The O’Mahony Family

O'Mahony Family crest

(Crest No. 228. Plate 15.)

THE O’Mahony family is descended from Milesius, King of Spain, through the line of his son Heber. The founder of the family was Cormac, King of Munster, A. D. 483, of the Eoganacht tribe. The blood of both Heber and Heremon, sons of Milesius, was united in this tribe. The ancient name was Maighennach, and signifies “Negligent,” and the title of the chiefs was Lord of Iveagh and Kinel Meaky, though they were sometimes styled princes. Their possessions were located in the Counties of Cork and Kerry. The O’Mahony family belonged to the septs of the McCarthys, which also embraced the families of McCarthy More, McCarthy Riagh, O’Donovans, O’Keeffes, McAuliffs, O’Cowleys, O’Collinses, O’Currys, O’Dunaadys, McCartneys, McCutcheons, McCurtens, McHughs and O’Scanlans.

The O’Mahonys ruled the territory of Kinal Aodha—the present barony of Kinalea, and possessed a portion of Muskerry south of the Lee. Among their chief castles were Rosbrin, Ardintenant, Ballydesmond, Ringmahon, Blackcastle, Dunbeacan and Dunmanus.

The O’Mahonys of Carberry were formerly chiefs in Rathlenn, a territory extending from the sea to the bounds of Kerry, lying along the Rivers Bandon and Lee, in the County of Cork. These O’Mahonys also derive their family name from Mathghamhain, or Mahon, who was King of Desmond, A. D. 1015. Mahon was the son of Kian, son of Maelmuadh, son-in-law of Brian Boru, and formerly King of Desmond. Kian commanded the Eugenians of Desmond at the battle of Clontarf. where they formed the bulk of the second division of Brian’s army. The O’Mahonys and O’Donoghues branched off from their co-relatives, the McCarthys, O’Sullivans, etc., at Cas, son of Corc, who was King of Munster, A. D. 380, and a rival of Nial of the Nine Hostages for the monarchy.

During the reign of Elizabeth the O’Mahonys of Kerricurrihy gave the English considerable trouble, in connection with other powerful families of the locality, foraging on the English burghers, up to the very gates of Cork City.

In the war of the Revolution of 1688 there were several O’Mahonys officers in the army of King James. Among these were two brothers, Dermod and Daniel. The former was Colonel, and distinguished himself at the battles of the Boyne, Aughrim and Limerick. Daniel went to the Continent after the fall of Limerick, and served as Major in the Limerick and as reforming officer in the Dillon regiment. He was raised to the rank of Colonel by Louis the Fourteenth in recognition of his conduct at the battle of Cremona, and afterward was made Brigadier. He then entered the service of Philip the Fifth of Spain, where he commanded a regiment of Irish Dragoons, and at his death, in 1714, had won the distinctions of Lieutenant General, Count of Castile and Commander of the Military Order of St. James. Two of his sons acquired high rank and honors in the military and civil service of Naples and Spain.

Two others of this family who won high distinction in France were Barthelemy O’Mahony, Chevalier of St. Louis, Colonel en Seconde of the Berwick Regiment, Count, Lieutenant-General, and Commander of the Order of St. Louis; and Chevalier Jean Francois O’Mahony, Colonel of the Third Regiment Etranger; Colonel of the Forty-first Regiment of the Line; Maréchal de Camp and Commandant of the Legion of Honor. Of the modern representatives of this family, the name of Colonel John O’Mahony, of Fenian fame, is, perhaps, most widely known. He was a man of intense patriotism and martial instincts, and a scholar of profound erudition.

The Rev. Francis S. Mahony, better known as Father Prout, was born in Cork in 1805, and died in Paris in 1866. Many of his ballads and lyrics, notably “The Bells of Shandon,” are very popular; and “The Reliques of Father Prout,” which originally appeared in Fraser’s Magazine, are unique in English literature. He was ordained a priest, but gave up his cure, and devoted himself to the more congenial pursuit of literature. “He was,” says one who knew him intimately, “a combination of Voltaire and Rabelais; but there was never the slightest doubt as to his orthodoxy. He never allowed a day to pass without reading his office from the well-worn volume which he always carried about with him.” His scholarship, wit, humor, satire and powers of versification in foreign languages were remarkable, and anything he wrote bubbled with humor, dash, epigram and feeling. It has been truly said of him that he belonged to a race of mortals now quite gone out of Irish existence, like the elk and wolf-dog.