The Irish Chiefs and Clans in Tirconnell[1]

THE following clans and chiefs, in Tir Conaill in the twelfth century, are given by O'Dugan under the head of Cineal Conaill:—

1. O'Maoldoraigh or Muldory, O'Canannain. and Clan Dalaigh, were the principal chiefs. In the tenth century some of the head chiefs of the Clan Connell took the tribe name Clan-na-Dalaigh, from Dalagh, one of their chiefs, whose death is recorded by the Four Masters, at A.D. 868; but they afterwards took the name O'Domhnaill, or O'Donnell, from Domhnall or Donal, grandson of Dalagh.

2. O'Boyle were chiefs of Clan Chindfaoladh of Tir Ainmireach, and of Tir Boghaine—territories which comprised the present baronies of Boylagh and Banagh: Crioch Baoighilleach or the country of the O'Boyles gave name to the barony of "Boylagh;" Tir Boghaine was the barony of "Banagh."

3. O'Mulvany, chief of Magh Seireadh or Massarey.

4. O'Hugh, chief of Easruadh [Esroe] or Ballyshannon, in the barony of Tir Hugh.

5. O'Tairceirt or Tarkert, chief of Clan Neachtain and of Clan Snedgaile or Snell.

6. Mac Dubhaine or Mac Duane, chiefs of Cineal Nenna or Cineal Enda, a district which lay in Inishowen.

7. MacLoingseachain, chiefs of Glean Binne; and O'Breislen or Breslein, chief of Fanaid or Fanad, on the western shore of Lough Swilly.

8. O'Dogherty, chief of Ard Miodhair. In the Annals of the Four Masters, at A.D. 1197, Eachmarcach [Oghmarkagh] O'Doherty is mentioned as chief of all Tirconnell. The O'Doghertys maintained their rank as chiefs of Inishowen down to the reign of James the First.

9. MacGilleseamhais (anglicised Gilljames, James, and Fitzjames), chief of Ros-Guill, now "Rosgul," in the barony of Kilmakrenan.

10. O'Kernaghan, and O'Dallan, chiefs of the Tuath Bladhaidh.

11. O'Mulligan, chief of Tir Mac Caerthain.

12. O'Donegan, and MacGaiblin or MacGiblin, chiefs of Tir Breasail; and O'Maolgaoithe, chief of Muintir Maolgaoithe (gaoth: Irish, the wind; pronounced "ghee"). Some of this clan anglicised their name "Magee;" and others, "Wynne"—another form of "wind," the Englishfor the word "gaoth," as above.

13. MacTernan, chief of Clan Fearghoile or Fargal. The following chiefs and clans not given by O'Dugan are collected from the Four Masters and other sources:—

14. MacSweeney (strangely anglicised MacSwiggan), a branch of the O'Neills, which settled in Donegal, and formed three great families, namely, MacSweeney of Fanaid, who had an extensive territory west of Lough Swilly, and whose castle was at Rathmullin; MacSweeney Boghainach or of Tir Boghaine, now the barony of Banagh, who had his castle at Rathain, and in which territory was situated Reachrain Muintir Birn, now Rathlin O'Beirne Islands; and MacSweeney Na d-Tuath, signifying MacSweeney of the Territories. His districts were also called "Tuatha Toraighe" or the districts of Tory Island. This MacSweeney's possessions lay in the barony of Kilmacrenan. According to O'Brien, he was called "MacSweeney Na d-Tuath," signifying MacSweeney of the Battle-axes—a title said to be derived from their being chiefs of gallowglasses, and from their being standard bearers and marshals to the O'Donnells. A branch of these MacSweeneys, who were distinguished military leaders, settled in Munster in the county Cork, in the thirteenth century; and became commanders under the MacCarthys, princes of Desmond.

15. O'Gallagher, descended from a warrior named "Gallchobhar," were located in the baronies of Raphoe and Tir Hugh, and had a castle at Ballyshannon, and also possessed the castle of Lifford; they were commanders of O'Donnell's cavalry. Sir John O'Gallagher is mentioned in the wars of Elizabeth.

16. O'Furanain (or Foran), chief of Fion Ruis, probably the "Rosses," in the barony of Boylagh.

17. O'Donnely, chief of Fear Droma, a district in Inishowen, is mentioned in the Annals of the Four Masters, at A.D. 1177.

18. O'Laney or Lane, chief of Cineal Maoin, a district in the barony of Raphoe.

19. O'Clery or Clarke, hereditary historians to the O'Donnells; and the learned authors of the Annals of the Four Masters, and other valuable works on Irish history and antiquities. They had large possessions in the barony of Tir Hugh, and resided in their castle at Kilbarron;[2] the ruins of which still remain on a rock on the shores of the Atlantic near Ballyshannon.

20. MacWard, a clan in Donegal, were bards to the O'Donnells, and were very learned men.

Tir Connell was formed into the county Donegal by the lord deputy Sir John Perrott, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.


[1] Tir-Connell: This territory comprised the remaining portion of Donegal not contained in Tir-Owen, the boundary between both being Lough Swilly; but in the twelfth century the O'Muldorys and O'Donnells, princes of Tir-Connell, became masters of the entire of Donegal: thus making Lough Foyle and the rivers Foyle and Finn the boundaries between Tir-Connell and Tir-Owen. This territory got its name from Conall Gulban, who took possession of it after its conquest by Niall of the Nine Hostages. He was brother to Owen, who possessed Tir-Owen; from him the territory obtained the name of Tir-Connaill or "Connell's Country;" and his posterity were designated Cineal Conaill or the race of Connell, a name which was also applied to the territory.

Some of the earliest events in Irish history are connected with this territory, amongst which the following may be noticed:—Inis Saimer was the residence of Bartholinus or Partholan, who first planted a colony in Ireland; and this island gave the name Saimer to the river now called the Erne, and Lough Erne, which in ancient times was called Lough Saimer. The waterfall at Ballyshannon is connected with another early event, the death of Aodh Ruadh, an ancient king of Ireland who was drowned there; hence it was called Eas-Aodha-Ruaidh or the Cataract of Red Hugh; and hence "Eas-Ruadh" [Ashroe] was the ancient name of Ballyshannon.

In the tenth century a branch of the Cineal (or Clan) Connell took the name of O'Canannain, many of whom were celebrated chiefs; and another branch of them took the name of O'Maoldoraidh (anglicised O'Muldory and Mulroy), and became princes of Tir-Connell. The O'Donnells, in the twelfth century, became princes of Tir-Connell. Rory O'Donnell, the last chief of the race was created earl of Tir-Connell, but died in exile on the Continent; and his estates were confiscated in the reign of James the First.

[2] Kilbarron: See Note, p. 633.