The chart below was drawn from the early genealogies. It suggests the main lineage of three of the later branches of the Ó Ruairc family, those of Cloncorick, Carha, and Dromohair. This article focuses on the Dromohair branch and the last Ó Ruairc lords of Bréifne. To reference some of the earlier descendants in this chart, click on Ualgharg mór below.
Ualgharg mór (1346)
Tadhg na gCaor (1376) Tighernán mór (1418)
| | | | | | |
Art (1424) Lochlann (1458) Tighernán óg Aedh buidhe (1419) Tadhg (1435) Donnchadh Donnchadh
_|_ _|_ ____________|________ bacagh losc
| | | | (1445) (1468)
Eoghan Donnchadh (1449) Tighernán óg (1468) Domnall (1468)
(O'Rourkes of Cloncorick) _|_ _|_____________________
| | |
Feidhlimidh (1500) Eóghan (1528) Brian ruadh (1487)
| | |
Eóghan (1488) Feidhlimidh (1536) Brian ballach mór (1562)
(O'Rourkes of Carha) (O'Rourkes of Dromahair)
Eóghan, son of Tighernán óg mac Taidhg Ó Ruairc, was of the O'Rourke's of Dromahair. He is first noted in the annals in 1488 for the slaying of his cousin Eóghan, son of Feidhlimidh mac Donnchadha, i.e. the son of the ruling Ó Ruairc at that time. The year prior Eóghan son of Feidhlimidh, of the O'Rourkes of Carha, had caused the death of Brian ruadh Ó Ruairc, Eóghan son of Tighernán óg's brother. Both of these events were a testament of the great rivalry between the O'Rourkes of Carha and the O'Rourke's of Dromahair. Following the death of Feidhlimidh mac Donnchadha, Eóghan (Owen) would succeed as the Ó Ruairc in the year 1500.
Eóghan (Owen) was noted for commencing the Monastery of Ó Ruairc's town, at Dromahair, the renowned Franciscan Friary of Creevelea founded in 1509. Eóghan died in 1528, his obituary appearing in the Annals of Connacht:
C1528.8 - O Ruairc, Eogan son of Tigernan, chief ornament of the men of Conmaicne, famous heir of the old Fergal, a pillar of the bounty and magnificence of Western Europe, a wise openhanded very wealthy prince, a man who tamed his neighbours and maintained all stout warfare against border foes, prop of the nobility and endurance of the posterity of Aed Finn son of Fergna son of Fergus, died in the robe of St. Francis after Unction and Penance.
Eóghan was succeeded by his son Brian ballach mór as King of Breifne. In 1536 Brian demolished the stronghold at Castlecar in opposition to the rival O'Rourkes there. About 1540 Brian, noted for his many exploits, alliances and raids, built Leitrim Castle. In 1562 Brian, the last of the 'Kings' of Breifne, died, his obituary appearing in the Annals of the Four Master:
M1562.1 - O'Rourke (Brian Ballagh, son of Owen), the senior of Sil-Feargna, and of the race of Aedh Finn, a man whose supporters, fosterers, adherents, and tributaries, extended from Caladh, in the territory of Hy-Many, to the fertile, salmon-full Drowes, the boundary of the far-famed province of Ulster; and from Granard in Teffia to the strand of Eothuile, the Artificer, in Tireragh of the Moy,---who had the best collection of poems, and who, of all his tribe, had bestowed the greatest number of presents for poetical eulogies, died in consequence of a fall; and his son, Hugh Gallda, was installed in his place.
The following is a chart of some of the descendants of Brian ballach mór as noted in the annals and genealogies, with their respective year of death.
Brian ballach mór (1562)
| | | | | | |
Brian na múrtha(1591) Maghnus Tadhg(1560) Eóghan(1560) Aedh gallda(1564) Aedh buidhe(1566) Tighernán bán
_|____________________________________________ _|_ _________________________|_
| | | | | | |
Eóghan (1589) Tadhg an fiona (1605) Art Brian óg (1604) Aedh óg Eóghan mór Brian ballach óg(1682)
_|_ _|_ _|_ ___________|____
| | | | |
Brian ruadh(1641) Brian Eóghan óg Aedh(1684) Tighernán(1702)
Hugh of Kilnagarn
As mentioned in his obit. Brian ballagh was replaced as Ó Ruairc by his son Aedh gallda. Aedh would hold sway only a couple of years before he was killed within his own dominion, as noted below:
M1564.1 - O'Rourke (Hugh Gallda, son of Brian Ballagh, son of Owen) was maliciously and malignantly slain by his own people, at Leitrim, in Muintir-Eolais; after which the whole country closed round Brian, the son of Brian O'Rourke; and it was rumoured that it was for him this treacherous misdeed was committed, though he had no personal share in perpetrating it. Hugh Boy, the son of Brian, son of Owen O'Rourke, another brother, who was younger than Hugh, but older than Brian, called himself O'Rourke by the influence of O'Neill.
Next to follow as Ó Ruairc was Aedh buidhe, brother of Aehd gallda. He was slain by the neighboring Cenel Conaill (the people of O Donnell) at Ballintogher, County Sligo just a couple of years following his election. His obituary alludes to the continued internal struggle for the right to become Ó Ruairc.
M1566.5 - O'Rourke (Hugh Boy, the son of Brian Ballagh) was slain by the Kinel-Connell, at Baile-an-tochair, in order that the son of the daughter of Manus O'Donnell, namely, Brian, the son of Brian, son of Owen (O'Rourke), might enjoy the lordship of Breifny.
Next to serve as as Ó Ruairc was Aedh buidhe's younger brother Brian na múrtha, son of Brian ballagh. Brian na múrtha would reign as the Ó Ruairc for about 35 years, his term fraught with encroachment by the English, along with the usual raiding and feuding with other Gaelic rivals. Brian was a proud, stubborn man, who unlike some of the other Gaelic lords, was unwilling to compromise with the English, even after being knighted by them in 1578. The English tightened their grip even further when Ó Ruairc country became part of County Leitrim, formed in 1583. Brian would become an outlaw in the eyes of the English. Sentenced of treason he would eventually be taken prisoner, placed in the Tower of London, and hanged in 1591.
M1591.1 - O'Rourke, i.e. Brian-na-Murtha, the son of Brian, son of Owen, was banished, as stated before, into the Tuatha in Tirconnell, where he remained upwards of a year with Mac Sweeny (Owen Oge). After that he passed into Scotland, in hopes of obtaining protection or assistance from the King of Scotland. A party of the Queen's people, however, took him prisoner, and carried him into England and into London, where he remained for some time in prison, i.e. until the ensuing November Term. The law was urged against him, and he was condemned to death. He was afterwards hanged, beheaded, and quartered. The death of this Brian was one of the mournful stories of the Irish, for there had not been for a long time any one of his tribe who excelled him in bounty, in hospitality, in giving rewards for panegyrical poems, in sumptuousness, in numerous troops, in comeliness, in firmness, in maintaining the field of battle to defend his patrimony against foreign adventurers, for all which he was celebrated, until his death on this occasian.
The next Ó Ruairc of importance was Brian óg na samhthach, son of Brian na múrtha. Among other things, Brian óg distinguished himself on the side of the Gael at the 'Battle of the Curlews' in 1599 during the Nine Years War. Brian óg was also forced to flee Breifne, as his father had, ending up in Galway where he passed away at the age of 35.
M1604.1 - O'Rourke (Brian Oge, the son of Brian-na-Murtha, son of Brian Ballagh, son of Owen) died at Galway on the 28th of January, and was buried in the monastery of Ross-Iriala, with the Franciscan Friars. The death of the person who departed here was a great loss, for he was the supporting pillar and the battle-prop of the race of Aedh-Finn, the tower of battle for prowess, the star of the valour and chivalry of the Hy-Briuin; a brave and protecting man, who had not suffered Breifny to be molested in his time; a sedate and heroic man, kind to friends, fierce to foes; and the most illustrious that had come for some time of his family for clemency, hospitality, nobleness, firmness, and steadiness.
The next Ó Ruairc was Tadhg an fiona, a half-brother of Brian óg, who would die at age 28 in Dromahair. Some suspect he may have been poisoned in 1605. With his death the last of the lords of the Dromahair line held sway.
M1605.2 - O'Rourke (Teige, son of Brian, son of Brian, son of Owen), Lord of Breifny, a man who had experienced many hardships and difficulties while defending his patrimony against his brother, Brian Oge; a man who was not expected to die on his bed, but by the spear or sword; a man who had fought many difficult battles, and encountered many dangers, while struggling for his patrimony and the dignity of his father, until God at length permitted him to obtain the lordship, died, and was interred with due honour in the Franciscan Monastery at Carrickpatrick.
Following the death of Tadhg an fiona, his sons Brian and Aedh were declared illegitimate by the English. They ultimately lost their claim to their father's inheritance. In a Tract on the O Rourkes, written in 1714 perhaps by Father Patrick O Curneen he notes, "the Duke of Buckingham received the manor of Dromahaire; Sir Frederick Hamilton the manor of Baile Hamilton; Grandison the manor of Druim-an-Snamh; the Parsons - Achadh Tamhnuigh, Beal an Atha Moir and An Garbhos (those are three manors); Henry Casto - Maothail; Blundel the manor of Leitrim; Sir George St. George (by marriage) the liberties of Cara; Robert Park the manor of Baile Nua; Seon Mor Mag Raghnaill - Loch an Scuir, Leacaoin, and An Ghrainneach (those are three manors); as well as many other small divisions between Goill and Gaoidhil which are not reckoned here."
The 17th century heralded the virtual extinction of Gaelic civilization as a political entity in Ireland. English law (and manipulation) resulted in taking properties formerly held by 'rebellious' or 'illegitimate' Irish heirs, and giving them to English settlers or those faithful to the Crown. The Irish uprising of 1641 was followed in the 1650s by wholesale confiscation of remaining Irish Catholic lands. By the end of the century English and Protestant landownership was the rule, especially east of the Shannon.
By some accounts Eóghan óg Ó Ruairc, grandson of Tighernán bán, was the last recognized Chief of his name. In a tract in Celtica it mentions that Eóghan Óg of Dromahair (grandson of Tiernan Ban) and Aedh (Hugh) of Kilnagarn, Dromahair, great-grandson of Hugh Gallda (Tiernan Ban's half-brother) were rivals for the title of Chief of the O Rourkes. The original tract was written in 1714, probably by Father Patrick O Curneen, poet and historian of the ORourkes. It was translated by Professor James Carney and published in 1950. In the same tract it mentions Eóghan Óg son of Eóghan Mór was judged to be Chief by the ollamháin of the Province of Connacht (Celtica, 1, 1950, page 266)
Ua Ruairc of Bréifne --
Genealogy Sources --
Lords and Kings of Bréifne --
Chart of O Ruarc Kings
"O'Rourkes of Dromahair", written by Dennis Walsh, May 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.