09 August 2013

The ancient Delbhna of central Ireland

At one time a major power in the center of the island, the Delbhna were broken into several factions and scattered across central Ireland.  The Delbhna were one of the fortuatha descended from older populations dominant in Ireland in pre- and proto- historic times.  Many of these, like the Debhna, were themselves divided into a number of sub-groups, “kingdoms not ruled directly by members of the dominant dynasty of a province” (Francis John Byrne) and/or “people belonging to a different stock from that of the rulers of the territory” (T.F. O’Rahilly)

What makes the Delbhna  interesting to me is (1) the MacConroys of the Delbhna Tir Da Locha are my ancestors and (2) the Delbhna are, according to one legend, descended from Delbaeth mac Ogma of the Tuatha De Danaan, the race of gods driven underground, literally, by the Milesians, the sons of Mil Espain.  Delbaeth mac Ogma is the same as Tuireann, the Irish god of thunder, and Ogma, his father, is/was god of eloquence, inspiration, language, magic, music, physical strength, poets, and writers.

Another legend claims that the Delbhna descended from Suman, son of Lugh Delbath, son of Cas, progenitor of the Dal gCais in Tuadh Mumhan, though this legend, most popular among the Delbhna of Midhe, came late and after the rise of the kings of Thomond to prominence.

Four groups of Delbhna inhabited parts of Connacht:

1. Delbhna Tir Da Locha (of the Land of the Two Lakes), or Delbhna Feadha (of the Heather) or Delbhna Fiodh (of the Woods), were based in the area of Co. Galway between Loch Orbsen (Lough Corrib) and Loch Lurgan (Galway Bay) which is now the barony of Moycullen.  Their kings took the surname MacConraoi, or MacConroy, later Anglicized as McEnry, then as King.  As chiefs of the name they were styled Mac Mheic Con Raoi.

Their eldest cadets in the south probably originated as erenaghs of the abbey of St. Enda at Ballynspiddal, to which was attached at least three daughter churches.  The name of the family was probably O’hEannaidh (or O’Heaney).  Another family in Delbhna Tir Da Locha prior to the 13th century were the McAneaves (Mac Giolla an Naomh, “son of the servant of the Saint”), who later anglicized their name as Forde, probably erenaghs of Cloghmore, founded by St. Colmcille..

The two lochs to which the name of the territory refers are Loch nOirbsean (Loch Corrib) and Loch Lurgan (Galway Bay).  The territory occupied nearly all the land between the two lakes and the River Corrib.  It was roughly coextensive with the later barony of Moycullen, which took in the civil parishes of Kilcummin, Killanin, Moycullen, and Rahoon (67, 61, 107, and 122on the map, respectively).

After their defeat in a war against the forces of Hugh O’Connor and Richard de Burgo, ancestor of the Burkes, in 1236, the O’Flahertys of Moy Seola and their allies the O’Hallorans of Clan Feargail were forced west of the River Galway.  Both families built castles in both Gnomore and Gnobeg, though the O’Flahertys were lord of both.

Given these circumstances, it was probably at this time that the MacConroys relocated to the far western reaches of Connemara and made their  home at Ballymacconry near the later Joyce (and later O’Flaherty) castle of Doon.  They also settled on the northwest coast of Thomond, called Ballyconry.  The O’Heaneys migrated first to the Renvyle Peninsula in the far reaches of Connemara, then moved east across Loch Orbsen into the Claregalway area, where they became loyal vassals of the Burkes.

In his 14th century magnum opus, Seán O Dubhagain, chief ollamh of Ui Maine, wrote of their original territory being divides into Gno Mor and Gno Beag, but this is an anarchronism based on the division of the territory by two branches of the O’Flahertys (see “A Brief Account of the Kingdoms of the O'Flahertys” at http://notesfromtheninthcircle.blogspot.com/2013/12/a-brief-account-of-kingdoms-of.html)

(For more on the MacConroys, see “The MacConroys in Iar Connacht” at http://notesfromtheninthcircle.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-macconroys-in-iar-connacht.html)

2. Delbhna Cuile Fabhair once ruled Maigh Seóla (later the barony of Clare), the area east of Lough Corrib in County Galway, until conquered by the Ui Bruin Seola (the later Muintir Murchada who became the O’Flahertys) in the 8th century.  The chiefs remained in Magh Seola, took the surname O'Fathairtaigh or O’Faherty, and were recognized by their overlords as kings of Delbhna Cuile Fabhair as well as lords of Muintir Fathartaigh and Fiodh Luaraigh, which together made up fourteen townlands in the later parish of Claregalway and from which they were dispossessed in the 13th century by the Anglo-Norman knight John de Cogan, a retainer of Rochard de Burgo.  They and/or their territory are sometimes confused with the O’Fathaigh (O’Faheys) of the district of Pobal Muintir Ui Faithaigh, who were in the kingdom of Ui Maine.

3. Delbhna Nuadat, or Delbhna Ui Maine, were lords of a large section that is now Athlone in Co. Roscommon, situated between the Suck and Shannon Rivers. From the early historic era (5th century CE) they were subject to the Ui Maine sept of Muintir Rodhuibh, later known as the MacGeraghtys.  Their chiefs, who later claimed to be descended from a branch of the O’Connors, took the surname O'Flannagain or O’Flanagan.

4. Delbhna Sith Neannta ruled over the small area now called the townland of Fairymount in the barony of Ballintober South in Co. Roscommon, subject to the Sil Murray.  Their chiefs took the name O'Laoghog or O’Logue.

Four groups of Delbhna inhabited parts of Midhe and Leighin:

5. Delbhna bEthra probably formed a single kingdom with the Delbhna Nuadat until the latter were subjugated by the Ui Maine.  By the late 5th century they had fallen under the control of the southern Uí Néill.  Their chiefs took the surname MacCochluinn or MacCoughlan, ruling what is now the barony of Garrycastle in Co. Offaly

6. Delbhna Mor were located in what is now the barony of Delvin in Co. Westmeath.  In the 8th century their chief was considered the champion of all Ireland.  They were subject to the southern Ui Neill.  Their chiefs took the surname O'Finnallain or O’Fenelon.

7. Delbhna Bheag, or Delbhna Bec, were based in what is now the barony of Demifore in Co. Westmeath.  They were subject to the southern Ui Neill.  Their chiefs took the surname Ua Maoilchallan, or O’Mulholland.

8. Delbhna Teannmhagh, or Delbhna Iarthair Mhidhe, at one time controlled what is now the barony of Rathconrath, also called West Delvin,  in Co. Westmeath.  They were subject to the southern Ui Neill.  Their chiefs took the surname Ua Scolaidhe or O'Scully.

The Book of Rights mentions a “Delbhna of Druim Leith” paying tribute directly to the king of Connacht at Cruachan  (and receiving stipend), but the context isn't clear which of the four groups it means (although it was likely not Delbhna Nuadat).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Chuck, thanks for posting this. I found you in a search for the Sea Kings of Connaught... it is quite likely that we are related. :-)

My paternal surname was King and although, Australian, I am more Irish than the Irish... always knew the roots went back a long way. My maternal side, came via Norway... not the most welcome route, but family is always embarrassing.

I will follow you on G+. Feel free to get in touch any time and thanks for the info. It adds a few pieces to the picture I am building up.