The MacCarthy, McCarty or Carty Family

MacCarthy crest

(Crest No. 5. Plate 1.)

OH! bright are the names of the chieftains and sages

That shine like the stars through the darkness of ages,

Whose deeds are inscribed on the pages of story,

There forever to live in the sunshine of glory.

Heroes of history, phantoms of fable,

Charlemagne’s champions and Arthur’s Round Table—

Oh! but they all a new luster could borrow

From the glory that hangs round the name of MacCaura.[3]

Montmorency, Medina, unheard was thy rank

By the dark-eyed Iberian and light-hearted Frank,

And your ancestors wandered, obscure and unknown,

By the smooth Guadilquiver and sunny Garonne—

Ere Venice had wedded the sea, or enrolled

The name of a Doge in her proud “Book of Gold”;

When her glory was all to come on like the morrow,

There were chieftains and kings of the clan of MacCaura.

To the halls of the Red Branch when conquest was o’er,

The champions their rich spoils of victory bore.

And the sword of the Briton, the shield of the Dane,

Flashed bright as the sun on the walls of Eaimhain—

There Dathy and Nial bore trophies of war,

From the peaks of the Alps, and the waves of the Loire;

But no knight ever bore from the hills of Ivaragh

The breast plate or axe of a conquered MacCaura!

In chasing the red deer what step was the fleetest,

In singing the love-song what voice was the sweetest—

What breast was the foremost in courting the danger—

What door was the widest to welcome the stranger—

In friendship the truest, in battle the bravest—

In revel the gayest, in council the gravest—

A hunter to-day, and a victor tomorrow?

Oh! who but a chief of the princely MacCaura?

Lieutenant-General Justin McCarthy

Viscount Montcashel and Baron of Castleinchy.

The McCarthy family is descended from Milesius, King of Spain, through the line of his son Heber. The founder of the family was Cormac, King of Munster. A. D. 483. The ancient name was Carthann, which signifies “Kindness.” The chief of the sept was McCarthy More, Prince of Muskerry, King and Prince of Desmond, King of Cashel and Munster. The possessions of the McCarthys were located in the present Counties of Cork, Limerick and Clare. The sept comprised the families of the McCarthy More, McCarthy Riagh, O’Donovan, O’Keefe, O’Mahony, McAuliffe, O’Cowley, O’Curry, O’Collins, O’Dunnady, McCartney, McCurten, McCutcheon, McHugh and O’Scanlan. The McCarthys took their name from Cartagh, King of Desmond, A. D. 1100. Under the Irish kings, and long after the advent of the Anglo-Norman invader, the McCarthy family maintained their princely prominence.

They maintained long contests for their independence with the Fitzgeralds, Earls of Desmond; the Butlers, Earls of Ormond, and other Anglo-Norman and English settlers, and held their title as Princes of Desmond, with considerable possessions, down to the reign of Elizabeth. They were divided into two great branches, the head of which was McCarthy More, of whom Donal McCarthy was created Earl of Glencare, or Clancare, A.D. 1565, by Queen Elizabeth; the other branch, called the McCarthy Riagh, Princes of Carbery.

Besides the Earls of Clancare, the McCarthys were also created at various periods Barons of Valentia, Earls of Clancarthy, Earls of Muskerry and Earls of Montcashel, and had several strong castles in various parts of Cork and Kerry. According to Windele, the McCarthy More was inaugurated Lisban-nacuhir, in Kerry, at which ceremony presided O’Sullivan More and O’Donoghue More; his captains of war were the O’Rourkes, probably a branch of the O’Rourkes, Princes of Brefney; the MacEgans were his hereditary Brehons, and the O’Dalys and O’Duinins were his hereditary poets and antiquarians. In the twelfth century we find Cashel, fortified by Brian Boru two centuries previously, in the possession of Cormac McCarthy, King of Munster and Archbishop of Cashel.

This famous building, at once both a fortress and a church, was one of the finest types of mediæval architecture, and acknowledged to be equal to anything in England or Normandy of the same date.

The celebrated Blarney Castle was built by Cormac McCarthy (Laidir) the Strong, Lord of Muskerry, in the year 1449. During the subsequent wars between the Irish and the English this castle was the scene of many viscissitudes. Its walls were eighteen feet thick, and resisted under the McCarthys many an attack and siege. The fortifications covered a space of eight acres; but with the fall of King James the Second, Earl Clancarty, who had espoused his cause, lost his estates, and Blarney Castle passed into the possession of an English commercial company.

The noble Abbey of Mucross, one of the most splendid of mediaeval ruins, of which N. P. Willis writes: “It is more beautiful in its loneliness and decay than it could have been in its pristine state of neatness and perfection,” was also erected by the McCarthys, Princes of Desmond. Ross Castle, Killarney, is another memorial of the power and prowess of the McCarthys of Desmond. Sir Valentine Browne, founder of the present house of Kenmare, secured it in 1588, but in 1651 it was recaptured by Lord Muskerry—Donagh McCarthy, Viscount Muskerry, Earl of Clancarty—leader of the Catholic forces of Munster against the Cromwellians. With 1,500 poorly equipped men, he successfully resisted the English General, Ludlow, commanding 4,000 foot and 2,000 horse, at the siege of Ross Castle and finally surrendered on his own terms. He retired to Spain, and he was afterward created Earl of Clancarty by Charles the Second. His estates were restored to him by act of Parliament. His son, Charles, entered the military service of France, and served with distinction in the Low Countries. He afterward entered the English service, and was killed in the naval engagement with the Dutch, June 3, 1665.

His younger brother Justin McCarthy, Viscount Montcashel, entered the English army, where he rose to the rank of Lieutenant-General. After the outbreak of the Revolution, 1688, he was appointed Muster Master General and Lord Lieutenant of the County of Cork by Tyr-Connell, and on the landing of James the Second received command to raise seven regiments of foot. In 1689 he was created Viscount Montcashel and Baron of Castleinchy. He passed over to France in 1689, where, with the rank of Lieutenant-General, he received the command of the 6,000 Irish troops that entered the service of King Louis the Fourteenth. His command gained great distinction in Savoy, and afterward served under him in Catalonia and on the Rhine.

Donough McCarthy, fourth Earl of Clancarty, served with distinction in the army of King James the Second in lreland, and after the Revolution he commanded a troop of James’ Guards in France until the peace of Ryswick, 1697. His two sons dying without issue, the Muskerry family in the male line became extinct, and the greater portion of the family estates were bestowed on Lord Woodstock, eldest son of the Duke of Portland.

Sir Charles McCarthy, an officer in the Irish Brigade, at the outbreak of the French Revolution entered the British service, and gained high distinction for his bravery and efficiency. He lost his life in an expedition against the Ashantees, in West Africa, 1824.

The Abbé Nicholas McCarthy, one of the greatest of modern pulpit orators, was born in Dublin in 1769, was educated at the University of Paris, and spent his life in France. In 1818 he refused the Bishopric of Montauban to enter the Society of Jesus. So effective was his preaching that, often when making appeals for charitable institutions, watches, jewelry and notes of hand for large amounts were heaped with the money on the collection plate. He died in 1833.

Among the modern representatives of this family, one of the best known is Denis Florence McCarthy, one of the most exquisite poets of the English language. He was born in 1815, and died in 1882. His original poems, like Goldsmith’s, have a classic place in English literature; and in his translations he has, as has been said of Mangan, improved on the originals.

The name is honorably represented to-day in the person of Mr. Justin McCarthy, historian, novelist, journalist and political leader, and his talented son. Mr. Justin Huntly McCarthy.

There are many descendants of this family in the United States and Canada occupying honorable positions, and in the ranks of the clergy the name is numerously and prominently represented. Of the latter may be mentioned the Rev. Edward W. McCarty, the successful and enterprising pastor of St. Augustine's Church, Brooklyn, N. Y.


[3] McCarthy.