The McEagan Family

McEagan family crest

(Crest No. 177. Plate 8.)

THE McEagan family is descended from Milesius, King of Spain, through the line of his son Heremon. The founder of the family was Colla da Crioch, son of Eocha Dubhlein, or Doivlen, brother of Fiacha Straivetine, King of Connaught.

The ancient name was Eaganaidhe, meaning “Philosopher.”

The possessions of the sept were located in Queens County. They were also chiefs of Clan Diarmada, a district in the barony of Leitrim, County of Galway, and they had a castle at Dun Doighre, now Duniry.

The McEgans were Brehons in Connaught, and also in Ormond, and many of them were eminent literary men. The McEgans are thus mentioned by O’Dugan:

“Precedence for his valor and fame

Be given to McEgan the noble.

Record him for the activity of his warriors,

Of his prosperity and great renown.”

Many of the name also attained high honors in the ranks of the clergy. Of these Bishop Eagan of Ross is best known, on account of his steadfast patriotism and cruel death. He was captured by Lord Broghill, the Cromwellian commander, May 1, 1650. He offered the Bishop his liberty if he would advise the garrison of Carrigodrohid to surrender, and threatened him with death if he refused. The Bishop agreed to address the garrison; but instead of persuading them to surrender, he begged them to fight until the last man fell in defense of their religion and their country. The enraged Broghill handed him over to the brutal soldiery, who first cut off his arms, and then dragging the bleeding body along the ground to a neighboring tree, hanged the patriot prelate with the halter of his own horse.

Another branch of this family was established in Kerry, where they were hereditary Brehons, or Judges, to the McCarthy More, and in the barony of Ara, Tipperary, where they were also hereditary Brehons.

John Egan, Chairman of Kilmain, was born in the County of Cork about 1750, and was one of the most noted characters of his day. He was a famous duelist, and fought once with his friend Curran. Egan complained of the advantage that Curran possessed in being so small and attenuated, while he himself was of gigantic size. “I’ll tell you what, Mr. Egan,” said Curran. “I wish to take no advantage of you whatever. Let my size be chalked out on your body, and I am quite content that every shot which hits outside that mark should go for nothing.” Egan sat in the Irish Parliament, and was in very reduced circumstances at the time of the Union. If he voted for that measure he would be doing violence to his patriotic sentiments, and if he voted against it he would lose his position as Chairman of Kilmainham, then his only source of income. He was also informed that if he supported the Union measure he might expect further advancement. As the moment approached for a final vote on the question it was noticed that Egan was writhing under conflicting emotions; he finally rose, however, delivered a furious speech against the proposed Union, and resuming his seat exclaimed: “Ireland, Ireland forever! and damn Kilmainhain!” He died in poverty a few years after.

Among the many prominent persons of this name in the United States may he mentioned Mr. Patrick Egan, formerly Treasurer of the Irish Land League, and United States Minister to Chili.