The McDermott Family

McDermott family crest

(Crest No. 206. Plate 12.)

THE McDermott family is descended from Milesius, King of Spain, through the line of his son Heremon. The founder of the family was Muiredach, or Mulrooney Mullethan, King of Connaught in the seventh century, and ancestor of that branch of the Hy Brune tribe named after him. The ancient name was O’Connor, meaning “Grandson of Helper.” The title of the head of the clan was Prince of Coolavin and Moylurg, and Lord of Ardagh. The possessions of the McDermotts were located in the present Counties of Sligo and Roscommon.

The McDermotts were chiefs of Tir Oiliolla, now the barony of Tirerill in Sligo, which derived its name from Oilioll, one of the sons of Eochadh Muigh-medon, monarch of Ireland. The McDermotts were also Princes of Moylurg, a large territory in the County of Roscommon. They afterward became chiefs of Coolavin, as successors to the O’Garas, Lords of Coolavin. The McDermotts held the high and honorable office of hereditary Marshals of Connaught, the duties attached to which were to raise and regulate the military forces and prepare them for battle, as Commanders-in-Chief; also to preside at the inauguration of the O’Connors as Kings of Connaught, and to proclaim their election. Diarmaid (dia: Irish, a god, and armaid, of arms, signifying “a great warrior”), grandson of Mulrooney, who died A. D. 1165, was the head of the clan, and from him they took the name of McDermott. The McDermotts were Princes of Moylurg, Tir Oilill, Tir Tuathail, Airteach and Clan Cuain.

Moylurg, called Magh Luirg an Daghda, in O’Dugan, signifies “the Plain of the Track of Daghda,” and derived its name from Daghda, one of the Tuath de Danann kings. This territory comprised the Plains of Boyle, in the County of Roscommon, consisting of some of the finest lands in Ireland, and famous for their fertility and beauty. Tir Oilill is now the barony of Tirerill, in Sligo; Airteach is a district in Roscommon, near Lough Gara, on the borders of Sligo and Mayo; Clan Cuain was a district in the north of the barony of Carra, County of Mayo; Tir Tuathail was a district in the barony of Boyle, bordering on Leitrim and Sligo, toward Lough Allen; thus McDermott’s territory comprised the present barony of Boyle, in the County of Roscommon, together with Tirerrill, in Sligo, and Clan Cuain, in Mayo, at Castlebar, which comprised the present parishes of Islandeady, Turlough and Breaffy.

The McDermotts had their chief fortress at the Rock of Lough Key, on an island in Lough Key, near Boyle. They held their rank as Lords of Moylurg down to the reign of Elizabeth, and considerable possessions down to the period of the Cromwellian wars, when their estates were confiscated; and it is a singular fact that, of all the Milesian chiefs, the McDermotts alone have retained their title of prince, as the McDermott is to this day recognized as Prince of Coolavin, in the County of Sligo, holding a part of the hereditary possessions of his ancestors.

There are several families of the McDermotts in Connaught at the present day. The McDonoghs were a branch of the McDermotts, and Lords of Tirerrill and Corran, in Sligo. O’Dugan gives the following as the ancient chiefs of Moylurg, before the time of the McDermotts. He designates them thus: “The ancient chief of Moylurg of Abundance, McEoach (or MacKeogh), MacMaen the Great, and MacRiabhainh (or MacRevy) of Efficient Forces.”

Brian MacDermott, chief of Moylurg from 1585 to 1592, was the owner, restorer and continuer of the Annals of Lough Cé. They originally began at the year 1014, and come down to the year 1590. There is only one copy in existence, in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin, and that is not perfect.

Martin MacDermott. the poet, author of “The Coolun,” and other notable productions, is a descendant of this ancient family. He has recently edited a new volume of the “Spirit of the Nation” for the present “Library of Ireland.”