By James O'Laverty
[From An Historical Account of the Diocese of Down and Conor, Ancient and Modern, Vol. I, 1878]
A PORTION of Iveagh extending over the parishes of Kilcoo, Maghera, and the greater part of Kilmegan is in the diocese of Down and Connor. The district which now forms the baronies of Iveagh received its name from Eachach Cobha, whose father, Fiacha Araidhe, died A.D. 236. Its older name appears to have been Magh Cobha (Moy Cova) - the plain of Cobha - who, according to the Dinnseanchus, was the huntsman of the sons of Miletius. Dr. Reeves has collected nearly forty entries from various Irish Annalists, referring to the Uibh Eathach Cobha (Iveagh Cova) between a.d. 551 and a.d. 1136; nearly all of them relate to civil wars except one "a.d. 703, Battle of the plain of Cuilenn, in the Ard of Uibh Ethach (the heights of Iveagh), between the Ulidians and the Britons, where the Ulidians were victors." There is no place in Iveagh called at present the plain of Cuilenn or Moycuilenn; but there is a tradition of some great battle fought against foreigners, said to be Danes, on the heights above Aughna-cullen. The grove in Moneyscalp is filled with their graves, and the stream near it is called Srunawoofa, which the people translate - stream of blood - (Sru-na-fola). The King of Ulster was bound to pay every third year to the King of Iveagh a subsidy which is thus recorded in the Book of Rights: -
The stipend of the King of Cobha of victory - Ten drinking horns, ten wounding swords, Ten ships which a host mans, Ten cloaks with their borders of gold.
The chiefs who ruled Iveagh belonged to the Clanna Rury or descendents of Rudhraighe Mor. After the assumption of surnames, the family of O'Hateidh possessed the chieftainship almost uninterruptedly for two centuries. The earliest record of a prince of that name is a.d. 965, "Aodh Ua-h-Aitidhe, King of Ui-Eathach Cobha was killed by his own tribe;" and the last is a.d. 1136, "Echri Ua-h-Aitteidh, Lord of Ui-Eathach, was killed by the Ui-Eathach themselves." This name has disappeared from the district or has assumed some other form, perhaps that of Haghy or Haughey. We also find Muirchertach MacArtain, tanist or prince-elect of Iveagh, he was slain a.d. 1011. The Annals make frequent mention of princes of Ui-Eachach named Ua Ruadhcain (O'Rogan), but their Ui-Eachach is not the modern Iveagh, they were a tribe of the Oirghialla descended from Eochaidh, great grandson of Colla-Da-Crioch, who were located in the present barony of Armagh, and though they frequently are mentioned in connection with Iveagh, it is always as invaders; eventually, however, when their own district fell under the power of the O'Neills, many of them came into Iveagh and the neighbouring districts where they are still numerous. O'Dugan's Topographical Poem, says- " The sub-chiefs of Ui-Eachach Cobha" were O'Coinne (now Kenny and Quin, but different from the Quins of Tyrone and Derry), and O'Gairbhith (Garvy). In the twelfth century the family of Magennis rose into power, at first they were only styled "Lords of Clann-Aodha" of which territory the exact situation has not been yet determined, but it was so named from one of their ancestors Aodh, who was seventh in descent from Eochaidh Cobha. The charter of Muir-cheartach MacLochlain, King of Ireland, to the abbey of Newry which was granted in the year 1153, is witnessed by Aedh Magnus Magangasa, Dux (Aedh Mor Magennis, chief of Clann Aodha, of Iveagh, in Ulidia). In 1314 and in 1315 the head of the family is addressed in the letters of Edward II. as Dux Hibernicorum de Ouehagh, Chief of the Irish of Iveagh (Rymer Foeder.) Marshal Bagenal in his Description of Ulster, written in 1586, speaks of this district as follows:-"Evaghe, otherwise called M'Gynis countrey, is governed by Sir Hugh M'Enys, the cyviliest of all the Irishrie in those parts. He was brought by Sir N. (Nicholas) B. (Bagnall) from the Bonaght of the Onels to contribute to the Q. (Queen) to whome he paiethe an anuall rent for his landes, which he hath taken by letters patentes, to holde after the Englishe manner for him and his heires males, so as in this place onelie of Ulster is the rude custom of Tanestship put awaie. Maginis is able to make above 60 horsmen and nere 80 footmen; he lyveth very cyvillie and Englishe-like in his house, and every festivall daie wearethe Englishe garmentes amongst his owne followers."-(Ulster Journal of Archaeology.) In other words Sir Hugh Magennis who had been elected by his people chieftain for life on condition that he would guard their rights and protect the territory of the Clan,1 betrayed his trust, and became by the power of the queen landlord of the lands which belonged to his people and not to himself. In the month of February, 1611, the following grants were made to Magennisses:-Ever MacPhelimy Magennis, of Castlewillane, in Iveagh, gent., received a grant of eleven townlands, constituting the Castlewellan estate, at the yearly rent of £11 Irish. These lands are in Kilmegan and Drumgooland parishes. Brian MacHugh MacAgholy Magennis, of Muntereddy, gent., received a grant of seven and a half townlands, known as the Bryansford estate, and now held by the Earl of Roden in virtue of his descent from Brian Magennis aforesaid. This grant was accompanied with a common of pasture through the whole mountain or waste of Bennyborfy (Beanna-Boirche) in Iveagh, the yearly rent being £7 10s. Irish. These lands are included in the parishes of Maghera or Bryansford and Kilcoo. The head or chief of the clan in 1610 was Sir Arthur Magennis, who from his large estates granted to him by the King, granted to Glassney Roe Magennis, of Bellenemunie (Ballymoney), three townlands, at the yearly rent of £8 Irish payable to Sir Arthur. To Fer-doragh MacFellimey MacPrior Magennis, of Clanvarraghan, three townlands (in Kilmegan parish) at the yearly rent of £8 Irish payable to Sir Arthur. The lands were demised for ever, and held of Sir Arthur, as of his castle of Rath-frillan2-Calendar of Patent Rolls, James I. (The Montgomery Manuscripts, edited by Rev. George Hill. Vol. I.)
1 It is the tradition of this ancient Celtic polity that renders and will render the settlement of the Tenant Right so difficult. Celts will for ever cling to the idea that the land belongs to the people, and though ages may intervene, Ireland must one day have, like Belgium, its lands held by peasant proprietorship.
2 The principal strongholds of the Magennises were Rathfriland, Castlewellan, Newcastle, and Scarva. Dr. O'Donovan (Letters in the R. I. Academy) says, " The Irish of Rathfriland is Mullach-Rath-Fravileann-the summit of the fort of Fravileann, I could trace the ring of a very large fort on the east side of the town. Rathfriland is pronounced Raafreelion, but I observe that every word that ends in nn in Irish, when anglicised in modern times, is made nd, thus Rathfriland, Drumgooland, Loughbrickland. In the Prophecies of Columbkille, Rathfriland is called Mullach Curraighe-the hill over the bog-and its church Teampul-an-en-clocha-the church of the one rock But where John M'Alinden got the prophecies I don't know."