The stronghold of the O'Rourkes of Carha in the 15th and 16th centuries was known as Caislén an Chartha (or Cairthe), later to become part of the manor of Castle Carha. This was the country around Glencar (Gleann a' Chairthe, or Glencar valley) in the parish of Killasnet, barony of Rosclogher, in the northern part of modern County Leitrim. In the 15th century this was part of the area referred to as West Breifne O'Rourke, where the O'Rourkes of Carha competed with the O'Rourkes of Dromahair for right of lordship.
From early source genealogies, (the Book of Ballymote, An Leabhor Donn, O'Clery's book of genealogies), the chiefs of Carha descend from Tiernan Oge, a son of Tighernán mór (who died in 1418). The Chiefs of Carha are embodied in Tiernan Oge's son Donnchad (King of West Breifne, d. 1449) and his grandson Feidhlimidh (King of Bréifne, d. 1500).
Based on the early genealogies the lineage of the O'Rourkes of Carha includes the following individuals. Death years are indicated based on entires from the Irish annals and other sources.
CHIEFS OF CARHA
(Caislén an Cairthe, or Castlecar)
Tighernán mór (1418)
| | | |
Donnchadh (1449) Brian (1430) Cathal Máelsechlann
_________________|________________ _|_ _|_
| | | |
Feidhlimidh (1500) Tighernán dubh (1487) Brian (1487) Tadhg (1488)
| | |
Feidhlimidh (1536) Eóghan (1523?) Aedh buidhe (1497)
Eóghan (1588) - (Compossicion Booke of Conought)
Tighernán (1623) - (Manor of Castle Carha)
As a summary the following entries in the Irish Annals, in conjunction with later land records, relate to the individuals listed above. Direct reference to the castle and manor of Carha help substantiate their connection to the Chiefs of Carha.
- M1430 - Brian, the son of Tiernan Oge O'Rourke, was slain by the sons of Melaghlin Mac Rannall, at Maethail-Mhanchain; and Donough Mac Tiernan was driven into the monastery of Maethail. Donough, however, came out of his own accord, for sake of his people, on Mac Rannall's guarantee, and made peace between them; and eric was given to O'Rourke for the death of Brian.
- M1449 - Donough (Donnchadh), the son of Tiernan Oge, Lord of West Breifny, died, after having laboured a year under pulmonary consumption; and Tiernan, son of Teige O'Rourke [of the Dromahair O'Ruaircs], was elected in his place by the people of West Breifny.
- U/M1487 - Brian Ua Ruairc the Red, namely, son of Tighernan, son of Tadhg, son of Tighernan Ua Ruairc-to wit, the most courageous leader that was in Lower northern Connacht at that time—was wounded with an arrow, on the 6th of the Ides 10th of March, and died of it. And by Eogan, son of Ua Ruairc, namely, son of Feidhlimidh, son of Donchadh, son of Tighernan junior, was done that slaying. Ua Domnaill, namely, Aedh the Red, went, because of that slaying, against the castle (.i. Caislén an Cairthe) of Ua Ruairc, (namely, Feidhlimidh) and it was taken by him and three of the people of Ua Ruairc were slain there, around Brian, son of Cathal, son of Tighernan Ua Ruairc, who was slain by Godfrey, son of Aedh Ua Domnaill the Foreign, with shot of gun. And the same castle was broken down a very short time after that.
- U1487 - Tighernan the Black (dubh), son of Donchadh, son of Tighernan Ua Ruairc junior, was slain by Ua Domnaill, namely, by Aedh the Red, this year.
- U1488 - Tadhg, son of Mael-Shechlainn, son of Tighernan Ua Ruairc, died this year.
- U1497 - Aedh the Tawny (buidhe), son of Ua Ruairc, namely, son of Feidlimidh, son of Donchadh, son of Tigernan Ua Ruairc junior, was slain by the sons of Tadhg, son of Cathal, son of Tigernan Ua Ruairc, before Lammas of this year.
- U1500 - O'Ruairc, namely, Feidhlimidh, son of Donchadh, son of Tighernan, died this year and Eogan, son of Tighernan, son of Tadhg Ua Ruairc [of the Dromahair O'Ruaircs], was made king in his place.
- C1523 - Eogan son of Feidlim son of Donnchad son of Tigernan Oc O Ruairc was drowned in Loch Glenade [near Carha].
- C1536 - Feidlim son of Feidlim O Ruairc died in fetters as the prisoner of Brian O Ruairc.
- 1585 Compossicion Booke of Conought -- chieftain Owen mac Felim named as head of the Carha branch.
- 1622 land grants -- Tiernan mac Owen (Eogan) O Rourke of Castlecar was granted land in Rosclogher barony, county Leitrim.
At the time of his death in 1449, Donnchadh Ó Ruairc was mentioned as lord of West Breifne Ó Ruairc (the northern portion of modern co. Leitrim), the lordship of Breifne was held jointly by the O'Rourkes of Carrigallen who were lords East Breifne Ó Ruairc (the southern portion of modern co. Leitrim). About 1476, the descendants of Tighernán óg, son of Tighernán mór (O'Rourkes of Castlecar) elect Feidhlimidh, son of Donnchadh, as chief. Feidhlimidh would reign as the Ó Ruairc, albeit contested, for nearly 24 years from his base at Caislén an Chartha (Carha, aka Castlecar) until his death in 1500. Feidhlimidh (Felim) was the last of the Carha line to be mentioned as a lord of Breifne.
The last of the Carha line to be mentioned in the Irish annals was Feidhlimidh, son of Feidhlimidh O'Ruairc (above). In 1536 Feidhlimidh (Felim) died as a prisoner of Brian Ballach O Ruairc [of the Dromahair O'Ruaircs] following Brian's attack on Caislen-an-chairthe (now Castlecar).
By the time of the "Compossicion Booke of Conought 1585", Owen mac Felim O Rourke of Carha is mentioned. This Owen, son of Felim, was grandson of Felim who died in 1500. In The Calendar of State Papers of Ireland in 1592 the Carrhy (Carha) is mentioned as Owen O Rourke's country, called the O Rourkes of Carrhy.
From the early land grants in 1622, Tiernan mac Owen O Rourke of Castlecar was granted lands in Rosclogher barony, north of Dromahair barony, "to be created the Manor of Castle Carha with power to make tenures, to hold Court-leet and view of frank-pledge and Courts-baron; to appoint seneschals and other officers, with jurisdiction in all action for coventant, debt and trespass." Tiernan was a son of Owen mac Felim, continuing the Carha line which originated with Tiernan Oge, a son of Tighernán mór (who died in 1418).
Among the grandsons of Tiernan mac Owen O Rourke of Castlecar (Carha) included Con óg O'Rourke, a Colonel in the Austrian Imperial Army, and his brother Michael, a Major in the Austrian Imperial Army. The son of Con óg, Owen, who was created Baron O'Rourke of Carha and Ambassador to Vienna in 1727, for the titular King James III. The Jacobite title of Viscount Breffney was created for Owen in 1731. Having no heirs of his own Owen willed a remainder of the titles to the heirs of his cousin Constantine, son of Michael.
The erroneous 'Chiefs of Carrha' lineage in O'Hart's Irish Pedigrees
John O'Hart provides a lineage of the O'Rourkes of Carrha in his work Irish Pedigrees; or The Origin and Stem of The Irish Nation, published 1923. O'Hart's lineage is summarized in the following chart:
Teige na Goir Tiernan (O'Rourkes of Dromahaire)
Tiernan Oge Art (O'Rourkes of Carrha)
Brian Ballach Shane Oge
As a means of comparison to O'Hart's work, the following chart has been constructed from the earlier source genealogies. For individuals noted as lords of Breifne, the ending year of their reign is also included, based on entries from the Irish annals.
Ualgarg mór (1346)
| | | |
Aedh bán (1352) Tadhg na gCaor (1376) Gilla Crist (1378) Tighernán mór (1418)
| | | | | | |
Art (1424) Lochlann (1458) Tighernán óg Aedh buidhe (1419) Tadhg (1435) Donnchadh Donnchadh
_|_ _|_ ____|___ _____________|________ bacagh (1445) losc
| | | | | (1468)
(O'Rourkes (O'Rourkes Donnchadh (1449) Tighernán óg (1468) Domnall (1468)
of Cenel of | |
Luachain) Cloncorick) Feidhlimidh (1500) Eóghan (1528)
Feidhlimidh Brian ballach mór (1562)
(O'Rourkes of Chartha) Brian na múrtha (1591)
(O'Rourkes of Dromahair)
When comparing the early genealogies with O'Harts analysis, the lineage of the O'Rourkes of Carha is substantially different. O'Hart begins his Carrha lineage with Teige na Goir (Tadhg na gCaor), son of Tiernan Mór, son of Uailarg. Among other differences between O'Hart and the early genealogies, O'Hart confuses Teige na Goir (Tadhg na gCaor) with Teige (Tadhg, died in 1435) son of Tighernán mór (Tiernan Mór). Based on the older source genealogies, and from other sources (RIA MS.C.iv.1.), we know that Tadhg na gCaor (Teige na Goir) was a son of Ualgarg mór. We also know from a passage in the Compossicion Booke of Conought, 1585, the lands of the descendants of Tadhg na gCaor were in 'in keannallohan'. 'Keannallohan' was another name for Cenel Luachain, an area in the southern portion of modern County Leitrim (source: Onomasticon Goedelicum). As noted previously, the O'Rourkes of Carha hailed from the northern portion of modern County Leitrim.
O'Hart's Carrha line continues with Arthur and moves to his son Lochlann, then to his grandson Shane, next his great-grandson Shane Og, and down the line from there. From the older source genealogies we can agree with O'Hart there was an Arthur (Art) son of Tadhg na gCaor. After serving as a king of East Breifne, this Arthur (Art) was killed by his nephew in the year 1430, at his 'house'. The annals describe Art's location in Magh Angaidhe, an area within the barony of Carrigallen in the southern part of modern co. Leitrim (source: Onomasticon Goedelicum).
It is revealing the Irish annals cite both Art and Lochlann, sons of Tadhg na gCaor, as kings of East Breifne. At this period in the 15th century, the lordship of Briefne Ó Ruairc was divided between east and west, the physical dividing point represented by Slieve an ierin, the mountainous region east of Lough Allen in the central part of modern co. Leitrim. That portion east of Slieve an ierin roughly represented the southern portion of Briefne Ó Ruairc. That portion west of Slieve an ierin roughly represented the northern portion of Briefne Ó Ruairc.
In the same timeframe that Art and Lochlann, sons of Tadhg na gCaor, are referenced as kings of East Breifne, other Ó Ruaircs were cited as kings of West Breifne. The annals note that Tadhg son of Tigernán mór was a king of West Breifne when he died in 1435. The same distinction is mentioned in the annals for Donnchadh, son of Tigernán óg son of Tigernán mór, king of West Breifne at his death in 1449. In effect the kings of West Breifne, in the north of modern co. Leitrim, included the O'Rourkes of Dromahair (Tadhg of 1435) and the O'Rourkes of Carha (Donnchadh of 1449). Although this division in the Breifne kingship lasted only a few decades it provides an important distinction in identifying the leading O'Rourke familes at the time.
Knowing this background then what does O'Hart's lineage represent? Although additional errors seem apparent, O'Hart's Carrha lineage appears to relate to the O'Rourkes of the Carrigallen area, a region within east Breifne Ó Ruairc which included placenames such as Cenel Luachain, Magh Angaidhe, Cloncorick, Loch Garadice, etc. Both Art and Lochlann, sons of Tadhg na gCaor (son of Ualgarg mór), can clearly be associated with this region.
Lochlann, the son of Tadhg na gCaor, the last of the Ó Ruaircs to be mentioned as king of East Briefne, has been associated with the O'Rourkes of Conclorick (source: Betty Mac Dermot). Cloncorick has been described near the modern town of Carrigallen (Carraig Álainn, earlier Tulach Álainn) in the central portion of Carrigallen parish, Co. Leitrim and near the border of Breifne O Reilly (in Onomasticon Goedelicum). In 1629 it was Shane Og O Rourke of Cloncorick who was granted land in Carrigallen barony, perhaps the same Shane Oge mentioned in O'Hart so-called Carrha pedigree.
For additional reference see the article on the O'Rourkes of Carrigallen.
Ua Ruairc of Bréifne --
Genealogy Sources --
Lords and Kings of Bréifne --
Chart of O Ruarc Kings
"O'Rourkes of Carha", written by Dennis Walsh, April 2006, all rights reserved.
Sources used for this article include the Irish Annals; the 'middle' Irish genealogies (e.g. O'Clery); and Betty Mac Dermot's Book O Ruairc of Breifne.