The MacMahon Family

MacMahon family crest

(Crest Nos. 23. Plate 20.)

THE MacMahon family is descended from Milesius, King of Spain, through the line of his son Heber. The family are divided into three branches—the McMahons of Clare, the MacMahons of Fermanagh and the MacMahons of Monaghan. The ancient name was Maigheanach, meaning “Careless.” The MacMahons of Thomond were Princes of Corca-Basginn, now embracing the baronies of Moyarta and Clonderalaw, in the County of Clare. The ancient name of the McMahons of Clare was Mainchim, the meaning of which is “Wounded Hand,” and they bore the title of Lords of Moyarta.

MacMahon family crest

(Crest No. 22. Plate 50.)

They were of the royal house of Brian Boru, being descended from Murkertach Mor, King of Ireland from A. D. 1110 to A. D. 1130. The MacMahons of Ulster were at one time chieftains of the present Counties of Monaghan, Fermanagh and Louth, and Kings of Oirghialla and Ulidia, in the present County of Down. They were warlike and brave, and defended their possessions against the English successfully to the time of Elizabeth.

MacMahon family crest

(Crest Nos. 24. Plate 61.)

The MacMahons of Fermanagh were chiefs in that county, where they possessed large domains. This branch of the family traces its origin through Colla Da Crioch, Eocaidh Duiblen and Cabri Lifficar to Heremon, son of Milesius.

Heber MacMahon, the famous Bishop of Clogher, who placed himself at the head of the Irish troops and battled with occasional success against tremendous odds, was one of this branch. So also was Hugh Roe MacMahon, whose estates were confiscated, and who was executed by the English in 1589.

Marshal McMahon Duc de Magenta

Duc de Magenta, France.

Rossa Boy McMahon, chief of the Monaghan sept, was succeeded by his brother, Red Hugh, who, fearing that the other members of the family, Patrick, son of Art Moil McMahon, Ebhir, Lord of Farney, and Brien, son of Hugh Oge, Lord of Dartry, would dispute his right to his brother’s title and estates, sought the assistance of the English Lord Deputy, William Fitzwilliams, in retaining his inheritance. The Lord Deputy utilized the opportunity to seize the lands of the McMahons, and retained the greater portion of the spoil for himself.

MacMahon having dared to protest against the treacherous action of the Lord Deputy, the latter had him seized on a trumped-up charge and condemned to death. His estates were divided between Sir Henry Bagnall and Captain Henslow, a small portion having been restored to the other branches of the family on the condition of their paying an annual tribute to the Lord Deputy. This condition they refused to keep, however, and they were shortly afterward engaged in a struggle with the English for the recovery of their property. Brien McMahon, Lord of Dartry, eventually succeeded in regaining all these lands, and he was acknowledged as chief of the entire McMahon sept.

In all the wars that followed the English invasion the MacMahons were distinguished for their patriotism. Among the leaders under Owen Roe O’Neill at the battle of B|enburb, in 1646, were Colonel MacMahon and Bernard MacMahon, son of Hugh, chief of Monaghan and Lord of Dartry. After the fall of James the Second many of the family went to France and other European countries, and acquired distinction in civil and military service.

John B. MacMahon, Marquis d’Eguilly, was born in Limerick in 1715, and at an early age entered the military service of France. Having proved his royal descent from Brian Boru, he was admitted to the estates of Burgundy, and the rank of Marquis d’Eguilly was bestowed on him. Maurice, his younger brother, became Lord of Moguien in Burgundy, and in 1776 was a Captain in the Pretender’s Scotch army. The second President of the present French Republic, Marshal MacMahon, Duke of Magenta, was a grandson of the first-mentioned of these brothers. His son, Colonel Patrick MacMahon of the French army, is at present head of the French MacMahons.

The ruins of the MacMahon Castle, where the descendants of King Brian held sway for centuries, are still standing, and present in their decay a striking illustration of the departed glory of one of the proudest and most illustrious of royal Irish houses. Several of the northern MacMahons changed their name to Matthews.

The name is still numerous in many parts of Ireland, and the United States and the British Colonies. Among its representatives in this republic we may mention General Martin T. McMahon of New York City, and member of the Senate of New York State, whose record in the late Civil War has been highly honorable and worthy of the martial house from which he is descended, and James McMahon of Brooklyn, N. Y., President of the Emigrant Savings Bank of New York City.