The McGuire or Maguire Family

Maguire Family heraldry

(Crest No. 6. Plate 2.)

THE McGuire or Maguire 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 Duhhlein or Doivlen, brother of Fiacha Straivetine, first King of Connaught of the race of Heremon, and son of Carbre Liffeachair, King of Ireland, A. D. 264. The ancient name was Guire, which signifies “Valiant.” The Maguires took their name from Uidhir, Lord of Fermanagh, ninth in descent from Colla da Croich.

The possessions of the sept were originally located in the County of Westmeath, but they afterward established themselves in the present County of Fermanagh, where they supplanted the O’Daimhims or Devines. The Maguires possessed the entire County of Fermanagh, which was called “Maguire’s Country.” In O’Dugan’s Topography of the Twelfth Century, MacUidhir or MacGuire is given as Chief of Feara Monach or Fermanagh, and is thus designated:

“McGuire, the chief of hosts,

Rule the mighty men of Manach;

At home munificent in presents,

The noblest chief of hospitality.”

The Maguires bore a conspicuous part in the battle of Clontarf, A. D. 1014. The Oirghialla or men of Fermanagh formed a part of the second division of Brian’s army. As their own territories lay farthest north of any of the Irish engaged in this battle, they made choice of fighting by the side of the descendants of Eogan Mor, because their land lay farthest south. They were led by MacUidhir, Prince of Fera Manach, now Fermanagh (ancestor of the Maguires), and Na Kerbaill, King of Oirgialla—“the two most illustrious Irishmen,” says the chronicler, “that graced the field on that day, and therefore worthy,” he adds, “of fighting under the banner of Kian.”

Maguire at the Battle of Clontarf

Commander of the Second Division of the Irish Army at Clontarf.

The McGuires maintained their independence down to the reign of James the First, when the county was confiscated by the English; but Conor Roe Maguire obtained re-grants of 12,000 acres of the forfeited lands of his ancestors and was created Baron of Enniskillen—a title which was also borne by several of his successors. Another, Bryan Maguire, received 2,000 acres of the ancestral lands. The Maguires were recognized as princes until the confiscation of their lands. They were inaugurated on the summit of Cuilcagh, a magnificent mountain near the boundary of Cavan and Fermanagh, and occasionally at Sciath Galra or Lismosciath, now Lisnaskea.

The Maguires rendered valuable assistance to the O’Neills in their gallant efforts to expel the English invaders, and distinguished themselves at Clontibret, Beal-an-atha-Buidhe and Benburb. Several chiefs of this clan took a noted part in the Cromwellian and Williamite wars, and others of them won honorable distinction in the armies of France and Austria. The Maguires have given many eminent and learned men to the Church, among whom may be mentioned Cathal or Charles Maguire, Archdeacon of Clogher, in the fifteenth century, and the author of the celebrated Annals of Ulster. He was seventh in descent from Maguire, a distinguished Lord of Fermanagh, who died in the year 1302. The Annals begin in 431 and come down to the time of the compiler’s death in 1498.

The Maguires were noted for their patronage of bards and learned men. O’Hussey was the last hereditary bard of the great sept of Maguire, and flourished in the first quarter of the seventeenth century. His noble ode addressed to Hugh Maguire, when that chieftain had gone on a dangerous expedition in the depth of an unusually severe winter, is one of the finest illustrations of the vivid vigor of the Irish bards who sang in the olden tongue.

Hugh Maguire, Lord of Fermanagh, was one of the ablest and most successful of the Irish chieftains. In conjunction with the O’Neills, he successfully withstood for years the power of the English. He was a son of Cuconnaught Maguire, Prince of Fermanagh, and a cousin of Hugh O’Neill. His mother was an O’Donnell. He succeeded to his father’s estates in 1589, and on being informed by Lord Deputy Fitz William that he must allow the Queen’s writs to run in Fermanagh, he replied:

“Your Sheriff shall be welcome, but let me know his eric, that if my people should cut off his head I may levy it on the country.”

Maguire assisted Hugh Roe O’Donnell in his escape from Dublin Castle. In his earlier contests with the enemy he was opposed by Hugh O’Neill, who was then on the side of the English. Having inflicted several defeats on the English, he joined Hugh O’Neill and took part in the victory of Clontibret and Kilclooney, and commanded the cavalry at Mullaghmast in 1596, where the English suffered a crushing defeat. Afterward, a price was placed on his head; in other words, a reward was offered for his assassination, the usual English mode of getting rid of Irish chieftains who proved too able for the enemy in battle in those days.

In 1598 Maguire helped materially to crush Bagnall’s army at the Yellow Ford. In Hugh O’Neill’s expedition into Leinster and Munster, in 1600, he commanded the cavalry. His courage was equal to his skill, as his death illustrated. He was riding, accompanied by a priest and two gentlemen, reconnoitring the country toward Cork. St. Leger, the English Lord President of Munster, renowned among the English for his strength and prowess, as was Maguire among the Irish, having information that Maguire was attended by a small escort set out and intercepted him with 60 horse. Maguire, undaunted by the superior force, charged the enemy, and, though mortally wounded by a pistol shot from St. Leger, he pierced the Englishman with his spear, killing him, and then drawing his sword he cut his way through the English cavalry and expired at the feet of the priest, who had stood to witness the combat.

Maguire’s wife was a daughter of Hugh O’Neill. The Four Masters, referring to his death, say: “The death of Maguire caused a giddiness of spirit and a depression of mind in O’Neill and the Irish chiefs in general, and this was no wonder, for he was the bulwark of valor and prowess, the shield of protection and shelter, the tower of support and defense, and the pillar of the hospitality and achievements of the Oirghialla and of almost all the Irish of his time.”

Hugh Maguire was succeeded as Lord of Fermanagh by his younger brother, Cuconnaught Maguire. The latter procured the ship for the flight of the Earls O’Neill and O’Donnell, and accompanied them to the Continent. The Four Masters refer to this Prince as “an intelligent, comely, courageous, magnanimous, rapid-marching, adventurous man, endowed with wisdom and personal beauty, and all the other good qualifications.” He died in Genoa, in 1608. One of his descendants, Cuconnaught Mor Maguire, fell at the battle of Aughrim; and another, Brian Maguire, became an officer in the East India Company’s service and was a noted duelist.

Another distinguished scion of this family was Connor Maguire, second Baron of Enniskillen, and son of Brian Roe, first Baron, and his wife, who was a sister of Owen Roe O’Neill. He was one of the leaders in the insurrection of 1641, for the purpose of expelling the English and Scotch adventurers and restoring Catholic worship. He was arrested and imprisoned, first in Dublin Castle and afterward in London Tower. At his trial he defended himself with great ability, but was pronounced guilty and condemned to be hanged, drawn and quartered. He scornfully rejected the offer of “some godly ministers for the good and comfort of his soul.” Before his execution the Sheriff commanded “his pockets to be searched, whether he had no bull or pardon about him, but they found in his pockets only some beads and a crucifix, which were taken from him.” His title devolved on his son and his descendants, the last of whom was the eighth Baron, Alexander Maguire, a captain in the Irish Brigade in France. In commemoration of Maguire’s arrest and the discovery of the contemplated insurrection, in 1641, the bells of St. Audoen’s Church were rung at midnight of the 22d of October down to 1829, the year of Catholic emancipation.

After the loss of their estates many of the Maguires went to the Continent and took service in foreign armies. From the reign of Louis XIV. to that of Louis XVI. several members of the family won honorable place in the Irish Brigade in France, and the regiments of Lee, Dorrington, Dillon, O’Donnell, Fitz James, Bulkeley and Lally. At the battle of Quesnoy the Lord Maguire, Lieutenant-Colonel of the Dillon Regiment, was captured by the enemy, after a determined resistance against hopeless odds.

Among the many notable modern representatives of this name and family may be mentioned the Rev. Thomas Maguire, the famous controversialist, in the early years of the century. His discussion with the Rev. Mr. Pope, the ablest champion of the Ascendancy party of his day, has been acknowledged a masterpiece of argument and learning. It had a great and salutary influence at the time in relation to the claims and rights of the Catholics, the Orange and landlord element having opened a crusade of vilification and misrepresentation of the Catholic religion, in order to aid in perpetuating their regime of oppression and power.

So important was the confounding of these malicious fanatics at that juncture, that Daniel O’Connell arranged for the famous discussion, and was one of the seconds of the Rev. Mr. Maguire in the great argumentative duel, in which the humble parish priest so ignominiously overwhelmed and crushed his opponent.

The late Hon. John Francis Maguire, of Cork, patriot, littérateur and journalist, was for many years preceding the recent Irish movement the eloquent champion of the Irish people, and their national representative, so to speak, in the British Parliament. His services to the Irish race at home and abroad were many and important. He bore an active part in the legislation regarding the disestablishment of the Irish Church and the land question. He was one of the founders of the Irish Home-Rule party under Isaac Butt, and published an able book on the subject. He was the author of many admirable literary works, for one of which, defending the position of the Pope, he was created a Knight Commander of St. Gregory by Pope Pius the Ninth. He died in 1872, respected and honored even by those who were most bitterly opposed to his political opinions.

Many members of this Irish family have gained honorable distinction in our own day, among them being the eminent physician and surgeon, Dr. Constantine Maguire, of New York, who served in the French army during the late war with Germany, and who was decorated with the Ribbon of the Legion of Honor for his bravery and signal services in several engagements; and his brother, the Hon. John C. Maguire, of Brooklyn, N. Y., who has occupied many prominent positions, and who is at present Surveyor of the Port of New York. At the old family seat in Ireland to-day the name is likewise honorably represented in the person of Mr. Thomas Maguire and his sons, the Rev. Mathew and the Rev. Andrew Maguire. And his son Thomas, who is one of the largest cattle dealers and land owners in the country, still retains a considerable portion of their ancient patrimony. This gentleman still carries on at the old family seat the extensive cattle business for which his grandfather, familiarly known as “Big John Maguire,” on account of his magnificent physical stature, was noted in his day throughout all Ireland and England.

McGuire at the Battle of Clontarf