The Duigenan Family

Duigenan family crest

(Crest No. 165. Plate 21.)

THE Duigenan family is descended from Milesius, King of Spain, through the line of his son Heremon. The founder of the family was Maine, ancestor of the Southern Hy Nials, and son of Nial of the Nine Hostages, King of Ireland, A. D. 379. The ancient name was Duigenan, and signifies “The Sword.”

The possessions of the clan were located in the present County of Roscommon. This family contributed to Irish history many distinguished men, ollavs, historians, bards, and ecclesiastics. The little village of Castlefore—called Baile-Coillte-foghair by those who still speak the Irish language—in the barony and County of Leitrim, was, according to tradition, the seat of the O’Duigenans, who kept a bardic school there in ancient times. The O’Duigenans were the Erenaghs of the Church of Kilronan, in the barony of Boyle, in the County of Roscommon, and were also the chroniclers of the Clan Mulrooney.

Magnus O’Duignan, a writer who lived in the latter half of the fourteenth century, is chiefly known through the connection of his name with the celebrated “Book of Ballymote.” What precise share he had in its composition, or whether he was the compiler or transcriber of those portions of it that bear his name, is a matter of conjecture. This book is described as “a large folio volume, written on vellum of the largest size,” and containing 550 pages, but the first two are lost. The date of its publication and its authorship are unsettled questions. Like books of a similar class in those times, it passed through the hands of many possessors. According to the authority of the volume itself, it was written during the reign of Tirlough O’Conor, King of Connaught, who died A. D. 1404 and by an entry, p. 180, vol. I., “in a handwriting different from any other part of the book, it appears that Hugh Duff, son of Hugh Roe, son of Niall Garve O’Donnell, bought it in the year 1522 from McDonogh of Coran for one hundred and fifty milch cows.” The subject-matter of this volume is derived from many ancient documents, the most of which are yet extant, thus stamping it with undoubted authenticity.

Dubhthach O’Duigenan was the author of two long poems, containing the chronicles of the families of the O’Neils and O’Donnells for centuries. The poem relating to the O’Neills covers a period of two hundred and sixteen years, and that on O’Donnell four hundred, the latter being three hundred and sixty-eight verses in length. This latter poem gives a catalogue of twenty-five kings or princes who governed Tirconnell from Eighnachan O’Donnell in 1199 to Hugh Roe O’Donnell in 1600, when the poem was written.