The O’Meagher or Maher Family

O'Meagher family crest

(Crest No. 100. Plate 16.)

THE O’Meagher family is descended from Milesius, King of Spain, through the line of Heber. The blood of Heremon also is united in the O’Meaghers, through the founder of the tribe, Kiann, son of Olliol Ollum, King of Munster, A. D. 177, and Sabia, daughter of Con Kead Caha, King of Ireland, A. D. 148.

The ancient name was Meadhair, and signifies “Mirth.” The chief of the sept was styled Lord of Ikerrin, or O’Carin’s territory, and is thus mentioned by O’Herrin:

“Powerfully have they peopled their land,

The O’Meaghers of the land of Ui Carin,

The tribe who dwell at Bearnan Eli,

It is right to extol their fame.”

The O’Meaghers were formerly powerful chiefs, and possessed the territory now forming the barony of Ikerrin, in the County of Tipperary. The barony embraces 69,381 acres, and is divided into twelve parishes. The O’Meaghers held possession of this territory from an immemorial period. In the “Tripartite Life of St. Patrick,” we read: “Patrick went into Muscraighetire to baptize, and to preach and to plant the faith there. He met three brothers of that nation—men of power—Furic and Muinnech and Mechair, the sons of Forat, son of Coula, son of Tadg, son of Cian, son of Olliol Ollum. Muinnech believed at once, and Patrick baptized and blessed him, and said that illustrious heroes and clerics should descend from him forever.” In an ancient life of St. Columba we read: “One of his disciples named Machar received episcopal ordination, and undertook to preach the Gospel in the northern parts of the Pictish Kingdom.”

After the Anglo-Norman invasion the O’Meaghers, whose territory was on the borders of the Pale, were engaged in almost constant warfare with the English. In the insurrection of 1641 Colonel Tiege-Oge O’Meagher, son of the head of the sept, raised a regiment of foot, which formed part of O’Dwyer’s Brigade. At the conclusion of the war Colonel O’Meagher was hanged, and the ancestral lands were parceled out among Cromwell’s troopers. In the Revolution of 1688 the O’Meaghers espoused the cause of King James the Second, ten members of the family serving as officers in his army. After the capitulation of Limerick these officers served with credit in the Irish Brigade in France, and in the armies of Spain, Prussia and Poland. Major O’Meagher of Dillon’s Regiment, distinguished himself at the battle of Fontenoy. Another of the name, Major Patrick O’Meagher, of Bulkley’s Regiment, served over thirty years, and participated in twenty-five general engagements; and Captain Philip O’Meagher of O’Brien’s Regiment also served over thirty years, and fought in twenty-seven engagements.

Thomas Meagher, a wealthy merchant and ship-owner, was twice Mayor of Waterford, 1844-46, and member of Parliament from 1847-57.

His son Thomas Francis Meagher was born in the City of Waterford, and educated at Stoneyhurst College, England, by the Jesuits. He was one of the leaders in the Young Ireland movement of 1848, when, a mere youth, he sprang into fame by his marvelous oratorical powers. Having been condemned to death for high treason, the sentence was commuted, and he was transported to Van Dieman’s Land, from whence he effected his escape a few years later, and came to the United States. On the outbreak of the Civil War he raised and commanded the Irish Brigade.

General Thomas Francis Meagher


After the close of the war he was appointed by President Johnson to the secretaryship of Montana Territory, of which he was Acting Governor at the time of his death. He was accidentally drowned in the Missouri River, July, 1867.

John Francis Meagher, journalist and author, was arrested for Fenianism in 1866, when in his fifteenth year. His father and brother were arrested at the same time; the latter died in Mountjoy Prison two years later. John F. Meagher published “Legends of Southern Ireland” and other works.

William Meagher, a prominent merchant of Dublin, was Lord Mayor of that city in 1884, and member of Parliament for the County of Meath. This family is still numerous in Ireland and in the United States and Canada. The number in the United States may be estimated from the fact that over fifteen hundred Meaghers served in both arms of the service during the late war.

Dr. William O’Meagher, Surgeon in the Irish Brigade during the late Civil War, and at present Coroner in New York City, is a descendant of this family.