The McAn Bhaird or Ward Family

cAn Bhaird or Ward family crest

(Crest No. 188. Plate 37.)

THE McAn Bhaird, MacWard, or Ward family is descended from Milesius, King of Spain, through the line of his son Ir. The founder of the family was Irial, son of the famous warrior, Conal Kearnach, son of Amergin, fourth in degree from Rory O’More, who gave his name to the Clanna Rory tribe, and was chieftain in Ulster, B. C. 87.

The ancient name was Bhaird, and signifies “Poet.” The possessions of the sept were located in the present Counties of Mayo and Donegal. In the latter county the MacWards were bards to the O’Donnells, and were very learned men. The MacWards were chiefs also, according to O’Dugan, in the Counties of Galway and Down.

The best known of this name is the learned Hugh Ward, D. D., rector of the College of Louvain, who was born in the latter part of the sixteenth century in the County of Donegal. He was educated in Salamanca and Paris, and after the foundation of the Irish College at Louvain, in 1616, he became professor there, and afterward rector of the institution. Father John Colgan and Father Michael O’Clery soon joined him there, and “these three noble Franciscans,” writes O’Curry, “soon began to devise means to rescue from the chance of threatened oblivion the perishing records and evidences of, at least, the ecclesiastical history of their native country.” They established an Irish press in St. Anthony’s College. Michael O’Clery was sent back to Ireland to collect, purchase, or transcribe manuscripts, the expenses of his mission being supplied by Father Ward.” Dr. Ward contemplated writing a general history of the lives of the saints of Ireland. He died before he could utilize the materials collected by O’Clery, but, in the hands of the latter and his collaborators, they formed the basis of the “Annals of the Four Masters,” and a portion of them was used by Colgan in the “Acta Sanctorum.”