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The Mahonys of Kerry

S. T. McCarthy

Kerry Archæological Magazine, 1917-1918, p. 171-190; 223-255.


THE O'Mahonys (or Mahonys, as they are more generally called in this County) are one of a large group of families called the Eoghanachts (Eugenians) descended from Eoghan, the eldest son of Olioll Olum son of Eoghan Mor (called ''Taidhleach'' or the Splendid, and also "Mogha Nuadhat" who lived about, A.D. 124). Olioll Olum had also two other sons, namely Cormac Cas, from whom sprung the Dalcassians (i.e., the O'Briens, MacMahons, MacNamaras, Kennedys, &c.), and Cian the progenitor of the O'Carrolls, of Ely O’Carroll, Meaghers, &c.

        Corc, the 5th in descent from Olioll Olum, who lived in the beginning of the 5th century, had three sons, namely:―(1) Nadfraoch, the ancestor of the MacCarthys, O'Sullivans, O'Keeffes, O'Callaghans, &c.; (2) Cas, the ancestor of the O'Mahonys, O'Donoghues, &c.) and (3) Maine Learnhna, the ancestor of the Mor Mhaor Leamhna (Great Steward of Lennox), from whom spring the Royal House of Stuart. It is said that Corc had, in his youth, to fly to Scotland to escape the amorous attentions of his step-mother, Daela. According to another version he was compelled by his father to leave Ireland, in consequence of a charge made by his stepmother, and it is said that his father sent a secret message to Feredach Fionn, King of the Picts, to put him to death. But, if that be so, the father's wishes were not destined to be carried out, as Corc married Feredaeh's daughter, Mong Fionn. After her death he came back to Ireland, and his father being then dead laid claim to the throne of Munster. Though he had a rival claimant in the person of Conall Eachluath, a Prince of the Dalcassian branch, he was elected King. Corc was one of the three Princes chosen to examine and put in order the monuments of antiquity, genealogy and record of the Kingdom. With these princes were associated the Chief Brehons, as also Saints Patrick, Benignus, and Carioch. Corc however never became a Christian. He selected Cashel as his royal residence, and when he did so he abandoned his previous place of residence, Rath Raithlean, which he then bestowed on his second son, Cas, with the title of "Ri Raithlean.''

        This place was situated in what is now known as the townland of Gurranes, in the parish of Templemichael and Barony of Kinalmeaky, near its north and east boundaries, and three miles south-east of Crookstown station. The Rath is in a good state of preservation, surrounded by about a dozen smaller raths. They present in fact the remains of an ancient tribal city. It was only some twenty years ago identified as the ancient residence or the Chieftains of the sept, afterwards called the O'Mahonys, by Canon Lyons, a distinguished Irish scholar, by comparison of the remains with the description of the stronghold in an old Irish MS. of the 11th century. This place may therefore he called the cradle of the race. It is supposed too that it was the birthplace of St. Finbar.

        From the fact that Cas received with it the title of "Ri Raithlean" it may be inferred that the territory granted to him was of considerable extent. The territory was afterwards increased by sundry acquisitions until, in the 8th century, the sept land included that compromised in the present baronies of Kinalmeaky and Kinalea, the greater portion of East and West Muskerry and East Carberry, and that portion of West Carbery called Ivagha, i.e., "Ui Eachach" (the progeny of Eochaid the son of Cas), this being the name by which the Sept was known for several centuries. Some idea of the size of the territory may he formed when we mention that it was supposed to be conterminous with the original diocese of Cork.

        With this paper we give a general pedigree of the O'Mahonys, from which it will be seen that Eochaidh, whom we have just mentioned, the son of Cas, had a son Criomhthan, who was father of (1) Aodh called Uargarbh (the overhearing) the ancestor of the Mahonys, who from him were called the "Cinel Aodha," and of (2) Leogaire the ancestor of the O'Donoghues, who were called the "Cinel Laegere." Of course "Ui Eachach" was the general name of two cognate septs.

        Aodh's son Tigernach had a son named Feidhlimidh, who lived about A.D. 577, and became King of Munster, a fact which shows that the sept must have even then possessed considerable territory. Feidhlimidh's grandson was Beke, whence came the sept name Cinelmbeke (or Kinalmeaky), which however did not become a territorial one until a later period.

        Eighth in descent from Beke came Maolmora Lord of Raithleall, who fell in the great battle of Bealach Mughan, in South Kildare, in 903, fighting on the side of Cormac Mac Cullinan, King of Munster, against the forces of Leinster. He seems to have been an elder brother of Cian, mentioned in the pedigree as son of Spellan. On the death in 959 (according to the Four Masters) of Fergradh, King of Cashel, Maolmuadh, son of Bron and grandson of Cian, then chief of the Ui Eachach, laid claim to the vacant position. His pretensions did not at first meet with opposition, and he became King. Mahon the son of Kennedy, and brother of Brian Boru, was then occupied in fighting the Danes, but when he succeeded in freeing his country from their thraldom, he turned his attention to Irish affairs. He made an expedition against Maolmuadh, carried away his hostages, and ultimately, in 970, succeeded in ousting him from the sovereignty. Mahon held it for six years. At the end of that time a confederacy was formed against him by Maolmuadh, Donovan son of Cahall, and the Danish chiefs Imar of Limerick and his son Dubhgen. Mahon being treacherously seized by Donovan in the latter's house, into which he had been inveigled, was delivered up to Maolmuadh and by him slain. Maolmuadh now resumed the sovereignty and held it for two years. Then came retribution, and the battle of Bealach Leachta, near Macroom, where Maolmuadh fell fighting against Brian, and with him 1200 men, both "Gaels" and "Galls," whom he had enlisted on his side.

        After Maolmuadh's death Brian Boru, though supreme in Munster, was glad to make peace with Cian, his son (known as Cian "Na-m-beann oir," or "of the golden cups"). Moreover, he gave him his daughter Sadhbh in marriage. Cian has always been looked upon by his descendants as one of their favourite heroes. This was owing to his boundless generosity, his tall and commanding figure, and his prestige, as having held high command at the battle of Clontarf in 1014. Even before that he had been Brian's companion in many hostings and war-like expeditions. At the battle of Clontarf he commanded the central division of Brian's army in conjunction with his kinsman DonaI, son of Dubhdavoren, ancestor of the O'Donoghues.

        After the battle Cian sought to obtain from Brian a recognition of his own claims to the sovereignty of Munster. So he sent a message to the sons of Brian bearing a formal demand for the restoration of his hostages. Donal, son of Dubhdavoren, perceiving that Donogh, the son of Brian, was willing to give up the hostages, asked what advantage that would be to himself, and an altercation ensued which resulted in Donal’s ordering the Cinel Laegere to detach themselves from Cian's forces. After that the Cinel Aodha and the Cinel Laegere never again met in peace and amity. The Four Master's record a battle "between the Ui Eachach themselves" resulting in the death of Cian and his brothers Cahal and Raghallach, at Magh Guilidhe.1 After that the Cinel Laegere migrated to Magunihy in Kerry, where they displaced the ancient branch of the O'Carrolls of the Eoghanacht Loch Lein, and gave to their territory the name of Eoghanacht O'Donoghue. Thus the Cinel Aodha were left in exclusive possession of their extensive sept lands.

        Cian's son was Mahon (prop. Mathghamhain) whence is derived the name "Mahony," which probably from that time began to he applied to the family. He died in 1028, according to the Leahhar Oiris, but in 1034, according to the Four Masters, Sadhbh or Sabina, survived her son three years. Mahon's son and successor was Brodchon, whose son was Kumara. It was the latter probably who led in 1088 an expedition of the Ui Eachach against the foreigners of Athcliath, Lochgarman, and Port Lairge (Dublin, Wexford and Waterford) who had combined to attack and plunder Cork, and signally defeated them. This was a notable victory, as had the Norsemen been successful they would mast probably have made Cork a well fortified stronghold and a base for predatory excursions in to the neighbouring country. In the following year, according to the (Dublin) Annals of Innisfallen, a combat took place between the "Ui Eachach" and Dermod O'Brien, with the result that 200 of Dermod's soldiers were slain. Kumara died in 1091. He was succeeded by his son Donogh Donn, whose son Cian, the third of that name, had a very disturbed time. According to the (Dublin) Annals of Innisfallen he was killed in the year 1135 in a battle at Clonenagh near Mountrath. On his death his brother, or other near relative (whose Christian name has not been preserved) succeeded, who, at the close of 1170, fell in a victorious attack on the English garrison at Waterford.

        Donogh, called "Na Himirce Timchioll" (i.e., "of the changes of residence"2) the son of Cian III, succeeded on the death of his uncle. He is the stem to which genealogists trace not only the two principal septs of the Mahonys (Kinalmeaky and Ivagha) but also the minor septs. The decline of their predominance by reason of loss of territory, which had commenced in the reign of Cian III., was continued in his son's time. There call be no doubt that those losses were facilitated by the feuds amongst the Irish tribes. In 1178 there had broken out one of those periodical wars between Thomond and Desmond, with the result that, as stated in the (Dublin) Annals of Innisfallen, "the country between Cork and Limerick was devastated, and the greater part of the race of Eoghan Mor fled into the woods of Ivagha." A large portion at East Muskerry must have passed away from the Mahonys in or about 1177, when Robert de Gogan succeeded in capturing Dundrinane, the site of the fortress afterwards known as Castlemore near Moviddy. In the west, Richard de Carew, Marquis of Cork, who died in 1198, seized Innisfodda and another townland, which he afterwards restored by way of a marriage portion when his daughter married Dermod Mor O’Mahony. About 1207 Kinalea, the eastern portion of the territory, was invaded, and came into the hands of Robert Fitzmartin, from whom it passed to the Barrys. Under the year 1179 the (Dublin) Annals of Innisfallen record that "Dermod MacCarthy and O'Donoghue of Loch Lein had attacked and expelled Donogh na Himirce Timchill O'Mahony, King of the Ui Eachach." The old chief, however, does not appear to have been quite extinguished by this reverse, as even in 1212, when close on 80 years of age, he was once more in arms in defence of his rights. The Annalist, under that year, records that he was "killed by the Foreigners."

         He left three sons, Muirceartach, Dermod, and Conchubar. The chieftainship devolved on the eldest of them, Muirceartach. For 20 years he appears to have been left undisturbed by his Norman and Irish neighbours, but in 1232 a great disaster befell the sept from an unprovoked act for which they were quite unprepared. In that year, according to the (Bodleian) Annals of Innisfallen, DonaI Gott MacCarthy, younger brother of Cormac Fionn MacCarthy Mor, Prince of Desmond, was taken prisoner by the latter, but set at liberty by him at the end of a quarter. Immediately alter this DonaI went "at the instance of Maghnus O'Cobhthaigh (Coffey), and Fineen O'Muircearthach (Moriarty), to comit an unneighbourly act against Muircearthach O'Maghamna (O'Mahony), a thing which he did, for he slew the three sons of O'Mahony and plundered herself; and, in consequence of this, Donal Cairbreach and his race remained in the south from that forth." In other words he made a "predatory excursion" against that chief. There was a sanguinary engagement at Carrigdurtheacht in which Donal defeated O'Mahony, the latter's three sons, as also O'Coffey, being killed. This led to O'Mahony's dethronement and the seizure by Donall Gott of a large slice of his territory, comprising Kilbrittain, Rathclarin, Burren, Rathdrought and Dowagh, which were parts of the deanery of Kinalea ultra, with which Kinalmeaky was originally identical. In consequence of this Donal assumed the name "Cairbreach." He and his descendants held sway over this territory, their chief place of residence being the castle of Kilbrittain.

         When, on Muircearthach's death, the time came for his next brother, Dermod, to succeed to the O'Mahony territory, it was decided amongst the clansmen that it should be divided into two portions. The reason of this was that in consequence of a large portion of their territory having been lost to the family, and as that which remained was of a straggling and inconvenient formation and difficult to defend, it was considered advisable to have a separate ruler for each of the two now unconnected portions which remained. Such being the case, distinctive names were settled for the separated territories. Dermod became ruler of Ivagha, as the western portion was named, and his younger brother, Conchobar of Kinalmeaky, the name by which the eastern portion was thenceforth known. The chieftain of the latter, though sometimes called Lord of Kinalmeaky, was generally designated "O'Mahony Cairbreach" in the Annals and general MSS., which name preserved the memory of his ancestors' predominance in Carbery. His western kinsman of the elder branch was known in the Annals as the O'Mahony "an Fonn Iartarach."

         It is of this latter branch that the Kerry Mahonys are an offshoot, which originated in the first half of the 14th century. Though it is with these Mahonys that we are mainly concerned, we have deemed it advisable before dealing with them, to go into the history of the Cork septs, inasmuch as with them is inseparably bound up the tribal history of this great clan. To omit doing so would be practically to leave out all information of a historical nature. So we shall therefore give a succinct history of the two branches up to the time of their dissolution. In doing so we follow the late Canon O'Mahony's "History of the O'Mahonys of Kinelmeky and Ivagha," published some years ago in the Cork H. & A. Society's "Journal," of which this is a brief epitome. We shall commence with that of Kinalmeaky.


         We have said that Conchobar, the younger or the two surviving sons of Donogh-na-Himirce Timchioll came in for this portion. Dermod the elder might probably have chosen it as being the more fertile portion, and this is a matter on which we shall touch later on. Dr. O'Donovan draws attention to the fact that the country of the Western Sept retained the tribe name of the whole clan (Ivagha, i.e., Ui Eachach) whilst that of the Eastern received that of Kinalmeaky, i.e., Cinelmbeke, which originally had a more restricted application. (It must be remembered that when the division was made the territory of Kinalmeaky comprised much more than the modern barony of that name.)

         Rath Raithlean was the ancient stronghold or the O'Mahonys. But after the Norman invasion and the erection of a large number of castles all over the country, it must have become apparent that something more than a primitive fort of that kind was required to hold out against a strong attack. This led to the erection, about 1215, of the fortress, about 1½ miles south of Rath Raithlean, called Caislean Leac; and subsequently, about 1,400, to the erection by the O'Mahonys of Castle Mahon (now called Castle Bernard, the residence of the Earl of Bandon).

         It is supposed that the voluntary partition of the O'Mahony territory into two chieftainships took effect about the middle of the 13th century, or perhaps a little earlier.

          After Donal Gott's raid of 1232 peace prevailed between his sept and the O’Mahons until 1259. In that year Crom O'Donovan, chief of his name in West Cork, happened to pass by Innisfeil (now Phale), west of Ballineen, and there becoming involved in a squabble with O’Mahon’s herdsmen, he was slain by them. Though his death was not attributed to the chief of Kinalmeaky or any of his clan, Fineen McCarthyof Ringrone, brother and successor of DanaI Gott, and ever ready for a fray, took the opportunity of attacking him. The Bodleian Annalist of Innisfallen records that in the skirmish which ensued "Macraith O'Mahon3 and several other nobles were killed."

         The next event recorded of any importance was the annexation, between 1310 and 1320, by the MacCarthys of a portion of O'Mahon territory―namely, the three divisions called Clan Fineen, Clan Conogher and Ui Floin Luadh. They comprised a tract of country co-extensive with the parishes or Kilmichael, Kilmurry, and Dunisky, with part of Moviddy in West Muskerry. It appears that while West Muskerry was still a part of the eastern sept land, each of three successive chieftains of it bestowed a portion of it on young relatives, and thus originated the three sub-septs. The conquest and annexation of those divisions were effected with the aid of the MacSweeny gallowglasses brought down from Donegal. The three Mahony sub-septs were however still allowed to retain the lands as freeholders, subject to a small head rent, down to 1642. After the above loss of territory the authority of the Chief of Kinalmeaky ceased to extend beyond the boundaries of the present barony of that name.

         In Lodge's "Peerage" (Archdall's edition) it is mentioned that Nicholas de Courcy, 12th Baron of Kinsale, married Mor, daughter of O'Mahon, Chief of his Sept. This O'Mahon was DonaI, son of Dermod, ninth in descent from Donogh-na-Himirce Timchill. DonaI's son was Dermod "Spaineach," so called from having in his youth served in the Spanish Army against the Moors. Dermod's son Finin died in 1492. When in 1541 St. Leger was sent over with instructions to get the Irish chiefs to acknowledge Henry VIII as their liege Lord and Supreme Head of the Church, the Chief of Kinalmeaky (then probably Maolmoe, son of Finin, who died in 1492), paid no attention to his summons to appear for that purpose.

         In 1568 Sir Peter Carew came over from England to prosecute his claim to "half the Kingdom of Cork," as heir to FitzStephen, to whom Henry II had granted it. The Government would seem to have allowed his claim. He sent his agent to Cork, where he held a solemn meeting with various chieftains (O'Mahony amongst them), and it is said they made a compact to advance him 3,000 kine with other animals, and corn for the present, and would afterwards pay him a reasonable rent "if he would live amongst them!" But grave doubts exist as to whether such a compact was ever made, especially as, on his death shortly afterwards, no claim was made by his brother, Sir Qeorge Carew. The O'Mahony then was Finin son of Maolmuadh, who succeeded his brother Cian by Tanist law. Finin died in 1579 leaving four sons. One of them, named Conogher, succeeded him. He is said to have died in 1582. He appears to have been drawn into the Desmond rebellion. In an Inquisition held in Cork in 1584 it was found that the late chief "slain in rebellion" was seized as of fee of the country of Kinalmeaky. Conogher's successor in the chieftainship was his cousin germain, Donal, son of Cian, known as DonaI "Graney"4 but his claim was not admitted, as on the attainder of Conogher the territory was made over to two "undertakers" named Phane Becher and Hugh Worth. Donal Graney commenced a guerilla warfare which ended with his death in 1594. Amongst other feats of his was the burning of Castle Mahon and destruction of property therein belonging to Phane Becher. W e may here mention a claim set up by Owen McCarthy Reagh, Lord of Carbery, to the O'Mahony territory. This claim, alter investigation by "Lord Anderson and other Commissioners then in Cork," was disallowed in September 1588. Owen McCarthy returned to the charge the following year, but his second petition shared the same fate.

         On DonaI Graney's death the chieftainship reverted to the family of Finin, and his son Dermod, younger brother of the attainted Conogher, was appointed. Dermod's claims however met with no further recognition than his predecessors, so he resorted to similar practices. However, in 1598, when in consequence of the general revolt which then broke out all the undertakers abandoned their castles and dwelling places, Dermod was enabled to regain possession of Castle Mahon. He died about the close of 1599, when he was succeeded by his brother Maolmuadh. When O'Neill fixed his camp at Inis Carra in 1600 Maolmuadh was one of the chiefs who attended his levee. He was also one of those who at the head of large forces opposed a raid made by the Kinsale garrison, and succeeded in beating them back. The next we hear of him was in July, 160l. Carew, in order to discourage the Spanish Government from sending an expedition adopted the device of seizing those chiefs who were likely to cooperate with them. He invited the freeholders of the county to the Assizes at Cork, and then arrested them as they came! In this way he seized Maolmuadh amongst others. After the insurrection was repressed they were released. Maolmuadh was set at liberty on the 9th June, 1603, but his son and heir was left in charge of the "Gentleman Porter" as a pledge for his father's loyalty. The date of Maolmuadh's death is uncertain. His son was set free towards the end of 1603, but nothing is known of his subsequent career.


         When the division of the O'Mahony Sept became inevitable Dermod Mor, as the elder brother, might probably have chosen to remain at Rath Raithlean and rule over a much more fertile country than Ivagha. There may, however, have been counterbalancing advantages in the latter country which induced him to prefer it. One circumstance which may have weighed with him was its greater extent of seaboard, and the consequent wealth derived from the fisheries and the harbour dues, as also the facility of trading' with foreign nations. There is no doubt that the dues extracted from foreign vessels which made use of the harbours of Crookhaven, Schull, Dunmanus, &c., must have been very considerable. The chief seats of the Lord of Ivagha were Ardintenant and Three Castle Head, and he is said to have had twelve castles of his own, most of which were built on headlands and sites of ancient forts. The first castle built was that of Dunlochy in 1215. The others were at Ardintenant, Rosbrin, Leamcon, Ballydevlin, Dunmanus, Dunbeacon, &c. Dunmanus Castle was the most recent, and also the largest and best constructed.

        Dermod Mor must have been advanced in years when, about 1260, he took up his new position. He had four sons, Macraith (killed in battle 1254), Tadbg, Ricard (called after his Norman grandfather, Ricard de Carew) and Donal. Tadhg succeeded, being, by Tanist law, preferred to his nephew Fineen, son of Macraith (ancestor of the Clan Fineen), and he in turn was succeeded by his son Donogh­an-Rathdreoain. The latter had two sons, Dermod and Tadgh, of whom the former succeeded. During his time the aggressions of the MacCarthy Reaghs, which had been carried on during the greater part of the latter half of the 13th century, were continued, and as the Western tribes did not meet them with combined action, they were forced ultimately, either at. the end of that century or the beginning of the 14th, to pay tribute to the aggressors. From an entry in the Annals of the Four Masters under the year 1319, it appears that a force of the MacCarthys under the command of the sons of Finin MacCarthy (probably the nephews of Donal Caomh Mac Reagh) came in their long boats to Bere in the island of Creagire (Bear Island) to besiege Dermod Mor and his brothers, and continued there for five weeks. Then Dermod's eldest son Finin, under great difficulties, brought reinforcements, and a skirmish ensued resulting in the loss of two of Dermod's family and one of Finin MacCarthy's, as well as many followers on both sides. After that Donal and Dermod, sons of Dermod Mor, came with their ships and brought off all their own party safely to the Carn (Mizen Head). Dermod Mor died about 1327. Before his death he had arranged that Rosbrin and eighteen ploughlands at its foot should be given to his sons Donal and Dermod. Fineen, the eldest son, on his accession, refused to carry out this provision for his younger brothers. So they decided to leave Ivagha―Donal going to Barrett's country, then subject to MacCarthy Mor as overlord, where he obtained a grant of all or some or the ploughlands of the parish of Kilnaglory. Dermod went to Deasmumhanor Desmond, MacCarthy Mor's country in Kerry, where he received a hospitable welcome and a tract of land from MacCarthy, who had doubtless been acquainted with his neighbour, the late Chieftain of Ivagha, and was also probably a relative. He thus founded the "Sliouhd Dermod Og," or the Kerry branch, which forms the subject of this paper, and which we shall deal with later on.

         Fineen was succeeded by his son DonaI, who was probably the chieftain in 1381, when there occurred another aggression of the MacCarthys. The Four Masters under that year record that "Dermod MacCarthy, heir to the Lordship of Desmond, was slain by O'Mahony." Donal was chief in 1383, when the Sliochd Teige O'Mahoun originated, to whom a grant of one-fifth of the whole tribe-land was made. He died towards the end or the 14th century. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Dermod Runtach ("the Reliable"). The century covered by the lifetime of this Dermod and his sons was the most peaceful and prosperous period in the history of the Western Sept. Dermod's generosity and hospitality at his chief residence, Ardintenant, are highly extolled by the Annalists. His second son, Donogh Mor, built on a picturesque spot the Castle of Dunmanus, the largest and best constructed or the Ivagha. Castles. The third son, Fineen, the most celebrated member of the family, obtained Rosbrin Castle. Dunbeacon Castle was built for or by the fourth son, DonaI. Dermod Runtach, on his death in 1427, was succeeded by his eldest son Conor Cabaice ("of the extraction"). He is said to have built Leamcon Castle for his second son, Fineen CaoI. He died in 1473 and was succeeded by his next brother Donogh Mor, who had been tanist since 1427. On the death of the latter, a couple of years later, Fineen, the third son of Dermod Runtach succeeded. He had up to that time spent his time at Rosbrin Castle engaged in pursuits very different from those followed by Irish or Anglo­Irish chieftains. He devoted himself to the study of books, and was reputed to be the most learned man of his time in Ireland. No evidence of his attainments was in existence until about 1869, when Dr. James Henthorn Todd, a distinguished Irish scholar, discovered in the Public Library at Rennes an Irish MS. which, on subsequent examination, turned out to be an Irish translation of Sir John Mandeville's Travels which had been made by Fineen. The MS. commences with a statement of the place, time, and cause of its being written. The place was "Rosbrin in Ibh-Eachad Mumhan," and the year 1475. The translator gives his name as "Fineen, son of Dermod, son of Donal, son of Fineen, son of Dermod Mor." It appears to be a copy made at Kilcrea Abbey from an older one. The "cause of writing" was to supply an "itinerarium" to Palestine―the purpose also stated by Mandeville himself. Fineen, though he probably went to live at Ardintennane Castle on becoming Chieftain, has always been known as "of Rosbrin." He married a daughter of O'Donoghue Mor of Loch Lene. He died in 1486.

         On his death there was a disputed succession (a thing that had been unknown previously in the history of the Sept). It will be remembered that on the death of Dermod Runtach he was succeeded by three sons of his in succession. But now the claim of the fourth son, Donal, was opposed by Conor Fionn, the son of Conor Cabaice and nephew of Fineen the "Scholar." Conor eventually succeeded. He was the first O'Mahony "Fionn," a title given to all his successors down to the extinction of the Sept. He died in 1513. Then he, like his father before him, was succeeded in turn by his two brothers, Fineen Caol and Dermod of Dunlogh Castle. On the latter's death the chieftainship reverted to his nephew Conor II (called "NaCros"). He must have been chief in 1640. He, like his kinsman of Kinalmeaky, was one of those chiefs who in 1642 paid no heed to the invitation of the Lord Deputy St. Leger when the latter came to Cork to get from the Irish Chiefs declarations of allegiance to Henry VIII, and acknowledgments of his claim to be head of the Church. In 1652 an incident occurred which led to the downfall of one of the principal families of the Clan. For some time the owner of Rosbrin had been regarded as next in station to the Chieftain ruling at Ardintennane. In the year just mentioned the then owner, Donal son of Conor, son of Donal, son of Fineen "the Scholar," was seized within the liberties of Cork, tried on a charge of felony, and put to death. The Cork Civic Authorities thereupon fitted up an expedition to seize Rosbrin Castle. They then made it over to O'Mahon Fynn (Fionn) and Cornelius O’Mahon (his son and successor), who kept the castle for eight years and enjoyed all the profits. In 1571 Sir John Perrott, Lord President of Munster, sent a force which wrested the castle from them, and placed it in charge of the MacSweeny Gallowglasses, who were in the pay of Government. Next year we find the garrison charged with rebellious practices and punished with a fine.

         From a pardon among the Fiants of 1576 to the MacSweeny Gallowglasses, and to "Teig Conor O'Mahony, gentleman," "conspiracy, confederation, and rebellion," it seems that the garrison must have made common cause with the dispossessed family. So in a Fiant of 1578 Conogher, brother of the attainted Donal, and father of Teige above-mentioned, was put in possession of the Castle and demesne lands subject to a nominal rent.

         To go back to the ruling chieftain, Conor II, it appears that after his death, which must have occurred after 1571, the Chieftainship passed to his two brothers before coming to his son, Conor Fionn III. The latter seems to have succeeded in 1575, and there is one curious transaction in which he was then or shortly afterwards concerned. In 1576 a Fiant grants pardon to "Owen MacCarthy Reagh of Kilbrittain, Florence O'Mahoone of Castlemahon, Conor O’Mahoone of Crookhaven, and Finin O' Hederschoil," for sundry infringments of the English law. (The third of these is evidently Conor Fionn III of Ivagha, because Ballydevlin Castle, where he used to reside, is near Crookaven). The charge against those chieftains was of "fabricating false money." It seems that about 1550 the Lord Deputy was petitioned by the Kinsale Council to compel their neighbours, MacCarthy Reagh, Barry Roe, and others to "take the King's coin." Now Mr. Gibson shows that the coin sent to Ireland in the reigns of Edward and Elizabeth, was a debased coinage, and foreign merchants shunned ports where it was in circulation, consequently the Irish Chiefs were driven to manufacture a coinage for themselves!

         In 1579, the year of the Desmond rebellion, the Rosbrin Mahonys, though they had been restored to their possessions not long before, were drawn into it, and another of the family, the proprietor of Dunbeacon, followed suit. Though the head of the clans kept aloof from it, still by reason of the detachment by confiscation of Rosbrin and Dunbeacon, and from other causes, Conor Fionn III had fallen on evil days, and had to raise funds to make up for a decrease of revenue. After a time he and other chieftains consulting together resolved to adopt the policy of "surrender and regrant." Their applications were accepted. Conor Fionn did not live long to enjoy his new position, as he died on the 20th March, 1592, a few weeks after exchanging his ancient status for that of a feudal proprietor. He was the last Chieftain who succeeded to anything like the power and resources of his predecessors. He married first the daughter of MacCarthy Reagh, and secondly the daughter of the Knight of Kerry. As, at his death, his son Donogh was only ten years old, he was placed under the guardianship of Sir Geoffrey Fenton. In 1602 he died whilst still a minor and was succeeded by his brother Donal.

         From the latter's accession down to the confiscations in 1650, the history of the clan is merely a record of continuous decay. They took part in the rebellious events which led to the disaster at Kinsale, and which followed it up to the end of the insurrection in 1602. On the fourth day after Dunboy Castle was blown up Leamcon Castle was taken. The owner of it at the time was Conogher, son of Daniel, son of Finin Caol. After that there was an exodus to France and Spain of several men of the O'Mahony Sept. The necessities of Donal, the young Chieftain of Ivagha, who had succeeded in 1602, and of his kinsmen, are plainly indicated by the letting of their lands, sometimes for long periods, to strangers. DonaI had three castles, namely, those of Ardintennane, Ballydevlin and Dunlogh in his possession, as well as the townlands going with them. In 1607 he let Ardintennane, and in 1627 Dunlogh, and kept Ballydevlin as his permanent residence. In consequence of the aid they gave to the rebels, Donal the Chief of Ivagha and Donogh of Dunmanus were, with others, outlawed at Youghal in 1642. This had no effect until 1649. DonaI died sometime within that period of seven years, and was succeeded by his son Conor, the last O'Mahon Fionn, who soon became a mere Titular Chief. Tradition says that at some assembly where he and the nominal Chief of Kinalmeaky met, an Irish bard impressed by the occasion composed an elegy, of which only the two introductory lines now survive:―

        O’Mathghamhna an Iarthair agus Tighearna Cinealmbeice
        Beirt do bí d'thighearnais's anois ag iarraidh deirce.

which may be rendered in English:―

        O'Mahony of the West, and the Lord of Kinelmeaky
        Erstwhile of lordly estate--now begging for alms!

It would seem that no descendants of either of them can now be traced.

        The following is a pedigree of Dermod Runtach's descendants:―


         We have now brought to an end our account of the two main branches; but, before concluding, wish to make a few remarks a bout the minor branches. Canon O’Mahony enumerates five of these which came into existence between 1259 and 1330, namely: (1) The Clan Fineen; (2) The Clan Conogher; (3) The branch called "Ui Floin Luadh; (4) The Sliocht Donal of Kilnaglory, and (5) Dermod of Kerry.

         The last-mentioned, with which we are mainly concerned, shall be taken up in the next number, so we shall leave it alone for the present.

         Of the others, the Clan Fineen was so called from its founder Finghin, son of Macraith, the eldest son of DonaI Mor I, the first chieftain of the Western Division (circa. 1260).

         The Clan Conogher descended from Finghin's second cousin, Conogher, the grandson of Cian, the third chieftain of Kinalmeaky.

         The Ui Floin Luaclh sprung from Teige-an-Oir, a younger brother of Dermod Mor II, chieftain of Ivagha, who died about 1327.

         The Sliochd Donal of Kilnaglory sprung from Donal, the 2nd son of Donal Mor II.

         Now, as regards these four septs, we may say that, with one exception, no representatives of any of them can be traced later than the middle or end of the 17th century. Nor is anything of importance or interest known of them up to that period.

         The exception is in the case of the Ui Floin Luadh, one of whom, Cornelius O'Mahony, obtained a commission in the Spanish Army, in which he attained some distinction. He died in 1776, a Lieutenant-Colonel and Knight Commander of a distinguished order. He appointed as executor of his will another distinguished member of the family, namely Count Demetrius (Dermod) O'Mahony, then Ambassador of the King of Spain at Vienna, who was a son of the most renowned of them all (at least in modern times) namely, Count Daniel O'Mahony, the hero of Cremona in 1702, and known in French history of the time as "le brave O'Mahony."

         Besides the five minor septs mentioned by Canon O’Mahony, we believe that we have come across another, Some years ago we happened to look over a book of pedigrees belonging to the Dromore family. Among them was one of the Kinalmeaky branch, which showed that Dermod Spaineach, the ninth separate chieftain of that sept, who lived about 1450, had a younger brother named Finghin, the founder of a new branch, the various generations of which are traced step by step down to no less a person than "Ie brave O’Mahony," who is shown as ninth in descent from Finghin the founder of it.

         In most accounts which we have read of Count Daniel and of Colonel Dermot O'Mahony his brother (who fell at Aughrim, fighting for King James II), they are spoken of as "of Rosbrin." We shall however let the pedigree speak for itself, and it shall appear in due course with a full account of "Ie fameux Mahoni."




1.  Which constant tradition has identified with the townland of Maglin, near Ballincollig.
2.  It was the custom of clansmen to attach to the name of a chief a sobriquet suggested by some striking personal peculiarity or circumstance connected with him. Donogh's salient peculiarity was a habit of going the round of his forts and spending some time at each, instead of residing permanently at Rath Raithlean.
3.  Eldest son of Dermod, first chief of the Western sept.
4.  "Graney" is probably the English rendering of the Irish word "granna" meaning ill-favoured.