Irish Chiefs and Clans in the County Meath

O'DUGAN in his Topography says:

"Let us travel around Fodhla (Ireland),

Let men proceed to proclaim these tidings;

From the lands where we now are,

The five provinces we shall investigate.

"We give the pre-eminence to Tara,

Before all the melodious mirthful Gael,

To all its chieftains and its tribes,

And to its just and rightful laws.

"The princes of Tara I here record:

The Royal O'Hart, and likewise O'Regan;

The host who purchased the harbours

Were the O'Kellys and O'Connollys."

The "harbours" here mentioned were those of the river Shannon, bordering on the ancient Kingdom of Meath.

The Kingdom of Meath included Bregia and Teffia. The chiefs and clans of the Kingdom of Meath, and the territories they possessed, are as follows:

1. O'Melaghlin, kings of Meath. Of this family Murcha was the king of Meath at the time of the Anglo-Norman invasion; whose Kingdom was granted by King Henry the Second to Hugh de Lacey.

2. O'h-Airt or O'Hart were princes of Tara; and when, on the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland, they were dispossessed of their territories in Bregia or the eastern portion of the Kingdom of Meath, they were lords in Teffia [1] or the western portion of that ancient Kingdom. Connellan styles O'Regan, O'Kelly, and O'Connolly, princes of Tara; and O'Donovan states that they were of the four families who, by pre-eminence, were known as the "Four Tribes of Tara."[2] The princes of Tara were also styled princes of Bregia,[3] a territory which extended between the Liffey and Boyne, from Dublin to Drogheda, thence to Kells; and contained the districts about Tara, Trim, Navan, Athboy, Dunboyne, Maynooth, Lucan, etc.; the territory comprising these districts and that part of the present county Dublin, north of the river Liffey, was known as "O'Hart's Country." O'Kelly of Bregia were chiefs of Tuath Leighe, parts of the baronies of West Narragh and Kilkea, in the county Kildare; they had also the district about Naas, and had their chief residence and castle at Rathascul or the Moat of Ascul, near Athy: the territory comprising these districts was known as "O'Kelly's Country." These O'Kellys are distinct from the O'Kellys of Clan Colla, who were princes of Hy-Maine, a territory in Galway and Roscommon. O'Regan were chiefs of Hy-Riagain, now the barony of Tinnehinch in the Queen's County.

3. O'Connolly, respectable families in Meath, Dublin, and Kildare; were chiefs in the county Kildare.

4. O'Ruadhri or O'Rory, now Rogers, lord of Fionn Fochla in Bregia.

5. O'Fallamhain or Fallon, lord of Crioch-na-gCeadach: so called from Olioll Cedach, son of Cahir Mór, King of Leinster, and the 109th Monarch of Ireland. The "Country of the O'Fallons" was near Athlone in the county Westmeath, but they were afterwards driven across the Shannon into Roscommon.

6. O'Coindeal-bhain (O'Kendellan, or O'Connellan), princes of Ibh-Laoghaire or "Ive-Leary," an extensive territory in the present counties of Meath and Weatmeath, which was possessed by the descendants of Leary, Monarch of Ireland, at the time of St. Patrick. The parish of Castletown Kendellan in Westmeath shows one part of this ancient territory, and the townland of Kendellanstown, near Navan, shows another part of it.

7. O'Braoin or O'Breen, chief of Luighne, now the parish of "Leney," in the barony of Corcaree, Westmeath.

8. O'h-Aongusa or O'Hennessy, chief of Hy-Mac-Uais, now the barony of "Moygoish," in Westmeath. The Clan-Mac-Uais or MacEvoy, sometimes called MacVeagh and MacVeigh, of the race of Clan Colla, were the original chiefs of this territory.

9. O'h-Aodha (anglicised O'Hughes and O'Hayes), chief of Odhbha (probably "Odra" or "Oddor," in the barony of Skrine, near Tara).

10. O'Dubhain or Duane, chief of Cnodhbha, probably "Knowth," near Slane.

11. O'h-Ainbeath or O'Hanvey, chief of Fearbhile, now the barony of "Farbill," in Westmeath.

12. O'Cathasaigh or O'Casey, chief of Saithne, now "Sonagh," in Westmeath, where one of the castles of De Lacy stood, who conferred that property on the Tuite family.

13. O'Lochain or O'Loughan, chief of Gailenga, now the parish of "Gallen" in the barony of Garrycastle, King's County.

14. O Donchadha or O'Donoghoe, chief of Teallach Modharain, probably now "Tullamore, in the King's County.

15. O'Hionradhain, chief of Corcaraidhe, now the barony of "Corcaree" in Westmeath.

16. O'Maolmuaidh or O'Mulloy, Prince of Ferceall, comprising the present baronies of Ballycowen, Ballyboy, and Eglish or "Fercall," in the King's County.

17. O'Dubhlaidhe or O'Dooley, chief of Fertullach, the present barony of "Fertullagh," in Westmeath.

18. O'Fionnallain or O'Fenelan (of the race of Heber, and tribe of the Dalcassians), lord of Delbhna Mór, now the barony of "Delvin," in Westmeath.

19. O'Maollugach, chief of Brogha, part of the now baronies of Delvin and Farbill.

20. MacCochlain or MacCoghlan (of the Dalcassians), lord of Dealbhna-Eathra, now the barony of Garrycastle in the King's County.

21. O'Tolairg or O'Toler and O'Tyler, chief of Cuircne (cuircne: Irish, the progeny of Cuirc, anglicised "Quirk"), now the barony of Kilkenny West, in Westmeath.

22. MacEoghagain or MacGeoghagan, Prince of Cineal Fiacha, now the barony of Moycashel, with parts of Rathconrath and Fertullagh. The MacGeoghagans were one of the principal branches of the Clan Colman, and were called Cineal Fiacha, from one of the sons of Niall of the Nine Hostages.

23. MacRuairc or MacRourke, chief of Aicme-Enda, descended from Enna Finn, another son of Niall of the Nine Hostages. This clan was located in the district in which is situated the Hill of Uisneach, in the barony of Rathconrath, in Westmeath.

24. O'Cairbre or O'Carbery, chief of Tuath Binn.

25. O'Heochadha (O'Heoghey, O'Hoey, O'Howe, etc.), chief of Cineal Aengusa.

26. O'Maelcolain or O'Mellon, chief of Delvin Beg or Little Delvin adjoining the barony of Delvin.

O'Dugan, in the continuation of his Topography of Meath, enumerates the different chiefs and their territories in Teffia; among whom were the following:

1. O'Catharnaigh or O'Kearney.

2. O'Cuinn or O'Quinn.

3. O'Confiacala or O'Convally.

4. O'Lachtnain or O'Loughnan, anglicised Loftus.

5. O'Mureagain, (Murrin or Murrigan). The O'Quinns were chiefs of Muintir Giolgain, and had their chief castle at Rathcline, in Longford.

The other chiefs were:—

1. O'Flannagain or O'Flanagan, chief of Comar, which O'Dugan places beside "O'Braoin's Country."

2. O'Braoin or O'Breen of Breaghmhuine, now the barony of "Brawney" in Westmeath.

3. MacConmeadha or Conmy, of Muintir Laodagain.

4. MacAodha or MacHugh, of Muintir Tlamain.

5. MacTaidhg or MacTague, of Muintir Siorthachain. By some of the family the name has been anglicised ''Montague."

6. MacAmhailgadh (anglicised respectively, MacAwley, Macaulay, Magauley, and MacGawley), chief of Calraidhe or Calrigia, a territory on the borders of Westmeath and the King's County; comprising (according to MacGeoghegan) the barony of Kilcourcy, in the King's County.

7. MacGarghamna (anglicised MacGorgan), of Muintir Maoilsionna.

8. O'Dalaigh or O'Daley, of Corca Adhaimh or Corcadium, a territory in or contiguous to the barony of Clonlonan, in Westmeath.

9. O'Scolaidhe or O'Scully, of Dealbhna Iarthar or West Delvin.

10. O'Comhraidhe (anglicised O'Corry), of Hy-Mac-Uais or Moygoish in Westmeath.

11. O'Haodha or O'Hea, of Tir Teabtha Shoir or East Teffia.

12. O'Cearbhaill or O'Carroll, of Tara.

13. O'Duin, O'Doyne, or O'Dunne, of the districts of Tara.

14. MacGiolla Seachlan or O'Shaughlin, of Deisceart Breagh, now the parish of "Dysart" in Westmeath.

15. O'Ronain or O'Ronayne, of Cairbre Gaura or northern Teffia.

16. O'h-Aongusa or O'Hennessy, of Galinga Beg,[4] now the parish of "Gallen" in the King's County.

The following chiefs and clans in Meath and Westmeath have not been given by O'Dugan:—

1. O'Sionnagh (anglicised Fox), of the southern Hy-Niall, lords of Muintir Tadhgain in Teffia, containing parts of the baronies of Rathconrath and Clonlonan in Westmeath, with part of the barony of Kilcourcy in the King's County. The head of this family was distinguished by the title of "The Fox," and obtained large grants of land from Queen Elizabeth, with the title of Lord of Kilcourcy.

2. O'Malone, a branch of the O'Connors, Kings of Connaught, who had large possessions in the barony of Brawney, in Westmeath. In former times, these chiefs had the title of "Barons of Clan-Malone," and afterwards obtained that of "Barons Sunderlin," of Lake Sunderlin, in Westmeath.

3. O'Fagan, a numerous clan in Meath and Westmeath, of which there were many respectable families, the head of which had the title of "Baron of Feltrim," in Fingal. The following were also clans of note in Westmeath, namely, 4. O'Cobthaidh or O'Coffey. 5. O'Higgin. And in Meath, O'Loingseach or O'Lynch. 6. O'Murphy. 7. O'Murray. 8. O'Brogan, etc. The chiefs and clans of ancient Meath were, with few exceptions, of the same race as the southern Hy-Niall; in our days, there are but few families of note, descendants of the ancient chiefs and princes of Meath.


[1] Teffia: Another great division of ancient Meath was called Teabhtha Latinized "Teffia," which comprised the present county Westmeath, with parts of Longford and the King's County; and was the territory of Main, son of Niall of the Nine Hostages. It was divided into North and South Teffia. North Teffia or Cairbre Gabhra (or Gaura) was that portion of Annaly or the county Longford, about Granard; and South Teffia comprised the remaining portions of Annaly and Westmeath.

[2] The Four Tribes of Tara: "The Four Tribes of Tara, according to the Battle of 'Magh-Rath' [Moria], page 9, where those tribes are mentioned, were the families of O'h-Airt [O'Hart]; O'Ceallaigh [O'Kelly], of Breagh or Bregia; O'Conghaile (considered to be O'Connolly); and O'Riagain [O'Regan]."—Book of Rights.

[3] Bregia: The great plain of Meath, which included the greater part of the present counties of Meath and Dublin, was known by the name Magh Breagh (magh breagh: Irish, the magnificent plain) signifying the Plain of Magnificence. It was Latinized "Bregia" and by O'Connor called Campus Brigantium or the "Plain of the Brigantes," from its being possessed by the Brigantes or Clan-na-Breoghan, as the descendants of Breoghan (No. 34, page 50), were called. That plain, situated in the eastern part of the ancient kingdom of Meath, comprised five triocha-cheds or baronies, and included Fingal, a territory lying along the coast between Dublin and Drogheda. This territory was so called because of a colony of Norwegians, who settled there in the tenth century, and who were called by the Irish Fionn Ghaill, or "Fair-haired Foreigners:" hence the term "Fingal," which was applied to the Norwegians; while Dubh Ghaill or "Black Foreigners" was the term applied to the Danes.

According to Connellan's Four Masters, Bregia, which was a portion of the territory possessed by the princes of Tara, presents vast plains of unbounded fertility: containing about half a million of acres of the finest lands in Ireland.

[4] Galinga Beg: According to O'Donovan, "Galinga Beg" included Glasnevin, near Dublin, north of the river Liffey; but this Galinga Beg could not be the same as the Galinga Beg, in the King's County.