The McDonaghs left their mark on America

The Cromwellian confiscations scattered the MacDonaghs; many settled in Mayo and others emigrated. In America Canada, Australia and the Continent of Europe members of it distinguished themselves. In D’Arcy McGee’s account of the Irish Settlers in America he tells how Thomas Mac Donagh son of Major MacDonagh covered himself with honour in the American Navy during the War of Independence.

A Miss Kitty Fitzgerald of Turlough, Castlebar, married a Corcoran of Sligo and their son, Thomas, on his return from the West Indies, married Miss Mary MacDonagh, of Ballymote. They lived on the estate of Francis Baron MacDonagh and the last Baron of Corran, at Carrowkeel, in the parish of Ballymote, at the time their son Michael was born and this Michael became one of the most distinguished figures in the American Civil War.

Born in 1827, he served for a short time in the Irish Revenue Police and during the Great Famine (1845) he emigrated to America. Securing a government position in New York, he became Colonel of the famous 67th Regiment and when the Civil War broke out in1861 he joined the North at the head of his regiment, which won outstanding distinction. His valour raised him to the rank of Brigadier-General and at the zenith of his fame he was killed by a fall from his horse. In various histories of the war his name finds an honoured place.

Various Government surveys after the Flight of the Earls and the Williamite wars show that land-owning MacDonaghs were still in Sligo,but many of them dwindled away and a number passed into the County Mayo where we find them in subsequent years.

Now Archdeacon O’Rorke and John O’Donovan allege that all the MacDonagh septs scattered over the country from Cork to Donegal had a common ancestry. This would seem to be corroborated by O’Callaghan in his history of the Irish Brigades and he is very definite in his statement that captain Anthony MacDonagh of the Dillon Regiment was of the Sligo family and settled in Co Clare after Fontenoy, O’Callaghan, as I have remarked, had access to the authentic records, Dan O’Connell getting his permission to search the State Papers Office in London. Still I am assured by a MacDonagh of Corran that both O’Rorke, O’Donovan and O’Callahgan were wrong; that Captain Anthony MacDonagh was a Clare man, that there were quite a number of MacDonagh septs in Clare at the time, having no kinship with the Sligo family, and the latter had no affinity whatever with those of Roscommon, Galway an other counties.

Of course, as a result of confiscation, the MacDonaghs went with the Wild Geese, and were scattered over the world, many finding root in other parts of Ireland and quite a few in Mayo.

Painstaking and deep research by an enthusiastic member of the family who has delved into the annals, State Papers, wills, leases, pedigrees, inquisitions, surveys, the old newspapers and other sources of information, has resulted in the accumulation of a class of documentary evidence supporting the view that the Sligo MacDonaghs, like the O’Haras, were purely a Co.Sligo sept. having no kinship with other MacDonagh families in other counties, also that hey had no kinship with the MacDonnells of the Gallowglases breed.

This is naturally hard to accept, for they intermarried with the O’Rorkes, Taaffes, MacDermotts, O’Haras, O’Higgins’,O’Connors and other of the leading families of the province. They married also the daughters of Englishmen, Normans, Cromwellians and Williamites, and though their wives were Protestants, they always retained the faith.

Still, on examination of the pedigrees from long before the rise of King Turlough Mor O’Conor to the high kinship of Ireland down to the present, the evidence favours the contention that the MacDonaghs of Sligo were absolutely on their own. and this is corroborated by the extraction of the pedigrees of the septs in the other counties, the fact standing out glaringly that the sept of Captain Anthony MacDonagh,of the Irish Brigade, had been long settled in Co. Clare before the flight of the Wild Geese, so he could not possibly be a MacDonagh of Corran.

In addition to the pedigrees there is other relevant information issuing from legal documents of the family, as well as from the surveys and inquisitions and even old tombstones, for on the grave of Captain Anthony MacDonagh’s kinsman in Co.Clare is carved: “The chief MacDonagh of old Herber’s lot,” that is, the founder of the Southern clans, as opposed to Hermon, the founder of the Western Clans. The Sligo clan came from Hermon.

There are, as the records show, many MacDonaghs in Galway and Mayo who are of the Clan Donagh of Keash Corran, as opposed to the Clan Donagh na Teastun (of the fourpenny piece), who were an off-shoot of the O’Flahertys and Perrott’s Composition refers to Cathal Boy MacDonagh as descended from Donogh O’Flaherty.

On the break-up of the clan system the MacDonaghs as well as other Sligo septs were scattered but it does not appear to be correct to say that root branch of it was in Sligo. The evidence is against it as the migration took place on the breaking up of the Celtic families through confiscation prior to which there were MacDonagh septs in other counties.