FROM IRISH KINGS: A NOTE ON THE NOBLE AND ANCIENT CLAN McMANUS OF NORTH ROSCOMMON, IRELAND.
Michael McManus, Durham City, England.
|I make no excuse for my emotional feelings on that day.
It was an extraordinary feeling as I stepped from the car outside the old
presbytery in the village of Keadue. Hairs suddenly stood erect on the
back of my neck and butterflies inhabited my stomach. Beside me, I sensed
my sister, Kath, was experiencing something similar - but still we managed
to retain our composure, resisting an urge to explode into discursive emotion.
Yet this was no horrific experience; no encounter with an evil spectre
from the past. As we walked quietly upwards and away from the village of
Keadue, along the lane hedged with honeysuckle and blackthorn, a spiritual
sense of de ja vous pervaded my imagination and the lane became vivid with
family spirits from the past. After nearly a century and a half of absence,
our McManuses had returned again to our ancient home of Kilronan.
Kilronan is the ancient territory of Tir Thuithail, situated in the furthest northeasterly point of County Roscommon. It is an area of impressive natural beauty where the Arigna mountains host the meeting of the three counties of Roscommon, Leitrim and Sligo. From the seventeenth century to more recent times, however, this scene of rural beauty has collided superficially with the unfettered activities of coal and ironstone mining - and the necessary scars of human survival will still occasionally present themselves to you as earth-workings on the Arigna landscape. But years of redundancy, and the natural growth which follows human inactivity, is now restoring the hillsides to their former glory. This restorative process has inevitably brought with it some degree of economic and social difficulty for those in the local community – all the mines have now closed. A familiar phenomenon of the ages for Kilronan people and one to which my family were no strangers in the middle of the nineteenth century. Like many other poor Kilronan families, they had left the area out of social and economic desperation to find a more promising future elsewhere. As part of an old Kilronan family, this was to be their first move away since settling in Kilronan centuries before. If they’d had a realistic option to stay I’m sure they would have chosen that option. But their priority was survival, and, accordingly, life in Kilronan was no longer an option for them.
From the account books of the dominant landlord, Edward Tenison, we are able to see a vivid picture of emigration from Kilronan as a result of the period of famine which culminated in such sorrow in 1847. The tenor of the records provide the reader with a sense of the military precision which Tenison used as he organised his tenants for this emigration 'operation'. Those leaving were supplied with flour, meal, oatmeal, rice and sugar before being transported in carts to Sligo to get the boat for the promised land. Everything was paid for by Tenison. Most poignantly, the account books finally record, "Six shillings and eight pence paid for hasps and staples for deserted homes":
Spirit voices from the past murmured welcomingly as Kath and I continued to ascend further onto Ceite-Tire-Tuathail (the green hill of Tir-Tuathail). The name of the Ceite (pronounced Keite) is probably still preserved in that of the village of Keadue, where my great grandfather proudly claimed his birth. Back on our visit, and distracted from my otherworld experience, I passed from the spirit-world with the speed and vagueness of a dream and was once again with Kath who was taking cuttings from the branch of a honeysuckle. These later took root in our garden back in England and proudly became ‘Kilronan in Durham’. Additional mementos; a blackthorn stick and several fragments of coal were collected before we finally made our way back to the car. Returning down the hill, outside the presbytery a chance encounter with Father Masterson was informative and friendly. After introductions he told us, "Yours is a great name here". There is, indeed, a great history of the McManuses in North Roscommon.
The ancient annals tell us that the McManuses of North Roscommon are descended from Connor, king of Connaught who reigned seven years and died A.D. 973. From him descended Tirlagh Mor O'Connor the 48th.King of Connaught and the 181st. elected Monarch of all Ireland in 1136. After 50 years reign (20 as Monarch of Ireland) he died in 1156. Tirlagh Mor O'Connor had several wives and 18 sons. The ninth son was Magnus O'Connor of Tir Thuathail whose sons took the surname MacManus - sons of Magnus. Magnus' brother, Cathal Crobhdearg, was the 58th. King of Connaught. The MacManus line continued in North Roscommon for many centuries but by the 18th. century the line of kings was lost, mainly through dispossession by dominant English conquerors.
Leaving Father Masterson behind, Kath and I passed by the Holy Well of St. Lassair as we made our way towards Ballyfarnan. We are told that on the day of St. Lassair (Pattern Day) differences through the year were 'settled' in the hollow on the road that led to Mollymore. Lasair Day had its faction fights. Each year McManuses fought those from other clans - in particular the Gaffneys' - with loaded sticks. These fights won for themselves wide notoriety. One Pattern Day Bishop O'Higgins arrived from Longford. He sent for two carts and sledges to Kilronan Castle. There in front of the astonished crowds he had Leac Ronain, broken in two pieces. One part of the stone was taken and brought over towards Ballyfarnon and it has never been found. The other half was brought towards Keadue and thrown in the ditch. Many years later this part was retrieved by the late Paddy Duignan and set up at the well. It was on this `leac', the reputed alter of Saint Ronan, that Cannon Lennon said Mass. Lasair was kind to the McManus and Gaffney families on at least one occasion . In the year 1798 both families joined the French army and the Irish rebels as they made their way to cross the Shannon at Ballintra to engage the English. On the way the Kilronan rebels realised that if they continued to Granard they would miss the fight at Lasair on Lady Day. They judged that family honour came before the national cause and so came back and fought at Lasair and escaped the slaughter of the Irish at Ballinamuck. I find the notion of family honour, indeed, to be a strong trait in our contemporary family. I do not find it too difficult to imagine my direct descendants brandishing loaded sticks at the Pattern of Kilronan.
During my visit to Kilronan I discovered John's baptism record in the Kilronan Parish register and confirmed his father was James McManus and found his mother was Elizabeth , nee Kelly. In 1866, back in Durham, John had married Bridget Kearns, also from North Roscommon. In 1869 John and Bridget left Durham with their three small children - all Durham born and bred. They returned to North Roscommon, where I believe they intended to settle. The journey from Durham to Roscommon is a long and arduous one today, so I can only imagine what it must have been like for them one hundred and thirty years ago. While they were there my great uncle Thomas was born in Boyle and was baptised in the Catholic Chapel. For whatever reason, however, things must not have worked out for them. By 1871 they were settled back in Durham once again and spent the rest of their days there.
Since my first visit to Kilronan with Kath in 1985 I have returned three more times. The last time was July, 1999 when I went with my eldest son. On pleasant walks over sunny hills, which Kath and I had first found, we paced out many miles of 'our' turf on Kilronan Mountain and quietly and symbolically reclaimed what was ours. As Father Masterson said, ours is a great name in the area. If your name is the same as mine perhaps I can share some history with you.
The Irish surname McManus is an anglicized form of the Gaelic MacMaghnuis. The prefix 'mac' means 'son of' and indicates that the name is of patronymic origin - that is, it is derived from a father or ancestor. The first name Manus is derived from the Latin Magnus and came to Ireland from Northern Europe and simply means 'great'. Thus the surname denotes the son of Manus. Collins Guide To First Names has this to say about the first name Magnus:
So, who was this Charlemagne from whom we seem to have taken our name? The name derives from Charles the Great, King of the Franks (Germanic nation or coalition which conquered France in the 6th. century) from 768-814 and Holy Roman Emperor from 800-814. His father was Pepin the Short. Charles campaigned against the Saxon tribes, the Lombards, and in Northern Spain where the great warrior Rowland was killed by the Basques at Roncesvalles. As ruler of Western Christendom, he introduced legal reforms, standardised coinage and weights and measures; organised and reformed the church; and initiated the Carolingian Renaissance by attracting the English scholar and poet Alcuin to his court at Aachen in 781. He had himself collected old heroic poetry, and after his death became the hero of a cycle of medieval romances.
It is a popularly held belief that there are two distinct McManus families - one emanating from the Maguires' in Fermanagh and the other from the O'Connors of Roscommon. This fact and other facts relating to the antiquity of these families is clearly proved again and again in the text of 'The Annals of the Four Masters', held in Dublin Castle and which is full of entries relating to the McManus'. However, it must not be accepted without challenge that members of the McManus Clan only originated from these two areas of Ireland. That the name denotes son of the once popular Norse Christian name Magnus or Manus clearly indicates the name was more widespread than just these two Irish regions.
Looking back along the hard road of our local history in North Roscommon, one is struck by the changes in fortune suffered by the MacManuses, and so many other families who once enjoyed property, power and privilege. Of the Gaelic families still with authenticated lineage, only one, the senior MacDermot branch, is still represented in the area. The MacManuses, and other leading Gaelic families of the region, have not been able to preserve their pedigree beyond the eighteenth century. What follows is a very brief historical insight into the demise of these noble and ancient clans, with particular reference to the MacManuses. But demise is hardly an appropriate word to use in this story - for the word may only be appropriate to describe property, power and privilege. In no way does it portray those other irremovable concepts of family which lie deep and impenetrable in the human soul - honour, dignity and pride.
The McManuses of North Roscommon were descended from Manus Miogharan, the ninth son of Turlough More O'Connor, monarch of all Ireland.(The Book of Lecan: fol 72, b, col.4). Tir-Tuathail gets its name from Tir-Tuathail-Maoilgairbh, i.e. 'the country of Tuathal Maelgarbh' who was monarch of Ireland from the year 533 to 544. (O'Faherty's Ogygia part 3 c93). This territory was later subordinate to MacDermot of Moylurg. The pedigree of the McManuses of Tir-Tuathail has not been preserved beyond the eighteenth century (Southeran, 1871:73) and after their decay the land fell into the possession of MacDermot Roe who held it under MacDermot of Moylurg. The following is a diary of some events from the 'Annals of the Four Masters', the 'Annals of Loch Ce' and the 'Calendar of State Papers' relating to the McManuses of North Roscommon:
1225 Manus O'Conor, son of King Turlough O'Conor was viz. 1225. "According to the Book of Lecan, fol. 72, b, col. 4, he was the ninth son of Turlough More O'Conor, monarch of Ireland. His descendants took the surname MacManus and were seated in Tir-Tuathail, in the north-east of the Barony of Boyle in the County of Roscommon."
1249 Brian An Doire MacManus, son of Manus O'Conor, above named, was killed in 1249 fighting against the English and was one of the army "led by the Roydamnas (heirs presumptive) of Connaught, Turlough and Hugh (two sons of Hugh, the son of Cathal Crovderg) to Athenry (County Galway), on Lady Day in mid-autumn, to burn and plunder it."
1308 Manus MacManus, occ. 1308. "A realitory (sic) depredation was committed by Hugh, the son of Cathal (O'Conor), upon his brother, Rory, son of Cathal, on which occasion Manus MacManus (O'Conor) and others were killed."
1315 "Hugh (i.e. Hugh Ballagh), the son of Manus O'Conor, was slain, by Cathal son of Donnell O'Conor - Manus the son of Manus O'Conor, the most famous and illustrious of the Princes of Connaught at this time, and Donnell, his brother, were on the next day also slain by the same Cathal.
1316 Melaghlin Oge MacManus was slain in the battle fought at Athenry by the Irish under Felim O'Conor, King of Connaught, and the English. His death is given in the Annals of Loch Ce and is described as "Maelechlainn Og MacMaghnusa", the English as - "William Burk, MacFeorais, and the other Foreigners of Connaught."
1318 Brian MacManus was one of those killed "et ali multi nobiles et ignobiles in 1318, at the battle of Fassa-Coille barony of Carbury, Co. Sligo, fought there between Mulrony MacDermot, Prince of Moylurg, and Cathal, son of Donnell O'Conor, King of Connaught. This is not only in the records of 'The Annals of the Four Master' but also in those of Clonmacnoise and of Loch Ce.
1320-2 Grainne, the wife of Mulrony MacDermot, Prince of Moylurg, (Boyle) and daughter of MacManus, was in 1320, treacherously taken prisoner at Port-na-Cairrge, opposite MacDermot's castle of Carraig-Locha-Ce (or the Roch of Loch Key) by King Cathal O'Conor shortly "after a kindly and amicable peace was concluded." Grainne MacDermot died in 1321 and Mulrony in 1322; he was "the son of Gilchreest, son of Conor, son of Cormac, son of Tomaltagh of the Rock, Lord of Moylurg". (See the three above named Chronicles).
1363 Teige MacManus slew Murtough Roe, the son of Donnell Erris O'Conor.
1367 MacManus of Tir-Tuathail died.
1368 Teige, the son of Manus, son of Cathal, son of Donnell O'Conor, "was deceitfully taken by the Kings of Connought, in his house of Ard-an-Killin, being brought thither to the King's House by Cormack MacDonnogh upon his security, of which villainous dealing the old Irish protest grew by comparing thereof to any wicked art: The taking of the MacManus was no worse. He was within a little while after worse used, for he was given over to Donnell MacMortagh O'Conor, who vilely did put him to death in the castle of Sligeagh; whereof ensued great contentions and general discords throughout Connought, especially between O'Connor, MacWilliam and MacDermoda". (See 'Annals of Clonmacnoise' and 'Annals of the Four Masters').
1382 Murtough Oge, the son of MacManus of Tir-Tuathail, died.
1388 Manus, the son of Melaghlin MacManus, was slain by the sons of MacDonough and Mulrony MacDonough.
1411 MacManus of Tir-Tuathail and his son were slain by the sons of Rory MacManus. MacManus was head of a branch of the O'Conors who were seated in the north east of the Barony of Boyle in the County of Roscommon. Eoghan was later made lord of Tir-Tuathail.
1431 Domhnall Ballach, son of Brian MacMaghnusa died (Annals of Loch Ce).
1439 More, daughter of Hugh Magauran and wife of Brian MacManus, died.
1441 The prey of Calry, taken by the sons of Layseach mac Rossa MacManus of Tirtuahyl, his son being killed by the son of Connor Roe MagManusa, he intruding upon him without just cause as it was thought.
1460 MacManus of Tir-Tuathail, Rory, the son of Owen Roe MacManus, fully worthy to be Lord of that territory, was slain by Con, the son of Niall Gary, son of Turloughan-Fhiona O'Donnell, and Teige, the son of Teige O'Rourke, while in pursuit of the spoils of the territory. O'Donnel's people carried the spoils with them to Airged-glenn; but, after the killing of MacManus, the chiefs of the Clan Manus deprived them of their preys in that valley.
1495 Manus, the son of Owen Roe MacManus of Tir-Tuathail Maoilgairbh, died.
Mattimoe (1983) tells us that the ancient tuath of Moylurg comprised of three areas in North Roscommon. Tir Tuathail is in the northern most tip of the County and contains Keadue, Ballyfarnon and Arigna; Airteach - roughly contains Frenchpark, Tibohine and Loughglynn areas, and Moylurg, which runs from the east side of Lough Gara and the line of the Breedogue River to the River Shannon. The precise boundaries of the kingdom cannot, however, be defined with any certainty. When Sir Henry Sydney was shiring Roscommon in 1570 he based the Barony of Boyle on the Lordship of the MacDermots. In the Census of 1659 the Barony was made up of the following parishes: Ardcarne, Boyle, Creeve, Eastersnow, Kilbryan, Kilcola, Kilronan, Kilnamanagh, Kilmacumpsey, Kilcolman, Killukin, Killumod, Tibohine, Tumna and Cootehall. In 1846 part of Boyle Barony with a small portion of the Barony of Costello, Co. Mayo, was hived off to form the new Barony of Frenchpark, comprising the parishes of Tibohine, Kilnamanagh, Kilmacumpsey, Kilcolman and part of Kilcola, Creeve and Castlemore. According to John O'Donovan Moylurg means Magh Luirg - 'the plain of the track of the pursuit'. The pursued in question was a great warrior of the Red Branch Knights who was fleeing from Rath Croghan. The Four Masters hold that it is the plain of the road or track or pursuit of the God Dagha - hence Magh Luirg an Dagda.
Moylurg is not rich in antiquities but it has the distinction of being mentioned on page 2 of the Annals of the Four Masters where it tells us that Ceasra, the first lady Colonist to arrive in Ireland, died in Moylurg in the Year of the World, 2262, which in any reckoning is a long time ago. Ceasra had come with fifty men and six women and her grave is said to be in Dun Ceasra in the townland of Ballytransna, one mile south of Boyle. Not far distant is Lisserdrea, where a three-ringed fort is reputed to hold the grave of Nemidius the Greek, who had led a contingent of Greek Colonists - the Nemidians - some time after Ceasra. Apart from what the Annals say about Ceasra and Nemidius, little else on antiquity is recorded about Moylurg. Landworkings have, however, revealed many crannogs - man-made island dwellings - which are known to have been used from 2000 BC to early Christian times. Near Tinnecara there is a dolmen which is probably 3000 years old. At Carrowmore, two miles east of Boyle, is a hill-fort, remarkable for the skills it reveals in stone cutting and construction.
As in many other countries in prehistoric times, Connacht was peopled by a plethora of small tribes. Around Rathcrogan there were the Ciarraige Airteach. Another people, the Ciarraige Airne, had land in Mayo, not far from Airteach. All had originated in Kerry. Numerous other tribes had their lands in Keash, Coolavin, Killaraght and Lough Gara - they were the Calraige Luirg, Corce Firtri and the Gregraide - a tribe noted for their interest in horses. According to Archbishop Healy, in his writings of St. Patrick (1905), Gregraide descendants were still identifiable in County Sligo. In time, one of the tribes of Connacht - Ui Neill - came to dominate all other tribes and the smaller and older tribes declined in power and eventually disappeared altogether as tribal units. The powerful Ui Neill expanded their domain and new branches spread over North Connacht. One of these was the Ui Briuin Ai who were descended from Brian, King of Connacht. A sub-branch, the Siol Muireadhaigh (Siol Murray), so called after progenitor, Indrechtaigh MacMuireadhaigh, occupied lands in North Roscommon. They comprised O'Conors, MacDermots, O'Beirnes, O'Flanagans, MacManuses, O'Brenans, O'Monahans, MacGeraghtys, O'Flynns and others. Moylurg became a state when it elected its first king in 956. He was such an outstanding man that he was known a Mulrooney Mor - the Great Mulrooney. Two centuries later the family name was changed to MacDermot, in tribute to another exceptional king.
Throughout its existence as a small Gaelic state, Moylurg was ruled in the broad tradition of the Brehon Code - a set of legal conventions which were preserved orally for centuries before being committed to writing in the seventh century. The great authority, Binchy, describes the Code as 'window dressing'. In theory it was immutable, but in time a more flexible approach evolved, and Christians, while keeping an eye to tradition and local custom, adapted the laws to conditions in their own tuath. Irrespective of what changes occurred, the Code, such as it was, reflected for their time, a civilised, and in many ways a caring society. Because Moylurg was never occupied by the Normans, Brehon Law probably operated in a purer form there than in any other Tuath in Connacht, up to the final collapse of Gaelic Ireland. There were several reasons for this. Moylurg, except for one short visit, was never bothered by the Vikings. The Normans took about sixty years to get there from Wexford - even then they only passed through. An earlier attempted entry (1181) through the Curlieus from the Sligo side, was stopped by the O'Conors and MacDermots. When eventually it looked as if the Normans might come and take up residence, Moylurg was spared their intrusion by being declared part of the King's (English) Cantreds. This meant that all Roscommon and a small portion of Galway and of Sligo was reserved for the King. Thus by a strange paradox, this ruling resulted in the preservation of Moylurg as a Gaelic enclave for centuries. In short, purity of race and the Gaelic way of life and its traditions survived in Moylurg for longer than most places in Ireland - apart from areas in Ulster.
According to MacNeill, Citizenship or the franchise in a tuath was limited to those who had property in land, belonged to the learned classes or qualified in the liberal crafts, such as builders of ships/boats, mills, woodcarvers, chariot makers, turners, leather workers, smiths, metal workers and, alone among musicians, harpers. Excluded from Citizenship/franchise were those who had no property or profession, those who occupied land only as tenants, craftsmen of inferior grade, strangers to the Tuath and those who had lost their franchise through defying the law. The King of Moylurg was elected to office by the Assembly which comprised Nobles, Learned Classes, Clergy and Gentry (strong farmers). It was an elitist minority assembly of the Free. The majority, the Unfree, did not have the franchise. Any member of the Derbhfine could put himself forward for election, i.e. all male descendants of a former King, up to and including great grandsons. Primogeniture was an asset, but much more was required of a man who would occupy the highest office in the Tuath. Fighting prowess, skill at arms and leadership were paramount. The head of the tribe had to be a man who was the most experienced, the most noble, the most popular, the most powerful to oppose, the most steadfast to use for profits and to be sued for losses - truly a Superman!
The system, sound though it was on paper, was riddled with built-in faults. In most cases, election to office was left open to scores of rival contenders, each of whom felt he was better qualified than the other or had a more rightful claim to Kingship. The situation was sorely aggravated by a law prescribing that a family which had failed over four generations to have one of its members elected as King thereupon lost its noble status, privileges, power and prestige, and its eligibility to seek election in the next assembly. They reverted to the status of Commoners and went from King to spade in four generations. Candidates, faced with this calamity, stopped at nothing to avert disaster, including murder. Family feuds were sparked off regularly and lasted for generations. Feuds with neighbours were a further by-product as 'young bloods', anxious to demonstrate their fighting qualities and suitability for kingship, led random raids into adjoining territories.
Cathal Crobhderg (Of the Red Hand) was the 58th. Christian King of Connacht. He was inaugurated at Carnfree, near Tulsk, in 1201 and was a forceful successor to his father, High King of Ireland Turlough Mor O'Conor. (died 1156). Cathal had a brother, Magnus O'Conor, whose children, according to Burke, took the family name MacManus (son of Magnus) and were the first of the MacManus Clan. The manner of Cathal's inauguration was written at the time by Donnchadh McTorna O'Mulconry, who was present at the proceedings. It is noteworthy that most of the families mentioned nearly 800 years ago are still identifiable and indeed numerous on the same Connacht lands today.
The King of Moylurg was President of the Assembly and commanded the military forces of the Tuath on Call Out. In certain cases he also acted as Chief Justice, but despite all his authority he was dependant for his election on a powerful base of supporters. The most important Electors were the Flaiths (nobles), relatives of the King. They were administrators of sub-districts and this, combined with the votes of their clients, gave then great political clout. It is not known where the Moylurg Assembly met, probably on top of a hill. There was no shortage of suitable places - Carrowmore, Dunamense, Assylin and Lisserdrea - to name but a few. The most likely venue was Boyle Abbey. It was geared to cope with the problems of accommodation and entertainment - but there is no mention of this in the Annals. No records have survived of the Proceedings of the Assembly - if there were ever any. Apart from the MacDermots who would have been the most numerous, the names of the other powerful tribes attending can only be surmised from those which appear in the Annals and the Census of 1659. They would have included some or all of the following names: O'Duignan, MacManus, MacGreevy, O'Lenihan, Brehony, O'Mullaneys, O'Flynns, O'Morans, O'Maughans, McCanns, Wards (Poets), O'Beirnes, O'Brennan, MacCormack, MacDonagh, O'Flanagan, MacHugh, O'Higgins, O'Kelly, O'Mulkieran (Kerins), O'Regan. Provision was made at these Assemblies for food, drink and entertainment in the form of musicians and minstrels. Chesterton had a point when he wrote:
The Mighty Gaels of Ireland
In 1455 Rory Oge MacDermot had high expectations of becoming King of Moylurg, but the Assembly had other ideas. It elected Aedh MacDermot, and in so doing sparked off the worst MacDermot feud in their history. Aedh supported O'Conor Roe as opposed to O'Conor Don. There were several battles between these opposing groups during Aedh's reign. Aed carried out a plundering raid in Kilmactranny, Ballyfarnon and Keadue area. Unlike so many other raids it was not done out of sheer bloody-mindedness. Its purpose was to recover rents which had been outstanding for years. MacDermot Roe and MacManus promptly paid up when they heard Aedh was coming. In 1478, after many years of in-fighting, Rory Oge MacDermot became usurper King of Moylurg but after eight years rule he died and, having been a usurper, his sons had no claim to succeed him. Accordingly, the Assembly chose another Conor as their new King. He was a grandson of Tomaltagh the Hospitable. Conor's rule had a bad start and a worse ending. By long tradition The Rock had been the seat of the Kings of Moylurg but when Rory Oge died his sons retained possession and refused to surrender it to the new King - a crime without precedent in the history of the MacDermots. During Conor's rule the Rorys were very active, principally against the O'Connors Roe, with whom a sort of vendetta was being waged. The vendetta was brought to a climax at the Battle of Rathcroghan where the O'Connors were victorious. The Rorys did not desist from having designs on the throne, however, and in 1497 they murdered their King, Conor MacDermot. Even in an age when ties of blood provided no protection against the design of envious or ambitious relatives, the killing of a King other than in battle was a rare occurrence among the MacDermots. But Conor would not be the last King of Moylurg to die a violent death. Teig, the eldest son of the three regicide brothers, was the first to enjoy the fruits of their misdeeds. He died two years later but not before he had won a remarkable victory over the O'Donnells in the Curlew Pass.
The news of the killing of their friend and ally Conor, evoked an instant response among the O'Donnells - not from sympathy or a desire to avenge his death, but for reasons much more fundamental. Strategically, Moylurg was the most important tuath in all Connacht for it controlled Ireland's North West Passage at the Curlew Mountains. With the rise of the Rorys, Moylurg had become unfriendly for the O'Donnells and they needed access to the North West Passage to promote their plans of expansion. The O'Donnells, therefore, had to attack Teig. Teig rose magnificently to the threat and began organising his army from among the Siol Murray chiefs, in addition to those within Moylurg. Teig's forward troops were located at Ballaghboy, and it was here that the battle commenced. When attacked Teig's troops fell back in The Pass after putting up a short resistance. When they withdrew the entire O'Donnell army followed them into a trap - for The Pass was narrow and O'Donnell's army was attacked from both sides and front and rear. O'Donnell and his army were beaten. The crowning disaster of the day and the ultimate disgrace was the capture of The Cathach by the MacDermots. The Cathach, now in the National Museum, is an engraved brass box said to contain the Gospels in the handwriting of St. Columcille. During the battle on this day the armies lined up as follows:
The Composition of Connacht was introduced in 1585 by Sir John Perrott. Perrott judged that most disorder was caused primarily by Gaelic practices which were rooted in tradition or Brehon Law. Perrott decided that:
"every quarter of land within the province should be enrolled and laid down in way of rental, and the owner thereof named as every man knew what rent he was to pay to her majesty, for and in respect of, being freed from cess,coign and livery; and what rent he should pay his chief lord in respect of taking away his extraordinary cuttings, coshering and other Irish demands so that every man should know what was his own and what he had to pay on it"
For their part the chieftains agreed to forego oppressive rights. It has been argued, however, that these changes were created to weaken the power of the chieftains. Sir Richard Bingham was appointed Governor of Connacht in 1584. Utterly cruel and ruthless, Bingham's policy for pacifying the province was naked terror. Hanging, regardless of age, sex, suspicion, innocence or guilt was Bingham's most favoured way of establishing authority. Leading families bereaved by this brute included O'Haras, MacCostellos, O'Conors Roe, O'Harts, O'Flynns, Burkes and MacDowells. Turlough Oge MacManus from Kilronan was particularly unfortunate. While arrangements were being made to hang him at Croghan a pardon arrived but it was ignored and he was executed. Nor did the MacDermots escape Bingham's punishment. Cathal, son of Turlogh, King of Moylurg, was arrested with two of the O'Conors Roe and sent to Roscommon. From there they were transferred to Galway where they were duly hanged.
Early in the 1600's title to land became a cause of great worry to Freeholders like the MacManuses. Six counties of Ulster had already been planted and so had County Leitrim. Roscommon looked like suffering the same fate. Things became very serious indeed when, through a legal quibble, the clear title conveyed in the Composition was declared null and void. Already vast tracts of the Barony of Boyle had passed into the possession of settlers. Landholders in Ireland became very concerned and there was great unrest. Being short of money and wanting no trouble James 1 decided to defuse the situation by giving a grant of title to every Freeholder in Ireland. In Boyle Barony a total of ninety-one Freeholders received Letters Patent confirming their title to their land. The ninety-one actually represented only half of the Freeholders but the other half could not afford the heavy expense of registering, so they formed associations and had their individual properties registered collectively to save expense. This could have led to trouble later, but in the event it made no difference to either group because, like the Composition Grants, those of James 1 were also declared null and void on yet another quibble - for the clerks in London completely forgot to enrol the Freeholders in the register. Under the Patent Rolls of James 1 of 1617 the Irish grantees in Boyle Barony contained 8 MacManuses whose addresses were at Crosbane, Drumsillagh, Ardcallen, Lurgan (Kilronan), Glentawlaght and Tawlaght. It will be found that a surprising number of families still live on the lands occupied by their ancestors hundreds of years ago. Evidence of continuity to the present day may be found in the Census of Ireland 1659, Census of the Diocese of Elphin, 1749, Tithe Applotment Books 1832, Griffiths Evaluation 1854 and local parish records.
Cromwell arrived in Ireland in 1649 and after a short campaign of unprecedented ferocity crushed all organised opposition in Leinster and Munster. The following May he departed for England leaving resistance to continue in Connacht for a further two years. On 14th. July, 1652, Articles of Surrender for the Connacht Forces were signed in Galway. Among the signatories was Colonel Terence MacDermot. A month earlier Captain Hugh MacDermot had surrendered Carrick-on-Shannon to Commissary General Reynolds. Colonel Terence had to give an undertaking that the Rock "shall not be prejudicial to the State" - by now a Protestant State. The following year, Roscommon, by Act of Parliament, was reserved for the Irish Nation. It would be used to accommodate those political and religious dissidents ordered "To Hell or Connacht". It is not difficult to imagine the horror with which this news was received throughout the county. Parliament again found itself under heavy pressure from two strong groups - those who had loaned money to the English government to finance war and who wanted their money reimbursed, and soldiers who were clambering for land promised in lieu of wages gone unpaid for years. Confiscation of land by the English, therefore, became a matter of urgency. It resulted in the policy summarised in the well-known phrase, "To Hell or Connacht". Those guilty of opposing Cromwell, when not subjected to more extreme penalties, were awarded the lesser punishment of losing their entire estates and transporting to Connacht where, depending on their degree of guilt, they were reprised with one third or two thirds the acreage of what they had lost elsewhere. Of the ninety two native Freeholders of Boyle who were listed in 1617 sixty one were left by 1641. When finally the Cromwellians were finished the landowners numbered eleven and their combined property had diminished to over 4,000 acres. A comparison with names and landowners can be made from the 1659 Census. The statistics reflect how, by 1660, those who had vehemently fought to retain their cultural and religious heritage were deprived of their last vestiges of power:
In later years the marked partiality shown to Catholics in England by James II was continued by his Viceroy in Ireland, the Duke of Tyrconnell. Their policy made itself felt even in Boyle where the town's first corporation, composed entirely of settlers, was obliged to surrender their charter and disband. Under a new charter the Corporation was composed of local persons and settlers, Catholic and Protestant. This pro-Catholic policy caused panic among Protestants and they started to prepare for war against James II. This culminated in the defeat of the Catholic army at the Battle of the Boyne in 1689. The MacManus family were represented in the Army of James II. Other families included O'Conors, O'Duignans, Dillons, Costellos, O'Kellys, and Reynolds'.
Sadness was evident in all parishes during the time of famine. On October, 30th. 1847, the Rev. B. Hesner, Parish Priest of Ardcarne and Tumna, published in the Roscommon Journal the following details from the Destitution Census of Elphin concerning his parish :
Soup Kitchens were used as a major form of relief during the famine. The Relief Commission ordered a daily ration of 450 grams of meal per adult, usually a mixture of maize, rice and oats, cooked to produce a 'stirabout' of 1.35 to 2.25 kilograms in weight. This was boiled in, what has become to contemporary historians of the famine a sorrowful sight, the large black iron cauldron. Soup recipes for the poor were commonly found. The following foreword to a soup recipe was signed by Robert White in Kilronan Parish:
If one compares tenants/land surveys from 1825 (Tithe Applotment Books) to 1855 (Griffiths Evaluation) and parish records, it is sadly obvious that by 1855 many individual McManus families, like many other named families, no longer existed in the area - the majority having emigrated or died. But many did remain, and they still continue to survive the difficult economic and social situations which are an inevitable part of Moylurg's history. And it is reasonable to assume that the strength of character found in the people of Moylurg is in no small part due to their religious faith. Sister Catherine Duignan, a member of the order of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace and a native of Keadue, Kilronan, as one who left home at an early age, remembers her origins and the numerous religious vocations in the area of Keadue alone:
In the ancient territory of Tir Tuathail the name MacDermot Roe is still numerous but the home of the senior branch at Alderford - where O'Carolan, the last of the Irish Bards, lived and died - is no longer occupied by the family. Their near neighbours, the MacManuses, descendants of the O'Conors, were harshly dealt with by history. Their fortunes were ruined by the Composition of Connach and the Cromwellian Confiscation. The sadness of famine, and the deaths and emigration which followed during and after 1847, again devastated many McManus families in Moylurg. The tradition of emigration continues up to the present day in Moylurg and the McManuses still continue to leave the area - many return and resettle, others make their homes elsewhere and return periodically. That the McManuses are survivors of every historical epoch, however, is not in dispute. In more recent times, describing the new dreams and old fears of the residents of Arigna (Kilronan), this time on the running down of local coalmines, Frankie Watson of the Leitrim Guardian newspaper reminds us that, even if local industry is threatening to damage local communities, once again the MacManuses will not be beaten and will survive whatever confronts them:
The lights in the mountainside and valley homes are reassuring proof that a remarkable community has survived dispossession, plantation, evictions and emigration. The dispossessed destroyed Sir Charles Coote's ironworks in 1641. All McManus land was distributed to the Coote Family, yet as the man in the pub proudly said, "Where are the Cootes? There are more McManuses in Arigna now than ever there were" The descendants of the people who were rackrented tenants on Colonel Tenison's Estate or who worked in his mines at Aughabehy or Tullylions are thriving in their native areas or overseas.Sources gratefully acknowledged:
Duignan, C. (1981) A Nun Remembers, Rededication Booklet, Church of The Nativity of Our Lady, Keadue, Roscommon, Ireland.
Gralton, P. (1981) Lasair, Rededication Booklet, Church of The Nativity of Our Lady, Keadue, Roscommon, Ireland.
Gray, P. (1995) The Irish Famine, New Horizons, Thames Hudson, London.
Mattimoe, C. (1983) North Roscommon, it's people and past, Roscommon Herald, Roscommon, Ireland.
Southeran, C. (1871) Genealogical memoranda relating to the family Southeron of Counties Durham, Northumberland, York etc. and the Sept of MacManus, London; Taylor and Company.