The O’Meagher’s of IKERRIN

The O'Meagher's of IKERRIN

The family of O'Meagher, which held long sway, played no inglorious part in the history of Ireland. The Cinel Meachair are descended from Fionnchada, son of Connla, so of Cian, second son of Oiliol Olum, King of Munster in the third century.

In 1617, it was conceived so important to ascertain who were the heads of the clanns, that the Earl of Thomond compiled a "Book ol Pedigrees of the meere Irish", in which he records that of Meachair, who was thirteenth in descent from Cian. Sor George Carew, President of Munster about this time, also collected for the use of Lord Burghley "Descents of the meere Irish", in which he gives five generations of the O'Meaghers. "Pedigrees of the Irish nobility", preserved in the British Museum, also record five generations of the O'Meaghers; and beside these there are nine other pedigrees of the O'Meaghers in the libraries of Lord Roden, of the Royal Irish Academy, and of Trinity College. That in possession of Lord Roden, written on vellum by Duald Mac Firbis, brings the pedigree down to Teige or Thaddeus O'Meagher, who was thirty-eigth in descent from Cian; and a pedigree in the Royal Irish Academy, which was compiled in 1664 by Cucory O'Clery, one of the Four Masters, also on vellum, brings the pedigree down to John O'Meagher, who was thirty-ninth in descent from Cian.

At the foot of this pedigree was inserted the following note: "The steed and battle-dress of every Lord of them belong to the Comarba of Cronan and Inchanambeo, and these must go thrice round him (the chief of the Meachair) when proclaiming him Lord, and the Comarba should be at his shoulder (i.e. the place of honour), and he should rise before the Comarba, and that Meachair was King of Ele"

The territory of the Cinel Meachair was called Ui Cairin, modernized as Ikerrin, a barony in the north of the County Tipperary, situate at the foot of Bearnan Eile, i.e. the gapped mountain of Ely, now called the Devil's Bit from its curious outline. The barony contains 69,381 acres of arable land and land and water, and is subdivided into twelve parishes, rated at the annual value of 45,000l. The rivers Nore and Suir rise in the parish of Borrisnafarny.

We find the earliest notice of the clann in Colgan's "Tripartite Life of St. Patrick" "Patrick went into Muscraighetire to baptize and to preach and 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 Conla (son of Tadg, son of Cian, son of Olioll Ohim). Muinnech believed at once, and Patrick baptized and blessed him, and said that illustrious heroes and clerics should descend from him for ever; and that the chief kingship of his country should be (filled up) from him for ever, as the poet said:

" Muinnech the Great believes

In Patrick, before all;

That there might be over his country

Chieftains of his race for ever.

Mechair believed,

for he was a true, just man,

Patrick gave him a lasting blessing -

The companionship of a king."

And the ancient life of St. Columba informs us that one of his disciples named Machar received episcopal ordination, and undertook to preach the Gospel in the northern parts of the Pictish kingdom. The legend adds that Columba admonished him to found his church, when he should arrive upon the bank of a river where it formed by its windings the figure of a bishop's crosier. Obeying the injunctions of his master, Machar advanced northward preaching Christianity, until he found at the mouth of the Don the situation indicated by St. Columba, and finally settled there with his Christian colony, and founded the church, which from its situation was called the Church of Aberdon.

In O'Clery's Calendar of the Irish Saints, the feast of "The Daughter of Meachair" is fixed on the 7th of September, and that of Dermod (son of Meachair), Bishop of Airthear-Maighe, Tuath-ratha (Toorah, County Fermanagh) on the 6th of January.

The War of the Gaedhill with Gaill and the Chroicon Scotorium record that King Malachy, Monarch of Erinn in the year 1012, "led a plundring expedition against the Danes, and he ravaged as far as Ben Edair (Howth); but Maelmordha, son of Murchad, and Sitruic, son of Amhliadh, and the Danes of Leinster, overtook them and killed the whole of one of their three plundering parties. There fell then Flann, son of Malachy, and Lorcan, son of Echtigern (King) of Cinel Meachair, and two hundred along with them." This was the defeat of Drainen, now Drinan, County Dublin.

Seaffriadh Bacagh MacGilla Patraic, the Lame, in 1280, married Inghin, daughter of O'Meachair, King of Ui Carin (Ikerrin).

Edmond, fifth Chief Butler of Ireland, in 1315, received a grant of the return of all writs in his Cantred of Ormon, Hyogurty, and Hyocary (Ikerrin); and in 1328, James, his son and successor, was created Earl of Ormonde by Edward III., who grated to this nobleman's son, James, the royalties, fees, and all other liberties in the County Tipperary, and the royal liberty thus established continued down to the year 1714, when by act of the Irish Parliament, 2 George I., it was abolished.

King Edward III., in the year 1361, sent his son, the Duke of Clarence, to Ireland, to fill the office of Lord Deputy. In 1367, the memorable Parliament of Kilkenny was held, in which was passed the celebrated Statute of Kilkenny. This remarkable ordinance, though chiefly directed against the Anglo-Normons who had adopted the laws and customs of the natives, contains some enactments full of the jealous and penal spirit which continued for centuries after to pervade and infect the whole course of English legislation in Ireland.

By this statute it was high treason for any person of English origin to contract a marriage with an Irish family; the infraction of this stern law, unless dispensed with the King's special permission, was punished with unrelenting severity.

Richard II. Granted a license, on the 23rd of December, 1835, to Sir Almaric Grace, styled Baron Grace, for the better preservation and improvement of the peace of the country, to form an allegiance with Tibinia, daughter of O'Meagher, dynast of Ikerrin, all the laws to the contrary notwithstanding.

Stephen, Bishop of Meath, on the 20th of March, 1372, had an order for 326l., equivalent to 13,000l. sterling, granted him for having risked his life in various parts of Munster with men-at-arms, fighting and reducing to peace O'Meaghir, O'Brien of Thomond, McConmarre (MacNamara), and other rebels.

The annals of Lough C record that a great slaughter was committed by Art, king of Leinster, in Lough Garman (Wexford), in the year 1401; in retaliation for this the foreigners of Athcliath (the Danes of Dublin) attacked the Gaidhill of Leinster, and a great many of the retained Kerns of Munster, under Tadhg O'Meachair, were slain there.

About this time Gilla-na-naomh O'Huidrin wrote a topographical poem, giving an account of the principal families of Leinster and Munster, and the districts occupied by theme at that period. He thus mentions the O'Meaghers:

Mightily have they filled the land,

The O'Meachairs, the territiry of UI Cairin,

A tribe at the foot of the Bearnan Eile;

It is no shame to celebrate their triumph.

In the annals of the Four Masters, the death of O'Meagher, chief of Ikerrin, is recorded in the year 1413.

On the accession of Edward IV., so small was the portion of Ireland which acknowledged the authority of English law, that from four small shires which constituted the territory of the Pale, were all the lords, knights, and burgesses that composed its Parliament summoned; and the fierce clans which surrounded the Pale were always ready to take advantage of the general confusion to which the contest for the English Crown had given rise, and the inhabitants of the districts bordering upon the Irish were forced to purchase exemption from them by annual pensions to their chiefs.

Mac William (Bourke), of Clanrickard, gathered an army in 1462, and marched into Icarin (Ikerrin), where O'Meachayr, i.e. Thadg, with his confederates met and opposed them, and William Bourke, MacWilliam's son, was slain by wan cast of a dart by O'Meachayr's son, by which wan throw O'Meachayr escaped his army. Thady O'Meachayr, King of Icarin, died and son supplied his place.

The next notice we find of the O'Meagher is in an Irish MS., preserved in the public library of Rennes in Brittany, being a translation from English, from Greek, and from Hebrew into Irish, "of the travels of Sir John Mandevil," and the age of the Lord when John made this journey, was one thousand years and three hundred and thirty-two years. The age when Fingin, son of Dermond, son of Donnel, son of Fingin, son of Dermod mor O'Mahony, put it ultimately into Irish was one thousand four hundred and seventy two years, and john was thirty-four years visiting the world, and on his return to Rome the Pope confirmed his book, "These are the Lords who were over the Gaedhill"; and after naming MacCarthy mor, O'Sullivan, O'Brien, O'Neill, O'Kelly, O'Connor, O'Donnell and others, the notice continues, "and Gilla-na-naemh, son of Tadhg, son of Gilla-na-naemh, was over the Ui-Meachair, et alii multi in Erinn, from that time forth, who are not reckoned for commemoration."

With the view to the better defence of the English territory at this time, it was enacted in a Parliament held at Naas that every merchant should bring twenty shillings sterling worth of bows and arrows into Ireland for every twenty pounds worth of goods he imported from England. Had the Irish but known their strength, or rather had they been capable of that spirit of union and concert, the whole military force of the Pale could not have withstood them.

Upon the resignation in 1490 of William Roche, Bishop of Cork and Cloyne, who was concerned in the rebellion of Perkin Warbeck, Thaddeus Meachair was appointed to succeed him in the same year. The temporalities of the See were in a great part the gifts and grants of the Barrys, Fitzmaurices, and other southern chieftains, and on being seized by them Pope Innocent VIII. issued a brief on the 18th July, 1492, commanding them to desist from their usurpation. Bishop Meachair in the meantime set out for Rome, on his way took mortally sick, and died in Ivrea in Piedmont.

The writer was favoured last May with a letter from Canon Saroglia, Chancellor of the Cathedral of Ivrea, which contained the following narrative translated from the Italian:-

"In 1492 passed to heaven the blessed of Thaddeus, an Irish Bishop, concerning whom we hear the following details: He was of the royal stock of O'Meacher, born in the town of Cloyne (quere Clonyne in Ikerrin), in Ireland, and was probably the Bishop of Cork.

In the second half of the fifteenth century the lay powers in the country set about depriving the Church of its immunities, and compelled some of the bishops to seek in foreign lands that peace that they could not have in their own country. Amongst them was the blessed Thaddeus, who set out for Rome, and passed through Ivrea, and on the night of the 24th October, 1492, was admitted as an unrecognized pilgrim to the Hospice of St. Anthony; he was broken down by the long journey over the Great St. Bernard, then covered with snow. On the following night the officials beheld a great light gleaming on the bed where the stranger lay. Being frightened they ran to extinguish it; but to their great surprise they discovered that it was a light that did not burn, and that the pilgrim breathing an air of paradise, was then dead. Next morning the Governors of the Hospice were prayed to relate to Monseigneur Garigliatti the maraculous occurrence, and on going to the Hospice and examining the papers found on the person of the deceased pilgrim, they discovered that he was a bishop; they then thought it their duty to provide him with a befitting interment. The bishop with the chapter and clergy, accompanied by all orders of citizens, went processionally to the Hospice, removed the body of the pilgrim, and caused it to be clad in bishop's dress. The bells of the city were set tolling, and the bishop translated the corpse to the cathedral, where solemn obsequies were held. Remembering the extraordinary light at the time of the decease, and knowing that certain miraculous cures had occurred at that very time, the bishop decided that the corpse should be interred in the cathedral, and at the altar of St. Andrew where reposed the relics of St. Eusebius, Bishop of Ivera. On the 27th August, 1742, Monseigneur Michele Vittoro de Villa caused the sepulchre, where were the bodies of St. Eusebius and the blessed Thaddeus, to be opened, and the body of the latter was found whole and not decayed, clothed in a violet soutane and rochet, his white beard falling in his breast, and a ring on his finger."

Amongst the Lansdowne MSS. There is a paper dated 18 Henry VIII. (1526), in which the king is recommended to appoint as lieutenant one active and politic nobleman, with experience of the land, like the Duke of Norfolk, and to give him a sufficient army, 4,000 light horse, gunners, morris-pikes, bows, bills, all quick and hardy men, that McMurrough's, O'Byrne's, and O'Connor's countries should be taken; that they were the key of Ireland, and that Melaughlin, O'Molmoye, O'Doyne, O'Dymsye, O'More, amd O'Mehayr will be dearly won, and as each country was won the land should be let in freeholds at fourpence an arable acre; and when it was once brought to quiet and order the King might, by Act of Parliament, enlarge his realm as he pleased.

Eleven years later (12th of August, 1537), Lord Deputy Grey and his Council report to the king that they won a battle in O'Magher's country, had taken the gentleman owner thereof and all that were therein prisoners, and forced O'Magher to deliver hostages.

In the month of July, 1538, Lord Leonard Grey proceeded on a military progress through a greater part of the kingdom, receiving submission of all the chiefs through whose countries he passed. In this progress, attended by the lords of the Pale, he traversed Offaley, Elye-O'Carroll, Ormond and Arra. It is not mentioned that he visited the adjacent barony of Ikerrin, but it is probable that he interviewed its chief, for in the following year (7th August 1539), an indenture was made between the King and Gullernowe O'Maghyr, captain of his nation. The King accepted O'Maghyr as his faithful subject and O'Maghyr bound himself, his heirs and successors, captains of the said country, to pay to the King twelve-pence, lawful money of Ireland, annually for every carucate of land within his country and dominion of Yny Kyryne. Whenever a general hosting was made he would lead to the Deputy twenty horsemen and forty galloglas well armed according to the usages of the country, with victuals for forty days at his own cost and charges. When the deputy came near the borders of the said country, O'Maghyr would assist him with his whole power for three days, and he and his successors would make a sufficient open road through their country for more easy passage of the King's waggons and other warlike instruments, and of the King's men as often as they should be required to do so by the deputy.

At this period O'Meagher held the Castle of Roscrea, which belonged to the Earl of Ormond by inheritance.

On the 28th June, 1549, Captain Walter ap Poyll reports from the Nenagh a dissension between the Lord Marshal and O'Meagher for certain prey. Nine years later a commission was issued to Sir Henry Ratcliffe, Knight, Lieutenant of the King's and Queen's Counties, to parle with, take pledges from, and punish with fire and sword the O'Meaghers, O'Dunnes, O'Carrolls, and others.

In 1562 the Earl of Sussex reports to the Queen (Elizabeth) what he conceived for the reducing of her English subjects in Ireland to live under obedience of the law and of her Irish subjects, to live under certain constitutions more agreeable to their natures and customs, and suggests when Munster shall be settled the president should travail to procure the Irishry inhabiting the other Munster (Upper Munster), to give over all the Irish tenures and to receive slales tail, and that bonaught should be levied upon O'Carroll and O'Mawher to the extent of 260l; and later on that year, Lord Sussex reported that O'Maugher and other lords on this side of the Shenon lived in obedience under the rule of Sir Henry Ratcliffe, Captain of Leise and Offaly, and for the most part desired to give over Irish tenures to hold their lands of the Queen by succession, to have their country made shire-ground, and to live under the obedience of the laws.

In 1567 Sir Henry Sydney, with the view of informing himself of the actual state of Munster, took a journey into that province, and the account he has left presents a picture of lawlessness and abused power. He reported to the Queen that Ikerrin, called O'Meagher's country, was uninhabited, having been wasted by the younger brothers of the Earl of Ormond.

Gillenowe O'Meagher, alias The O'Meagher, received on the 11th January 1571, a pardon, subject to the payment of a fine of 5l.

Sir Henry Sydney reported five years later that the Queen's writ had no currency in Tipperary.

James Fitzmaurice, "a champion of the Irish cause." In 1579, set sail from Lisbon with three ships provided with arms and ammunition, a small supply of money, and a force of about 100 men, and with this means did these sanguine adventurers set out on a mission for the relief and enfranchisement of Ireland, and landed at Smerwick in Kerry; and finding that the natives did not repair to him, the small band began to express discontent, and Fitzmaurice, after remaining for a month, set off for Holy Cross in Tipperary to seek aid for the desperate adventure he had embarked in. Tipperary, being then the region in which, as the chronicler of the time tells us, the fuel of rebellion was always most ready to kindle.

The Earle of Ormonde in the autumn of 1582, plundered Ui Cairin, Duharra, and South Ely; and at this period it was generally remarked that the lowing of a cow or the song of a ploughman could scarcely be heard from Dun Cairin to Cashel.

Dymoke, in his treatise, gives a "particular" of the rebel forces then (April, 1599), employed in the rebellion and reports that Keidagh O'Meagher had 60 foot and 30 horse under his command and Frnes Morrison confirms his statement.

Sir George Carew was appointed President of Munster in 1599, and the following year he offered large rewards for the heads of the leading rebels. In the month of September 1600, he received intelligence in Kilkenny that Spanish forces amounting to 5000 had landed, and taken possession of Kinsale. Munster, which had been reduced to a tranquil state by the stern and vigilant rule of the Lord President, remained for some time undisturbed.

Red Hugh O'Donnell, marching to Kinsale to the assistance of the Spaniards, crossed the shoulder of Slieve Bloom into Ikerrin, and remained twenty-six days on the hill of Drium Sailech, awaiting Hugh O'Neill, who was marching slowly after him. O'Neill in his march through Ikerrin, encamped at Roscrea and at Templtuolry. Sir George Carew, notwithstanding all his skill in coercion, found the rebel spirit had become too powerful, and between abettors abroad and their ruthless masters at home, the hapless natives were at once lured and goaded into rebellion. He reported the arrival in Ikerrin of O'Donnell and O'Neill, and that one called Keidagh O'Maghir had gathered 300 rogues together and did many courages, and that the third son of Viscount Mountigarrett, some of the Gracea, and Thomas Butler a kinsman of Sir Edward Butler, with 200 men, were drawing into Tipperary to assist Keidagh O'Meagher, and he suggested to the Lord Deputy Mountjoy the suppression of that upstart rebel.

Angus O'Daly, a Munster bard, started in 1617, at the instance it is stated if Carew, on an excursion through the four provinces, to bespatter with ridicule and contempt every chieftain on his way, and such of the descendants of the Anglo-Normans as had adopted their customs and formed alliances with them. O'Daly executed his task by attempting to prove in detail, by force of assertion, that the Irish chieftains were neither hospitable nor generous, and that they were too poor to afford being so. He traversed Leinster, Ulster, and Connaught, but his excursion was brought to an end in Tipperary, where he received, it is said, that kind of reward which he did not anticipate. While staying at Bawnmadrum Castle with the O'Meagher, he composed a satire on his host, which the servant of the chieftain resented by stabbing him to the heart. He is said to have composed - extempore - the remarkable quatrain respecting his having so recklessly lampooned his country men:

All the false judgements that I have passed

Upon the chiefs of Munster I forgive;

The meagre servant of the grey O'Meagher has

Passed an equivalent judgement upon me.

See Appendix O.

The inquisitions taken between the years 1622 and 1637 by the Sovereign's escheators give some interesting particulars of the O'Meagher's of Barnane, Boulybane, Clonakenny, Clonyne, Cromlyn, Garrymore, Lisnalosky, Louraine, &c., showing what lands they were seized of, their value, by what services they were held, and of what age, were the heirs to same.

Civil war having broken out in 1641, Teige-oge O'Meagher, son of the O'Meagher, raised a Regiment of Foot, which formed part of O'Dwyer's Brigade.

Lord Castlehaven in 1645, on his march from Limerick, invested O'Meagher's Castle of Clonakenny, that stood in his way possessed of by the enemy, and there being of no other passage, he writes: "I sent to the adjacent villages and got together crows of iron, pick-axes, and whatever else could be found, and fell a-storming of the castle, and in three or four hours took it. In this place I left 100 men, and being over pretty safe I lodged that night at my ease."

This castle is situated at foot of Borrisnoe mountain, near the sources of the Nore and Suir.

The sheriff of Tipperary issued a commission in 1649 to Teige O'Meagher of Keilewardy and others to "ymmediately raise a body of horse well accommodated with swords and pistols after the rate of one horse and means out of every five colipes."

O'Dwyer's Brigade surrendered to Sankey, commander of the Parliamentary forces in Munster, on the 23rd of March, 1652, with all the honours of war, the Brigadier and all the commissioned officers having the right to enjoy their horses and arms, and liberty to transport themselves to serve in any foreign army in amity with England, persons guilty of "murther," or members of the First General Assembly, or First Supreme Council, alone excepted. Brigadier O'Dwyer availed himself of the permission to go abroad, and went, with 3,500 men, to serve under Conde in the Low Countries; but his brother, Lieutenant-Colonel Donough O'Dwyer, Colonel Teige Oge O'Meagher, Theobald Butler, Ulick Bourke, and others, were not suffered to depart, and Miss Hickson, in her "Ireland in the Seventeenth Century" writes that they were put upon their trial at a court held at Clonmel, about the 8th if November, 1652, for the murders deposed to by one Ellice Jeanes, were convicted, and soon after executed.

The writer could not find any notice of this trial in the "Records of the High Court of Justice." Miss Hickson informed him the she made the statement on the authority of Carte. Local tradition bears out her statement, and adds that Colonel O'Meagher rode to the scaffold on his black charger, which after its master was hanged escaped and galloped back to Clonakenny where it wandered at large for many years. There is confirmation of Colonel O'Meaghers death in Pieces Originals, preserved in the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris: "Teige Oge O'Maher, who suffered in Cromwell's day, married a Butler, but had no heirs."

The Irish Confederates were finally subdued in the summer of 1652, and then took place a scene not witnessed in Europe since the conquest of Spain by the Vandals. The captains and men of war numbered to 40,000, were suffered to embark for the Continent, and forced to "fed themselves by the blades of their swords in the services of foreign countries." Those who stayed behind had families that prevented them from following their example. They returned to their former neighborhoods, took up their abode in the offices attached to their mansions, or shared the dwellings of their late tenants - their mansions being occupied by some English officer or soldier - and employed themselves in tilling the lands they had lately owned as lords, until the 11th of October, 1653, when they were ordered to transplant to Connaught, the news being proclaimed by beat of drum and sound of trumpet in the adjoining town; ploughmen, labourers, and others of the lower order of people excepted, because they would be useful to the English as earthtillers and herdmen; and others of them, with a cowd of orphan boys and girls, were transported to serve the English planters in the West Indies; and thereupon the conquering army divided ancient inheritances amongst them by lot.

Every person ordered to transplant was furnished with a certificate which described his family and friends who intended to bear him company to Connaught, and his stock and crop in ground. The writer's ancestor, John O'Meagher, being then a minor, the certificate was made out in favour of his mother, Anne O'Meagher, of Clonyne Castle, widow, and seventy-five persons agreed to accompany her into exile. For each acre of winter corn she left behind, three acres of land were to be assigned, summer corn and fallow being included; for each cow or bullock (if two years old and upwards), three acres; for every three sheep, one acre; for every garron, nag, or mare (if three years old and upwards), four acres; and for goats and swine proportionally. These assignments were only conditional, for at a future day other Commissioners were to sit at Athlone to determine the extent of lands the transplanters had left behind them, and to ascertain the extent of disaffection to Parliament, by which the proportion to be confiscated was to be regulated. Ikerrin was then parcelledout among the Anneslows, Armingers, bayleys, Boats, Bulkeleys, Butlers, Chappels, Creuzals, Desbrows, Drakes, Eakins, Eames, Foulkes, Gossans, Hales, Heaths, Joneses, Lenthallss, Lobs, Mathers, Minchins, Morrises, Noels, Piercys, Radcliffes, Rundalls, Runthorns, Smiths, Thornburys, Sympsons, Weekes, and Woodcocks; the Dukes of York and Ormonde and Sir Martin Noel getting the largest share.

Of those who went abroad, Theodore de Meagher served in 1660 in the Spanish Netherlands as Maréchal de Campo, under the Prince of Condé.

The O'Meaghers declared for King James and joined his army. When war broke out in Ireland in 1689, we find John Meagher serving in Sarfield's horse; Cornelius, Brian, and Edmund O'Meagher in Butler's Foot; John, Edmund and Thomas O'Meagher in Bagenal's Foot; Philip O'Meagher in Oxburg's Foot, and Thomas O'Meagher in Mountcashel's Foor. And after the surrender of Limerick the remains of the Jacopite army volunteered for France and Spain, and we find O'Meaghers serving in the French regiments of Bulkeley, Clare, Galmoy, and Lee; in the Spanish regiments of Hibernia, Irlanda, Wauchop, and Waterford; in the prussian army of Von Derfinger's Dragoons, and in the garrison of Cüstrin; and in the Polish Saxon army, Thadée de Meagher became a Lieutenant General and Colonel Proprietor of the Swiss Guard, and Chamberlain to the King: he was commissioned by the sovereign to negotiate with Frederick the Great a treaty of neutrality on the breaking out of the Seven Years' War.

This page was last updated on July 17, 1996

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