Mac Suibhne - Irish Names and Surnames

AuthorRev Patrick Woulfe
SourceIrish Names and Surnames

Mac SUIBHNE—IV—MacSeveney, MacSwiney, MacSweeny, MacSweeney, MacSween, MacSwine, Swiney, Sweeney, &c.; 'son of Suibhne' (well-going); the name of a great military family, formerly famous throughout Ireland as captains of gallowglasses. They derive their name and descent, according to MacFirbis, from Suibhne, who was son of Donnshléibhe Ó Néill and lord of Knapdale in Argyle, about the beginning of the 13th century. The first of the name to come to Ireland was Murchadh, grandson of Suibhne, who is mentioned in the Annals at the year 1267. Early in the next century, the MacSweeneys effected a permanent settlement in Tirconnell, where they became captains of gallowglasses to O'Donnell. They branched out into three great septs, viz.: MacSweeny of Fanad who dwelt at Rathmullin Castle and had extensive possessions in the north-east of the barony of Kilmacrenan; MacSweeney of Baghnagh, now the barony of Banagh, in the west of Co. Donegal; and MacSweeney na dTuath, lord of Tuatha Toraighe, or the districts of Tory Island, sometimes incorrectly called MacSweeney of the Battleaxes. A branch of the MacSweeneys of Fanaid settled in Desmond as commanders of gallowglasses under the MacCarthys. They had several castles in the barony of Muskerry, and were celebrated for their hospitality. The Irish form of the surname is now sometimes Ó Suibhne, which see; in Scotland it is generally Mac Shuibhne (which see), but MacSween still survives as an anglicised form.

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