The O’Melaghlin Family

The Kings of the southern Hy-Niall were descended from Conall Crimthann, son of Niall Mór, as already mentioned; these were the Kings of Meath, who, since the introduction of sirnames, were called “O’Melaghlin.” As, in some of the Irish Annals, we meet with such names as “Giolla Seachnal,” “O’Giolla Seachnal,” etc., and as the names “Maelseachlainn” (a quo O’Melaghlin) and “Seachnal” are from the same root, it may be well here to give the origin of that name, which is derived from Maelseachlainn Mór, the 174th Monarch of Ireland. Of this family, Connellan writes:

“The O’Melaghlins, as kings of Meath, had their chief residence at Dun-na-Sciath (Dun-na-Sciath: Irish, the Fort of the Shields), situated on the banks of Lough Ainnin (now Lough Ennell), near Mullingar; and Murtagh O’Melaghlin was king of Meath, at the time of the Norman invasion; his kingdom was transferred to Hugh De Lacy by a grant from Henry the Second; and he was the last independent king of Meath; but the O’Melaghlins, for many centuries afterwards, amidst incessant and fierce contests with the English settlers, maintained their position and considerable possessions in Westmeath, with their titles as kings and princes of Meath, and Lords of Clancolman, down to the reign of Elizabeth; and many distinguished chiefs of the O’Melaghlins are mentioned in the course of these Annals, from the tenth to the sixteenth century. Some chiefs of them are also mentioned during the Cromwellian and Williamite wars, but after those periods all their estates were confiscated, and in modern times scarcely any of the O’Melaghlins are to be found; and it is said that the name has been changed to ‘MacLoghlin.’”

By reference to the pedigree of the MacLoghlin family, it will be seen that it is a mistake to derive that sirname from “O’Melaghlin;” for the ancestor of the MacLoghlins was Lochlin, King of Aileach, the fifth in descent from Donal, who was the second son of Aodh Finnliath, and brother of the Monarch Niall Glundubh, the ancestor of O’Neill.

After the introduction of sirnames, the name “Maelseachlainn” or “Melaghlin” was the Irish Christian name for “Malachy”—latinized “Malachius.” Literally, the name “Maelseachlainn” signifies a bald old man (mael: Irish, bald; seaghlin, an old man); but in a religious sense it means the servant or devoted of St. Seachnal or Secundinus, who was nephew of St. Patrick, and the Patron Saint of Dunshaughlin, in the county Meath, as well as the tutelary saint of the O’Melaghlin family: just as in Scotland the name “Malcolm” (a contraction of the Irish “Mael-Colum”) was meant to signify a devotee of St. Columbkille; and that St. Columbkille was the tutelary saint of the Cineal-Connell. It was, then, through devotion to St. Seachnal, that this family and the stock from which it branched had such proper names as “Maelseachlainn,” “Giolla Seachnal,” etc.

Under the year A.D. 1173, in O’Donovan’s Four Masters, we read:

“Maelmochta O’Melaghlin, Abbot of Clonmacnoise died. The name Maelmochta signifies servant or devoted of St. Mochta or Mocteus, first abbot and patron saint of Louth. This family is generally called O’Maoilseachlainn or O’Maoileachlainn, which was first correctly anglicised ‘OMelaghlin,’ but now uncorrectly ‘MacLoghlin.’ They are named after their great progenitor Maelseachlainn or Malachy the Second (the 174th), Monarch of Ireland.”