The MacCabe Family

MacCabe family crest

(Crest No. 239. Plate 53.)

THE MacCabe family is descended from Milesius, King of Spain, through the line of his son Heremon. The founder of the family was Eogan, ancestor of the Northern Hy Nials, and son of Nial of the Nine Hostages, King of Ireland, A. D. 379. The ancient name was Abe, and signifies “Father” or “Lord.”

The possessions of the sept were located in the present Counties of Louth, Cavan and Monaghan. The MacCabes were a powerful clan, and were originally settled in Monaghan. They removed thence to Cavan, where for centuries they have been very numerous, particularly in the baronies of Tullygarvey and Clankee.

The MacCabes were a warlike clan, and are frequently mentioned in the Book of Cavan as commanders of battle-axe men under the O’Reilleys in their wars with the English of the Pale.

A singular character of this name was William McCabe, a United Irishman, born in Belfast, 1775. He was noted for his wondrous powers of mimicry and disguise, qualities that he turned to account in propagating the principles of the society. A gentleman who was intimately acquainted with him averred that he had met him on more than twenty different occasions, and did not recognize him until he had revealed himself. One of McCabe’s ruses for collecting a crowd, in order to insinuate and propagate his revolutionary principles, was to advertise that “a converted Papist would preach the Word of Truth in such or such a place, and explain how he became convinced of the true doctrines of Presbyterianism.” He was arrested in 1798 while acting as one of a body guard to Lord Edward Fitzgerald, but succeeded in persuading his guard of Scotch soldiers that he was a Scotchman arrested by mistake, by which he secured his liberty. He accompanied General Humbert in his campaign. After many perilous experiences he went to France, where he gained the favor of Napoleon the First. He appeared in Great Britain several times afterward, was arrested, imprisoned, but always succeeded in gaining his liberty. He died in Paris in 1821.

The late Dr. MacCabe, Cardinal-Archbishop of Dublin, was also a descendant of this Ulster sept.