The O’Melaghlin Family

O'Melaghlin family crest

(Crest No. 39. Plate 61.)

THE O’Melaghlin family is descended from Milesius, King of Spain, through the line of his son Heremon, and belonged to the Hy Nial tribe. The founder of the family was Conal Crimthine, son of Nial of the Nine Hostages, King of Ireland, A. D. 379. This Conal was the ancestor of the Southern Hy Nials. The ancient name was Macleachluin, and signifies “Servant of Leinster.”

The heads of the sept were styled Kings of Meath and Princes of Clan Coleman. The O’Melaghlins were the head family of the Southern Hy Nial race, called Clan Coleman, and took their name from Maeilsechlainn, or Malachy, King of Meath and monarch of Ireland. This ruler was the forty-fifth Christian king, and the one hundred and seventy-fourth King of Ireland. He died a great penitent in his cell, at Cro, in the Island of Cro-Inis, in Lough Annin, in the County of Westmeath, A. D. 1023.

The O’Melaghlins were for many centuries Kings of Meath, and several of them were monarchs of Ireland. Many of them were also Kings of Tara, Princes of Bregia and Lords of Clan Colman, a territory situated in ancient Teffia, and comprising the central and southern parts of the present County of Westmeath. The O’Melaghlins, as Kings of Meath, had their chief residence at Dun-na-Sciath, or the Fortress of the Shields, situated on the banks of Lough Ainnin, now Lough Ennell, near Mullingar.

Murtogh O’Melaghlin was King of Meath at the time of the Anglo-Norman invasion, when his kingdom was transferred to Hugh de Lacy by a grant from Henry the Second, and he was the last independent King of Meath. But the O’Melaghlins for many centuries afterward, amid incessant and fierce contests with the English settlers, maintained their position and considerable possessions in Westmeath, with their titles of Kings and Princes of Meath, and Lords of Clan Colman, down to the reign of Elizabeth.

Many distinguished chiefs of the O’Melaghlins are mentioned in Irish annals from the tenth to the sixteenth century. Some of their chiefs are mentioned during the Cromwellian and Williamite wars, but after those periods all their estates were confiscated, and in modern times scarcely any of the O’Melaghlins are to be found. It is said, however, that this family, since the reign of Queen Anne, have changed their surname to MacLoughlin. It is remarkable that of the five royal Milesian families, all of whom were eligible to the monarchy, only this family has ceased to retain the ancient Milesian name, having quiescently adopted the name of MacLoughlin, by which their descendants are still known. Of the others, namely, the O’Neills, Kings of Ulster, the O’Conors, Kings of Connaught, and the O’Briens, Kings of Munster, many eminent families exist, and the MacMurroghs, Kings of Leinster, are represented by the O’Cavanaghs.