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A History of the O'Mahony Septs of Kinelmeky and Ivagha


Journal of the Cork Archæological and Historical Society, various issues, 1906-10

Cork: Guy & Co., 1912



        From the main line of the chiefs descended from Mahon five minor septs or families branched. off between A.D. 1259 and 1330. These were known as Clan Fineen, Clan Conogher, the Ui Floin Luadh, Sliocht Donail of Kilnaglory, and Sliocht Diarmada Oig of Kerry. The two last-mentioned will be more conveniently reserved for the concluding portion of this history. Of the first three, which were seated in West Muskerry, we shall now give some account, and in proceeding to do so it will be necessary to repeat a few passages from a previous page (130). East Muskerry (except a smaIl portion) became detached from the tribeland ruled by the head of the undivided sept, Donogh na Himerce O'M., when De Cogan, a few years after the Norman Invasion, succeeded in seizing the fort of Dun Draighnean, afterwards the site of Castlemore. On the death of De Cogan, the fort and territory which he had seized passed into the possession of what was afterwards known as the Muskerry (or Blarney) branch of the Mac Carthys. But a long time, nearly two centuries, elapsed before they were able to annex the West Muskerry district, which remained, as of old, subject to the Chiefs of Kinelmeky. This district was co-extensive with the parishes of Kilmichael, Kilmurry and Dunisky, and included also part of Moviddy in East Muskerry. It was bounded on the north by the Lee, was about ten miles in length, and contained sixty-three ploughlands. Each of three successive chieftains of Kinelmeky bestowed a portion of it on a young relative, and thus originated the three sub-septs already mentioned. Each of these small septs, after a time, began to elect a chief of its own, subordinate, of course, to the chief paramount of the whole clan. This state of things continued until about A.D. 1460.1 The current tradition in Carbery and Muskerry in the beginning of the 19th century, at a time when the Irish language still flourished, and an interest was taken in such traditions, was, that by the aid of the Mac Sweenys, "the Clan of Galloglasses," who were invited down from the North, the Mac Carthy Chiefs succeeded in annexing West Muskerry to their possessions. Independently of the well-established tradition, the foregoing statement would be sufficiently attested by the sites of the castles in which the Mac Sweenys were placed (at first) as warders. These Castles,2 Cloghdha, Carrig Dermod Og, and Mashanaglas, were erected on the eastern fringe of the territory held by the Clan Fineen and their relatives. The date of the advent of the Mac Sweenys may be approximately determined by means of a pedigree compiled by Carew and preserved at Lambeth (Cod. 636). In it he states that the first of the Muskerry branch of the Mac Sweenys, Edmond, "was drawn from Ulster by Cormac Mac Carthy" 3―the same who built Kilcrea in 1467 and died in 1494. But the three minor septs whose history we are recounting appear to have offered a stout resistance to their combined invaders, if we may judge from the favourable terms which they secured for themselves when, at the end of the contest, they consented to pay tribute. They were allowed to retain the absolute ownership of their lands, and even to continue their established custom of electing chiefs, at whose inauguration, however, they had to pay4 "a fixed" chiefry." Nicholas Brown, in his account of the septs of Munster in 1597, makes the following reference to them:―"There are divers gentlemen that are freeholders in the country of Muskerry, viz., . . . Ifflonloe, Clanfineen, and Clanconogher." (State Papers, Brt. Museum.)


        The Clan Fineen, called by the Irish genealogists "Clan Fineen na Ceitherne," occupied about twenty ploughlands in the eastern and more fertile portion of the West Muskerry territory (with a part of the parish of Moviddy), roughly indicated in the inaccurate map which is reproduced on the opposite page from the Pacata Hibernia.

        This sept was the oldest of the five minor septs of the name already enumerated. It derived its appellation from Fineen, son of Macraith, eldest son of Dermod Mór I,5 who, as has been mentioned in a previous page, fell in a skirmish in 1259, according to the (Bodleian) Annals of Innisfallen. An Irish genealogical MS. in the R.I.A. (23 H., i.e., p. 2) has the following:―"Dermod Mór (son of Donogh na Himerce Timchoil) had four sons, Macraith, Tadhg, Ricard and DonaI. And Macraith's son was Finin, from whom are descended the Clan Fineen na Ceitherne." If the law of Primogeniture were recognised by the Irish in the 13th century, Fineen would have been Chief of Kinelmeky6 or of Ivagha, of which his uncle, Tadhg, became chief. But Tanistry preferred the grand-uncle and uncle to the youthful and inexperienced nephew. But though Finin and his successors were only heads of a small sub-clan, genealogically they were the main line of Mahon's descendants, and all other families in the eastern and western tribelands were the branches. Fineen received the designation of "na Ceitherne," i.e., "of the bands or troops" (not of the kernes, Ceithearnaighe), an appellation borne by many ancient Irish chiefs, and indicating some position, difficult now to determine, in the tribal army. As one of his descendants was called Donogh Ruadh, Clan Fineen is set down by Duald Mac Firbis, in the Book of Muster, under the heading "O'Mahouna Ruadh." In the Liber Tenurarum and an Inquisition held in Cork in 1629, we find mention made of one of this sept, "Finin Roc (Ruadh) O'Mahoon," who died in 1628, and is declared to have been the owner in fee of the townland of Pullerick, in the parish of Kilmurry (a townland of 726 acres), and whose son and heir was "Donogh O'Mahoon." In that same Inquisition, Finin is declared to he owner in fee of Dirach and Lackybegge (not identified), which he had mortgaged. The Liber Tenurarum mentions a son of his as owner in fee of the townland of Ball---il (now Ballymichael), near the village of Kilmurry.

        The senior representative of this line from 1617 to 1663 was Dermod, son of Teig, whose name is the last given in the Irish genealogy. He was the owner in fee of Farnanes in the parish of Moviddy, at present one townland, then divided into two, and containing five hundred and eighty acres. It appears from a Chancery Bill, dated A.D. 1617, that he "had the right of inheritance to the said lands," that he had to sue Cormac Mac Carthy, Lord of Muskerry, who interfered with his right; that he was successful in his suit against Mac Carthy, but had to make a further complaint against a friend of his own who was detaining his title deeds. He was the undisturbed owner in 1641. He joined the Insurrection of that year, and his name appears (with those of many of his kinsmen of Ivagha) in the list of the outlawed―"Dermod O'Mahony, of Farnanes, gentleman." His lands were confiscated, but he recovered them after the Restoration of Charles II, and died in 1663. In the list of “Claims lodged at Chichester House, Dublin in 1700-1701" is the "Claim of Darby (Dermod) O'Mahony, an ancient poor gentleman, grandson and heir of Dermot Mac Tieg Mahony, who in 1663 died, owner of the two plowlands of Farnanes, in the Co. Cork, which had been sequestrated after 1641, and which his ancestors for several ages past owned in fee; and which claimant, after a long struggle, recovered from the Countess of Clancarty, and held till about two years :ago, when he was dispossessed by one Thos. Crook, who claimed it as part of the Clancarty estate (which had been confiscated after 1690). That all claimant's deeds have been lost in the late troubles, or in 1641." It is almost unnecessary to say that the land was never recovered from the clutches of Crook, from whom, or after whose time, it passed to one Connor or Conner. No more is known of the claimant. But the writer has recently found that there are still existing several families known as "Mahony Fineens," and one small landholder in Kinelmeky known as "Mahony na Kehemy," a name indicating his descent from Finin, son of Macraith, as clearly as it could be shown by any parchment pedigree.

        Of the Clan Conogher there is little to record, except that it descended from Conogher O'M., who was the grandson of the third "O'Mahony of Carbery." From his place in the genealogical list this Conogher must have flourished in the latter half of the fourteenth century, and the Kinelmeky Chief, who was able to make a grant of land to his young relative in the Musketry district, is thus shown to have retained his authority over that district in the above-mentioned period. The land of this sub-sept adjoined that of the Clan Fineen on the west, being situate partly in the parish of Kilmurry and partly in Kilmichael, and it contained sixteen or eighteen ploughlands. The Clan Conogher was the most recent of the septs.


        The name of this territory, which comprised twenty-eight ploughlands in the western part of Kilmichael, existed long before the time of the first distinctive ancestor of this sub-sept. According to the antiquaries whom Smith consulted when compiling his History of the County Cork, the name Ifflonloe was given to a much wider territory, namely, "the parishes of Kilmurry, Moviddy, Canneboy, Aglish, &c., from Flan one of the Mahonys nursed there, who conquered almost all this tract, as appears from the ancient Irish lines" (which we have previously quoted). He describes Flan as a predecessor of Bece, who lived in the seventh century. We have shown that Flan or Flon was another name for Criompthan, a remote ancestor of Mahon's.7 But the name Ui Flon Luadh had become restricted, in the 14th century, to the portion of West Muskerry above defined, which the Chief of Kinelmeky bestowed on his cousin, the son of Tadhg an Oir (brother of Dermod Mor II of Ivagha) about the year 1320. In consequence of their descent from Tadhg an Oir, this sept has been called "O'Mahony an Oir," and there are a few families which are still so designated. One of this line about the close of the sixteenth century was Concobar, who acquired the soubriquet of "an Crochair," i.e., of the bier; the real or legendary reason given by tradition. for this epithet is alluded to in his article on "The Nicknames of the Fiants," by the late Canon Lyons:―"The traditional reason for the name in a sept of the O'Mahonys was that their progenitor carried a bier on his shoulders over a rugged road where four men together had failed." (Cork Arch. Journal, 1895.) The head of the sept, or of what remained of it, in 1700 was Cian an Cróchair, in praise of whom there is extant a poem written in 1719 by Donal na Tuile, the last tribal bard of the MacCarthys of Glennachroim.8 There is an ancient tomb in Kilmichael graveyard in which the last Cian and his ancestors of the Ui Flon Luadh were interred. This Cian's son was Cornelius, who obtained a Commission in the Spanish Army, rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel and Knight Commander of a distinguished Order, and died in 1776. He appointed as executor of his will his namesake, of the Kerry branch, Count Demetrius (Dermod) O'Mahony, Ambassador of the King of Spain to Vienna, and son of Count Daniel, the hero of Cremona, known in French military history as "Le fameux Mahony." The Ambassador exerted himself to find out the heirs of his friend, and succeeded in doing so by the aid of Maurice O'Connell of Derrynane, who got his Cork agent to make the necessary inquiries and to pay the legacies. The receipt of the legatees is given in Mrs. O'Connell's Life of the Last Colonel of the Irish Brigade. It is as follows:―"We, the under-written Cornelius O'Mahony, Kean O'M., Elizabeth O'M., and Mary O'M., nephews and nieces of the late Lieutenant-Colonel Cornelius O'Mahony, deceased, in the Spanish service, acknowledge to have received from his Excellency Count O'Mahony, Ambassador from the Court of Spain to that of Vienna, by the hands of Martin French, Esq., the sum of ninety pounds sterling, making, with the sums already transmitted to us, the full amount of the inheritance from our said uncle, for which we signed two receipts of the same tenor."

        D'Alton, in his Appendix to King James's Army List, states that" in 1605 Sir Willam Taafe had a grant in Muskerry of the entire territory of Ifflonloe, containing twenty-eight small carucates or townlands," which he says was "the property of Daniel Mac Conogher O'Mahony of Rossbrin Castle, attainted for taking part in the Desmond Insurrection." This latter assertion is simply an erroneous guess of one unacquainted with Co. Cork geography or tribal history. The owner of Rossbrin belonged to a different sept of the clan, and had no connection with Muskerry. A State paper about the lands that he forfeited will be quoted later on. It is not credible that Ifflonloe was confiscated in 1615 and handed over to Taaffe, as no one of its landowners is mentioned among the "attainted," and no passage in the Calendar of State Papers for 1605 bears out D' Alton's assertion. But he undoubtedly must have seen some record giving the number of townlands in the district, which number exactly corresponds with the traditional account given to the present writer many years ago by an old man who was the grandson of one of the legatees above mentioned. There is no proof that the district was confiscated before the Cromwellian period.

        To some one of the three septs belonged Conogher O'Mahony, a member of the Jesuit Order, who was born in Muskerry, according to Ware (Irish Writers, p. 121-122), studied, as he tells us himself, in Spain, and wrote in 1645 a book which caused a considerable commotion and was vehemently assailed by more than one party. The title of the book is "Disputatio Apologetica de Jure Regni Hiberniae adversus Haereticus Anglos, Auctore Constantino Marulo, Artium et S. Theologiae Magistro. Francofurti, 1645." That it was written in some Continental country, there appears to be intrinsic evidence, for in referring his readers to Irish histories, he says that he had not access to them when he was writing. He openly admitted the authorship in Lisbon (Ware, Irish Writers), and certainly selected a pseudonym not calculated to secure perfect concealment, as "Constantinus" was one of the two Latinized forms employed for Conogher, a Christian name that had become almost peculiar to those who bore his surname at that period. It is in point of form a scholastic treatise of about one hundred pages (quarto), in which various arguments are adduced to prove that the Kings of England never acquired a just title to Ireland, either by Henry the Second's invasion, or by subsequent prescription; that even if they, did, they had forfeited all right by their tyranny; that every Community, be it a kingdom or be it a republic, has the right to depose a tyrant (p. 65) who by plundering, oppressing and persecuting the people broke the virtual contract that existed between the governor and the governed (p. 72). Here we have a curious anticipation of the argument from the violation of the "original compact," set forth in the English Act of Parliament, which, forty-four years afterwards, declared the deposition of James II. After concluding his arguments and replying to objections, he then subjoins, by way of appendix, an " Exhortatio," or rhetorical address, in which, having dwelt on the confiscations and persecutions, he strongly urges the Irish people to shake off the yoke of the English King and elect as King one of their own race and faith; they should imitate other nations (whom he enumerates) that had kings of their own race. He exhorts them to persevere in the war; that they had good generals and brave soldiers, and sufficient resources in the tributes that could be withheld from the English King. He then urges them either to extirpate their enemies or expel them from Ireland (vel occidatis vel ex Hiberniae finibus expellatis). This passage has been unfairly represented as an incitement to an indiscriminate massacre or assassination. But in the context―in the paragraph (19) preceding that passage and in the sentence following it―he is expressly speaking of ordinary warfare. When this work began to circulate in Ireland the Government made every effort to discover the author that he might be tried for high treason. In Hardiman's Hist. of Galway we find that the Mayor and burgesses of that loyal town in 1646 signalised themselves by denouncing, "by way of prevention," the book of which they had failed to obtain a copy―"We do adjure and detest the damnable and seditious book and the doctrine therein contained, and will censure and damn the same with the author thereof, if we light on them, to scorching and revengeful fire." In the following year the Supreme Council of the Confederation of Kilkenny condemned the book and ordered it to be burned. Ware makes the improbable statement that this was done "against the will of the Nuncio Rinuccini, who saved from punishment John Bane, parish priestof Athlone, on whom a book was found." Ware asserts that "the Supreme Council were ashamed of the too bold advances made in this book, and as it tended to create disunion between the Irish of race and the Irish of blood, condemned it, &c." Cox, as might be expected, says that "it was burned for form sake, but allowed to be privately dispersed." In the prefix to his History he says that "the advice of Mr. Mahony was not to make a priest of any of the English race, nor trust any that are." Neither Ware nor Cox can have read this work, which makes no distinction at all between the Celtic Catholics and those of Norman descent. To form a fair estimate of the Disputatio Apologetica, it should be borne in mind that for more than a century before 1645 English statesmen and political writers had advocated the extermination of the Irish people. This inhuman policy had been put forward, first by the Privy Council in 1540 (Gibson, Hist. of Cork, vol. i., 154) then by Essex9 in 1574, by Lord Cork, whose letter Hardiman quotes, and by Spenser in his View of the State of Ireland. It was vehemently supported by Milton. Some time before the Rebellion of 1641, according to Carte (Life of Ormond) "Sir W. Parsons, a 'Lord Justice,' declared at a banquet in Dublin that in twelve months a Catholic would not be seen in Ireland." The right of deposing a tyrannical sovereign was defended by Milton in his Tenure of Kings and Magistrates in 1649, and became an accepted political doctrine in England before the end of the century. The author of the Disputatio Apologetica and the dominant party in England and among the English colonists in Ireland held the same principles in political affairs, but applied, them in opposite directions. The author, says Ware, "was an old man in 1650, but the year of his death is not known."

         The book had become very rare and was almost forgotten when, in order, it is said, to prejudice the cause of Catholic Emancipation, fifty copies were reprinted in Dublin before 1829.

         In the next number the history of the Western Sept of Ivagha will be commenced.



1.  The statement made in p. 131 (supra) as to the time when West Muskerry became detached from Kinelmeky is here corrected, in view of the evidence now produced from Carew's Codex 635, Lambeth Library, but not known to the writer when page 131 was written.
2.  Cloghdha and Mashanaglas appear to have been afterwards rebuilt.
3.  The Earl of Desmond and Mac Carthy Reagh were also largely indebted to the Mac Sweeny Clan for the predominant position they obtained. Those galloglasses had the advantage of being professional soldiers, who did not, like the kernes, return in time of peace to agricultural work, but were maintained by the Chiefs who had need of their services. Burleigh wrote (1577) that "one sept of the Mac Swynes directs Owen Mac Carthy Reagh as they list." Sir H. Sidney wrote to the Privy Council in 1575
:―"There came to me five brethren, all captains of galloglasses, called Mac Swynes, who, though I place them last, are of as much consequence as any of the rest; for of such credit and force were they grown into, that (although they were no lords of lands themselves) they would make the greatest lords of the province in fear of them, and glad of their friendship."
4.  Calendar of Carew MSS.
5.  It has been already explained in a footnote that in the Genealogical Table No. 3, by a lapsus calami, Macraith was called the second son of Dermod. As there was an accidental error in the genealogy of the Clan Finin, as given in that Genealogical Table (in the first part of this History), it is now repeated in an amended form:―"Macraith, eldest son of Dermod Mor, Finin (a quo Clan Finin), Cian, Donogh Ruadh, Donogh, Maolmuadh, Mahon, Dermod, Mahon Ruadh, Tadhg, Finin, Tadhg, Dermod (1617-1633).
6.  Concobar, younger brother of Dermod Mor, was first Chief of Kinelmeky after lvagha was detached from it.
7.  And not from Flon, an ancestor of the Ui Floinn.
8.  Hence this sept, as regards antiquity of origin, comes next after the Clan Finin na Ceithire. O'Heerin (Topogr. Poem) heard a confused account about this latter sept, as he makes O'Ceithernaigh a tribal name:―
                "A fine land, that we dare not pass over,
                O'Ceitheamaigh the smooth-skinned obtained,
                Ui Flon Lua about the far-extending Lee,
                Scions of fresh aspect like their fathers."
                                                ―O'Donovan's Translation.
9.  Essex (the first Earl) writing to Elizabeth in 1574 contrasts the relative advantages of conquest and extirpation
:―"The force which shall bring about the one, shall do the other, and it may be done without any show that such a thing is meant." History records his failure and miserable end.