Irish Chiefs and Clans in Cork and Kerry

The Ancient Desmond

CORK (in latin "Corcagia," and also "Coracium") got its name from Corc (No. 89, p. 69), a prince of the Eugenian race, who was King of Munster, in the fifth century; Kerry (in Latin "Kerrigia") got its name from Ciar, son of Fergus Mac Roy, by Meava or Maud, the celebrated Queen of Connaught, a short time before the Christian era. This Ciar, in the first century, got a large territory in Munster, called from him Ciar Rioghact, signifying Ciar's Kingdom: hence, the word "Ciaraidhe," anglicised "Kerry."

The Eugenians, we saw, ruled as kings over Desmond or South Munster, which comprised the whole of the present county Cork, and the greater part of Kerry, together with a portion of Waterford, and a small part of the south of Tipperary, bordering on Cork; while the Dalcassian kings ruled over Thomond. From each race was alternately elected a king of all Munster; and, in that kingdom, this mode of government continued from the third to the tenth century, when Brian Boru, of the Dalcassian race, became king of Munster. After that period the O'Briens alone were kings of Munster and kings of Thomond; and the MacCarthys, who were the head of the Eugenian race, were kings and princes of Desmond.

When, on the English invasion, King Henry the Second landed at Waterford, in October A.D. 1171, Dermot MacCarthy, king of Desmond, waited on him the day after his arrival, delivered to him the keys of the city of Cork, and did him homage.[1] A.D. 1177, Henry II. granted to Robert Fitzstephen and Milo de Cogan, for the service of sixty knights to himself and his son John and their heirs, the whole kingdom of Desmond, with the exception of the city of Cork and the adjoining cantreds, which belonged to the Ostmen or Danes of that city, and which Henry reserved to hold in his own hands. The MacCarthys maintained long contests for their independence, with the Fitzgeralds, earls of Desmond, the Butlers, earls of Ormond, and other Anglo-Norman and English settlers; and held their titles, as princes of Desmond, with considerable possessions, down to the reign of Elizabeth. They were divided into two great branches, the head of which was MacCarthy Mór: of whom Donal MacCarthy was, A.D. 1565, created earl of Glencare or Clancare, by Queen Elizabeth; the other branch, called MacCarthy Reagh, were styled princes of Carbery. Besides the earls of Clancare, the MacCarthys were also created at various periods barons of Valentia. earls of Clancarty, earls of Muskerry, and earls of Mount Cashel; and, had several strong castles in various parts of Cork and Kerry.

There are still in the counties of Cork and Kerry many highly respectable families of the MacCarthys; and several of the name have been distinguished commanders in the Irish Brigades in the service of France and Spain.


[1] Homage: See "The Clan of MacCaura," by Denis Florence MacCarthy, in p. 107, ante.