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O'Gallagher of Donegal

Father Paul Walsh

Irish Chiefs and Leaders

The Septs of Muintear Ghallchubhair

was the ancestor of the O Gallchobair family of Tír Aedha, in the present county of Tír Coneill, though O Gallchubhair is the more usual spelling of the surname in the Annals.  The word gall compounded here probably signifies 'Norseman.' The other element has been explained as 'helper.'

It occurs also in Conchobar and Olchobar,  in the pedigree of O Ballchubhair the son of the eponymous ancestor is Maghnus.

This is a Norse name.  Two generations farther down we meet Amliab, which also we took from the Norsemen.

In the AFM, at the year 1022, there is mention of the death of Maelcobha us Gallchubhair, comharba of Scrin Adhamhnain, in the country of Tireragh.  It is not certain that this is the surname of Ua Gallchubhair, as O Donovan affirms.  The phrase might mean 'grandson of Gallchubhar.'  If we put side this doubtful instance, there is no occurrence of the family name before the second half of the fourteenth century.  The members of the O Gallchubhair family cannot have been of great importance before that period, because there is no genealogy of them in BB 85, where on would expect it.  It must be stated, however, that the section on Cenél Conaill in that manuscript is incomplete.  In the  Book of Lecan there is a lacuna at the point, after fol. 62v.

Let us first see the later portion of the pedigree in the oldest account which we possess, that is, 3D17-15v; it runs as follows:

Genelach Muintire Gallchubhair
Tuathal  living 1613
Sir Eoin .i. O Gallchobair d. 1595
Tuathail Bhailbh d. 1541
Aedha o raiter sliocht Aedha
Giolla Coimdedh .i. an manach
Ferghail, etc.

NOTE: m = "son of"

This pedigree is continued backwards through Cellach, son of Maelcoba, reputed king of Ireland, who died in 664 secundum alium librum.  AU makes Maelcoba, son of Aedh, king of Ireland 612-615.  Aedh mac Ainmerech, well known in story, contemporary of Colum Cille, died according to the same authority in 598.

The earliest reference to a person of the name of O Gallchubhair is in AU at the year 1377: "Domhnall hUa Gallchobair, son of Fergal, son of the Monk, died."  This passage was misunderstood by the editor of the Annals, who took inmanach as one word instead of two.  Numerous entries in 23D17 and 23D2 show the meaning.  The Monk was named Giolla Coimded or Giolla an Choimded, and must have been living about the year 1300.  In 1388 Ua Gallchubhair, that is the chief of the name, was slain, Ann. Connacht.

The notice at 1377 puts us in a position to interpret the pedigree above.  Eoin, son of Niocol, was most likely living in the last quarter of the fourteenth century.  There is a short treatise on Muinter Ghallchubhair in 23D2, pp. 1-4, which I have prepared for publication in thirty-three paragraphs.  The first runs in English translation as follows:

Eoin, son of Niocol, son of Giolla Coimdheadh, the Monk, had four sons:

   Donnchadh, from whom were Sliocht Donnchaidh;

   Aodh, from whom were Sliocht Aodha;

   Lochlainn, from whom were Sliocht an Easbuig;

   Maghnus Riabhach, from whom were Sliocht Maghnusa 


Here I shall first deal with Lochloinn and his descendants.  He had been Dean of Raphoe from 1397, and perhaps from an earlier date.  He was promoted to the bishopric on 27 February, 1420, and the notice of the event in the AFM shows that he was then chieftain: epscopoitte Ratha Both do ghnoughadh dochum Uí Ghallchobhair.  He died in 1438.  The form of the obit entry in AU and AFM. shows, perhaps, that Lochloinn remained chieftain until his death.

The name of one son of Lochloinn is known, namely, Domhnall.  It occurs in a genealogy for which there are two manuscript authorities (Par. 31), and also in an independent briefer one in Au 1494.  Here is the first from 23D2 and 23D17, with Mac Firbis's version (p. 157) for comparison.


Cathal Dubh
Remainn .i. biocairi Droma Thuama
Lochlainn .i. an t-epscop
Giolla Coimded .i. an manach
Ferghail, etc.

NOTE: m = "son of"

Genelach Uí Ghallchabhair iar nuaitheaglom:
Lochlainn epscop mac [Domhnaill m] Lochlainn
Giolla Coimdhedh .i. an manach
Ferghail, etc.

NOTE: m = "son of"

The brief genealogy in AU (p. 382) is: mac hUi Gallcobhair .i. mac Edmuind mic Domnaill mic Lochlainn.  The middle name is altered to Donnchaid in AFM.

The term Sliocht an Easbuig refers to this bishop, rather than to to second Lochloinn, who was grandson of the first, and far more notorious.  This is proved by the reference in 23D2.  It occurs as follows: slicht an easbuig, AU 1536 (p. 610); parallel passages in ALC 1537 (p. 306) and AFM. 1537 (p. 1436).

The second Lochloinn was appointed bishop of Raphoe on 17 June 1442.  He was then in minor orders only, was a canon of the church of Raphoe, was also official of the diocese, and was illegitimate.  By Papal mandate he was dispensed ex defectu natalium.  His consecration by three bishops was unauthorized in 1443.  Ancient evidences and modern traditions as to his evil character are numerous, but it has never been shown before that he was grandson of a bishop.  In turn, his own grandson, named Emonn, became bishop of Raphoe.  He is not directly referred to in the Annals.  His successor in the See was provided in 1479.  Brady, Episcopal Succession i, 306, places his death in 1477.

A son of the bishop of Raphoe was killed in 1470.  This might refer to either Lochloinn.  At other points three sons of the late bishop are mentioned.  In 1497 William, son of the Bishop O Galluchbhair, was slain, AU and AFM.  An entry found in all the Annals at 1540 chronicles the violent deaths of two sons of this William, son of the bishop. Again, all relate the death of Art O Gallchubhairabbot of Assaroe, in 1502, and AU adds that he was son of Bishop Lochloinn.  In 1538 the Dean, son of this Art, son of Lochloinn, died, AU.  Domhnall, son of the Bishop O Gallchubhair, was slain by Sliocht Aonghuis in 1527, AU and ALC.  Two sons of Domhnall were killed in 1522, AU (p. 540).

Brian, son of the Bishop O Gallchubhair, we hear of indirectly, through his sons, AU and AFM., 1513. Three of them were Toirrdhealghach Og, Eoghan Ballach and Emonn.  A son of the first, with two sons of the second, was killed in 1537, ALC (p. 306). The parentage of Brian we  learn ibid. p. 338.  See next paragraph.

Emonn O Gallchubhair became bishop of Raphoe on 11 May, 1534.  Cornelius O Cahan, appointed to the See on 6 February, 1513, was still, and for long time after, living.  No satisfactory explanation of this action of the Pope has yet been offered.  The descent of Emonn from Lochloinn, the bishop who died in 1477, is vouched for by the following entry in the Annals of Loch Ce at the year 1543:

    Espuc Ratha Both .i. Emonn mac Briain mic in espuic

    I Ghallchubair do eg ar bfhaghail choinntinne moire a  timchell a thigernuis.

The bishop of Raphoe, that is, Edmund, son of Brian,  son of the Bishop O Gallchubhair, died, after having had great opposition regarding his lordship (p. 338).

The date, February 26, is given by the AFM., but they omit the statement that Emonn was grandson of Lochloinn.  "Edmund died before the controversy was ended, so that Connor O Kahane was bishop both before and after him."

"Art m'Anesbig O Galqr," pardoned 30 July, 1586 (F. Eliz. 4914) may have been son of Edmund.  Or he may have been son of Art, Bishop of Raphoe, 1547-1561.

Sliocht an Easbuig seems to have lessened in importance as the sixteenth century advanced.  The only pedigree belonging to it given in the collections is that printed above, and there does not appear to be mention of further individuals of it in the later Annals.

Sliocht Donnchaidh is mentioned in ALC 1494.  Domhnall, son of Tuathal, son of Donnchadh, was killed in 1497, AU and AFM. Eoin and Toirrdhealbhach, sons of Tuathal, were captured in 1497 and released in 1498, ibid.  The latter at his death in 1528 was O Gallchubhair, AU.  These names appear in Pedigrees 2-5, 6-8.  Sons of Eoin: Emonn, who was chief of the name, died in 1534; Ferdorcha, who was captured in 1543; Sean Ballach, whose sons are referred to in AFM. 1543.  Three further chieftains belonging to this sept are mentioned in the genealogies, but only one can be dated exactly, namely, Eoghan, son of Emonn, who was chief in 1546 and died in 1560, AFM.  Ferdorcha, son of this Eoghan, was accidentally killed in 1585, ALC (p 458), and the son of Ferdorcha, Eoghan by name, was killed in 1603, AFM. p. 2340.  In 1578 Maelcobha, son of Cathaoir, chieftain, killed a son of O Neill, AFM. 1570 (p. 1636) and ALC 1586 (p. 470).

Paragraphs 9-30 deal with Sliocht Aodha.  Seaan mac Ruadhri mic Aodha: there is no mention of any of these persons in the Annals.  Five sons of Seaan were: (1) Felim Fionn, who gave name to Sliocht Felim Fhinn; (2) Eoghan; (3) Ruaidhri; (4) Cormac Buidhe, from whom Sliocht Cormaic Bhuidhe; (5) Tuathal Balbh, died 1541.

Donnchadh, son of Felim Fionn, was living in 1557. Toirrdhealbhach, his brother, was a prisoner in 1543-44. Art, son of Felim Fionn, was bishop of Raphoe 1547-1561, a papal appointment.

Sons of Tuathal Balbh were (1) Eoin, who was knighted; (2) Eoghan, dean of Raphoe, died 1580; (3) Toirrdhealbhach, killed in 1576; (4) Cathaoir, a prisoner in 1543, killed in 1544; (5) Ferghal.  A daughter was Onora.

"Owen m'Toole O Galoor" appears in the State Papers for the first time at the year 1573, on friendly terms with the Earl of Essex (p. 530). Shortly afterwards the earl besought the Privy Council for "a letter to comfort O Donnell, and a pension to his trusty counsellor, Owen M'Toole O Gallagher."  O Donnell secured a Patent for his country, and O Gallagher a yearly pension of 100 pounds, before 12 October, 1574, and Essex duly returned thanks (pp. 29, 40). In or before 1581 he was knighted.  In that year the Irish government advanced more than 400 pounds to him, "payment to Sir Owen M'Thole O Gallougher, knight, of Tirconnell, one of the chiefest pillars for the stay of the North," p. 321.  He is described as head of his name. AFM. 1585, having probably succeeded the un-named chief who was slain in 1582, ALC p. 456.  On Fytzwilliams' coming to Tir Conaill towards the end of 1588 he, with Sir John O Dogherty, were retained as pledges by the lord deputy (p. 94; AFM, v, 1872).  On 20 August, 1590, Sir Owen O Tool was declared "too dangerous to be set at large," p. 360.  In November, 1593, he was still in captivity (p. 182), when the earl of Tyrone made a request for his enlargement.  he was step-father of the latter, having married the earl's mother Siubhan, daughter of Maguidhir.  He was released on the advent of Sir William Russell as deputy in 1594, "who in pity discharged him but the old gentleman's heart was first broken, so as shortly after he died" Fynes Moryson ii, 181.

Actually his death occurred on 25 April, 1595 (AFM. vi, 1986).   We possess no list of the sons of Sir Eoin, but one named Cathaoir was active in 1575 (AFM v, 1680).  The following genealogy is in  Paragraph 20:


Genelach Uí Ghallchabhair iar nuaitheaglom:
Tuathail  living 1613
Sir Eoin d. 1595
Tuathail Bailbh d. 1541
Aodha a quo sliocht Aodha

NOTE: m = "son of"

Baoi S[ir Eoin] aige o Gallaibh ]7 e] ina O Ghallchobair eidir Gaoidealaibh, 23D2, p. 3, col. 2. "Toole McCahire" was recommended  for a grant of ninety-six acres in the county of Donegal at the period 1610-11 (Analecta Hibernica 8, 210).  He was living in 1613, according to Inq. Car. I, No. 12, Co. Donegal.

Eoghan, son of Tuathal Balbh, dean of Raphoe, died on 22 October, 1580 (AFM. v, 1726).  23D2 says of him: Eoghan mac Tuathail da ngoirthi an deganach 7 nir ghlac en gradh do gradhaibh saccartachta riamh, he never received the order of priesthood.  He had several sons, among others, Eoghan, Tuathal, and Felim.

A letter of 24 July, 1583 refers to "Sir owen M'Toole and the young Dean," Cal.S.P.Ire. p. 459.  This young dignitary may have been the first-named of these sons.  Any how, "Owen m'Adegany O Gallqr" was pardoned on 30 July, 1586, F. Eliz. 4914.  He was plundered in 1589, ALC p. 490.  Owen Mc owen Edegany and Owen Oge Mc Owen, father and son, had a Patent for sixty-four acres each in 1615, Hill, Plantation in Ulster, 330.  "Tuahill m'Adegany" also was pardoned in July 1586.

The latter was one of O Donnell's commanders at the battle of Corrliev in 1599, and was governor of the castle of Ballyshannon when it was captured by the English early in 1602. The Cal.S.P.Ire. describe him as well affected towards Niall Garv O Donnell, whose sister Rose he had married.  For this Rose was written the paper manuscript of the Life of Colum Cille, by Maghnus O Donnell, now  preserved in the Franciscan convent Dublin:

A bhraithri gradhacha guidhidh ar mo shon fen agus ar son gach duine da ttug fabhor docum an tsaothair sin 7 go hairidhi ar anmain na mna uaisli do gheall damh ag tionsgnadh na bethadh sa nach edh amhain nach gcuuirfedh fein buaidhredh orm acht cungnamah lem fa na dithcheall 7 ar chig marg ni inneosuinn gurb i Rois Og Ni Dhomhnaill sin.

That is the scribe's note in praise of Rose.  "When talking there at Ballyshannon with her husband, Toole Mc O Degan, she said that her brother would not stay among the English, for he could not abide their government," Cal.S.P.Ire. 1602, p. 538.  "Twohell m'Owen O Galcowe" and "Rose ny Con ny Donell" were pardoned on 26 February, 1603, F. Eliz. 6761. Tuathal was captured in 1603 (AFM. vi. 2344).

I have not been able to trace him after the period 1610-11, when "Toole McAdegany" was proposed for a grant of eight ballyboes of land, or one hundred and twenty-eight acres, in the county of Donegal. He does not seem to have secured it.

Aodh [Hugh], son of the dean O Gallchubhair, claimed to be son of the Chieftain Calvagh O Donnell, and vigorously opposed the reigning chief Aodh Maghnusa.  In 1587 the earl of Tyrone wrote to Queen Elizabeth that then "O Donnell was like to be overrun by Hugh M'Degany, naming himself Hugh M'Calough," Cal.S.P.Ire. p. 442; cf. p. 464.

His claim is also registered by the AFM.  The earl had no love for him: "I am greatly abused by Hugh M'Edegany in that he hath given very bad speeches both of my father and myself," ibid. p. 465. In the month of March, 1586, Captain Merryman and Aodh, son of the dean, brought about the death of Alexander, son of Sorley Boy Macdonnell, first cousin of O Donnell's wife, the Dark Daughter.  Several months after this event (which took place in Tír Conaill, not in Co. Antrim, as has been assumed) Sir Richard Bingham wrote:

"I understand that my lord deputy hath now sent over an Irish gentleman of O Donnell's country called Hugh M'Icallye to seek some consideration for the good service he did in drawing the soldiers upon Alexander M'Sorley when the said Alexander and twelve or thirteen Scots were slain," ibid. p. 225.

It may have been in consequence of this service that the dean's son secured a pension of 6s. 8d. a day (Carew Papers, 464; Cal.S.P.Ire., 1589, p. 287.  He was at Court when the earl of Tyrone was there in 1586 (Cal.S.P.Ire., p. 443).

His death was effected in 1588 by Scottish auxiliaries instigated by the Dark Daughter (AFM. v, 1872): "O Donnell's wife hath of late caused Hugh Mac a Callye to be murdered: this is he that was with your Honours in England, and meant to be O Donnell after this man's death (Cal.S.P.Ire., p. 518).

"Neyle merga M'Degana" and "Cormack M'Degana" were pardoned 20 March, 1600-01, according to F. Eliz. 6483, and appear to have been followers of Niall Garv O Donnell.  23D2 (Par. 23) mentions another son, Felim.

Toirrdhealghach, son of Tuathal Balbh, was killed, as we have seen, in 1576 (AFM. v, 1684).  Sons of him were Fearghal, killed in 1581 (p. 1768), and Semus, who was hanged for spying by Aodh Ruadh [Red Hugh] O Domhnaill in 1599 (ibid., vi, 2092).

Sliocht Aodha is referred to by name several times in the Annals, for example, AFM. 1543 (p. 1478); 1544 (pp. 1480, 1486); Sliocht Aodha hI Ghallchubhair ALC ii, 344; ALC 1588 (p. 484).

Sliocht Aenghuis is mentioned at 1527 in ALC. p. 258.

Sliocht Cormaic Guidhe is referred to ibid, 1589, p. 504. 23D2, Par. 9, 17.  A son of Eoghan, son of Seaan, son of Cormac Buidhe, was captured at Rathmullen in 1587, ALC (p. 482).  In 1602, Eoghan, son of Seaan, was governor of Ballymote, AFM. p. 2326.  Sliocht Felim Finn also is named in 23D2, Par. 9. 

Of Remonn O Gallchubhair, bishop of Killala 1545-1569, and of Derry, 1569-1601, I have not discovered the ancestry.  According to Grattan Flood he was dispensed ex defectu natalium before consecration.  Nor have I been able to find that of Donnchadh Og, who was bishop of Killala 1570-1580, and subsequently of Down and Conor.

John O Donovan, who had a high regard for blue blood, says this family was one of the regal of the Milesian race.  He describes it as "the senior and most royal family of all the Kinel-Connell."  Its members were nearly all dispossessed at the period of the Ulster Plantation.  The few who tided over that catastrophe were given some acres, but as grants to native Irishmen were made for life only, not a single O Gallagher was returned as owner of land in Tirhugh when the Civil Survey was made in 1654.

References in the text:

1. Annals of Ireland:

Au = Annals of Ulster
AFM = Annals of the Four Masters
ALC = Annals of Loch Ce

2.  Genealogical Manuscripts:

23D17 = (O'Clery's Book of Genealogies)
23D2  = ??

3.  Miscellaneous Sources:

Cal.S.P.Ire = Calendar of the State Papers of Ireland
F.Eliz. = Fiants of [Queen Elizabeth]
Carew Papers = The Carew Calendar
Anal. Hibernica = Analecta Hibernica, an Irish Journal