History of the Name - Pt. 2

After centuries of conflict between the Eoghanacht Chaisil MacCarthys and the Dal gCais O'Briens over the rightful occupancy of the throne of Munster, it was Turlough O'Connor, King of Connacht, who, in effect, "brokered" the treaty which resulted in the end of the Kingdom of Munster, and the creation of the Kingdoms of Desmond and Thomond.

As mentioned in Pt. 1, the Treaty of Glanmire in 1118 divided the Kingdom of Munster into northern (Tuadh Mumhain = Thomond) and southern (Des Mumhain = Desmond) halves. The Kingdom of Thomond was ruled by the Dal gCais dynasty of the O'Briens. The Kingdom of Desmond, which was the greater part, (covering some 4,500 square miles), was an Eoghanacht state, and was ruled solely by the MacCarthys (Eoghanacht Chaisil).

The MacCarthys of Desmond

Tadhg, son of Muireadach mac Carthaigh (d. 1092) who had been reigning as King of Eoghanacht Chaisil (r. 1015-1018), became the first King of Desmond, which comprised most of the modern counties of Cork and Kerry. For the next 478 years, the monarchy of Desmond was held, almost exclusively, by the family of MacCarthy Mór ("the Great MacCarthy").

The MacCarthy Mórs, Kings of Desmond, over the duration of their monarchy, held extensive demesne(1) lands throughout what is now the Irish counties of Cork and Kerry. The principal seats were at Pallis Castle, near present-day Killarney in Co. Kerry, Castle Lough, on the shore of Killarney's Lough Leane, and Ballycarbery Castle, near present-day Caherciveen, in southwestern Co. Cork.

In 1596, with the death of King Donal IX MacCarthy Mór, who had no surviving legitimate male issue, the kingdom of Desmond ceased to exist as an independent state. Donal IX's only legitimate son, Tadhg, Lord of Valentia and Tanaiste of Desmond, had died under suspicious circumstances in 1588.

An illegitimate son, often called "Donal the Base Son," did survive King Donal IX. Although he was not the legitimate offspring of the King of Desmond, he was a "favorite" of the King's, and was given Castle Lough as his inheritance. (See article "Dan the Feathers" in the "Of Interest" section.) And, it should be noted that, while Donal the Base Son's claim to the MacCarthy Mór succession was overlooked (primarily due to English-Irish politics of the time), his claim was, in fact, completely legitimate and appropriate under the Tanistry aspect of Brehon law. However, ultimately, the title of MacCarthy Mór devolved upon the sept of Sliocht Cormaic of Dunguile (Lords of Kerslawny), as the bulk of historical evidence points to that sept as being the last appanage(2) with modern-day survivors.

Family Sub-Groups

For almost five centuries the McCarthy dynasty dominated much of Munster. In addition to the still-extant, royal sept of MacCarthy Mór (nominal head of all the MacCarthys, and who dominated in south Kerry), there were three other related but distinct branches: MacCarthy Reagh or Riabhach ('grey') based in the Barony of Carbery in southwest Cork, the Duhallow (MacDonough) MacCarthys, who controlled northwest Cork; and, MacCarthy Muskerry, on the Cork/Kerry border.

Over the years of the MacCarthy Mór rule in Desmond, there were a number of sub-septs or appanages created for non-succesional sons of the King. Several of those appanages that were established in what is now County Cork are noted below. In what is now County Kerry (as listed in Kings History of Co. Kerry), there were these MacCarthy Mór appanages/lordships:

• Sliocht Eoghan Mór of Coshmaing
• Sliocht Cormaic of Dunguile
• Sliocht Fyneen Duff of Ardeanaght
• Sliocht Clan Donnell Finn
• Sliocht nInghean Riddery
• Sliocht Donnell Brick
• Sliocht Nedeen
• Sliocht Clan Teige Kittagh
• Sliocht Clan Dermond
• Sliocht Clan Donnell Roe
• Sliocht MacFyncen

MacCarthy Reagh: The MacCarthy Reaghs ("swarthy/grey"), Princes of Carbery, sprang from Donal Gott, who was a brother of Cormac Fionn, King of Desmond (d. 1247-8). Donal Gott had served as King briefly (he was slain in 1251) but the Principality of Carbery, and most of the subordinate septs of MacCarthys within Carbery, stem from him. Carbery was largely independent of the MacCarthy Mór main line.

Principal seats of the Lords/Princes of Carbery were at Kilbrittain Castle (near Kinsale in County Cork), as well as Timoleague Castle (west of Kinsale). Possession of the latter was frequently in dispute with the Norman family of Barry, who were also prominent in West Cork.

The male line of the MacCarthy Reaghs, Princes of Carbery, is believed to have descended at least to Francis Longfield MacCarthy (ca. 1827), of Wisconsin, USA.

MacCarthy Muskerry: The MacCarthys of Muskerry, on the other hand, derived more recently from the MacCarthys Mór line, and so, unlike Carbery, were (and still are) considered a sept of the main dynasty. This principality of the Kingdom of Desmond began in the 14th century as an appanage of King Cormac Mór MacCarthy Mór (d. 1359) for his second son, Dermod. At various times, because of their adeptness at playing the political game with England, the Lords/Princes of Muskerry also bore various British titles, such as Earl of Clancarty, Viscount Mountcashel, and Baron (Lord) of Blarney.

The male line of the MacCarthy Princes of Muskerry, is believed to have descended at least to Justin MacCarthy (ca. 1887), of St. Louis, MO, USA.

MacCarthys of Duhallow (Irish: dhuiche ealla), known as the MacDonough MacCarthys. The Duhallow sept began in the 13th century as an appanage from the then-King of Desmond, Cormac Fionn MacCarthy Mór (r. 1244-1248), to his son Diarmuid (Dermond). It was the Gaelic lordship(s) of Duhallow (and Coshmaing) that occupied the northern frontier of the MacCarthys of Desmond in their sometime struggles with the Norman family of the FitzGeralds, the Earls of Desmond. The principal seat of the Lords of Duhallow was at Kanturk. The family of the MacDonough MacCarthy Lords/Princes of Duhallow became extinct in the 18th century.

MacCarthys of Coshmaing: The sept of Sliocht Eoghan of Coshmaing ("beside the River Maine") was established in the 14th century by King Cormac Mór MacCarthy Mór (d. 1359) for his third son, Eoghan, as an appanage of the royal house of Desmond. Principal seat of this appanage was at Molahiffe in County Kerry, on the northern frontier of the MacCarthy territories of Desmond. The male line of this sept went extinct in the 19th century.

Other Familes

As mentioned in Pt. 1, besides the various MacCarthy septs in Desmond, there were many other prominent families - and, of course, much intermarriage among them. Also descending from Eoghan Mór were: the O'Sullivans and the MacGillicuddys (Eoghanacht Chaisil); the O'Keefes (Eoghanacht Glendamnacht); the O'Kirbys (Eoghanacht Aine); the O'Moriartys (Eoghanacht Locha Lein); and, the O'Donoghues (Eoghanacht Raithlind).

Of course, there were also the Dalcassian septs of the O'Briens and the (O)Kennedys, and, important septs who migrated to Munster and Desmond at one time or another, including the O'Donovans, the O'Driscolls, the O'Mahonys, the O'Callaghans, the O'Dalys, the O'Crowleys, and the O'Learys, and the O'Collins, to name a few.

Lastly, in addition to all these native Irish families, Munster was also populated - often contentiously - by several notable Norman-Irish families: the FitzGeralds, the FitzMaurices, the Roches, the Barrys, and the de Courceys, among others.

(1) demesne - manorial land retained for the private use of a feudal lord; the grounds belonging to a mansion or country house.

(2) appanage - the grant of an estate, titles, offices, or other things of value to the younger (non-successor) male children of a sovereign.