Royal lion-banner of Scotland—in
the van of battle. This was an ancient function, for before heraldry came into general use in the latter
part of the twelfth century, the armies of the kings of Albany had been led into battle by an abbot
carrying a sacred reliquary, or vexillum. The specific reliquaries concerned here were, naturally, those
connected with St. Columba: St. Columba’s crozier, which was used in this capacity at least as late
as 918, but more especially the "Brecbennoch" or "Battle-Victory" (Gaelic "Cath-Buaidh") reliquary of
St. Columba (St. Andrew was the patron saint of the kingdom, that of Albany and its later acquisitions,
but the Royal House had by this time long since regained its position as the chief family of the
Columban Kindred in Scotland, and so St. Columba was of course its patron saint).
reliquary probably went back to Iona and then Ireland with the final exodus
Columban clergy from Dunkeld, but the Brecbennoch stayed in the possession of the now unrivaled
Royal representatives of the Cineal Connaill in Scotland, the House of Fife and the line of David I. In
1211 William the Lion gave custody of the Brecbennoch to the monks of his newly founded monastery
at Arbroath, granting along with it the lands of Forglen "given to God and to St. Columba and to the
Brecbennoch" in return for service to the Royal army with the Brecbennoch. After doing such service,
presumably with the Brecbennoch, at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314 the Abbot of Arbroath granted
hereditary custody of the Brecbennoch to Malcolm de Monymusk (an estate in Aberdeenshire) early in
1315 "to be held by the said Malcolm and his heirs on condition that he and they shall perform in our
name the service in the king’s army which pertains to the Brecbennoch, as often as occasion shall arise." His family came to an end before 1400, but in any case the
Scrymgeours had long been in possession of the similar but more important office of Bannerman. It
was the creation of this office for the Fife Kindred (later represented by the Scrymgeours) who already
had charge of the Brecbennoch, that probably led to the Brecbennoeh being given to the Arbroth
monks in the first place, as per the King’s wishes. Yet an at least partly aprocryphal story is told by
Boece regarding the acquisition by the Scrymgeours of the post of bannerman of the vexillum regium
and their name. In an early historical work, the Crnnikls, Boece asserts that in the days of King
Alexander I (1107-1124) or, as an inconsistency, King Malcolm (Malcolm IV?- 1153-c.1175), the King
traveled to Monymusk to fight his rivals for the Crown (the Moray-men) hut saw his bannerman
"trembling for fear of enemies and not passing so pertly forward as he desired." At this point the King
took the banner from him and gave it to one "Sir Alexander Carron," who was given the significant
Later in the
same book Boece asserts that Sir Alexander Carron won his new surname by
forward in a skirmishing party of picked men, with the vexillion region, and defeating and killing the
opposition. First of all, the date is far too early, as the family of Scrymgcour only held the office from
the reign of Alexander III (1249 -1216), and the first of the name Scrymgeour does not appear until the
career of Alexander, grandson of Carin, who fought bravely as Bannerman for both Wallace and Bruce
in the Scottish wars of independence. It is clearly he that this romantic story is really about, the
character Sir Alexander Carron being apparently a combination of his name with that of his earliest
recorded ancestor, Carin of Cupar, with the added flavor of an older "Brechennoch" tradition connected
with the struggles of David I against the "Moray-men." The story is probably meant to contrast the
bravery of Sir Alexander with the relative ineffectiveness of those other vexillum-bearers, the monks of
Arbroth, hence the mention of the relatively obscure estate of Monymusk.
The Spens too
are descended from the house of Fife, and appear to have branched off the
sometime after the family of Wemyss. They take their name from the office of Spence or Spense, from
dispensa, Latin despensario, that of custodian of the larder or provision room, in this case apparently
originally connected with Inchaffray Abbey in Strathearn. The post apparently evolved into a royal
government office, in the same way that the Stewart or Steward of the King’s household (that is, the
whole Kingdom) himself became a royal officer of realm-wide responsibility. Several persons named
Spensa or Dispensa are mentioned as government officials from the thirteenth century onwards,
including one in 1529 for whom there is entry in the royal accounts of livery for "John Spens at the
cupboard." Roger Dispensator witnessed a charter by the bishop of Moray between 1202 and 1222.
Thomas Dispensator witnessed excambion of time lands of Dolays Mychel (Dallas) in 1232. John Spens was baillie of Irvine, 1260, and Thomas de (a contemporary conventional
form of Norman-French "le," also evident in Gaelic) Spensa witnessed a charter in favour of the Hospital
of Soltre, Midlothian, between 1296 and 1324. One of these early Spenses was a scion of the House of
Fife, and the office was probably hereditary in the family for a time. Thomas de Spensa and Laurence
de Spensa appear as witnesses in Perth in 1375, and Henry Spens witnessed a charter by Robert,
Earl of Fife, about 1390. Fergus de la Spens held a tenement in Edinburgh in 1392 and John de
Spensa was a burgess of Perth in 1426 and had a grant of lands in the earldom of Mentieth. The family
held considerable estates in mid and eastern Fife towards the end of the sixteenth century including
that of Lathallan. Thomas Spens was an important bishop of Aberdeen in the latter half of the fifteenth
Southern Ui Neill
The Southern Ui Neill alternated the High-Kingship of Tara with their cousins of the Northern Ui Neill.
They established themselves near Tara in the late fifth century, as several of the sons of Nial of the
Nine Hostages settled in the east of the territory of Mide (Westmeath and North Offaly) just west of
Tara. By the seventh century the Southern Ui Neill were masters of Brega (which included the sacred
center at Tara in what is now County Meath) and were also firmly established as masters of the whole
of the expansive territory of Mide (Westmeath and North Offaly). This territory stretched across the
center of Ireland to the Shannon, and included Uisnech, the important traditional center of the Island,
as meeting-place of the traditional "five fifths" of Ireland.
Here the Clann
Cholmain, a collateral line to the Sil nAedo Slaine (the Seed of Aed of
Slane) of Brega,
established themselves as overlords of Mide under the title of Rig Uisnef ("king of Uisnech"). The center
of their power was in the heart of what is now Westmeath, and their royal residences reflect this, they
being either on or by Lough Ennell in the center of Westmeath. Thus there were, through the tenth
century, two overkingdoms of the Southern Ui Neill, the Sil nAedo Slaine of Brega (Meath with parts of
Dublin and Louth) and the Clann Cholmain of Mide. The former were more important during the seventh
century, and possessed the site of Tara, though their princes resided some five miles to the southeast
at Lagore. Eight of their kings were also High-Kings of Tara, and with this monopoly went the
overkingship of the Southern Ui Neill. But after the death of their king, Cinead, in 728, it was the
ClannCholmain who monopolised the overlordship of the Southern Ui Neill (which included the right to
alternate the High-Kingship of Tara with the Northern Ui Neill), except for a brief period between 944
The Clann Cholmain
thus became the royal clan of the Southern Ui Neill. They became established
kings in Mide (Westmeath and North Offaly) from the sixth century onwards. Their chief family in later
times was that of O’Melaghhn, later MacLoughlin (O Maoilsheachlainn) of Meath (now counties Meath and Westmeath,
with north Offaly). The O’Melaghlins were kings of Meath, and descended from Maelsheachlainn, or
Malachy II, High King of Ireland (died 1022) at the time of the rise of Brian Boru (ancestor of the
O’Briens of North Munster or Thomond). After the Anglo-Norman invasion, the territory of Meath fell
under the control of the Norman Hugh de Lacy, and the territory of the MacLoughlins was restricted to
the barony of Clonlonan in the southwest of what is now County Westmeath. They were, however, one
of only five Gaelic families privileged to use English Laws, which meant protection under the law of the
conqueror. Nonetheless the property of the family was yet further reduced by the confiscations of the
seventeenth century, and they sank into relative obscurity.
The Cineal Fiachach
descend from Fiacha, son of Nial of the Nine Hostages. They were a great
among the Southern Ui Neill, under the overlordship of Mide, and their original patrimony extended from
Birr to the Hill of Uisneach in what is now County Westmeath. Their chief representatives in later times
were the MacGeoghegans and the Feara Ceal ("the men of churches") or O’Molloys. The
MacGeoghegans (Mac Eochagain) were chiefs of the Barony of Moycashel in the south of County
Westmeath, though their ancient patrimony was much greater. They lost their estates in the
Cromwellian confiscations of the mid-sixteenth century, and a branch of the family was transplanted to
(O Maolmhuaidh) were of the same stock as the MacGeoghegans, being originally
the same clan. At some time during the period of about 950—1050 the Cineal Fiachach divided their
territory between their two great branches, the MacGeoghegans retaining the norther portion under the
original clan-name of Cineal Fiachach, and the O’Molloys becoming lords of the southern portion under
the clan-name of Feara Ceall. This territory, called after them Fircall, comprised the modern baronies of
Fircall, Ballycowan and Ballyboy in the north of County Offaly, and remained in the hands of the family
down to the first part of the seventeenth century. Many of this distinguished family had friendly relations
with the kings of England and the government of the Pale from the Anglo-Norman invasion onwards,
and though several leaders of the clan were active in resisting English aggression in Ireland during the
Tudor period during the mid-sixteenth century, the chief of the name was made Hereditary Standard
Bearer of the English standard in Ireland.
The Cineal Lao
ghaire descend from Loeguire, son of Nial of the Nine Hostages. They were
what are now the baronies of Upper and Lower Navan near Trim, County Meath, and in ancient times
fell under the overlordship of Brega. Their chief representatives in later times were the O’Quinlans (O
Caoindealbhain), who descend from Caoindealbhan (died 925), chief of the Cineal Laoghaire in the early
tenth century. The O’Quinlans were were dispersed as a result of the Anglo-Norman invasion, and some of them settled afterwards in
The Fir Teathbha
("men of Teffia," an ancient semi-independent district covering a wide
the River Shannon and the north of Lough Ree in what is now the south of County Longford) trace their
descent back to Maine, son of Nial of the Nine Hostages. Their original clan-territory embraced a great
portion of what is now County Westmeath and also what is now the barony of Kilcoursey in the present
County Offaly. Their chief representatives in later times were the O’Caharneys or Foxes of Muintear
Tad hgain; also the Corca Adhaimh or the O’Dalys; also the MacAwleys; Muintear Mhaoilsionna or the
MacCarons, and finally the O’Brennans.
Tadhgain (descendants of Tadhgain, ninth of the line of Maine), the O’Caharneys
O’Kearneys (O Catharnaigh) also known as the Foxes (Sionnach), were originally chiefs of all Teffia,
but in later times (after the Anglo-Norman invasion) their territory was restricted to Muintear Tadhgain,
now the barony of Kilcoursey in Offaly. They were known by the surname of Sionnach, or Fox, from the
cognomen of their ancestor, Catharnach Sionnach (Caharney the Fox), who was slain in the year 1084.
The head of the family was known by the title of "An Sionnach" or the fox. It was one of the men of An
Sionnach that assassinated the Norman de Lacy for making unnegotiated encroachments into
O’Caharney territory. In the sixteenth century the head of the family was knighted and fell in with the
English under Queen Elizabeth I.
(Mac Amhalghaidh) were, prior to the English conquest of the sixteenth
of a wide territory known as Calry (Calraighe) which in its broadest extent comprised land in the west of
County Westmeath and north of County Offaly, but which was centered on Ballyloughloe in
Westmeath. This territory was known to the English as MacGawley’s Country. The MacCarons (Mac
Carrghamhna, formerly Mac Giolla Ultain) descend from Carrghamhain, grandson of Giolla Ultain,
great-grandson of Maoilsionna (whose name means "chief of the Shannon"), from whom they get their
clan-name of Muintear Mhaoilsionna. They thus originally commanded a terrritory on the east side of
the River Shannon in Westmeath, and it is there that the MacCarons, or Growneys (O Gramhna, a
corruption of "Mac Carrghamhna") are found in later times. Their territory was known by the name of
Cuircne, now the barony of Kilkenny West in northwest County Westmeath. These lands passed into
the possession of the Dillons not long after the AngloNorman invasion of the twelfth century, though the
MacCarons maintained some independence as a clan down to the seventeenth century. In 1578 the
English government granted one of them the office of "chief sergeant of his nation" along with lands in
the "ploughland of Kilmacaron, which of old belonged to the chief of the nation of M’Caron."
(O Braonain) were once a powerful clan of the Fir Teathbha in County Westmeath,
but were dispersed into Connacht as a result of the Anglo-Norman invasion.
Corca Adhaimh or O’Dalys (O Dalaigh), alias Corca Adam (race of Adam) are a branch of the Southern
Ui Neill descended from Maine, son of Nial of the Nine hostages. They were originally seated in the
present barony of Magheradernon in central County Westmeath. In later times they became a literary
family of highest honor, and sent learned bards of their name to serve kings all over Ireland. The first of
the family to become famous for his learning was Cuchonnacht na Scoile ("of the school") who died at
Clonard in 1139. He was the ancestor of all the bardic families of the name. Beginning with
Cuchonnacht, poetry and learning became a profession in the family, and he presided over a bardic
school in Meath not far from, but connected with, the original territory of Corca Adhaimh.
From Corca Adhaimh,
then, the family sent forth poetic professors to various parts of Ireland,
they started new literary families. About 1250 a branch of the O’Dalys, descended from Donough More
O’Daly, a famous bard, became hereditary poets to the O’Loughlins, and settled at Finavarra, in the
Burren of County Clare. To this literary branch belong the DalIys of Galway, whose ancestor settled in
Ui Maine (County Galway) in the latter part of the fifteenth century. Raghnall O Dalaigh settled in South
Munster (Desmond) about 1150 and became chief ollav (professor) in poetry to the MacCarthy. Other
branches served such great names as the O’Reillys of Cavan, the O’Neills of Ulster, and the O’Connors
branch of the Fir Teathbha were the O’Shiels (O Siadhail), a famous medical
family that established various branches in Ulster and Offaly, serving as hereditary physicians and
surgeons in Oriel, Inishowen and Delvin-MacCoghlan. Owen O’Sheil, the "Eagle of Doctors," was
physician to the armies of the Confederate Catholics of Ireland from 1642 to 1650.
The Four Tribes
of Tara were four princely families of the Southern Ui Neill, settled in
the area of Tara in
what is now County Meath. They represent the lineal descendants of the Sil nAedo Slaine kings of
South Brega. From the beginning of the ninth century the Kingdom of Brega had divided into North and
South Brega, with the kings of North Brega residing at Knowth some twelve miles northeast of Tara on
the River Boyne, and the kings of South Brega remaining in the vicinity of Tara itself. The chief
representatives of the original Four Tribes in later times were the families of O’Hart (O hAirt) and
O’Regan (O Riagain).
The O’Harts were
dispossessed soon after the Anglo-Norman invasion of the late twelfth century.
Afterwards they migrated westward to Sligo, where they became chiefs in what is now the barony of
Carbury in North Sligo, where they possessed considerable estates down to the seventeenth century.
The O’Regans were, prior to the Anglo-Norman invasion, kings of South Brega, and had taken a leading
part in the wars against the Danes. They apparently alternated the Kingship of Brega with their northern
cousins, for in the year 1029 the annalists record the victory of Mathghamhain O Riagain, King of Brega, over Sitric,
Viking King of Dublin. The O’Regans were dispossessed soon after the Anglo-Norman invasion, and
dispersed into what is now County Leix. Branches of the family later spread into County Limerick.
or Kennys (Mac Cionaodha) were chiefs of Truagh, now the barony of Trough
Monaghan, but they were traditionally "Meathmen" ("Meath" was an area primarily associated with
what is now Meath, Westmeath and North Offaly) by origin, and are a branch of the Southern Ui Neill.
Branches of this family settled in the seventeenth century in Down and in South Munster.
The family of
O’Higgin or Higgins (O hUigin) were a distinguished literary family of
the Southern Ui Neill,
originally settled in what is now County Westmeath. No fewer than eleven of them are mentioned in the
Annals of the Four Masters as poets or professors of poetry between 1300 and 1617. A branch of the
family settled early in Sligo, where they acquired large tracts of land in the southwest of that county.
The South Gaels
The South Gaels were known by the dynastic name of Eoghanacht (descendants of Eoghan). They
rose to preeminence at Cashel in central Tipperary during the fifth century and were instrumental in the
establishment of Gaelic as the dominant dialect in the South, much as the North Gaels were
responsible for its establishment and prestige in the North (without the prestige of the Eoghanacht as
the dominant group during the critical early centuries surrounding the establishment in Ireland of the
Church—and hence of writing—the other Munster tribes, being a geographically remote pre—Gaelic
population, would not have adopted Gaelic as a written lingua franca). The Eoghanacht had close ties
with the church, and a number of abbots of the Eoghanacht line were elected to kingship during the
Viking period in the ninth and tenth centuries.
The true branches
of the Eoghanacht descend from Conall Corc, their first great king, though
Munster tribes (such as the Ui Fidhgheinte of the Erainn) had themselves nominally tacked on to the
traditional stem as descendants of Mug Nudat (alias Eoghan) , mythic traditional ancestor of Conall
Corc. This, together with the fact that Mug Nudat means "the slave of Nuadu" (a divine pre—Gaelic
ancestor figure) suggests that the Eoghanacht early consolidated their traditions with that of their
subject-tribes in Munster.
(Mac Carthaigh) were the chief family of the Eoghanacht, being of the Chaisil
branch, descended from Ceaillachan of Cashel, King of Munster in 954. As a result of the Anglo-Norman invasion they were driven from the plains of
Tipperary into Cork and Kerry where they remained very powerful down to the end of the seventeenth
century. They were divided into three great branches, the heads of which were known respectively as
MacCarthy More (the Great MacCarthy) centered in Kerry, MacCarthy Reagh, Lord of Carbery in
southwest Cork, and MacCarthy of Muskerry in west Cork. The MacAuhffes (MacAmhlaoibh) of Castle
MacAuliffe in Cork were an important branch of the MacCarthys. Their territory stretched northwest
from Newmarket to the borders with Kerry and Limerick. The O’Meehans (O Miadhachain) were a
branch of the MacCarthys, seated at Ballymeehan in Leitrim.
(O Caoimh) descend from Art Caomh, son of Finguine, King of Munster in
902, a cousin
of Ceaillachan of Cashel. They were pushed by the Anglo-Norman invasion from the barony of Fermoy
in north-central Cork westward into the northwest of the barony of Duhallow. They remained in
possession of their new territory, called after them "Pobble O’Keeffe," to the end of the sixteenth
(O Suileabhain) are also a branch of the Eoghanacht Chaisil. Their original
prior to the Anglo-Norman invasion, was along the River Suir in the plains of Tipperary, their principal
seat being at Knockgraffon, about two miles north of Cahir. In 1192 they were forced out of their
territory and settled in the mountains of Cork and Kerry, where they divided into several branches under
chiefs, the most important of which were O’Sullivan More, possessor of the barony and castle of
Dunkerron, near Kenmare; and O’Sullivan Beare, who owned Beare, now the baronies of Beare and
Bantry on the southwestern peninsula of Cork and Kerry.
(Mac Giolla Chuda) are a sixteenth-century branch of the O’Sullivan More
of the O’Sullivans. They gave their name to MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, the mountain range in central
Kerry, their chief being known as MacGillycuddy of the Reeks.
The Ui Eachach
The Ui Eachach Mumhan (Munster) or Eoghanacht Raithlinn were an early branch of the Eoghanacht
descended from Cas, son of Conall Corc. They inhabited the territory in Desmond between the upper
reaches of the Lee and the Blackwater in the south of County Cork, and were thus somewhat isolated
from the rest of the Eoghanacht, though they were nonetheless powerful. In the sixth century they
divided into two great branches, the Ui Loegairi (later Cineal Lao ghaire) of the western part, and the
Cineal nAeda (of whom Feidlimid was king of Munster in the late sixth century) farther to the east
between the mouth of the Lee and the River Bandon. The main line of the Cineal nAeda gave rise in the
late seventh century to the further sub-clan of Cineal mBecce (later Cineal mBeice), inhabiting the
eastern part of the original territory (called after them "Kinelmeaky," now the barony of that name) between the Cineal Laoghaire in the west and the rest of the Cineal nAeda (later Cineal Aodha), under that name, in the east.
The Cineal Aodha
or O’Callaghans (O Ceallachain) later claimed descent from an Aodh (older
the pedigree of the Eoghanacht of Cashel, and claimed Ceaillachan of Cashel himself as their
ancestor, though admitting that they took their name from a namesake of his some generations later.
They gave their clan-name to their original territory, now the barony of Kinalea in the south of County
Cork between Cork and Kinsale, from which they were driven soon after the Anglo-Norman invasion by
Fitzstephen and de Cogan. Afterwards they settled on the banks of the Blackwater, west of Mallow,
where they became chiefs of a territory called after them "Pobul Ui Cheallachain." They held this land
down to the Cromwellian confiscations of the mid-seventeenth century, after which the head of the
family was transplanted to Clare.
From the eighth
century onwards the main representatives of the ruling Ui Eachac Mumhan
were the Ui
Loegairi and the Cineal mBecce. Their chief clan-families in later times were: Of the former, the Cineal
Laoghaire, alias Clann tSealbhaigh, or O’Donoghues (O Donnchadha) of Desmond (South Munster),
and of the latter, the Cineal mBeice or O’Mahonys (O Mathghamhna). The O’Donoghues take their
name from their ancestor Donnchadha, son of Domhnall, son of Dubhdabhoireann, King of Munster.
Domhnall commanded, conjointly with Cian, ancestor of the O’Mahonys the forces of Desmond at the
battle of Clontarf in 1014, which culminated the Viking wars. The descendants of Domhnall assumed
for a time the surname of O Domhnaill, but afterwards took their name from Donchadha. They take their
clan-name of Cineal Laoghaire from Laoghaire, fourth in descent from their ancestor Corc. The original
patrimony of the O’Donoghues lay in west Cork, but in the time of the Anglo-Norman invasion in the
late twelfth century they were driven westward from their territory by the MacCarthys and O’Mahonys
and settled in Kerry, where they became lords of all the country around the Lakes of Killarney, to which
they gave the name of Eoghanacht Ui Dhonnchadha (Onacht O’Donoghue). The O’Donoghues divided
early into two great branches: The O’Donoghues of Loch Lein, the head of which was known as
O’Donoghue More (The great O’Donoghue) and resided at Ross Castle at the southern end of the
Lakes (the castle was built by them in the fifteenth century), and the O’Donoghues of Glenflesk, the
head of which was known as O’Donoghue of the Glen. The estates of O’Donoghue More were
confiscated in the reign of Elizabeth, but O’Donoghue of the Glen retained considerable property into
modern times, and is now known as "The O’Donoghue." The Moriartys (O Muircheartaigh) are an early
branch of the O’Donoghues, and were originally chiefs of the territory lying at the end of Dingle Bay
around Castlemaine in County Kerry. Although in 1210 their then chief, by way of alliance, married the daughter of a leading Fitzgerald, their influence was nonetheless reduced as a result of the encroachments of the Fitzgeralds.
The Cirieal mBeice
or O’Mahonys descend from Mathghamhain (slain at Clontarf in 1014) whose
Cian (son of Maolmuadh, King of Munster in 978) commanded the forces of Desmond at the battle of
Clontarf in 1014 jointly with the ancestor of the O’Donoghues, and whose mother was a daughter of
Brian Boru (see under O’Brien). They gave their clan-name to their territory, now known under the
phonetically Anglicized form Kinelmeaky, an extensive district along the River Bandon in the south of
County Cork. As a reaction to the pressure caused by the Anglo-Norman invasion of the late twelfth
century, they expanded westward into the territory of their collateral kinsmen, the Cineal Laoghaire.
Afterwards their power extended from Kinelmeaky southwards to the sea, where their fortified
stronghold of Rosbrian lay off the coast of southwest Cork.
Mag Geirginn inhabited the district in northeast Scotland between the Tay
Dee, and were especially associated with Angus and what is now known as Kincardineshire (formerly
"The Mearns"). They traditionally descend from Conal Corc, grandfather of Oengus, King of Munster
(490), who is said to have sojourned in Albany, or Scotland, where he married the daughter of
Feradach, King of Cruthentuath (Pictland), thus establishing the Eoghanacht of the district of Mag
Geirginn. His descendants by her included his son Cairbre (or Coirpre) Cruithnechan ("Cairbre
Pictling"), ancestor of the Mag Geirginn branch, also known as Cairpre "mac na Cruithnige" (the son of
the Pictish woman), and also his son or grandson Maine Lemna, ancestor of the Lemnaig, later the
ruling family of the Levenax (later Lennox). Thus established, the Eoghanacht maintained their
individuality at least until the reign of Oengus mac Forggusso, King of the Picts (died 761), who was
one of them, and may have been the "Oengus" after whom "Angus" is named.
of Atholl (New Ireland) appears about the beginning of the eighth century,
with a king of its
own, and this may represent a later patrimony for the male-line representatives of the Eoghanacht in
Scotland, in as much as they maintained their individual patrilineal traditions within still-matrilineal
Pictland. That they did so is indicated by the traditional male-line descent of the medieval ruling family
of the Lennox from Maine Lemna, son or grandson of Conall Corc. The nearby district of the Lennox
apparently followed Atholl as this group’s patrimony as they emerge as its ruling dynasty in the early
twelfth century, having been for some time its Mormaers and afterwards its earls (it is interesting to
note the continuation of distinctively South-Irish royal names, such as Corc among the House of
Lennox even as late as the fourteenth century). The family, known simply as "de Lennox," held the
earldom until it passed to the Stewarts of Darnley through an heiress in the early fifteenth century (after the unjustified beheading of Duncan, the last earl of the House of
Lennox by James I in 1425 for his relationship to the House of Albany). Afterwards, a family of the
name of de Levenax (later "Lennox"), a branch of the House of Lennox, settled in South Galloway
where they appear as early as 1508 as followers of the Earl of Cassilis and acquired wide lands in
Kirkcudbright (Lennox is also one of the name-titles of the Gordon-Lennox dukes of Richmond, Lennox
and Gordon, descendants of a natural son of Charles II).
(Mac Pharlain) descend from Parlan, whose great-grandfather Gilchrist of
was a younger son of Alwyn, Earl of Lennox about 1200. On the death of Earl Duncan the chiefs of the
MacFarlanes claimed to be chiefs of the whole kindred of the House of Lennox, as heirs-male to their
kinsmen the earls. The earldom was granted to the Stewarts of Darnley, as mentioned, and the district
was consolidated by the marriage of the MacFarlanes’ then chief, Andrew MacFarlane of Arrochar, to a
daughter of the new earl. Their son, Sir lain MacFarlane, used the old-style chiefly title of Captain of
Clann Pharlain, and led the warlike clan under the Earl of the Lennox at the battle of Flodden in 1513.
The MacFarlanes were described by a contemporary as "men of the head of Lennox, that spake the
Irish and the English-Scottish tongues, light footmen, well armed in shirts of mail, with bows and
two-handed swords" (Moncrieffe 139). The MacFarlanes had island strongholds in upper Loch Lomond,
while the chief’s residence was the primitive house at Arrochar on the shore of Loch Long.
(Canonach) take their name from the barony of Buchanan on the eastern side
Lomond. They were an ecclesiastical family devoted to St. Kettigern, their Gaelic patronymic being
MacAuslan (Mac Absalon), from a local ecclesiastic of the early thirteenth century. Sir Absalon of
Buchanan (buth chanain, "house of the canon") appears in the early thirteenth century as the temporal
lord of what were probably recently secularized church-lands (see page 106). As Absalon son of
Macbeth, he was granted the island of Clarinch opposite Buchanan by the Earl of Lennox in 1225.
There is a family tradition connecting the Buchanans with Moray, or at least the Moray area. Both the
name "Macbeth," and the original Buchanan arms of "three bears heads," could indicate a connection
of their ecclesiastical line with the family known as "of the Aird" (see page 56). In any case, as the
then laird of Buchanan appears as Steward of the Lennox in 1238, either he, or his father, probably
married into the House of Lennox, for stewartrys were reserved for younger branches of the earl’s family
(see under "Drummond" and in Chapter IV). In the early fifteenth century the Buchanan chiefs married
into the discouraged House of Albany (Stewarts), and thus became the nearest lawful heirs of this
house; hence the black royal "lyon" in the Buchanan arms—a symbol of mourning.
of the House of Lennox include the Leckies or Leckys of Croy-Leckie, who
descend from Corc, younger brother of Gilchrist of Arrochar, ancestor of
MacFarlanes (John Leckie of Croy-Leckie, the then head of the family, married a daughter of
MacGregor of Glengyle by his wife, a Campbell of Glenfalloch, and thus became brother-in-law to Rob
Roy, whom he joined at Sheriffmuir); and finally also the MacAulays (Mac Amhalghaidh) of Ardencaple
were chiefs of the district along the east shore of Gare Loch, between
Loch Long and
Loch Lomond. They descend from Aulay Arngapill, or Ardincapill, of that Ilk who is mentioned in 1513.
He himself descended from a long line of barons of Ardencaple (Morice de Arncappel rendered homage
in 1296, Johannes de Ardenagappill was a charter witness about 1364, and Arthur de Ardincapel
witnessed a charter by Duncan, eighth Earl of the Lennox about 1390). Though not originally
descended from the House of Lennox, they seem to have inherited the leadership of some of the earls’
kindred of the name of MacAulay, for the Aulay is distinctive to that family (the House of Lennox); that
is, Amalghaidh mac Amhalghaidh (Aulay mac Aulay), son of Aulay, was a younger son of Alwin,
second Earl of the Lennox about 1200. Furthermore, Alexander Ardincapple, Aulay Ardincapill’s
representative in the reign of James V (1513—1542), adopted the surname of MacAulay in order to
better represent the clan at the head of which he found himself, that of MacAuley: Alexander
Ardincapple, "then the head of the family, took a fancy to call himself Alexander MacAulay of
Ardincapple, from a predecessor of his of the name of Aulay, to humour a patronymical designation as
being more agreeable to the head of a clan than the designation of Ardincaple of that Ilk" (Black 29).
Alexander’s taking the name of MacAulay seems tantamount to acknowledging the name and line of
the clan he represented, hence the inclusion of his family in the discussion of the Lennox kindred.
Awla McAwla of Ardencapill appears in 1536, while another Awla McAwla was clerk of the watch of
Queen Mary’s guard 1566. Getting back to the pre—Ardincapple MacAulay kindred, Sir Duncan
MacAulay, son of Aulay mac Aulay, joined Robert the Bruce in the time before Bannockburn, and his
son Aulay "de Faslane" was given the office of Tosheagor, or heritable bailie, by Malcolm, Earl of the
Lennox. His son Walter was the Walter de Faslane who married the heiress of his kinsmen Donald,
Earl of the Lennox, thus keeping the earldom within the House of Lennox for the time (this situation
was analogous to the marriage, some 200 years later, of Mary Queen of Scots, heiress of the Royal
House, with Lord Darnley, the Stewart heir-male). It is probably a cousin of the above family that
appears as "Iwar McAulay in Lennox" in 1326. The stronghold of the MacAulays was Ardencaple
Castle, sold in 1767 and now in ruins.
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