George Hill.

An historical account of the Macdonnells of Antrim : including notices of some other septs, Irish and Scottish online

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Online LibraryGeorge HillAn historical account of the Macdonnells of Antrim : including notices of some other septs, Irish and Scottish → online text (page 1 of 96)
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.EN COUNTY j'!l!3WjjWJHftj(?j|j II

3 1833 01342 1869




Dittos 0f amc 0thr #ejrts, griajr mta %Mn1g.



" |f ang t|jere be fobict! are besirons to- be strangers in tjjeir obm sotte,
anb forrainers in t&eir oton ritie, tfrcn, mag so continue, anb therein
flatter tfrcmselbes. for sucb. tike 1 frabe not foritten t^cae tines, nor
taken tjjese pines."— Camden.




]HE Macdonnells of Antrim are a leading branch of the Scottish Clan-
donnell, and, as such, they rank among the most distinguished repre-
sentatives at the present day of the ancient Irish Clann-Colla. Their
history, therefore, is important, as being bound up with that of a once powerful and
widely extended race. It is, perhaps, not less so, as preserving an authentic
account, during many centuries, of the territories in which their leading houses
were gradually built up — and often suddenly cast down. The records of the
Antrim Macdonnells are thus found to touch the shores of our North Channel
with a truly historic light, restoring, so to speak, the ruined castles now crumbling
on so many bold positions, along the coasts of Antrim and Argyle. Several records,
' illustrative of this branch, are here printed for the first time, relating to periods
of great historical interest, and to persons whose names must have been once
familiar as household words throughout this northern province.

Of these original records, a few are introduced in the text ; the greater
number, however, may be found in the Appendix — not arranged in chronolo-
gical order, but simply to suit the references to their contents arising in the
course of the narrative. This narrative, the writer has much pleasure in stating, is
largely indebted for its facts to the admirable calendars of Irish State Papers
recently printed by the government, and especially to the volumes edited by Hans
C. Hamilton, Esq., the Rev. Dr. Russell, and John P. Prendergast, Esq., the
distinguished historian of the Cromwellian settlement of Ireland.

The foot-notes are occupied with explanations and discussions, which, from their
variety and extent, could not, obviously, have formed part of the text, but which, in
a book of this class, it would have been difficult, and perhaps unsuitable, to omit.

The writer has only, farther, to express his grateful acknowledgments for much
friendly aid received during his preparation of this volume. To some friends, he is
indebted for the loan of valuable family papers ; to others, for supplying copies of
documents that could not have been borrowed ; and to not a few, for kindly com-
municating local information. To each and all, he now returns his very sincere

Belfast, November, 1873.


[ — 20

I. Princes of the Isles,

II. The Lords of Isla and the Antrim Glynns, 21—45



IV. Sorley Boy Macdonnell, 120—193

V. The First Earl of Antrim, *94— Z 5 X

VI. Second Earl and First Marquis of Antrim, 252— 3S 1

VII. Third Earl, and his Successors to the present time, ... 352— 37*

VIII. Appendix, 373—482

IX. Index 483 ^ 5I °

The Macdonnells of Antrim.


|UR best genealogists, Mac Firbis and O'Flaherty, represent the Macdonnells (i) as
descended from an Irish prince, named Colla, and surnamed Uaish, or the
' Noble,' the eldest of three distinguished brothers, who lived in the earlier part of the
fourth century. These brothers were the sons of Eochaidh Doimhlein, brother of
the king, and Aileach, daughter of Ubdaire, king of Alba. The coming of this Scottish princess
to Ireland, and her subsequent residence in the palace of Aileach, so called after her name,
are celebrated in a very ancient Irish poem. The poet describes the princess as " a mild,
true woman, modest, blooming, till the love of the Gael disturbed her, and she passed with him
from the midst of Chind-Tiri (Cantire) to the land of Uladh." Her palace of Aileach, in
the present county of Donegal, became the residence of the Northern Ui Neill princes, and
continued to be occupied as such almost to the time of the English invasion. (2) The names of
her warlike and ambitious sons were Cairell, Muredhach, and Aedh, although they are more
familiarly known in history as the three Collas. (3) Assisted by their kinsmen and allies on the
opposite shores of the North Channel, (4) they were able to form a powerful political combination,
which, in the year 327, placed the eldest brother, Colla Uaish, on the throne of Ireland. He only
held this position, however, for the space of four years, when he was compelled to give way before
the claims of a more powerful cousin. Being soon afterwards reconciled to the reigning monarch,

(I) Macdonnells. — Throughout the following pages, this
surname will be written as above, except in extracts from
books, or manuscripts, where the orthography of the
writers themselves will be strictly preserved. The ori-
ginal form of the name is Domhnaill, pronounced exactly
Donndl, and so written by our best Gaelic scholars. Sir
James Macdonnell, the last in the male line of the lords
of Isla and Cantire, spelled his surname Makdonall.
The old families of Keppoch and Glengarry have aban-
doned the use of the final d, and now adopt the more
correct orthography. Scottish writers, however, continue
the use of it, without attempting to account for its
introduction. See Gregory's History of the Western
Highlands and Isles of Scotland, pp. 85, 417.

(2) Invasion. — See the Ordnance Memoir of the
Parish of Templeiiwn; pp. 224 — 228; Book of Rights,

translated and edited by O'Donovan, p. 120 ; Cam-
brensis Eversus, translated and edited by Kelly, vol. i.,
p. 489.

(3) Three Collas.- Colla, surnamed Uaish,oi the 'Noble,'
because he had worn the crown ; Colla, surnamed Meann,
or the ' Stammerer;' and Colla. surnamed da Chrioch, a
phrase sometimes written FSchri, and translated
'earthy,' or 'clay-like.' See Manuscript Materials of
Ancient Irish History, p. 72.

(4) Channel. — The North Channel was anciently known
as Sruth-na-Maoile, ' the Current of the Moyle, or Mull;'
more correctly, Srulhar-na-MaiU Chinntiri, ' the Cur-
rent of the Mull of Cantire.' This is probably the
earliest recorded name of the strait referred to. See
Book of Leinster, as quoted by O'Curry in the Atlantis,
vol. iv., p. 122.


Colla Uaish and his brothers were commissioned to lead an expedition against the Ultomans, or men
of Ulster, and were granted as much territory as they might be able to wrest from the enemy. In
this expedition they were successful, having completely defeated the Ultonians at the great battle
of Achaidh-Leith-Derg, in Fearnmhaigh, now Farney, a district in the present county of Monaghan.
Fergus, the king of Ulster, was slain, and his shattered forces, pursued by " their victorious enemies,
were driven over Glenrighe (the valley of the Newry Water) into the district which now forms the
counties of Down and Antrim, from which they never after returned. The Collas destroyed
Emania, and then took the whole of that part of Ulster now forming the modern counties of
Armagh, Louth, Monaghan, and Fermanagh, into their own hands, as swordland ; and it was
held by their descendants, the Maguires, Mac Mahons, O'Hanlons, and others, down to the con-
fiscation of Ulster under the English King, James I." (5)

Of the descendants of Colla Uaish, perhaps the most distinguished were his great-grandsons,
Loam, Angus, and Fergus, who, about the year 506, permanently laid the foundation of the
Dalriadic kingdom in Scotland. (6) These leaders were the sons of Eire, " and partly possessors of
Dalriada," an ancient principality on the Antrim coast, which extended from the Bush-foot to
the village of Glynn, near Lame, and from which the Irish colonists went forth. (7) It is not to be
supposed that all these emigrants, or indeed many of them, originally belonged to this territory,
but they assembled here, and sailed from the most convenient ports along its shore, — one of which

rl. — See Manuscript Materials of Ancient Irish
' ely changed the

(5) >

History, pp. 72, 73. This invasion

aspect of affairs in the North. "Until the year 332," says
Dr. Reeves, " Uladh or Ulster denoted a province nearly
as large as the name now imports, and the palace of its
rulers was at n-Eamhain, or Emania, now the Navan,
near Armagh." Tighernach states that "the three
Collas afterwards destroyed Eanihain Macha, and the
Ultonians did not dwell in it from that out; and they
took from them their kingdom (rom Lough Neagh out
[westward]." (Reeves, Ecdes. Antiquities, p. 253.)—
Speaking of the ruins of Emania, M. C. Ferguson states
that the Fort, although greatly diminished, still covers
about eleven acres. " From its elevated position an ex-
tensive prospect of the line country around Armagh
stretching away to the Fews mountain, may be obtained.
Here we stand on a fortress of the Celt, which has had
a history of upwards of two thousand years. The adioin-
ing townland of Creeve Roe yet preserves the name, and
designates the site of the House ot the Red Branch, a
species of military college in which the Ulster warriors
were wont to assemble." See Story of the Irish before
the Conquest, pp. 25, 26.

(6) In Scotland. — " Some consider the colony of 506 as
the first, and that which was intended by Bede ; as
Ussher, Works, vol. vi., p. 147; O' Flaherty, Ogygia, p.
464; Vardeus, RumbolJ. p. 366; Chalmers, Caledonia,
vol. i., p. 269. Others, again, assert that Cairbre Riada
led over a colony about the middle of the third century;
as O'Conor, Dissertations, pp. 297, 307 (Dublin, 18 12) ;
Ogvgia Vindicated, p. 162 ; Pinkerton, Enquiry, vol. ii.,
pp. 61, 87. See Giraldus Cambrensis, Topographia
Hibern., iii. 16 (p. 742, ed. Camden); Stillingfleet,
Orig. Britann., p. 287 (London, 1840) ; Reeves, Eccles.

Antiquities, p. 319." Adamnan's Life of St. Columba,
edited, with Notes and Dissertations, by the Rev. Dr.
Reeves, p. 433, note.

(7) Went forth.— "That tract of the county Antrim,"
says Ussher, "which we call Route was known to the
Irish by its true name of Dalrieda. It extends (as the
late most noble Randolph Earl of Antrim informed me
by letter) from the river Bush to the cross of Glenfin-
neaght, of which I find mention made in those ancient
Irish verses bearing the title of ' Patrick's Testament,' a
distance of thirty miles : the following old Irish verse
being brought forward in support." [Of this verse the
late Dr. O'Donovan has furnished the following transla-
tion, in Dublin Penny Journal, vol. i., 362 : —

" From the Buaish which flocks fly over,
Unto the cross of Glenfinneaght,
Extends Dalriada of subdivisions.
As all who know the land can tell."]

"Now the whole of Dalrefh or Dalrede," continues
Ussher, "with the island of Rachlyn or Rachrin lying
opposite to it, was in old times granted to Alan de Gal-
way, by John King of the English and Lord of Ireland, as
we know from the royal archives preserved in the
Tower of London : both being possessed at present in
hereditary right by Randolph Earl of Antrim, son of the
Randolph mentioned above ; to whom, by the way, on
his return from England, with his illustrious lady, the
widow of the celebrated George Duke of Buckingham, I
have, on the very day on which I wrote this, paid my
respects at the house of Viscount Moore of Mellifont."
See Ussher's Works, edited by Dr. Ellington, vol. vi., pp.
146, 147 ; see also Reeves's Eccles. Antiquities, p. 329,


was undoubtedly Port Brittas, (8) at the head of Ballycastle Bay. The colonists, on reaching Alba
appear to have formed three distinct settlements, which co-operated with, but remained for a time
independent of each other. Those led by Angus occupied a few islands, the principal of which
were Isla, Jura, and Iona. Loam's followers took possession of that territory which, to this day,
bears his name. Fergus, surnamed Mor, (9) probably mustered a larger number of colonists than
either of his brothers, as he was able at first to plant the three districts now known as Cantire,
Cowal, and Argyle Proper. Loarn, the eldest, enjoyed the chief position in the growing kingdom
during his life. Fergus, the youngest, survived the others, and being able to unite and consolidate
the three principal settlements, in due time was proclaimed king. The new kingdom soon
absorbed the adjoining districts lying between Lome and Ardnamurchan Point, and now known
as Mull, Morven, Ardgowan, and Lochaber. Thus, the original Dalriadic kingdom in Scotland
was bounded on the south by the Frith of Clyde, and was separated from the Pictish kingdom on
the east by the mountain range anciently known as Drumalban, which extends from the shore of
Lochlomond in Dumbartonshire to Loch Broom in Sutherland. (10)

Previously to the departure of Fergus from the Irish coast, he appears to have owned the
territory or district surrounding the present village of Armoy, where he granted lands to St.
Patrick, in the year 474, to build and endow the first christian church there. The saint is said to
have specially blessed Fergus for this act of liberality, and at the same time predicted the
future superiority of his family over those of his brothers, (ti) As Fergus is believed to have first
landed in Alba, on the cost of Cantire, he most probably sailed from Port-Brittas, which, if not in
his own territory, must have immediately adjoined it. Machrihanish Bay, in Cantire, lies exactly
opposite, and although a formidable place for large vessels, the Irish galleys could glide
safely into it with a favouring tide in two or three hours. A stream, flowing from the rugged hills
of Cantire, (12) approaches the sea at this point through a beautiful valley, which still retains its

(8) Port Brittas. — In old Rentals of the Antrim estate, Bretain, latinised Britannia; Dorsum. " The vernacular
Port Brittas, ' British-Port,' or ' Port of the Britons,' name Drum-Bretain at an early date passed into the
was a denominational name applied to fifteen acres form Drum-Albin, which was in use until the thirteenth
around or adjoining this little inlet. The name is now century, and was applied to the great mountain-chain
obsolete. dividing Perthshire and Aigyle, and terminating in the

(9) Surnamed Mor. — This sobriquet, denoting 'large- Grampian Hills. This range forms the back-bone of
bodied,' is often used to characterise members of the Scotland, and from its sides the eastern and western
Clan-Colla. The following is an old chronicler's ac- waters respectively flow." Adamnan's Life of St.
count of the impression made by the personal appearance Columia, edited by Reeves, p. 64, note.

of Fergus Mor, on his landing in Alba, preliminary to (n) His brothers. — See Reeve's Eccles. Antiquities, pp.

his inauguration as king :— 80, 244.

„ _, . . _ . _, . (12 Hills of Cantire. — Ceann-tirc, ' the Land's Head,' a

&SZ*£to£%£fiK£?£ MW : Pl-se frequently used as a proper name to designate the

Blyth and benyng. and manlie als thairwith, whole territory of Cantire, although it may have been

originally applied only to the Mull. "The vernacular

name Cenn-tire, or Cend-lire," says Dr. Reeves, "appears

occasionally in the Iri^h Annals, as Tighernach, 574, 681 ;

Stewart's Metrical Version of Hector Boece's Buik of Ulster, 575,680, 720; dnisfallen, 495 ; Four Masters, 620,

the Chronicles of Scotland, edited by W. B. Turnbull, 679, 1154. The Northmen called it Satiri (Johnstone's

vol. i., p. 40. Olave, pp. 14, 18, 20, 22, 27; Haco's Expedition, p.

(10) Sutherland. See Chronicles of the Picts and Scots, 48). The earliest Scotch charters have it Keniir (C.
" ed by W. F. Skene, Preface, p. 113. The mountain Innes, Orig. Paroch., vol. ii., p. 1)." See Adamnan's

range known as Drumalban was previously named Drum- Life of St. Columia, p. 57.


ancient name of Tir-Fergus, 'the territory of Fergus.' One of this prince's places of abode, after his
election to the Dalriadic throne, is believed to have been the strong and extensive fortress now
known as Dunstaffnage castle, which was certainly occupied by the early Scottish kings down to
the time of Kenneth II , and was only abandoned as a royal residence about the middle of the ninth
century. It is remarkable that, during several centuries afterwards, this castle disappears
altogether from Scottish annals, and the impression now is that if any notices of it really exist between
the years 850 and 1300, they must be looked for in Norse chronicles, as, during that interval,
it was undoubtedly held by the Norwegians. (O/ig. Paroch. Scot., vol. ii., p. 117.) The ruins
of Dunstaffnage stand on a low peninsular point, running out from the northern shore of the
parish of Kilbride, and at the entrance to the beautiful Loch Etive. These ruins indicate various
dates in masonry, some portions pointing to the castle-building style of the thirteenth century,
whilst others, — such as fragments of the walls ten feet in thickness, — carry us back to a much
more remote period. (13)

Scottish chroniclers are proud to tell that Fergus brought with him, when about to be
inaugurated, the celebrated Lia Fail, or Stone of Fate, on which Irish monarchs were crowned at
Tara, and, that after his coronation thereon, the precious article was deposited at Dunstaffnage.
There it lay until removed thence to Scone by Kenneth Mac Alpine. Even George Buchanan,
who was intolerant of all Irish and Highland glories, does not neglect to tell us that " the marble
block which Simon Brek is said to have imported from Spain into Ireland, and Fergus, the son
of Ferchard (Erck), carried thence to Argyle, he (Kenneth) caused to be removed from Argyle to
Scone, on the river Tay, and set it there, enclosed in a chair of wood." {Historia, Lib. vi.,
chap. 3.) In the year 1296, Edward I. carried off the stone with its enclosing wooden chair, and
had it placed under the throne in "Westminster Abbey, where it has since quietly reposed. The
Scotch, strange to say, cherish something like a national sentiment on this matter, and have
not yet forgiven the removal of the Lia Fail from Scone ! It was formerly spoken of as
the "Scottish Palladium," and all traditions relating to it are preserved with much care
and respect. Scotchmen, generally, know much more on the subject than their Irish kinsmen,
and can rehearse with greater fluency, not only the extraordinary story as to when and how the
stone was brought to Ireland, and thence to Scotland, but also various details relating to its shape,
substance, and size. The Lia Fail, it appears, bears an ancient Gaelic inscription, which is
translated thus : —

" Should Fate not fail, wher'er this Stone is found,
The Scots shall monarchs of that realm be found."

(13) Remote period. — The following notice of Dunstaff- being also rounded; but on the inner area of one of the

nage castle describes the ruins as they exist at the present towers, a square structure of three storeys has been

time: — " Our first sight of these venerable ruins reminded erected, seemingly at no very distant period. Of this

us very much of our own Dunluce. They occupy the last the roof remains entire, and the flooring is not much

summit ot a perpendicular conglomerate mass, varying decayed. The smallest of the round towers is only

from ten to thirty feet in height, near the extremity of nine paces in diameter. The circumference of the

low peninsular flat projecting Irom the southern shore. whole building is about 400 feet. ... A ladder

The entrance is leached by a narrow outer staircase. leads from the court to the battlements over which
The castle is an irregular four-sided structure, with a sweeps the strong sea-breeze from the Sound of Mull,
round tower at each of three angles, the remaining angle and from which a wondrous panorama of sea and island


This prophecy, it is also gravely affirmed, has been literally fulfilled — James VI. of Scotland, the
veritable representative of king Fergus, having succeeded to the English throne, and being grand-
father to the princess Sophia, who was grandmother to George II., who was great-great-grandfather
to Queen Victoria. (See Scottish Journal of Antiquities, vol. ii., p. 205.) Our Irish antiquaries,
however, although they have lost all special veneration for the Lia Fail, are taking some trouble to
undeceive their Scottish brethren on the subject. They maintain that the Stone was not brought
here by Simon Brek at all, but by Tuatha De Danann colonists, that Erin still retains it, and that a
certain Pillar yet standing at 'Tara of the Kings' is the veritable relic itself. (14)

When king Fergus had governed bravely and wisely on his Dalriadic throne for the space of
twenty-five years, he determined, unfortunately, to revisit his native shore. Some chroniclers affirm
that his object in coming was to arbitrate certain disputes that had arisen among several princes in
Ulster ; whilst others represent that he was afflicted with a skin-disease, and came to use the waters
of a medicinal well that existed then (and for many centuries afterwards) in the rock on which
now stands the castle of Carrickfergus. The galley which bore him across the channel was wrecked
at or near this rock, where the king was drowned, and where the name Car rig- Fergus, the
' Rock of Fergus,' perpetuates the memory of that tragical event. Fergus had sailed from some

and mountain meets the gaze. Landward rise the
mighty shoulders and soaring peak of Ben Cruachan,
with vast outworks of lesser peaks, while seaward are
the Sound of Mull, Loch Linnhe, Loch Etive, the hills
of Morven and Ardgour, and the sea-beaten reef of
Connell."— Coleraine Chronicle, Dec. 21, 1872.

(14) Relic itself. — We have given above the substance of
a very early Scottish tradition on this subject, which tra-
dition was first embodied, it is supposed in the Chronicon
Rhythmicam, a compilation of the thirteenth century, and
afterwards adopted from it by the Scottish historians,
Fordun, Winton, Boece or Boetius, Buchanan, and
others. "It is a remarkable fact," says Petrie, "that
this Scottish account has been adopted by the Irish
themselves, since the succession of the house of Stuart
to the British throne seemed to verify the ancient pre-
diction connected with it, yet no Irish account has been
found to support it earlier than that of Keating, who
evidently adopted the statement of Boetius' well-known
verse (see this verse translated above), which he quotes
with the palpable view of sustaining the right of the
first Charles to his throne. It may also be observed
that between the Irish and Scottish accounts of the
history of this stone, there is a total want of agreement,
which shows that the Scottish writers, when they re-
corded this tradition, were not acquainted with, or dis-
regarded the accounts of it preserved by the Irish. The
Irish uniformly state that the Lia Fail was brought into
Ireland from the north of Germany by the Tuatha De
Danann colony ; the Scottish that it was brought from
Spain, by the Milesian chief, Simon Breac, who, ac-
cording to Irish histories, was not a Milesian, but a Fir-
Bolg, or Belgian. . . . It is in the highest degree
improbable that to gratify the desire of a colony, the
Irish would have voluntarily parted with a monument
so venerable from its antiquity, and considered essential
to the legitimate succession of their own kings. How-

ever this may be, it is an interesting fact that a large
obeliscal pillar-stone, in a prostrate position, occupied,
till a recent period, the very situation on the hill of
Tara pointed out as the Lia Fail by the Irish writers of
the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth centuries; and that this
was a monument of pagan antiquity, an idol-stone, as
the Irish writers call it, seems evident from its form
and character." Sir George Petrie's Antiquities of Tara
Hill, in Transactions of Royal Irish Academy, vol. xviii.,
pp. 160, 161.

Eugene A. Conwell, Esq., has the following account
of a visit to this curious and rude monument with which
so many national associations are connected : — " On the
18th of May, 1S66, I paid a visit to Tara, and made an
examination of this stone. It stands five feet over

Online LibraryGeorge HillAn historical account of the Macdonnells of Antrim : including notices of some other septs, Irish and Scottish → online text (page 1 of 96)