Earliest References to the Surname

The earliest authenticated reference to the surname in Ireland is found in the Annals of Ulster, which records the names of Muirchertach and his son Eoin (John).  In 1207, ‘Muircertach O Millugain or O Maelagain’ was elected chief lector of the abbey of Derry of St. Columcille, after the death of the late lector, Domnall Ua Muiredaigh. A lector was a monk entrusted with the reading of the sacred scriptures in the Monastery. In 1220, following a dispute over the election of Flann Ua Brolcháin, abbot and successor of St. Columcille, ‘Muirchertach Ua Millugain’ was elected to replace him.  It is unclear from the annals why the clergy of Derry were in dispute over the succession of Flann Ua Brolcháin, but it seems the choice of Muirchertach was acceptable to both the clergy of Derry and the chief council of the Cenél Eógain. For the next year or so, Muirchertach held the office of abbot and chief lector, before his right to hold them were challenged by Geoffrey Ua Daighri, herenagh of Derry. The matter was only settled after they appealed to the archbishop of Armagh, who chose Eoin, Muirchertach’s son, to the lectorship, a judgement that settled their difference.  

Further south in the Wicklow Mountains at Castle Kevin, sometime between 1257 and 1263, an inquisition was held to inquire into the temporal jurisdiction exercised in the manorial courts of the archbishop of Dublin under the first three English prelates promoted to the see through the influence of the kings of England.  John Cumin, the first of them, was ordained in 1181, and succeeded by Henry de London in 1213 and Luke in 1229. The inquisition was held during the time of Fulk de Stanford, bishop of Dublin 1257 to 1271. Castle Kevin was located in the old medieval diocese of Glendalough, which was united with the diocese of Dublin in 1214. It was originally built by the O’Tooles probably in the twelfth century. Amongst the list of jurors who gave evidence to the inquisition was ‘Molior Omolegane’, whose appearance at the court suggests he had local knowledge of the matters being heard and lived in the bishop’s manor.

The personal name of Molior Omolegane is shared with ‘Maoilire O’Maolagain’, chief poet and bard to the O’Reillys of East Breifne, which today covers most of Co. Cavan. In 1293, the celebrated Giolla Iosa Roe O’Reilly succeeded his brother Matthew O’Reilly, as prince of East Breifne.  During his reign Maoilire O’Maolagain flourished as Giolla Iosa’s chief poet. One of Maoilire’s poems has survived and celebrates the deeds of this chief in the poem entitled “We went on a hosting with Giolla Iosa the valiant”. This poem with others, appears to be the source of O’Hart’s claim that the O’Mulligan/Mulligan family of Breifne were hereditary bards to the O’Reillys. The chief poet might well have been early associated with a branch of the Conmaicne Rein in Co. Leitrim or Co. Cavan, which is discussed below. The personal name ‘Maelagan’ appears in the Book of Fenagh, which takes its name from the old Abbey of Fenagh in West Breifne, generally associated with County Leitrim.

Medieval Genealogies of Ireland

In Irish Genealogical tradition, several O’Mulligan families have pedigrees attached to them. The oldest are the O’Mulligans in Co. Donegal, who are associated with the Cenél Conaill and Cenél Moain, the latter, a branch of the Cenél Eógain. The ancestor of this cenél, Eógain, is reputed to be a brother of Conaill, founder of the Cenél Conaill, two reputed sons of the legendry Niall of the Nine Hostages. The Book of Ballymote, compiled about 1390, and the Book of Lecan, compiled between 1397 and 1418, preserve a partial pedigree for the Ua Maelagain of the Cenél Moain.

Book of Ballymote (Unpublished Genealogies, folio. 44 v a 15)

Niall .ix. ghiallaig > Eogain > Muiredhaigh > Muain > Colmain  > Faelain > Edalaigh > Tendalaig > Ferrdalach > Cathanigh > Ua Maelagáin.

Book of Lecan (Unpublished Genealogies, folio. 54 v a 38)

Niall Noi-giallach > Eógan > Muiredach > Muan (or Maien) > Colmán > Faelán > Etalách > Tendálach > Ferrdálach > Cathánach > Ua Maelacáin.

The Ua Maelagain were a branch of the Clann Cathánigh (Keany or Keane) of the Cenél Moain and kinsmen of the Ua Gormghaile (O’Gormleys) and the Ua Luinigh (O’Lonney). In the following pedigrees, they are compared alongside the pedigree of the Ua Maelagain and the Ua Lochlainn (McLaughlin) kings of the Cenél Eógain.  The Ua Gormghaile pedigree is taken form Cú Choigríche O Cléirigh’s (O’Clery) genealogies.  

The genealogy of the Cenél Moain appears in three sections: ‘Minegud sencais Ceniel Moain’ (Explanation of the history of the Cenel Moain), Genelach Cenél Moain Ichturach (Lower) and ‘Genelach Cenél Moain Uachtarach’ (Upper), from whom came a number of other family surnames, some now obsolete.  According to the Great Book of Genealogies by Dubhaltach Mac Fhirbhisigh, from Cathanach (Clann Cathanigh), anglicisd to Keany or Keane, came three other family surnames, Ua Doraighén, Ua Maolagáin and Ua Aircealluigh.  In O’Clery’s genealogies, we have a slightly different rendering in ‘Clann Catharnaigh m Ferdalaigh. i. Ua Faelain and Ua Oirc’.  It would appear O’Clery’s version has been corrupted, as both the Books of Lecan and Ballymote list the Ua Doraighén, Ua Maolagáin and Ua Aircealluigh.

In Search of the Sept O’Mulligan in Co. Donegal

There are two important Medieval sources that mention the Sept O’Mulligan and a third, which refers to the túath or territory they ruled in the northern part of Co. Donegal: the late fourteenth century Topographical Poem of Ireland composed by the Irish poet Seán Mór O'Dubhagáin and late seventeenth copy of the Ceart Uí Néill (the Rights of O’Neill).  In O'Dubhagáin’s poem, they are called in Gaelic the ‘Siol Máolaccan’ and were chiefs of the people of ‘Tir Mac Carthainn’ in the territory of the Cenél Conaill.  They are listed under that section headed “Tir Chonaill”, which later formed part of County Donegal. O'Dubhagáin’s poem was compiled sometime before his death in 1372, and covers the names of the principal chiefs and families beginning with the province of Meath, followed by Ulster and Connaught. His poem was translated into English by John O’Donovan and published in 1862. Of the Siol Maolagáin, O'Dubhagáin says:

Tir MacCarthainn of plundering slaughters

Belongs to the high-minded Siol-Maolagan

To put them in our poem it is our judgement

There was a time when we would not repent of it.

The Siol meaning ‘seed’ of Maolagáin appear to have been at the height of their power before the fourteenth century and had a fearless reputation for plundering in Donegal and beyond. The term Siol was usually applied to a people or clan bearing the same surname and living in the same territory, whose chiefs were semi-independent lords holding a túath with its own jurisdiction and polite.  By the time O'Dubhagáin was writing, he had doubts about including the Siol Maolagáin, whose military status appears to have been much reduced. O’Donovan suggested Tir MacCarthainn takes its name from ‘Caerthann’, son of Fergus, son of Conaill (who gave his name to Tír Conaill and the Cenél Conaill). He then notes, ‘the Abbe MacGeoghegan places this district to the east of Boylagh, but on what authority O’Donovan did not know, as the pedigree of this race is lost.  O’Donovann was mistaken, in his History of Ireland Ancient and Modern, MacGeoghegan makes no mention of Tir MacCarthainn being to the east of Boylagh, noting only “Tirmaccarthuin, a territory in the county of Tirconnel, the patrimony of the O'Maologains”.

In the Ceart Uí Néill, which recites the obligations, tributes and provisions due to the Ó Néill kings from the other kings of Ulster, the O’Mulligans are called ‘Ó Maoilegáin from Magh gCaoroind’.  Their chief was one of thirteenth chieftains, taoisigh, who were obliged to provide military service under the Ó Domhnaill, when called to muster the men of Tir Conaill. Coupled with O'Dubhagain’s poem, the Ceart Uí Néill sheds more light on the Siol Maolagáin, who were evidently still regarded in the fourteenth century, as one of the septs in Tir Conaill able to raise a band of fighting men from Magh gCaoroind for both the Ó Domhnaill and the Ó Néill over-kings. It is worth listing in more detail, the names of the septs and clans subservient to the secular rights claimed by the Ó Néill.

A cheart ar Ó nDomhnaill: teacht líon a thionóil ó Tharbh Chinn Casla go hEas Rúaidh, agus gan fheuchain do shochar na do dhoirbheartus dá mbiadh orra. Agus isiad so na taoisigh tig le hUa nDomhnaill .i. O Buighill ó Thír Bhoghuine agus a Tír nAimhir; agus Ó Maolgaoithe as Túaith Í Mhaoilgaoithe; agus Mac Giolla Shamhais as Ros Guill; agus Ó Breisléin as Fánuid; agus Ó Maoilegáin as Magh gCaoroind; agus Muireadhaigh agus Ó Conaill as Tuaith Bladhaigh; agus Ó Toircheart as Clúain Eidéile; agus Mac Dhubháin as Tír Eunna; agus Mag Fhíonnachtaigh a hArd Mhég Fhíonnachtaigh; agus [Ó] Dochartaigh a hArd Miodhair; agus Mág Fherghail a Tír Bhreasail; agus Mag Loinnseacháin as Gleann Fhinne. Agus dá ndeachadh díobhdhadh ar na haicmedhuibh sin an shuaghadh ar na tuathaibh féin, acht trí saorthuatha Mhuinntire Canannán ag Conallchaibh féin.

His claim on O Domhnaill – that he come with full muster from Tarbh Chinn Casla to Eas Ruaidh, without consideration of the advantage or disadvantage to themselves. And these are the Chieftains who come with O Domhnaill (O’Donnell), namely, O Buighill (O’Boyle) from Tir Boghuine and Tir Ainmire, and O Maolgaoithe from Tuath Ui Maolghaoithe, and Mac Giolla Shamhais from Ros Guill, and O Breislin from Fanad, and O Maolagáin from Magh Caorainn, and O Muireadhaigh and O Conaill from Tuath Bladhaigh, and O Toircheart from Cluain Eideile, and Mac Dubhain (O’Devany) from Tir Eanna, and Mac Fhionnachtaigh (McGinty) from Ard Mag Fhionnachtaigh, and O Dochartaigh from Ard Miodhair, and Mac Fherghail from Tir Breasail, and Mac Loinnseachain from Gleann Fhinne. And should (any of) those families cease to be, the hosting to be on the territories themselves, but the three free territories of Muinntir Canannain are reserved for the O Domhnaills themselves.

The sole extant copy of the Ceart Uí Néill survives in the Leabhar Cloinne Aodha Buidhe complied by the scribe Ruairí Ó hUiginn of Sligo in 1680. It is believed to have been based on an earlier recension dated by Éamon Ó Doibhlin to the sixteenth century.  He suggested the original recension is not likely to go back further than the coming of the Ó Néill to undisputed power after the battle of Cameirghe in 1241, when the Ó Néills emerge as the victors over the Mac Lochlainn. For the next three hundred years, the Ó Néills successively ruled the northern Uí Néill. An earlier date is favoured by Tomás Ó Canann, when the original Tir Conaill recension of the Ceart Uí Néill may have been compiled during the reign of Muirchertach Mac Lochlainn (1145-66). He goes further by suggesting the original recension was headed by Mac Lochlainn’s claim on the Ua Canannáin kings and this was edited by a later redactor in favour of the Ó Domhnaill by the Ó Néill. However, the redactor omitted to delete all reference to the Trí Saorthuatha Mhuinntire Canannáin, the homeland of the Ua Canannáin, who dominated the kingship of the Cenél Conaill until 1250, when the Ó Domhnaill gained the kingship which they until the flight of the Ó Néill and Ó Domhnaill earls in 1607.  

We know O'Dubhagáin’s poem was composed sometime before his death in 1372, and if the Ceart Uí Néill was indeed an earlier compilation from the twelfth century, the Siol Maolagáin emerge as a secular sept also owing military service to the Mac Lochlainn. Invariably, we must ask the question, where was the territory of Tir MacCarthainn and how can the genealogy of the Cenél Moain be reconciled with their chiefs, if at all? Neither O'Dubhagáin’s poem nor the Ceart Uí Néill supply enough information to establish a specific location for Tir MacCarthainn or Magh Caorainn in Co. Donegal. Furthermore, by the time the plantation surveyors had arrived to compile their maps, it had completely disappeared as a recognisable name and territory in Tir Conaill. However, it is mentioned in the Leabhar Chlainne Suibhne, Book of the Mac Sweeneys (hereafter, the Leabhar), which was translated by Paul Walsh into English. According to the Leabhar, it was Toirdhealbach (anglicised to Turlough) na Fhiona Ó Domhnáill, king of Tir Conaill (reigned from 1380), and Turlough son of Maelmuire Mac Sweeney of Fanad, who were the first of the gallowglasses to record a type of contract agreement that gifted certain benefits to the Clann Suibhne in return for Ó Domhnáill’s right to levy them as gallowglass, gall óglaigh meaning foreign warriors. Turlough son of Maelmuire was the first Mac Sweeney chief of Fanad whose name appears in the Annals and died in 1399 or 1400. The agreement narrates:

“O Domhnaill bestowed on the Mac Sweeneys six scores of axes of buannacht bona out of Tir Chonaill itself, a gift in perpetuity from himself and his posterity after him; [for] the making of a circuit of Tir Chonaill once in the year; the spending of three nights in each house in Tir Chonaill; the fishing of the Erne every Friday between Patrick's Day and the Feast of the Cross in Harvest, if they should happen to be encamped by the Erne to oppose the men of Connacht; two ballybetaghs of Tir Mic Caorthainn which are now called Bráighid Fánad ‘the Braid of Fanad’; and to sit by the right side of O Domnhaill whenever Mac Suibhne would visit him."

Before the MacSweeney lords from Argylshire in Scotland established a permanent settlement in Fanad, the peninsula had been the sub kingdom of the Ó Breslan chiefs, also a Cenél Conail sept. In 1263, Donn Ó Breslan, chief of Fanad was killed by Domnall Ó Domhnáill, overking of Tir Conaill, in the court of the bishop of Raphoe. Two years earlier, sixteen of the most distinguished clergy of the Cenél Conaill had been killed in Derry of St. Columcille by Conor O’Neill and the Cenél Eógain. Whatever triggered this slaughter, Donn O’Breslan took swift retaliation and killed O’Neill. Why O’Breslan was killed by O’Donnell at the bishop’s court is not elaborated, but it may have had something to do with a dispute between him and Ferleighin Ó Domhnáill called Lector O’Donnell. After O’Breslan’s death, the O’Breslans lost control of Fanad, and next, we find Ferleighin Ó Domhnáill, chief of Fanad. His son, Cormac was killed at the battle of Desertcreat in Co. Tyrone in 1278. He had another son called Menman, whose sons, Donogh and Hugh were killed in 1303, during an internal feud over the kingship of the Cenél Conaill fought between Turlough and Hugh, two sons of the late Domnall Ó Domhnáill, also killed in 1278.

The Muinter Mulligan of Tullyfern in Fanad

The gifting of two ballybetaghs of Tir MacCarthainn attests to a location in Fanad, a peninsula in the north of Co. Donegal. This agreement would have been sealed after the death of O'Dubhagáin in 1372, when Tir MacCarthainn still belonged to the chiefs of the high-minded Siol Maolagáin. The renaming of the two ballybetagh ‘now called Bráighid Fánad’, meaning ‘the throat, neck or gorge of Fanad’,  implies a partial resettlement of the territory and possibly the displacement of chiefs of the Siol Maolagáin by the time the Leabhar was written in sixteenth century. However, there is evidence to show the Siol Maolagáin were not entirely driven out of the area, and later emerge under a new name the Muinter Mulligan. At an Inquisition taken at Lifford on 12 September, 1609, it was found, the “mointermolligan” paid to the bishop of Raphoe a rent of 4 marks Irish per annum, 32 meathers of butter and 108 meathers of meal, according to the inhabiting of the land, 36 free gorts are equally divided among the tenants, and 12 other free gorts belong to the bishop’s official, for which the herenagh pays to the official the rent of 12 pence per annum and 40 shillings yearly pension to the bishop for the third of his tithes. The full text reads:

‘And they (jurors) further say that in the said baronie (Kilmacrenan) is alsoe the parishe of Tullaghfurny, cont’ in the whole eight ballibetaghes of which there are foure quarters of church land, whereof Mointermollegan is the herenagh, paying thereout yerelye to the busshop fower markes, Irish per annum, and thirtie twoe meathers of butter, and a hundred and eight meathers of meale yerely, according to the inhabiting of the said land; and that there alsoe sixe and thirtie free gorts equallie divided amongest the tenantes; and that there are alsoe twelve other free gorts belonginge to the busshop of Raphoe’s official, for which the said herenagh paieth to the said official, the rent of twelve pence per annum, and fortie shillings yerely penscon to the said busshop for the thirds of his tiethes, and that here is both a parson and a vicar, whoe paie eight shillings le peece proxies to the busshop, per annum; and that the tiethes are all paied in kynde, one third parte to the parson, and another parte to the vicar, and the other third parte to the herenagh; and they mainteyne and repaire the parishe church, equallie, as before, and that there are alsoe eight gort of gleae, whereof foure gorts belonge to the said parson, and thother foure gorts to the vicar

The four quarters of church land in Tullyfern may well represent the four quarters described in an Irish document, which Sir Francis Shean found when surveying Tir Conaill, after the flight of the Earls in 1607. The document in the State Papers of Ireland, begins; “this is the number of Tuaths that are in Tirconnell” and then goes on to narrate 13 districts. At no. 10, he notes “The three tuaths that in McSwine Fanad’s country, and four quarters in Fanad”. It extends from the sea on the north of the peninsula, southward to the town of Ramelton, and the parish of Tullyfern extends southward from Mulroy Bay in the west of Fanad to Ramelton. In Rawlinson A. 237, a manuscript in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, the four quarters were noted as lying near the parish of church of “Tullaghferga” (Tullyfern) and in 1608, four quarters of land was taken to equal the sum of a ballyetagh.

The names of several church lands in Tullyfern are recorded in King James I’s charter confirming all the quarter lands and glebe lands in the diocese of Raphoe, then in their possession, to the Dean of Raphoe, his archdean and all the incumbents of each parish, numbering twenty-five grants of glebe and rectories on 3 February, 1623. To William Cunningham, rector or vicar of “Tullaghferna”, the king confirmed the “half quarter of Clantidalla, in or near the proportion of Glanalla; the half quarter of Loughmuckdooy, in or near the proportion of Faunanoghinbeg, and the half quarter of Aghibegg, in or near the proportion of Boghrill, in the precinct or barony of Killinakrenan, with four gorts of ancient glebe”.  An analysis of these properties using the Tullyfern Tithe Applotment book (1834) and Griffith’s Valuation (1857) reveals a spread of church lands mainly in the lower half of the parish. Interestingly, reference is made to the four gorts or fields of ancient glebe land. This land was used to support the parish priest, rector or vicar.  Only names of three can be identified from Griffith’s Valuation, the townlands of Ballyarr Glebe, Glentidaly Glebe and Loughros Glebe, and two of these are located, respectively, next to the townlands of Ballyarr and Glentidaly, reflecting a subdivision of land. I have been unable to determine the half quarter land of Aghibegg, in or near the proportion of Boghrill, but I have identified the following place-names (Green) in Tullyfern:

a) Half quarter land of Loughmuckdooy (Legmuckduff) and Loughros Glebe, both located next to the townland of Faunanoghinbeg (Fawninoughhan).

b) Ballygarr Glebe  is locate next to half quarter land of Ballygarr below the Leannan river.

c) Half quarter land of Clantidalla (Glentidaly) located next to Glentidaly Glebe and Glanalla in the parish of Aughnish.


Map 1 Parishes in Fanad Peninsula

The term herenagh or erenagh is the anglicised form of airchinnech, which originally signified the head or superior of an early Irish ecclesiastical community called a monasterium, translated as monastery. The smaller monasteria were more familial and in early medieval times, the herenagh was usually a cleric, who might or might not proceed to priestly or episcopal orders. After the twelfth century Reform, their estates and lands were transferred to the bishops, and they became primarily the chief tenants of episcopal land.  The hereagh still continued to retain their sense of being ‘ecclesiastics’ and were bound by the ancient monastic obligation of providing hospitality to pilgrims, strangers and travellers.  The herenagh became a sort of manager or chief of the church land. He was elected by the local coarb or herenagh sept, and if suitable, was then approved in office by the bishop. The herenagh’s duties were to provide from his revenue for the support of the clergy and the maintenance of religious service, churches and chapels in the parish.

                                                           Map. 2 Tirkeeran in County Donegal

The highest number of names prefixed by Tir, meaning broadly, ‘country’, ‘territory’ or ‘land’, are found in NW Ireland and cover a wide range of Irish land-divisions, the large provincial kingdoms like Tir Conaill and Tir Eógain, to parishes down to townlands, the smallest administrative unit.  In Donegal, we find the name of Tir Mac Carthainn modernised to Tirkeeran, a townland located in the parish of Clonleigh in the east of the county. Magh gCaoroind contains the element Magh, meaning ‘plain’, as in the plain of the Ithe. The second element, Caoroind appears to be a corruption of Carthainn and together, mean the ‘plain of the Carthainn’. Interestingly, the name Bráighid, anglicised to Braid, is found in the townland name of ‘Legnabraid’, meaning ‘the hallow of the gorge, near to Tirkeeran. In his Life of Aodh Ruadh ODomhnaill (1586-1602), Lughaidh O’Clery mentions a branch of the Clann Sweeney, who had been banished from their territory in the north long before 1592, and settled on the margins of the Lough Foyle in East Donegal. In his comments on the Tir MacCarthainn of Fanad, Paul Walsh draws attention to Tirkeeran and Braid, and a possible settlement of Mac Sweeneys within the neighbourhood of Clonleigh near Lifford on the banks of the Foyle.

In his article on the Coarbs and Erenaghs of County Donegal, Patrick Gallachair follows Walsh and notes that in pre-Norman times the O’Mulligans ruled the territory of Tir Mac Caorthainn, which may have been represented by Tirkeeran near Lifford, where there was a later settlement of MacSweeneys.  They may have displaced the O’Mulligans, as they did the O’Boyles and a number of other septs of Tir Conaill. His primary subject the ‘Mointermolligan’, Muinter Mulligan, first appear in records relating to the plantation of Co. Donegal, when they held four quarters of church land in the civil parish of Tullyfern in the barony of Kilmacrenan. He notes, they were evidently an old Cenél Conaill sept, the Siol Maelagain, which he called the siol meanmach Maolagain, who ruled their own territory in the Middle Ages.  The term ‘meanmach’ means ‘high-spirited’ and ‘courageous’, and muinter the ‘family of’ or ‘household of’, when applied to a common ancestor, it usually refers to one’s people or folk. A quarter land was a fourth part of a ballybetagh and in the parish of Tullyfern there were eight ballybetaghs.

Map 3 Baronies of Co. Donegal

Very little is known about the ancient church of Tullyfern, Gaelic Tulach-fion, tulach means ‘hill’ and fionn ‘white’, or the ecclesiastical community associated with the church. It was located in the medieval tricha cét of Tir Lugdach, which takes its name from the Síl Lugdach. Traditionally, the Síl Lugdach are said to have been descended from Sétna son of Fergus son of Conaill. In his book Lug’s Forgotten Donegal Kingdom, Brian Lacey has made the case that the offspring of Lugdach may have been a distinct and separate kingdom before their raise to power over the Cenél Conaill. In the Irish Genealogies, the number of Conaill’s sons varies with eight in total, namely, Feidlimid, Sétna, Logharn or Loarn, Brenainn, Líathinnid, Cormac, Fíachra and Cárthainn and there are differences between Laud 610, Rawlinson B.502 and Book of Ballymote. The first four sons are said to have been the sons by Eirca daughter of Loarn.   Cárthainn’s name is omitted in Rawlinson B.502, along with the verse listing the name of his six sons. Laud 610 has ‘Fíachra mac Cárthainn’ and BB ‘Fiachra and Cártann’, and both list his sons, Húanu, Tarbh, Cairell, Crimthann, Mac Laisri and Finan.

Both the Book of Ballymote and O’Clery’s Genealogies preserve a poem entitled Ceithri meic i nOilech, which is undated and relates to the founding ancestors of the Cenél Eógain and Cenél Conaill. Fergus son of Conaill and his sons are listed in the poem and in the following verses, it will be observed a distinction is made between those sons born by the legendry Eirca, and those born by an unnamed mother(s).

Book of Ballymote

Ceitri mc. ag Fergus

fri hEirc cubhaidh cetna

Feidhlimidh is Loarn

Brenaind & Sedna

Feidhlimidh Fiacra feadhbha

Brenaind is Edna dealbha

Nindnidh Cormac fri nidh nas

Cartann is Loarnd lanmas

Ocht mc. tuaidh Breg rosa bhind

Fergusa caeim mc. Conaill.

In the book of Ballymote, the poem immediately follows a text called the Tuarascbhail Coluim Cille. In the ‘tuarascbhail’, modern ‘tuarascáil’, meaning ‘account’ or ‘report’, we have a genealogical account of Coluim Cille and his family. He belonged to the royal dynasty of the Cenél Conaill and founded the abbey and ecclesiastical community of Iona in the old territory of Loarn in Argyllshire. In the ‘account’, Carthainn and his sons are listed immediate after Lugaid, the founding ancestor of the Cenél Lugdach, and the Ó Domhnaill. If Carthainn was the ancestor of the Mac Carthainn, he appears to have been the youngest son of Fergus and lived in the mid sixth century.  The loss of the genealogical material relating to the Mac Carthainn chiefs has left centuries of untold history. That said, it appears to have begun in the northern part of Co. Donegal, where the Siol Maolagáin held sway over Tir Mac Carthainn, a tuath probably embracing much the parish of Tullyfern. As the Muinter Mulligan, they continued to live on the ecclesiastical lands belonging to the church, and as herenaghs, they still held some sway down until the beginning of the seventeenth century, when they were probably dispossessed from their lands and replaced by incoming settlers after 1610.

The Hearth Tax Rolls of 1665 provide the first real glimpse of the population of Co. Donegal and list the names of many Irish, and English and Scots settlers. There is only one tenant bearing the name O’Mulligan liable to pay the two-shilling tax in the whole of the county, namely, John O’Mulligan, who is listed under the Castlefinn estate in the civil parish of Donaghmore and barony of Raphoe. In 1601, this property with its castle had been in the possession of Sir Niall Garbh Ó Domhnaill, and after the flight of the earls in 1607, it passed into the hands of Capt Edward Russell of London, who in turn sold the estate to John Kingsmill of Castlefinn. Significantly, the townland name of Lisnamulligan, Irish Lios Uí Maelagáin, ‘Mulligan’s fort’, is located in the old estate and manor of Castelefinn. Lios literally means ‘the space about a dwelling-house or houses enclosed by a bank or rampart’ and in place-names, it refers to the dwelling-unit in its entirety. This raises two questions, could John O’Mulligan have been living in Lisnamulligan in 1665 and did he or one of his ancestors give their name on this townland?

The earliest references to the townland of Lisnamulligan can only with any certainty be traced to title deeds registered in the Registry of Deeds for Ireland, which commenced in 1708.  When the Kingsmill family fell into financial difficulties in 1707, they sold the estate to William Conolly of Dublin and his business partner, Oliver McCausland, merchant of Strabane. After a long and complicated legal process, which included the passing of a private act of parliament, they finally purchased it in 1711 for £2000 (or thirteen years’ purchase). In the earliest deeds, it is spelt as Lissaumulligan (1714), Lissmulligan (1719) and Lismullegan (1748). Prior to 1700, there are few records relating to the estate of Castlefin and where they do exist, they are found mainly in official records, such as the royal grants relating to the Kingsmill family.  Even, the hearth tax roll for Donaghmore parish gives little more than the name of the estate.  Unlike other other parishes in the barony of Raphoe, the collector omitted to include the townland address for each person liable to pay the hearth tax..

Map 4 Castlefinn and Lisnamulligan

Today, there are about 101 townlands in the parish of Donaghmore in the eastern part of the Finn valley, and some of them preserve the names of the original quarter and sessiagh lands that subdivided the parish in the seventeenth century. There were seven quarter lands in the manor of Castlefinn in the Civil Survey of 1654, namely, “Balliarroll and Ballinecor one quarter”, and the rest are one quarter each, “Ballibun, Leiebaly Castle, Drumbane, Maghriagh, Croghogerran and Machrishanavaly”. They are listed in the Statistical Census of Ireland dated to 1659 with varying degrees of spellings and other names: “Belliarell and the 6 Sissiochs of Bellmicar, Drumneviss, Bellibune, Drumban, Lebellicastle, Art quarter and Magherireagh”, “4 Sessioghs of Cloghfyn and Magherishanvally two Quarters”. Balliarroll is modern Ballyarrell; Ballinecor or Bellmicar is now Ballynacor; Ballibun is Ballybun; the spelling of Drumbane remains the same; Leiebaly Castle or Lebellicastle appears to be Cashelin; Drumneviss is Drumavaish; Art is likely to be Ard, shortened from Ardnaganngh; Magherireagh is modern Magherareagh; Magherishanvally is Magherashanvally and the 4 Sissiochs of Cloghfin, seem to be the same place known as Croghogerran. In 1748, a survey of the manor of Castlefinn placed Lisnamulligan in the third subdivision of the estate known as Cloghard, the chief townland which is followed by Lisnmullignan, Ballybun and Cashelin, which in a modern map all bound each other.

All the townlands of Cloghard, Lisnamulligan, Ballybun and Cashelin are located south of the river Finn and nearby to Dungorman and Dunmurphy, respectively referring to dwellings that were also fortified by those families who originally gave their name to them.  They lay in the medieval territory of the Cenél Moain, a frontier and border crossing often fought over between the Cenél Conaill and Cenél Eógain. At first sight, the geographical location of Lisnamulligan would seem to suit an earlier association with the Ua Maelagan of the Cenél Moain. However, the old territory of the Cenél Moain had passed into the hands of Ó Domhnaill’s chiefs and became part of Tir Conaill, as early as the fifteenth century. For a general discussion on the history of the Cenél Moain, I would recommend Brian Deeny’s article the ‘Ceneál Moanin and the O’Gormleys in East Donegal and West Tyrone’. For our purpose, it is enough to simply note that the Cenél Moain and their chiefs, the O’Gormleys were driven out of eastern Donegal and across the river Foyle into the territory of Magh Itha in Tir Eógain by the Ó Domhnaill chiefs.

With the name of John O’Mulligan and Lisnamulligan both directly linked to Castlefinn estate, it brings to the fore the names of “Shane, Donell and Twohell O’Moylegane”, described as the ‘natural followers’ of Rudhraighe Ó Domhnaill, known in English, Rory O’Donnell. The name Shane is an Anglicised form of the Irish name Seán, which cognates with the name John. In 1594, Rory’s brother, Aodh Ruadh Ó Domhnaill, known also as ‘Red Hugh O'Donnell of Tyrconnell’, joined with his father-in-law, Aodh Mór Ó Néill, earl of Tyrone, in a rebellion led against Elizabeth I, Queen of England, and her government in Dublin. The war came to an end after the Siege of Kinsale in 1602, when Ó Domhnaill sailed to Spain and Ó Néill returned to County Tyrone to negotiate a settlement. Aodh Ruadh’s brother, Rory remained behind in Ireland and submitted to the Queen in December, 1602.  Both he and his ‘natural followers’, including “Shane, Donell and Twohell O’Moylegane”, all received a royal pardon on 26 February, 1603. The pardon simply notes their names, there is no given place of residence, though, it could be deduced that since they were natural followers of Ó Domhnaill, they probably lived at ‘Mulligan’s fort’. What is interesting, the anglicised form O’Moylegane is similar to the Gaelic Ó Maoilegáin, which is the from used in the Ceart Uí Néill. As already noted above, Ó Maoilegáin chieftains were obliged to provide military service under the Ó Domhnaill, when the men of Tir Conaill were mustered by them and the Ó Néill.

In 1608, another rebellion erupted and its leader Sir Cathaoir Ó Dochartaigh of Inishowen, was killed in a skirmish against government forces near Letterkenny. The following year on 10 March, 1609, amongst those pardoned for rebellion were “Shane O'Molligan, Donnogh Ballagh O'Molligan and Swine O’Moligan”, whose names are listed in the company of Owen Ó Gallachobhair of CoolemacItrian alias Dromagh in All Saints Parish. Shane Ó Maolagáin was probably the same Shane, who with Donell and Tuathal were pardoned in 1603, and if correct, it seems he was the last native leader of the Ó Maolagáin still holding land on the eve of the plantation of Co. Donegal. In his letter to Robert Cecil, earl of Salisbury, Sir Arthur Chichester wrote on 9 March, 1609, that he had carefully endeavoured to make the best of all the lands confiscated following the rebellion and not withstanding O’Doherty’s rebellion, he had been able to raise ‘between £400 to £500 for pardons of certain persons for whom they made suit, who are men of no note nor substance, and had taken assurance for their future loyalty of each barony in which any of them were born’.  This poignant statement reflects those desperate conditions meted out on Irish freeholders reduced by war and confiscation. With their lands now in the hands of the crown and the terms of tenure subject to feudal obligations, which included suit of court and sworn homage for their future loyalty, many would soon lose their titles, as new grants were re-issued to incoming settlers, and the Irish dispossessed or allotted smaller portions of land.

The O Mulligans in Counties of Tyrone and Londonderry

The territory of Tir Eógain was almost coterminous with the modern counties of Tyrone and Londonderry, where the O’Neill chiefs held power and ruled over a number of smaller petty kingdoms.  They eventually established their royal centre of power at Tulach Óc, a large mound now called Tullyhogue in the parish of Desertcreat, southeast of Cookstown in Co. Tyrone. This was the area where Cormac son of Ferleighin O’Donnell, chief of Fanad, was killed in battle in 1278. The earliest record of the O’Mulligans in Co. Tyrone also dates from the end of the Nine Years’ War, when we find a wave of submissions, fines and royal pardons. On 22 November,1602, “Ownye O Maylegan”, yeoman, was pardoned with Owen O’Hagan of Tullyhogue, chief of his name, and a gentleman in Co. Tyrone. The O’Hagans, Irish Ó Aodhagáin, were the hereditary Brehons to the O’Neill kings of the Cenél Eógain, who themselves originated in Inishowen in Co. Donegal. It is worth noting the style used in the spelling of O Maylegan, a form of Ó Mailegáin, similar to the style formed in “Shane, Donell and Twohell O’Moylegane”, followers of Rory O’Donnell. Among those also pardoned with the O’Hagans, were the McShane O’Brennan, O’Mellan and O’Quinn.

The revolt by Sir Cahir O’Doherty in 1608, quickly spread into other parts of Ulster, and after O’Doherty was killed and the uprising suppressed, we find again another wave of submissions, fines and royal pardons, which included several leading O’Neills, who after the flight of the Earls, remained in Tyrone. On 13 January, 1609, the king pardoned Henry McShane O’Neill of Portclare, Art McRory O’Neill and Hugh oge McNeill McHugh Merigie O’Neill of Slioct Airt, and Lady Margaret O’Neill, wife of Sir Cormack McBaron O’Neill (then a prisoner). In the same list, we find the names of “Donell O’Mellegan” and “Toole O’Mollegan”, who came from an unnamed location in Tyrone. Donell is immediately listed after Lady Margaret O’Neill, which suggests he was perhaps in her service and one of her gents, yeomen or horsemen. Royal pardons were acts of mercy, and therefore came with a price and were usually granted to men and women, who held some degree of status and owed the monarchy some form of feudal obligation. In Tudor Ireland, they became prevalent under the policy of ‘Surrender and Regrant’, and become numerous from the reign of Henry VIII onwards. They reflect a policy that was open to a select class of Irish, but for the vast major, mercy depended on the sword.

In the Hearth Tax Rolls of Counties Tyrone and Armagh, we find the following in O’Neill country:

1) East Longfield (West Omagh, Tyrone)

“Rory O’Molaghan” paying two shillings in 1666. He lived in the townland of “Dressego”, modern Dressoge, in the civil parish of East Longfield and barony of West Omagh, in the territory of the O’Neill of Slioct Airt.  Interestingly, the parish of East Longfield is located south of the parish of Donaghmore.

2) Errigal Keerogue (Clogher, Tyrone)

“Torlough O’Mulighan” and “Patrick O’Mulighan” paying two shillings each in 1666. They lived in the townland of “Altamooskan”, modern Altamuskin, which is located in the civil parish of Errigal Keerogue and barony of Clogher. This townland is located north of Ballygawely.

“James Mulighan” paying two shillings each in 1666. He lived in “Ballimakill manor”, modern Ballymackilroy, in the civil parish of Errigal Keerogue and barony of Clogher, located in the neighbourhood of Ballygawely.

3) Cornoonagh (Few Upper, Armagh)

“James O’Mullaghan” and Patt O’Mullaghan” paying two shillings each in 1664. They lived in the townland of “Cornoinagh”, modern Cornoonagh, which is located in the civil parish of Creggan. This parish was located in the barony of Upper Fews and Creggan was the centre of the O’Neill territory in County Armagh.

The territory of Sir Cormack McBaron O’Neill, knt., included the modern towns of Augher and Ballygawley, and in the Escheat Maps of Co. Tyrone, surveyed in 1609, it was called “Keiregeir”, modern Keerogue. The fortress of Augher was Cormack’s chief residence until his imprisonment. The townlands of Altamuskin and Ballymackilroy are both located in “Keiregeir” and this would suit a direct link between “Donell O’Mellegan” and “Toole O’Mollegan” and the territory of Cormack McBaron. With the O’Mulligans of Dressoge in the territory of O’Neill of Slioct Airt, Cornoonagh in the territory of the O’Neills of Creggan, and the O’Mulligans of Altamuskin and Ballymackilroy near Ballygawley, we appear to have a strong association with Tir Eogain and the O’Neill territories.

To the northeast of Cookstown lies the civil parish of Artrea in Co. Londonderry, where we find the townland of Ballymulligan. It first appears in a survey of the whole of the territory of Loughinsholin, which was surveyed in 1609 by the Plantation Commissioners of Survey. Their findings yielded two maps now in the National Archives of the United Kingdom. Map reference MPF-1-46, identifies Ballymulligan, shortened to B. omulagan, which is described as being in the middle proportion of Ballinemanagh, in the territory of Killetragh and barony of Loughinsholin. This barony was part of Tyrone, until it was annexed to become part of the newly created county named after London Livery companies. Ballymulligan granted to the Company of Salters and is spelt Ba: O Mulgan in the ‘Schedules of the lands in Ulster allotted to the London Livery Companies’ in 1613. ‘Ba’ is shortened for Bally. In the Charter of Londonderry (1613), it is spelt as Ballyomillagan, which confirms this townland was originally derived from O Maelagain.  The Irish baile or more commonly described as a town by the settlers, takes its name from a family of O Maelagain, whose origins have been somewhat obscured by the lack of contemporary records.  

O Maolagáin’s town might well share a common history with Fionnghleann Ó Maolagáin, the “white” or “fair” valley of O’Mulligan, first recorded in the Civil Survey of Co. Londonderry.  This survey was commissioned in 1654 and covered the lands of the “English or Protestants”, forfeited lands, church and crown lands in the thirteenth baronies of the Counties Donegal, Londonderry and Tyrone.  In 1655, the surveyors submitted their findings and these mention several references to Finglen O’Mulligan, called “ffinglen-o Mullegan” and “Finniglen Omulligan”, a boundary marker between the barony of Loughinsholin in Co. Londonderry and the barony of Strabane in Co. Tyrone. Between both counties, the boundary marker was specifically located between the parish of Ballinascreen in Loughinsholin and the parish of Bodoney in Strabane, and when sketching the boundaries of the parish of Bodoney, Finglen O’Mulligan was also called “Finnyglen Omullan”, which suggests O’Mulligan was sometimes confused with the O’Mellens of Mellanaght.

The old territory of Mellanaght or Mallanacht also appears in the 1609 Survey (MPF-1-46), called ‘Melanagh’, and was divided into two portions; one part was located above the Lissan River and the other part below the river. In the Map, the land parcels are all marked in green, a technique the cartographers used to identify church lands. It was the territory of the  O Mellans (Ó Mealláins), an ancient family of termons or erenaghs.  Ó Mealláin, also anglicised to O’Mullan, shares the same root meaning as O Maolagáin, and it is possible, the surveyors confused these two names. Interestingly, the Civil Survey offers a solution in their description of the property of Dr. Allen Cooke, an English protestant and ecclesiastical lawyer, who gave his name to Cookstown in County Tyrone.  He leased seven townlands and one sessiagh in the northern part of the parish of Lissan in Loughinsholin, which belonged to the see of Armagh.  They are said to have been bounded on the north with Desertlyn, east with “Carrorodie”, south with “Cookkernagh” and west with “Finglenomulligan”. In fact, his property is the same portion called ‘Melanagh’ above the Lissan River. Anciently, the termon lands of Mallanaght where in the Deanery of Tulach Óc.  Éamonn Ó Doibhlin has made a distinction between the termon and erenagh lands, which he notes differ only in that the former had more privileges than the latter, especially in the matter of sanctuary. The chief tenant of the termon lands is called a Coarb, but in common speech is called by his surname, but the chief tenant of erenagh lands is always called the Erenagh.

In his article The Northern Boundary of the Archdiocese of Armagh, Seamus Ó Ceallaigh has stressed the point - that the Civil Survey is not always an unimpeachable witness must be accepted before it is taken as the basis of any serious topographical study. He identifies two place-names called Finglen. The first, is a valley extending six or seven miles long leading on to Feeny in the civil parish of Banagher and barony of Keenagh, where the townland of Finglen is located nearby. Further south of this valley in the civil parish of Ballynascreen or Baile na Seríne, is another Finglen on the boundary between Ballynascreen and the parish of Bodoney in Co. Tyrone (see Map below). To this could be added a third “Fynglean”, which is found in a single reference in a grant made by King James I to Christopher Hampton, archbishop of Armagh, on 25 February, 1614/15. It was a subdivision of the modern townland of Letteran, where the summit of Slieve Gallion lies and appears to have been located near the boundary with the parish of Ballinascreen. It appears to have been located on the slopes of Slieve Gallion, which is located on easternmost part of the Sperrin Mountains. It is part of the civil parishes of Lissan, Ballynascreen and Desertmartin, but was not a boundary marker between the parish of Ballynascreen and the parish of Bodoney in the Co. Tyrone.

Map. 5 Barony of Loughinsholin

The Civil Survey provides no specific description of Fionnghleann Ó Maolagáin, but as O Ceallaigh notes, it is important for our purpose to fix this Finglen, which is located on the slopes, where the Glengamna Water rises and Monaidh Ui Mhaolagáin is the mountain above it.  He identifies this Finglen with Finglen O’Mulligan in the Civil Survey, and I would add it bounds may have been much larger than its modern limits. The Finglen of the O’Mulligans is located north of the main road that wends its way up into Glenelly. At the Plantation, Finglen was an area located in the territory of Clenconkyne, which bounded Killetragh on the north, and together were famed for their dense forests and their woodmen, battle hardened and known as “Wild Clan Shane of Killetragh”. In 1608, Sir Arthur Chichester found the territory of Clenconkyne occupied by the Clandonell and Clanshane, and diverse other septs and ‘well tilled and inhabited for the fitness of it as any other part of Tyrone’. In the earliest census substitute covering the parish of Ballinascreen, the Hearth Tax Rolls of 1663, we find the name of Art O’Mulligan, who paid two-shillings on his hearth tax and was a resident in the townland of Brackagh in the same parish. His name supports the presences of the surname O’Mulligan in this parish and what is significant, we find several other surnames with a shared origin in Co. Donegal, namely, the O’Brillaghan (Irish Ó Brolacháin), O’Cannon, O’Doherty and O’Devitt.

The family of O Brolacháin, where also abbots of Derry and priors of the abbey of Iona in Scotland.  In the Irish Annals, Domnall Ua Brolacháin, prior and senior of Derry of St. Columcille, who died in 1203, appears to have been still living, when Muircertach O Maelagain was a cleric serving in the same abbey, before he was elected chief lector of the abbey in 1207. Like the O Brolacháin, the O Maelagain clerics seem to disappear from the ecclesiastical affairs of the monastery of Derry in the Irish Annals, but there are references to clerics and priests’ holdings parish churches in those parts of the diocese of Derry located west of the river Bann in Co. Londonderry.

In 1397, John Colton, archbishop of Armagh (1383-1404), undertook a ‘metropolitan’ visit of the diocese of Derry, and a record of his journey, the places he visited and the names of the people he met has been preserved. The original text was written in ecclesiastical Latin and translated from the Rev. Reeve’s edition of the document into English by the Rev. J. Scott Porter. This work preserves what is probably the earliest reference to the surname O’Mulligan in County Londonderry.  After spending four days in the monastery of the Cannon Regulars, called the Black Abbey of Derry, Archbishop Colton with the dean, archdeacon and chapter of Derry, travelled east to the parish church of Bannagher, where he gifted the vacant Rectory of the parish church of ‘Dromogarvan’ to “Dermot Omolgan” and ordained that the Archdeacon of Derry, induce the said Dermot into ‘corporal possession of the Rectory and defend him when so inducted’. Omolgan is a variant form of O Maelagain. The parish and rectory of Dromogarvan ceased to be a separate parish in 1609 and was merged with Tamlaght O’Crilly.  It survives in the name of Drumagarner, which is located in the neighbourhood of Kilrea.

In 1435, “Patrick Omolachan” was ordained rector of the church of “Eanga”, which gave its name to the civil parish of Termoneeny. His office became the subject of a papal inquisition after Maurice O’Cathain, claiming to be Coarb of St. Cainneach, and other clerics attempted to remove him from the church of Eanga in 1435. He is probably the same “Patrick Omolachan” called the perpetual vicar of the parish church of Rath Luraigh (Maghera) also in the diocese of Derry (see above Map). He had committed simony and was excommunicated by the bishop of Derry in 1469. In his place, the Pope gifted to “John Otehegan”, rector of the parish church of Eanga, the power to exercise the ‘cure of both churches, which are near one another’. The name Omolachan, another form of O Maelagain, was anglicised to Mallaghan and Mullaghan. O Ceallaigh has suggested the surname O’Mallaghan is derived from O Mothlacháin, a family who appear in the medieval Irish Genealogies. They were one of five families claiming to be descended from Cinaeth son of Conchobar of the Clann Conchobhair, a branch of the Cenél Eogain. Conchobar’s son Drugán was the lineal ancestor of the Ui Catháin, O’Cahan, O’Kane, whose chiefs came to dominant a large territory stretching from the river Foyle to the Bann, which was created a county called Coleraine about 1585.  O Ceallaigh offers no evidence to support his theory that the O Mallaghans are the same family as O Maothlacháin, but if he is right, it presents an interesting genetic challenge for future research to establish if they share the same genetic clade as the O’Cahan.  

Consequently, the O’Mallaghans may or may not belong to the same family or sept of O’Mulligan, who gave their names to Ballymulligan in Killetragh and Finglen O Mulligan in Clenconkeyne.  The Hearth Tax Rolls of County Antrim list the names of three O’Mulligans, who appear to have originated in Tir Eogain:

Kilrea-Rasharkin (Antrim-Derry)

‘Donken O’Molaghen’, ‘Pat O’Molaghen’ and ‘Donnel O’Mullaghan’ paying two-shillings each in 1669.

They all lived in the townland of “Gortrefee”, modern Gortereghy, which is located on eastern side of the river Bann in the parish of Rasharkin, Co. Antrim. In the 1666 hearth tax roll of Rasharkin, only the name of ‘John Molloghon’ is listed. Significantly, Gortereghy is located east of the town of Kilrea and ‘Dromogarvan’, where Dermot O’Mulligan was rector of the parish church in 1397. The use of the style Ó Maolacháin, a variant form of Ó Maolagáin, is rare in Ireland and it seems to have survived longer in County Londonderry.

To recap, the genealogical tradition of the O’Gormleys and O’Lunneys is firmly attached to the Cenél Maoin, and if the reference to the Ua Maolagáin in the Cenél Maoin pedigree is genuine, this family may already have migrated into Tir Eógain before the sixteenth century. This is contrasted by the history of the O’Mulligans associated with Lisnamulligan and Tullyfern, who were clearly aligned with Tir Conaill, and in this context, it would suit Tirkeeran and Legnabraid.  They appear to form a link with Fanad and if Tirkeeran in Clonleight was named after Tir MacCarthain or simply a division of it, we may simply be looking at the same O Maolagáin family, historically settled between Fanad and that part of Magh Ithe, which cover the parishes of Donaghmore, Clonleigh and Urney (divided between Co. Donegal and Co. Tyrone). These three parishes were part of the medieval deanery of Mahya (Magh Itha), a deanery within the diocese of Derry (see map 3), and was area disputed over between the O’Donnells and O’Neills.  In Cos. Tyrone and Londonderry, the evidence from the Pardon Rolls and Hearth Tax Rolls, clearly supports the presence of several branches of O’Mulligans, and although, there is no direct reference to them in the Irish genealogies, some may well have had early ties to the Cenél Moain or another branch of the Cenél Eógain. We cannot rule out the possibility others may have had a separate and distinct heritage in Ulster and in the next section, I explore another family who appear in Co. Fermanagh.

The Muinter Maelagain in Counties Fermanagh

In his book ‘The Fermanagh Story’, Peadar Livingstone claimed the O’Maolagains were an Aileach family and chiefs of Boylagh and Raphoe in Co. Donegal, before coming to Fermanagh. Here they settled in the baronies of Magherastephana and Clankelly, and probably gave their names to Mullowulligan, otherwise Milligans, and Eshywulligan townlands in the parish of Clones.  Robert Bell in his ‘The Book of Ulster Surnames’, goes one step further and notes that they lost their lands during the plantation of Ulster and migrated to Counties Fermanagh, Monaghan and Mayo. According to the same author, in Fermanagh the O’Mulligans settled in Magherasteffany and Clankelly, and in Monaghan, in the northwest and centre of the county. This cannot be entirely correct, as the O’Mulligans in Magherasteffany and Clankelly were already there in the 1400s. This cannot be correct, as the O’Mulligans where already in Fermanagh as late as 1485. If in fact they came from Co. Donegal, it is much more likely they descended from a family already living in Fermanagh, before the plantation of Ulster, who settled near Clones, perhaps about the time the Ua Luinig of the Cenél Moain settled in Fermanagh. On the other hand, they might well descend from an alternative lineage separate from the Northern Uí Néill.

In 1485, the Annals of Ulster record the slaying of ‘Gilla-Padraig, son of Maghnus, son of Domnall Ua Mailigein’ (O’Mulligan) the Tall and Cathal Ua Timain (Ua Daimhin) the Tawny, son of Aedh the left-handed. Both men had been in the company of Feidhlimidh, son of Donchadh Mag Uidhir (Maguire) and Donchadh, his kinsman, who were wounded and taken by Brian Mac Gilla-ruaidh (MacGillroy) and Aedh and Gilla-Isu, sons of Edmond Mag Uidhir, king of Fermanagh. In revenge for the killing of Gilla-Padraig and Cathal, Feidhlimidh, son of Donchadh Mag Uidhir, lead a party of the Muinter Maelagain, Muinter Timain and others against the Mac Gilla-ruaidh, which resulted in the slaying of Gilla-Padraig son of John Mac Gilla-ruaidh. The family name of Mac Gilla-ruaidh is still preserved in the townland of Ballymackilroy in the parish of Aghalurcher and barony of Magherastephana (see Map 3). The Ua Daimhin or O’Daimin chiefs also claimed to share the same ancestral history with the Maguire kings of Co. Fermanagh, and McMahon kings of Co. Monaghan.

Map 6 County Fermanagh

The association of the Muinter Maelagain with the O’Daimin seems to indicate the period during which they flourished and in the Annals of Ulster, we find three obits that support this observation: the death of Brian Ua Maelagain in 1439, Cathal Ua Maelagain in 1441 and Domnall Ua Maelagain, a poor person devoted to God in 1446. Although, these obits lack any specific detail about where each individual lived, it can be inferred they died during the period when the Muinter Maelagain flourished in Co. Fermanagh in the 1400s. As late as 1447, the O’Daimhin still held some power and influence in the district, as we find them engaged in a rival dispute with the Maguires, when ‘Domnall Mag Uidhir’ was slain by another branch of the Maguires, supported by the sons of Mac Orighialliagh and two of the sons of Ua Daimin of Tirkennedy, formerly known as Tir Cennfota. The Muinter Maelagain seem to have left their name in two townlands in the parish of Clones and barony of Clankelly, namely, Eshywulligan and Mullowulligan now Milligans, where their descendants were still living during the first half of the seventeenth century.

On 8 March, 1615, we find Neile O'Mullegan and Cnogher mcCafforrie of ‘Mullaghglasse’ on trial at Enniskillen in Co. Fermanagh before Sir John Blenerhasset, Knight, one of the Barons of the Exchequer, and Sir Robert Oglethorpe, Knight, the second Baron of the same Court. It was found that Con Roe O'Connelly of Mullagheglasse, yeoman, on the 20 November, 1614, at ‘Dromeforde’, stole a brown cow worth £3, the property of Edward Sibthorpe, gentleman, and was aided on the last day of the same month by Cnogher mcCafforrie and Neile O'Mullegan of Mullaghglasse. The court found in their favour and they were acquitted. The townland of Mullaghglasse is Mullaghglass, which is located in the parish of Clones near to Eshywulligan and Milligans.

At the outbreak of the Irish Rebellion in 1641, Donnogh Grane O’Mullegan, Phillip O’Mullegan and Brian O’Mullegan were amongst a company of 60 or so tenants led by Donn Carrough Maguire and Edmund Carrough Maguire, probably Donn’s brother, who attacked Shannock Castle near Clones early in the morning of 23 October of that year. At the time, Arthur Champion, landlord and justice of the peace was holding a Court Leet of the barony of Clankelly, and present with him were Maximillian Tibbs, High Constable of the said barony, Miles Acres, Hugh Stookes and Thomas Sergeant, who were all killed with him that day after the party had entered the castle. They had gained entry by pretending that they had caught a man stealing sheep and were bringing him to the court to be tried. Donnogh Grane O’Mullegan may well have been one of the heads of the Muinter Maelagain in Clankelly, which by the time of the 'Statistical Census of Ireland' c.1659, compiled by Sir William Petty, numbered some 23 households extended over seven Parishes:

Parishes of Clones, Aghavea and Devenish - O’Mulligan …. 18

Parishes of Boho, Rossorry, Cleenish and Killesher - O’Mullican …. 5

The statistical account seems to have only recorded the number of Irish households and their surnames, if they were considered to be more than a few in a given area and in the case of Co. Fermanagh, it accounted for the highest group of O’Mulligans, also spelt as O’Mullican, in Ireland. Since the statistical account made a difference between the surnames of O’Mulligan and O’Mullican, the spread of O’Mulligans can only be estimated by barony, but it seems the highest number were found in the baronies of Clankelly and Magherastephana, where we find the strongest historical tradition with the rest spread over other baronies.  As we will shortly note, the next counties with the highest number of O’Mulligans were located in Co. Longford and Co. Westmeath in Mid Ireland. The demographics of these figures show that by the time of the Irish Rebellion in 1641, the Muinter Maelagain in Co. Fermanagh were the largest O’Mulligan clan in Ireland with a genealogical tradition that is purported to be Airgialla, an old native people of Ulster.

Genelach Sil Gairbgaela (O’Garvalys)








Fergusa Gairbgaela







Fiachach Casan

[Book of Ballymote, folio. 66 v f]

There is a second Northern genealogical retention that belongs to the Airghialla, otherwise the Oirghialla in Ulster and might well have an important bearing on the Muinter Maelagain in Co. Fermanagh. According to John O’Hart, a branch of the O’Maolagan share a common ancestry with the O’Garvaly traced from ‘Fergus Garbhgeill’, said to be descended from Cairbre an Daimh Airgid. However, in the Book of Ballymote, they are traced from Fiachach Cassán son of Colla Crich (Forcrích), one of the three legendry Collas, who founded the kingdom of Airghialla. Traditionally, Colla Crich is said to have had four sons: Imchad, Findachad, Rochaid and Fiachach Cassán.  From Fiachach Cassán (also called Fiachra) descend the Síl Fiachach Cassán, and their branches, the Airthir of Ard Macha, Uí Breasail, Uí Nialláin, Uí Dorthain, Uí Eochada, Uí Cruind and Uí Trena. The Book of Ballymote provides the earliest record of the O’Garvaly pedigree, which is not found in Laud’s Genealogies, Rawlinson B 502, Book of Leinster or Book of Lecan.  The two pedigrees, respectively, are compared below to show their line of descent from the two sons of Colla Crich, king of Airghialla.

Ballymote                                               O’Hart

Fiachach Casan                                      Rochaidh

Feidlimid                                                  Deach Dorn [or Deagha Dhuirnn]

Feic                                                         Fiach [or Feig]

Lugdach                                                  Criomthan Liath

Forco                                                       Eochaidh [Eochy]

Fuiric                                                       Cairbre an Daimh Airgid

Cairill                                                       Brian

Fergusa Gairbgaela                                Fergus Garbhgeill (a quo O’Garbhgeill)

Aedain                                                     Hugh

Folain                                                      Faolan

Maictich                                                   Mactigh

Conboirenn                                             Cuborin

Caemhan                                                 Cumagan

Mailacain                                                 Maolagan (a quo O’Maolagain)

Muiridach                                                 Muireadach O’Garvaly

Both O’Hart and the Book of Ballymote agree on the lineage between Muiredach O’Garvaly and Fergus Garbhgeill, but diverge into two separate branches traced from two brothers, Fiachach ogr Fiachra Casan, and Rochaidh, the sons of Colla Crich, king of Airghialla. Brian son of Cairbre an Daimh Airgid is said to have been the brother of Daimhin, ancestor of the O’Daimhin, anglicised to Davin/Devine, former lords of Fermanagh; Cormac, ancestor of the Maguires who subsequently succeeded as lords of Fermanagh; Nadsluagh, ancestor of the McMahon lords of Farney in of Co. Monaghan. The Annals of Ulster date the death of Cairbre an Daimh Airgid to 514 AD, and with nine generations following him, it suggests Mailacain or Maolagain died sometime in the eighth century, long before the Book of Ballymote was compiled.  By the time the family of O’Garvaly begins to emerge in history, O’Hart notes they were chiefs of Partarigh or Partry, an ancient territory at the Partry Mountains in Co. Mayo, defined by the civil parish of Partry”.

The schism between O’Hart’s genealogy and the Book of Ballymote appears to reflect a geographical split between Co. Mayo and another branch that remained in Ulster. If O’Hart’s genealogy is to be accepted, it also seems a branch of the O’Maelagain believed they shared a common ancestry with the O’Daimhin, Maguires and MacMahon. They are not mentioned in the Geinealaighe Fearmanach, but in the Annals of Ulster, already cited above, the Muinter Maelagain are the most likely since they lived under the O’Daimhin and Maguire lords in Co. Fermanagh. However, at the time of writing, I have been unable to find a pedigree from fifteenth century onwards that directly traces both the O’Garbhgeill in Co. Mayo and Muinter Maelagain in Fermanagh to the Síl Fiachach Cassán.  Similarly, the possibility that a branch of the Siol Maolagain of Co. Donegal settled in Fermanagh cannot be ignored, particular as the genetic signature of the Muinter Maelagain remains unknown. If someone descended from the O’Mulligans in Fermanagh where to take a Y-STR and Y-SNP test, it might help to determine which genetic haplogroup they are defined by within the male Y-Chromosome.

Genetic Research and the O’Mulligan Y-Chromosome Variety

Genetic-genealogy is beginning to identity a subclade for the O’Gormleys in Cos. Donegal and Tyrone, known as R-M222>S603>A1742, which may be indicative of the O’Mulligan signature associated with the Cenél Eogain.  As noted above, the genealogical tractates of the Cenél Moain record a common ancestry between the Ua Gormghaile (O’Gormleys), Ua Luinigh (O’Looney) and Uí Maelagan (O’Mulligan), which suggests the ySNP S603 may have been carried by all three branches. To date S603 ySNP has only been found in a cluster of O’Gormley and McAnellys. Reference should also be made to the O’Gormley DNA Project, where current developments and genetic research are being monitored by the project administrators.

Only one ‘O’Mulligan’ in the Milligan/Milliken DNA Project, who gives his ancestry as Co. Donegal, has been tested with 37 Y-STR markers and assigned the haplogroup E1b1b1 (E-L117). There is an interesting study on the E1b1b1 haplogroup in the McCarthy DNA Project (see Haplogroup E1b1b1). It is suggested that the spread of E1b1b1 from Europe into England was carried via auxiliaries in the Roman army and in particular Thracian troops. For the study, see Steven C. Bird’s Haplogroup E3b1a2 as a Possible Indicator of Settlement in Roman Britain by Soldiers of Balkan Origin. Since the Romans never conquered Ireland, it has been suggested they may have arrived by subsequent diffusion through trading, raiding or plantation across the Irish Sea in the past 1500 years. The E1b1b1 O’Mulligan ancestor might also have had ecclesiastic connections with Europe and arrived as a cleric, perhaps via the abbey of Derry of St. Columcille or some other church. There is a second E1b1b1 member with an undefined ancestry and a 12 Y-STR marker test, who might well share an early ancestry in Co. Donegal.

In Irish genetic-genealogy, the R-M222 haplogroup is usually associated with the Uí Néill, but not exclusive to it. Four subclades appear within this haplogroup and one is defined as M222>DF106>DF104>DF105>FGC46310.  This ySNP is also shared with a person surnamed Huvane. In the Y chart below, the surname Huvane is taken to be an anglicised variant of the Irish Ó hÚbáin, which is rare and first appears in the 1500s in Co. Mayo, see Huvane’s History. Interestingly, the seventeenth Irish genealogists, Dubhaltach Mac Fhirbhisigh (MacFirbis) and O’Clery make the Ó hÚbáin or O’Hubain in Co. Mayo a branch of the Cenél Eogain in Ulster, descending through Fergus son of Eógain. If there is any truth to this tradition, then it would have implications for other surnames listed.

There is another member confirmed I-M223, a haplogroup formerly known as I2b1. He shares genetic STR matches with a cluster of Carrs in Co. Donegal, who are found in the CTS6433>I-Y9161 subclade.  In addition, he matches a Dougherty (Doherty) and Sweeney, two family surnames also associated with Co. Donegal. He shares a close match with the Kilkers, Gaelic Giolla Ghéir, a very rare surname found in Glencastle, Belmullet, in Co. Mayo. The presence of this genetic signature in both Co. Donegal and Co. Mayo is highly suggestive of a migration pattern and based on the matches shared with the Carr, Dougherty and Sweeney family surnames, this member’s ancestry could well have come from Co. Donegal.

The Plantation of Ulster

The plantation of Ulster introduced to Co. Donegal, a family of Scottish ancestry, who appear in seventeenth century records as Mulligan and probably belong to the Scottish M222>DF106>DF104>DF105>FGC4133 subclade or its parallel branch known as DF105>A223>A822, which is shared between an O’Cannon family from near Mountcharles and an Amuligane family from Dempsterton near Dunscore in Dumfriesshire, Scotland. This Scots family settled in the barony of Banagh sometime before 1618, and first appear in a list of tenants, namely, Andrew Murray, Neile O’Cassan, John Horestanes, John Stuart, Thos Carnes, John MacLaghty, Thos Frisall, Robert Modiey, John Makonell, Archd Horner, Alex Shilane, John Creighton, Patr Makey, Wm Huett, David Firley, John Reynolds, David Tapen, Thos Creighton and Geo. Mulligan, who were all the subjects of a legal dispute brought against them by their landlord, John Murray, earl of Annandale, at the Chancery Court of Ireland in Dublin on 10 February, 1618.

As ‘George Molligan’, he and ‘John Milligan’, younger, appear in the c.1630 muster roll of John Murray, earl of Annandale, raised in the barony of Banagh. John Murray acquired a number of proprieties in the baronies of Boylagh and Banagh from other Scottish planters, such as, William Stewart of Garlies, Sir Patrick Vaus of Barnbarroch, Sir Patrick McKee of Larg and George Murray of Broughton. In the barony of Banagh, the Earl owned the whole of the parish of Killybegs and the townlands of Aighan, Ballybedonnell, Ballyloughan, Croagh, Darney, Druminiscal and Rahan in the parish of Killaghtee. These lands had first been granted to William Stewart of Garlies and later to John Murray, who gave his name to Castle Murray in Rahan.

In 1640 upon the death of John Murray, his son James became Earl of Annandale and acquired extensive lands in south west Donegal.  James Murray died childless and then his cousin, Robert Creighton, took over the estate and changed his name to Murray. By the census of Ireland 1659 the resident’s claimants to Castle Murray Quarter (Rahan Near and Rahan Far) are shown as Sir Robert Murray, Archibald Pearson, John Greegs and James Creighton.

His arms and men  - 143

Molligan, George,  no arms,  f. 195a.

Jackson, David, younger, no arms, f. 196a.

Shankeland, Gilbert,  no armsn  f. 196a.

Milligan, John, younger,  no arms,  f. 196a.

Neither of these sources provide a townland reference within the baron of Banagh. Even in the Co. Donegal Hearth Tax Roll of 1665, only the name of Widow Miliken is listed, who paid 2 shillings hearth tax on her dwelling in the parish of Killaghtee. The widow might well have been the spouse of George Mulligan, and mother of “John Mulligan” of Ballyloughan in the same parish, who was one of 14 jurors sitting at the Coroner's Inquest held at Dunkineely, also in the same parish on 15 September, 1660, into the death of Alexander and John Murray who were found dead. The jurors found the two dead men were murdered by George Cunningham, Wm. Cunningham, Andrew Cunningham, Alexr. Cunningham, Charles Murray, James Lindsay, John Walker, Owen Roe McDonochy and John Craige, and that George Cunningham and James Lindsay had both fled the district.  


To be continued.

Created 6th January, 2018: updated 29 January, 3 March, 2019, 15 June, 2020, 15 August, 2021



O’Clery Genealogies

Ua Gormghaile

Niall .ix. ghiallaig

m. Eogain

m. Muiredaigh

m. Muain

m. Colmain

m. Faelain

m. Edalaigh

m. Teandalaigh

m. Ferrdalaigh

m. Gairmleadaigh a quo

m. Dalbaigh

m. Maelmithigh

m. Catmaeil

m. Gairmleadhaigh

m. MicRaith

m. Menman

m. Domnaill

m. Concobar

m. Eidalaig

m. Domhnaill

m. Néll (Niall)

Book of Ballymote

Ua Luineigh

m. Niall .ix. ghiallaig

m. Eogan

m. Muiredhach

m. Muain

m. Colmain

m. Faelain

m. Edalach

m. Tendalaig

m. Ferrdalach

m. Gairmleadhach

m. Luinech

a quo Ua Luineigh

Gilla Críst ua Luinig (1090)

Book of Ballymote

Ua Maelagain

m. Niall .ix. ghiallaig

m. Eogan

m. Muiredhach

m. Muain

m. Colmain

m. Faelain

m. Edalach

m. Tendalaig

m. Ferrdalach

m. Cathanigh

a quo Ua Maelagan

The Ua Gormaghaile and Ua Luinigh are first mentioned in the Annals on the following dates:

1084: Domnall ua Gailmredaigh was killed by Domnall ua Lochlainn, king of the Cenél Eógain.

1090: Gilla Críst ua Luinig, chief of Cenél Moain was treacherously killed by Domnall ua Lochlainn.

Book of Leinster

Ua Lochlainn

Neill .ix. giallaig

m. Eogain

m. Muiredaich

m. Muircherdaich

m. Domnaill, d. 566

m. Aed Allan, d. 612

m. Maeli-fithrich, d. 630

m. Mael-duin, d. 681

m. Fergaile, d. 722

m. Neill Frossach, d. 788

m. Aeda Oirdnide, d. 819

m. Neill Kaillie, d. 846

m. Aeda Findleith, d. 879

m. Domnaill, d. 915

m. Flaind, d. 906

m. Mael ruanaidh, d. 940

m. Mael Sechnaill, d. 997

m. Niall, d. 1061

m. Aed, d. 1083


In the Milligan/Milliken DNA Project, there are about five different STR haplotypes within four SNP haplogroups that appear to be Irish’s clades, rather than Scottish. The four SNP clades are: R-M222 with two subclades, followed by the E1b1b1, I-M223 and J-M267 haplogroups.  The history of the principal O’Mulligan and Mulligan septs and families is also explored in more detail and includes references to early Irish genealogical sources and what extant medieval records have been preserved.  It aims to cover as many known families, spelt variously as Mulligan, Mullegan, Melligan, Milligan, Mellican and Mulgan, who can trace their ancestry from the Middle Ages. It is acknowledged, though, few families can be chronicled prior to 1700.  

O’Mulligan DNA In the North of Ireland