More after the break.
The native Irish law, or Brehon Law, was that great body of civil, military and criminal law used until the beginning of the seventeenth century. It regulated the Irish society from kings to slaves and enumerated the rights and privileges of all. A very complex and detailed law, it was interpreted by a group of hereditary masters called brehons—from breth, the Irish word for 'judgement.' Among the major hereditary brehon families, the Mac Aodhagáins (MacEgans) were, without a doubt, the most prominent. They are mentioned more often as brehons than any other family in the Irish annals. Fergus Kelly notes that between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries the MacEgans acted as brehons to most of the ruling families of western and central Ireland including Mac Carthy Mor of Desmond, Butler of Ormond, O'Keenedy of Ormond, Burke of Clanricard, O'Connor of Offaly, Mageoghagan of Keneleagh, O'Farrell of Annaly, O'Connor Roe, O'Conor Don, O'Rourke of Brefny, O'Connor Sligo, O'Dowd of Tireragh, and Barret of Tirawley.
The Mac Egan family is described by Joseph and Mary Joan Egan in their History of the Clan Egan, and by Conor Mac Hale in his Annals of the Clan Egan. Both works provide a wealth of information concerning this hereditary Irish brehon family, including extracts of some of the Mac Egan entries from the Irish Annals. This work documents all known references to this family from three of the major annals where they are found.
The Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland—or more commonly called The Annals of the Four Masters—were compiled four lay Franciscan brothers in County Donegal. (Hence, it is also sometimes referred to as The Annals of Donegal.) The chief compiler of the Annals was Michael O'Clery, along with Conary (Michael's brother) and Cugogry O'Clery (a third cousin of Michael and Conary) and Ferfeasa O'Mulconry.
Michael O'Clery spent fifteen years in collecting manuscripts from various parts of Ireland. The Annals begin at the earliest part of the Irish history and are carried down to the year 1616 A. D. Upon completion of their work Brother O'Clery sought comments from those whom he thought were among the most learned men in Ireland. As a result, a number of comments on the work of the Four Masters are found prefixed to the copy in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin. Two are significant to members of the Egan family; one by Flann Mac Egan, of Ballymacegan, and another by Boetius MacEgan, bishop of Elphin. Following is an English translation of the letter by Flann Mac Egan, and Bishop Mac Egan's letter in Latin. (I must apologize that even with my four years of Latin at Aquinas Institute in the late 1950s it would be futile to attempt a complete translation Bishop MacEgan's letter. Suffice to say, he approved of it.)
Whereas the poor friar, Michael O'Clery (in obedience to his superior, Father Joseph Everard, Provincial of the Order of St. Francis in Ireland) came to me to shew me this book,—I, Flann, son of Cairbre Mac Aedhagain, of Baile-Mhic-Aedhagain, in the county of Tibrat-Arann, do testify that,—though many were the books of history of the old books of Ireland which I saw, and though numerous the uncertain number of ancient and modern books which I saw written and being transcribed in the school of John, son of Torna Ua Maelchonaire, the tutor of the men of Ireland in general in history and chronology, and who had all that were in Ireland learning that science under his tuition,—I have not seen among them all any book of better order, more general, more copious, or more to be approved of, as a book of history and annals, than this book. I think also that no intelligent person whatever, of the laity or clergy, or of the professions, who shall read it, can possibly find fault with it. In attestation of which thing aforesaid, I here put my name on this, at Baile-Mhic-Aedhagain aforesaid, the 2nd of November, 1636.
FLANN MAC AODHAGAIN.
Visis testimoniis, et authenticis peritorum approbationibus, do hoc opere, per Fr. Michaelem Clery Ordinis Laicum fratrem collecto, libenter illud approbamus, ut in publicum lucem edatur.
Datum Ros-rield, 27 Novemb. 1636
FR. BOETIUS EGAN, Eps.
In 1851 the Annals were translated and edited, along with comments, by John O'Donovan, and published in seven volumes (the seventh volume being an index). It is O'Donovan's translation that is used for this work.
Annals of the Four Masters
1225 A.D. - Flann, the son of Auliffe O'Fallon, Chief of Clann-Uadagh, was slain by Felim, the son of Cathal Crovderg, in this war; and Teige O'Finaghty, one of the officers Aes graidh of Hugh, the son of Roderic, was slain by the people of Mac Egan during the same war.
1249 A.D. - An army was led by the Roydamnas heirs presumptive of Connaught, namely, Turlough and Hugh, two sons of Hugh, the son of Cathal Crovderg, to Athenry, on Lady Day in mid-autumn, to burn and plunder it. The sheriff of Connaught was in the town before them, with a great number of the English. The English demanded a truce for that day from the sons of the King of Connaught, in honour of the Blessed virgin Mary, it being her festival day; but this they did not obtain from them; and although Turlough forbade his troops to assault the town, the chiefs of the army would not consent, but determined to make the attack, in spite of him. When Jordan and the English saw this, they marched out of the town, armed and clad in mail, against the Irish army. The youths of the latter army, on seeing them drawn up in battle array, were seized with fear and dismay, so that they were routed; and this was through the miracles of the Blessed Virgin Mary, on whose festival they had refused to grant the truce demanded from them. Of their chiefs were here killed Hugh, son of Hugh O'Conor; Dermot Roe, son of Cormac O'Melaghlin, the two sons of O'Kelly; Brian an Doire, the son of Manus; Carragh Inshiubhail, son of Niall O'Conor; Boethius Mac Egan; the two sons of Loughlin O'Conor; Donnell, son of Cormac Mac Dermot; Finnanach Mac Branan; Cumumhan Mac Cassarly, and others besides.
1273 A.D. - A depredation was committed by Jordan d'Exeter in Corran. A few of the young princes of Connaught overtook him; but these having adopted an imprudent plan, suggested by some of the common people, it fell out that Donnell, son of Donough, Manus, son of Art O'Conor, Aireaghtagh Mac Egan, Hugh O'Beirne, and many others, were slain.
1309 A.D. - Hugh, the son of Owen, son of Rory, son of Hugh, son of Cathal Crovderg, King of Connaught, and worthy heir to the monarchy of Ireland, the most hospitable and expert at arms of all the Irish born in his time, was slain by Hugh Breifneach, the son of Cathal O'Conor, at Coill-an-clochain, together with many of the chiefs of his people about him. Among these were Conor Mac Dermot; Dermot Roe, son of Teige O'Conor; Dermot, son of Cathal Carragh Mac Dermot; Hugh, son of Murtough, son of Teige, son of Mulrony; and Dermot O'Healy, a princely brughaidh, the best of his time. On the other side fell Gilla-na-naev Mac Egan, Chief Brehon of Connaught, and the most illustrious of the Brehons of his time; Faghartach O'Devlin, and others not mentioned. The Sil-Murray then conferred the lordship upon Rory,the son of Cathal O'Conor. Rory O'Conor and O'Flynn afterwards led a troop of cavalry to the Plain, and slew Mac Feorais Bermingham.
1316 A.D. - A very great army was mustered by Felim O'Conor and the chiefs of the province of Connaught. In this battle were slain John Mac Egan, O'Conor's Brehon.
1317 A.D. - Maelisa Roe Mac Egan, the most learned man in Ireland in law and judicature, died.
1320 A.D. - A meeting and conference took place between Cathal O'Conor and Mulrony Mac Dermot: a kindly and amicable peace was concluded between them, and Mac Dermot then returned to his own country. Cathal, however, afterwards violated the conditions of this peace, for he made a prisoner of Mac Dermot at Mullagh Doramhnach, and also of his wife, the daughter of Mac Manus, at Port-na-Cairrge. Maelisa Don Mac Egan and his son, and Tomaltagh Mac Donough, Lord of Tirerrill, were also made prisoners, and the country was entirely plundered.
1327 A.D. - Farrell, son of Ualgarg O'Rourke, Cuilen O'Dempsey, and Sabia, daughter of Mac Egan, died.
1329 A.D. - Maelisa Donn Mac Egan, Chief Ollav of Connaught, died.
1353 A.D. - Saerbhreathach, son of Maelisa Donn Mac Egan, Ollave of Conmaicne, died on Inis Cloghrann.
1355 A.D. - Murrough, the son of Cathal O'Farrell; Dervorgilla, the daughter of O'Farrell; and Teige Mac Egan, a man learned in the Fenechas, died.
1359 A.D. - Manus O'Dowda, son of the Lord of Hy Fiachrach, and Hugh, the son of Conor Mac Egan, the choicest of the Brehons of Ireland, died.
1362 A.D. - Auliffe Mac Firbis, intended Ollav of Tireragh; Farrell, the son of Teige Mac Egan, a learned Brehon; John, son of Donough Mac Firbis, intended Ollav of Tireragh; Dermot, son of Mac Carthy; Conor, son of Melaghlin Carragh O'Dowda, and Murtough, his son, all died.
1369 A.D. - Melaghlin Mac Mahon, heir to the lordship of Oriel; Brian, the son of Murtough O'Conor; John, the son of Edward Mac Hubert; Donough O'Beirne, Chief of Tir-Briuin; Randal O'Hanly; Cormac O'Hanly; also John Mac Egan, and Gilbert O'Bardan, two accomplished young harpers of Conmaicne, died.
1378 A.D. - Teige Mac Egan, Chief Brehon of Lower Connaught, a sage without contention or reproach, who kept a house of general hospitality for all comers, died.
1390 A.D. - Brian Mac Egan, Ollav of Breifny in judicature, died; and John (i.e. the Official Mac Egan),successor to this Brian, was slain four nights before Christmas Day.
1399 A.D. - Boethius Mac Egan, a man extensively skilled in the Fenechus law, and in music, and who had kept a celebrated house of hospitality; and Gilla-na-naev, the son of Conor Mac Egan, Arch-Ollav of the Fenechus Law, died.
1404 A.D. - Taichleach, the son of Donough O'Dowda; Tuathal, the son of Melaghlin O'Donnellan, intended ollav of Sil-Murray in poetry ; and Teige, the son of Boethius Mac Egan, intended ollav of Lower Connaught in law,---the three died.
1409 A.D. - Murtough Mac Egan, Chief Brehon of Teffia, a learned and profound adept in his own profession, died.
1413 A.D. - Colla, the son of Teige O'Kelly, heir to the lordship of Hy-Many; Melaghin, the son of Manus Mac Donnell; O'Meagher, Chief of Hy-Cairin; and Mac Egan of Ormond, a man learned in the Fenechus, all died.
1422 A.D. - Cosnamhach Oge Mac Egan, Ollav of the Kinel-Fiachach, and of O'Conor Faly in judicature, was slain, in a mistake, by the sons of O'Melaghlin, with one cast of a javelin.
1430 A.D. - Farrell, the son of Boethius, son of Teige Mac Egan, Ollav of Lower Connaught in Law, universally learned in every art, and who kept a house of hospitality for all who came to visit him, died, after a good life.
1436 A.D. - Gilla-Isa Mac Egan, Ollav to Mac Wattin in law, a pious, charitable, and humane man, and the superintendent of schools of jurisprudence and poetry, died.
1438 A.D. - Donough, the son of Siry O'Cuirnin, a learned historian; O'Daly of Breifny, Chief Poet to O'Reilly; and Conor Mac Egan, Ollav of Clanrickard in law, died.
1443 A.D. - Mac Egan of Ormond, i.e. Gilla-na-naev, the son of Gilla-na-naev, son of Hugh, Ollav of Munster in law, a man generally skilled in each art, and who kept a house of public hospitality for all, died.
1443 A.D. - Hugh Mac Egan, the son of Farrell, son of Boethius, died, in the springtide of his prosperity. He was the most fluent and eloquent of the Irish of his times. He was Ollav of Lower Connaught in law.
1447 A.D. - Gilla-na-naev, the son of Aireachtach, who was son of Solomon Mac Egan, the most learned Brehon and Professor of Laws in Ireland, died.
1473 A.D. - Brian, the son of Robert Mac Egan, ollav to O'Conor Don and O'Hanly, died.
1474 A.D. - Gilla-Finn Mac Egan, Ollav to O'Conor Faly, and Thomas, the son of Donnell O'Coffey, died.
1486 A.D. - Teige Mac Egan, Ollav of Annaly, was slain in an abominable manner by the descendants of Irial O'Farrell.
1487 A.D. - John, the son of Conor Mac Egan, Ollav of Clanrickard, and Hugh, the son of Brian, son of Farrel Roe O'Higgin, died.
1529 A.D. - Cosnamhach, the son of Farrell, son of Donough Duv Mac Egan, the most distinguished adept in the Fenechas, poetry, and lay Brehonship, in all the Irish territories, died, and was interred at Elphin.
1529 A.D. - Mac Egan of Ormond (Donnell, the son of Hugh, son of Donnell), head of the learned of Leath-Mhogha in Feneachus and poetry, died.
1601 A.D. - After they had come together at one place, they pitched and arranged a camp before Kinsale, and from this they faced Rinn-Corrain; and they allowed them the garrison there neither quiet, rest, sleep, nor repose, for a long time and they gave each other violent conflicts and manly onsets, until the warders after all the hardships they encountered, were forced to come out unarmed, and surrender at the mercy of the Lord Justice, leaving their ordnance and their ammunition behind them. The Lord Justice billeted these throughout the towns of Munster, until he should see what would be the result of his contest with the other party who were at Kinsale. It was on this occasion that Carbry Oge, the son of Carbry Mac Egan, who was ensign to the son of the Earl of Ormond, was slain.
1602 A.D. - O'Sullivan, after being deprived of this castle, went with his cows, herds, and people, and all his moveables, behind his rugged-topped hills, into the wilds and recesses of his country. The Earl of Thomond and his army, and O'Sullivan and his forces, continued shooting and attacking each other until the Christmas times. The two armies were entrenched and encamped face to face in Gleann-garbh, which glen was one of O'Sullivan's most impregnable retreats. His people now began to separate from O'Sullivan secretly without asking his leave. First of all Captain Tyrrell went away from him, and he was obliged himself to depart in the Christmas holidays, without the knowledge of, and unperceived by the Earl. In the first day's march he went from Gleann-garbh to Baile-Muirne; on the second night he arrived on the borders of the territories of O'Keeffe and Mac Auliffe; on the third night he arrived at Ardpatrick; on the fourth night, at Sulchoid; on the fifth and sixth nights he remained at Baile-na-Coille; on the seventh night at Leatharach; and on the eighth at Baile-Achaidh-caoin. He was not a day or night during this period without a battle, or being vehemently and vindictively pursued, all which he sustained and responded to with manliness and vigour. Having arrived on the ninth night at a wood called Coill-fhinne, where they remained for two nights, Donough, the son of Carbry Mac Egan, who lived in their vicinity, began boldly to attack and fire upon O'Sullivan and his people, so that at length he was obliged to be slain, as he would not desist from his attacks, by the advice of O'Sullivan. Not finding cots or boats in readiness, they killed their horses, in order to eat and carry with them their flesh, and to place their hides on frame-works of pliant and elastic osiers, to make curraghs for conveying themselves across the green-streamed Shannon, which they crossed at Ath-Coille-ruaidhe, without loss or danger, and landed on the other side in Sil-Anmchadha. From thence they passed on, and on the eleventh night they arrived at Aughrim-Hy-Many. Upon their arrival there the inhabitants of the lands and the tribes in their vicinity collected behind and before them, and shouted in every direction around them. Among the gentlemen who came up with them on this occasion were the son of the Earl of Clanrickard (Thomas, the son of Ulick, son of Richard Saxonagh); Mac Coghlan (John Oge, the son of John, son of Art); O'Madden (Donnell, the son of John, son of Breasal), and his son, Anmchaidh; some active parties of the O'Kellys, and many others not enumerated, with all their forces along with them.