The McGuinness Family

McGuinness family crest

(Crest No. 258. Plate 49.)

THE McGuinness family is descended from Milesius, King of Spain, through Ir, the fifth son of that monarch. The founder of the family was Irial, son of Conal Kearnach, the renowned warrior. The head chieftain was the McEnnis, or McGinnis, Prince of Dal Aradie and Iveagh. The ancient name Innis signifies “Distress.” The MacGinnis family held wide possessions in the present Counties of Donegal and Londonderry. The family tribe name was MacAongusa, or Clan Hugh.

The race of Ir, of which the MacGuinness family is the oldest branch, reigned in Ulster earlier than any other dynasty, and held its position down to the Clan-Colla invasion, A. D. 332.

Their royal residence of Emania being destroyed, the MacGuinness clan moved into the Counties of Antrim and Down, and occupied the territory lying between the waters of the Northern Ban and Lough Neagh, and the Southern Ban and the sea.

About 432 A. D. the O’Neill sept established itself in Ulster, but the descendants of the old Irians, of which the MacGuinness family was the head, looked on them as upstarts, the bards of the MacGuinnesses maintaining that the Red Hand of Ulster was derived from the heroes of the Red Branch, and that, therefore, it belonged by right to MacGinnis, the senior representative of Conal Kearnach, or the Victorious, the most distinguished hero of this family, and not to the O’Neills, whose ancestors, though they had no connection with those heroes by descent, had usurped the sovereignty of Ulster.

The lands occupied by the MacGuinnesses after the Clan-Colla invasion, embraced the present baronies of Upper and Lower Iveagh, and half the barony of Mourne, in the County of Down.

Like most of their countrymen, the MacGuinnesses resisted vehemently the invasions of the Danes and the Anglo-Normans, and they took part in every uprising against the latter. In the rebellion of 1641 they lost all their possessions, like many others, but still retained their claim for them, and fought for their recovery with occasional success.

One of this family, Arthur MacGuinness, married Sarah, the daughter of the great Hugh O’Neill, and was created by King James the First Lord Viscount Iveagh.

The MacGuinnesses joined their fortunes with the cause of King James the Second, and suffered by his defeat. The head of the family was then Brian MacGuinness, Viscount Iveagh, whose wife was Lady Margaret de Burgo, eldest daughter of William, seventh Earl of Clanricarde. After the battle of the Boyne, the estates of the MacGuinnesses being lost, Brian MacGuinness, who had been Colonel of a regiment of foot in the army of King James the Second, entered the Austrian service with an Irish corps, and won signal distinction fighting the Turks in Hungary.

Many of this family joined the Irish Brigade in the service of France. One of them, Colonel Bernard MacGuinness, was killed at the battle of Spire, 1703, while leading his regiment, and his four sons also died in the military service of France.

Other members of this family served in the regiments of Bulkley, Roth and Dillon, and won high civil and military honors, many of them having been Chevaliers of the Order of St. Louis.

The family abroad was connected by marriage with the great house of Justiniani. The head of this family in France—where it was ennobled, as well as in Venice, Genoa, Naples and the Greek Empire— was married September 1, 1740, to Miss Mary Frances Rose Magennis, a descendant of that ancient Irish family. Benjamin Lee Guinness, Lord Ardilann, proprietor of the world-renowned porter brewery, who in our day restored the Cathedral of St. Patrick at the cost of $800,000, was a descendant of this old Emanian family. The name is numerously and honorably represented at the present day both in Ireland and America.