© Donal G. Burke 2015
There is some confusion with regard to the original form in the Irish language of the surname Anglicised as Lyons. At least two similar but distinct Irish families originated in what would later be County Galway, one based near the modern village of Ahascragh in the east of that county and one based about the townland of Killeenmunterlane, near the modern village of Kilcolgan in the south west of the county. The latter family appear to have been Anglicised as Lane, with the Protestant Bishop of Kilmacduagh complaining in 1615 that the income he claimed as his due from Kilcolgan was held instead by ‘Laines.’ The former family, about Ahascragh, were referred to in State documents of the early seventeenth century as O Lyan, O Leine and variants thereon, including O Lyne.
The nineteenth century antiquary John O Donovan in his ‘Tribes and Customs of Hy Many’ referred to the name of the family about Ahascragh as ‘now Anglicised Lyne and Lyons.’[i] This family was a separate and distinct family from those of the name Lyne or Lyons of Munster. Edward MacLysaght in his ‘Irish Families,’ dating from the mid twentieth century, wrote that ‘Lyne today is found chiefly in County Kerry, though formerly well known in County Galway where Lyons has superseded it.’ He went on to state that the form ‘Ó Laighin belongs to County Galway’ where the family of that name ‘were centred around Kilconnell.’
O Donovan also equates this family based about Ahascragh with that identified as ‘Ua Laidhin,’ (ie. O Laidhin) mentioned in the early fifteenth century Gaelic manuscript known as the Book of Lecan, as one of the ‘for-sloinnti síl Cernaigh’ which he rendered in English as one of the ‘common surnames of the race of Cearnach.’ The name, he states, was alternatively given as Ua Luighin in another source.[ii]
The reference to the family in the Book of Lecan describing them as one of the ‘for-sloinnti síl Cernaigh’ would appear to suggest that they were descended from this Cearnach, who was a senior descendant of Maine mór, son of Eochaidh feardaghiall, of a tribe who established themselves as the dominant group in the south-eastern region of Connacht in the fifth century.
The ancient Irish tract ‘Life of St. Grellan’, describes this family grouping as ‘the race of Colla da Chríoch,’ from whom they were said to be descended and relates the story of their migration from Oirghialla in Ulster, by way of an area known as Druim clasach and Tír Maine (later Anglicised ‘Tir Many’) in what would later be known as County Roscommon.[iii] In this account their leader Maine, son of Eochaidh, is said to be of Goedilic descent, a race of people who came to dominate the earlier tribes of Connacht. The historian Fr. P. K. Egan, however, in his book ‘The Parish of Ballinasloe’ was of the opinion that it is more likely that Maine mór and his tribe originated in County Roscommon rather than Ulster and were of an earlier race settled in Ireland before the Goedelic.[iv]
Maine mór and his descendants appear to have subjugated many of the existing tribes and peoples that inhabited their new land and established a small kingdom, named from their progenitor, known as Uí Maine (later Anglicised Hy Many). The senior-most family descended from this Maine mór was the O Kellys, from whom the rulers or chieftains of Uí Maine were drawn.
Extent of the territory of Uí Maine
John O Donovan described the original extent of the territory of Hy Many as extending ‘from Clontuskert, near Lanesborough in the county of Roscommon southwards to the boundary of Thomond or the county of Clare and from Athlone westwards to Seefin and Athenry in the present county of Galway.’[v] It included the later parish of Lusmagh, a narrow strip of land that extended eastward across the River Shannon towards Leinster and extended from there, on the Connacht bank of the Shannon down to Lough Derg and to the lake or river of Graney in the north eastern corner of the modern County Clare.[vi]
In addition to its application as a territorial name, the term Uí Maine was also applied to the extended family grouping that encompasses all the descendants of Maine mór and many of the later principal native Irish families who ruled or populated the territory such as the O Maddens, O Lorcans and MacCuolahans shared a common descent with the O Kellys of Uí Maine.
The Clann Cernaigh or family of Cearnach
Most of the senior descendant families of the Uí Maine claim descent more specifically from Cairbre crom, reputed to have flourished about the early or mid sixth century, a fifth generation senior descendant of Maine mór. The Clann Cernaigh, the ‘family or ‘sons of Cearnach’ described the small grouping of sub-septs or families who derived their descent from this Cearnach, a descendant of Cairbre crom, within the wider Uí Maine kin group. However, conflicting versions of Cearnach’s pedigree survive.
Cearnach was given in the Book of Lecan as one of fourteen sons of Cosgrach son of Cearnach son of Ailell, who in turn was son of Cearnach son of Cosgrach son of Fidhcheallach son of Diochalla, son of Eoghan fionn, son of Cormac son of Cairbre crom.[vii] MacFirbisigh’s ‘Great Book of Irish Genealogies’ gives Cosgrach as having had seventeen sons.[viii] This source gives Cearnach’s father Cosgrach as having been of an earlier generation, as the son of Díochuill son of Eóghan fionn. MacFirbisigh, however, makes no mention of the ‘for-sloinnti síl Cernaigh.’
While MacFirbisigh and the Book of Lecan disagree on the number of children born to Cearnach’s father Cosgrach, both agree that only four of these had issue, of whom Cearnach was one. Both also agree that Cosgrach had a brother Dlúthach, from whom came the line of the O Kellys who would come to hold the kingship of the territory and from whom also descended other lines of the Uí Maine such as the MacEgans.
An alternative origin of the O Lynes was put forward by the Irish historian Roderick O Flaherty, whose history of Ireland entitled ‘Ogygia’ was first published in 1685. He wrote therein that, in his time (the late seventeenth century) the family of ‘O Layn in Hy Many’ were ‘the proprietors of a handsome estate’ and ‘looked upon themselves to be of Firbolgic descent.’[ix] The lands associated in the early seventeenth century with the O Lynes lay about Ahascragh while Fr. Egan noted that the Fir Bolg dwelled further south around Sliabh Aughty and gave their name to the parish of Killimorbologue in south-east county Galway. The Fir Bolg, according to Fr. Egan, were identical with the Belgae of Britain and were dominant about 325 B.C. until other tribes rose to power in the region but, he noted, the term was also occasionally applied to different ‘Pre-Goidelic tribes of Connacht’ irrespective of their ethnicity.[x]
While the lands of the O Lynes were not distant from those of the Wards of Ballymacward or Dugans of Ballydoogan, both families of Sodhan origin who predated the rise of the Uí Maine, the same was true of other families who were of the Ui Maine tribe. O Donovan was uncertain if O Flaherty’s assertion was correct. He was of the opinion that, if correct, then the reference to the O Lynes as ‘for-sloinnti sil Cernaigh’ in the Book of Lecan may have been better understood to mean the ‘plebian surnames’ of the progeny of Cearnach.
O Kellys and Dillons of Clonbrock
The ruling chieftain of Uí Maine was drawn from the senior-most branches of the O Kellys and one of the most locally-dominant branches of the O Kellys in the vicinity of the O Lynes was the branch known as ‘Pobal Caoch,’ the name applied to a people and a district lying about Clonbrock and Clogher and about the parish of Fohenagh. This branch descended from Tadhg coach (ie. ‘the blind’) O Kelly, third son of William O Kelly of Aughrim. Tadgh coach became chief of half of the Ui Maine territory in 1469 and was credited with the construction of a castle or tower house at Clonbrock prior to his death in 1486. His son Conor O Kelly of Clogher was credited with the construction or enlargement of a tower house at Clogher (in the parish of Fohenagh) which served as the seat of his descendants for several generations. The family remained locally prominent for a time but no member of the branch after Tadhg caoch held the chieftaincy and the line after five generations from Conor of Clogher’s son went unrecorded. The antiquary John O Donovan was unaware of the identity of any living representative of the branch in the early nineteenth century.[xi]
The O Kelly lands about Clonbrock were acquired by Thomas Dillon, a lawyer and an official of the Elizabethan administration, descended of an Old English family of Proudstown in County Meath. Dillon served as a Commissioner of the province of Connacht in 1576, was appointed Chamberlain of the Exchequer and Clerk of the Crown and Sessions in the counties of Meath, Westmeath, Drogheda, Louth and Longford. He was appointed Judge Itinerant of the province of Connacht and settled at Clonbrock about the late sixteenth century.[xii]
Thomas’ son Thomas of Clonbrock in County Galway and of Curraghboy in the County of Roscommon was appointed Chief Justice of Connacht in 1603. This latter Thomas had by his wife two sons; Thomas and Robert and at least one daughter and died in 1606.[xiii] The eldest son was killed during his father’s lifetime and the Dillon estate passed to his younger brother Robert, who succeeded his father in 1606.[xiv] While this family in the early seventeenth century still maintained a close connection with some of the leading Old English families of the Pale, their descendants would remain seated at Clonbrock for several centuries thereafter.
O Lynes in late sixteenth century records
A number of the name O Lyne were among the many Irish in Ui Maine granted pardons at various times in the late sixteenth century by the Crown, as it extended its influence and power in Connacht. In 1585 Conor O Lyan mcTurlough O Lyan (ie. son of Turlough) of Ballibogan, Donell duff O Lyan and Kedagh O Lyan, both of the same place, were granted pardons. In that same year but on another occasion Teige O Leine of Ahasgahe, Donell mcDunchae O Leyn of Clonebrocke, James mcDunchae O Leyn of Clonbrocke, Conogher O Leyn of the Pallis and Donell duff O Leyne of the Pallis were also pardoned.
It would appear likely that the Donell duff (ie. dubh or ‘the black-haired’) of Ballibogan and of the Pallis, were the same person, as in all likelihood may have been Conor son of Turlough of Balliboggan and Conor of the Pallis, they in all likelihood having held lands in both places or been associated with both denominations.
A decade later, a pardon was extended to Gilleduffe O Lien mcRedmund of the Leirgin, Co. Galway, Sowe ne Melaghlin his wife, Hugh O Lien of the same and Tirrelagh O Lien of the same.
Denominations associated with the name
All the denominations associated with the individuals pardoned in 1585 and 1595 appear to have been property that formed the lands of the leading members of this family group. They lay at the meeting of several different parishes and baronies in east Galway but all for the most part adjacent to one another and for the most part lay between the modern villages of Ahascragh and Caltra, in the adjoining parishes of Ahascragh, Fohenagh and Killosolan.
Ballyboggan lies to the north of the village of Ahascragh and in the parish of that name, within a short distance of the townland of Clonbrock, which lies within the parish of Fohenagh. Pallas adjoins Clonbrock in the same parish, as does Lurgan (ie. ‘the Leirgin’), the latter lying in the parish of Killosolan. All lay within the wider barony of Kilconnell. The narrow townland of Creggaunagroagh, adjoining Lurgan, also lies within the parish of Killosolan, but within the barony of Tiaquin. The unidentified denomination of Ballydiskene, wherein members of the family also held land, was recorded alongside Creggaunagroagh and also lay within the barony of Tiaquin.
Other lands held by members of the family lay in the denominations of ‘Lecarrowintlevy’ and Lissensky, both within the barony of Kilconnell. Lissensky was located in the modern townland of Ballydoogan in the parish of Fohenagh, adjacent to Clonbrock while ‘Lecarrowintlevy’ may have been Lecarrowmactully within the parish of Kilconnell in that barony, but close to Kilconnell friary and at a distance to the south-west of Clonbrock.[xv] Lecarrownitelly was given in the 1617 inquisition into lands held by the O Lynes as ‘Lecarrowintlevy’[xvi] suggesting its original meaning as ‘the half quarter of the mountain.’ A number of denominations in the vicinity of Ahascragh such as ‘Cloonatleva,’ ‘Ballintleva,’ ‘Slewseancoagh’ (ie. about Eglish, in the parish of Ahascragh) and the denomination simply Anglicised as ‘Mountain,’ refer to a local ‘mountain’ or at least a substantial height, giving credence to this as the original meaning. As Lecarrowmactully is located at a distance from Ahascragh it is uncertain if this is the denomination of ‘Lecarrowintlevy.’
Early seventeenth century individuals of the name
In 1603, following the death of Queen Elizabeth and the succession to the throne of King James I, numerous pardons were issued by the Crown to individuals in Ireland. Donell O Leine of the Duene, Tirrelagh O Leine, Ricard O Leyn, Fearagh O Leyn and William O Leyn, all listed as gentleman and of the same place, were among the many pardoned. These O Leyns appear to have been associated with the modern townland of Doon in the parish of Fohenagh. Four others of the name; Fearisse O Leine of the Clogher, David mcTeige, Edward O Leine, Moyler O Leyn and David O Leine, were all given as yeomen and all ‘of the Clogher,’ which would also appear to have been the denomination of that name in the parish of Fohenagh.[xvii] Four others pardoned were based about the parish of Ahascragh; Donnogh, Redmund and Edward O Leyn, all of Ballevogain (ie. Ballyboggan) in the parish of Ahascragh in the barony of Kilconnell and one Brian O Leyn of Sleynshancagh.[xviii] This last individual appears to have been based about the site of the former Carmelite foundation at Eglish in the parish of Ahascragh. (This foundation was known in the late medieval period as ‘SlewshanCowo,’ ‘Slewseancoagh’ and variants thereof and had been suppressed by the Crown in the early 1500s, but was possessed by O Kelly of Castlegar until he was attainted for treason in 1577. The property thereafter leased by the Crown to others.)[xix]
One of the O Lyne landholders, Redmond O Lyne, died on the 6th July 1615. An Inquisition undertaken after his death found that he died seised in fee of portions of the townlands of Ballinvogan, Ballykie and Creganigragh, all of which he held of the king in capite by Knight’s service.[xx]
In 1617, Robert Dillon of Clonbrock was listed foremost of those individuals in that vicinity who surrendered their lands legally to have them re-granted under English law. Listed alongside numerous O Kellys and such families as the O Donnellans, O Dalys, MacWards of Ballymacward and O Dugans of Lisfineel (ie. Ballydoogan) were the O Lynes. Donnogh and Edmund O Lyne of Ballenvoggan, John Graney O Lyne of Lisnagrey, Tirlagh O Lyne of Lehirgen (ie. Lurgan) were among the many who surrender their lands, as was one Richard Lenan of Ahakcragh who may have been more correctly an O Lyne.[xxi]
The following year of 1618 Donat O Line and Edmund O Line of Creggannegrogh, gentlemen, were confirmed in possession of the cartrons of Creggannegrogh and Ballydiskkene (the former in the parish of Killosolan) in the barony of Tiaquin.[xxii] That same year Tirlaghe O Lyne of Lehirgenn, gentleman, was confirmed in possession of one cartron of Lecarrownitelly and one cartron of Lissensky in the barony of Kilconnell (which would appear to be that denomination within the townland of Ballydoogan in Fohenagh parish).[xxiii]
The only landed proprietor of the name given as a landowner in 1641 was Donnogh O Lyne holding one cartron of the three known as Cartron-keele Lisnagappagh and Lisnaniska in the parish of Killosolan, barony of Tiaquin. (The other two cartrons held by Teige keagh O Kelly). These three cartrons appear to have constituted part of the modern townland of Lurgan as he is almost certainly the same man as Donogh O Lyne of Leharga (ie. Lurgan), who was allocated other lands within the barony of Kilconnell by the Cromwellians.[xxiv] As a result of the Cromwellian confiscations and transplantations O Lyne lost ownership of his lands in the mid seventeenth century. Following the turmoil of that period and the restoration of the monarchy in the person of King Charles II in 1660, an Act of Settlement was passed in Parliament, in an attempt to address the complaints of those whose lands had been taken or divided by the Cromwellians and to placate those who had acquired lands at that time. Under the Act of Settlement all of the lands in these three cartrons were confirmed in the possession of others.[xxv]
One Donnogh O Lyne, who may have been the same individual but more likely a descendant or near relative of the Donnogh of 1641, was confirmed in possession of twenty-five profitable Irish acres under the Act of Settlement in the nearby townland of Lunaghtaine.[xxvi] Equating to the modern townland of Lonaghtan (divided between Lonaghtan Mahon and Lonaghtan Kelly) in the parish of Ahascragh, O Lyne’s reduced acreage lay to the north of Ballyboggan and within a short distance of his former property in the parish of Killosolan.
Roderick O Flaherty’s reference in his ‘Ogygia’ to the presence in his time of a family named O Layn, the possessors of a ‘handsome estate’ in the former O Kelly territory of Ui Maine would suggest that a line of the name was still in a comfortable position among the minor gentry of the region in the mid to late seventeenth century. No pedigree of the principal line survives, however, and the name did not occur among the landed gentry of County Galway in the nineteenth century.
[i] O Donovan, J., Tribes and Customs of Hy Many, commonly called O Kelly’s Country, Irish Archaeological Society, Dublin, 1843, pp. 28-9, 85.
[ii] O Donovan, J., Tribes and Customs of Hy Many, commonly called O Kelly’s Country, Irish Archaeological Society, Dublin, 1843, pp. 28-9, 85.
[iii] Egan, Rev. P.K., The Parish of Ballinasloe, its history from the earliest times to the present century, Clonmore & Reynolds, Dublin, 1960, pp. 17-18.
[iv] Egan, Rev. P.K., The Parish of Ballinasloe, its history from the earliest times to the present century, Clonmore & Reynolds, Dublin, 1960, pp. 17-18.
[v] O Donovan, J., Tribes and Customs of Hy Many, commonly called O Kelly’s Country, Irish Archaeological Society, Dublin, 1843, pp. 4-5.
[vi] O Donovan, J., Tribes and Customs of Hy Many, commonly called O Kelly’s Country, Irish Archaeological Society, Dublin, 1843, pp. 4-5.
[vii] O Donovan, J., Tribes and Customs of Hy Many, commonly called O Kelly’s Country, Irish Archaeological Society, Dublin, 1843, pp. 28-9, 85.
[viii] Ó Muirile, N. (ed.), MacFirbhisigh, D., Leabhar Mór na nGenealach, The Great Book of Irish Genealogies, compiled (1645-66), Vol. II, Dublin, de Búrca, 2003, pp. 46-49. Nos. 321.2-321.8.
[ix] O Donovan, J., Tribes and Customs of Hy Many, commonly called O Kelly’s Country, Irish Archaeological Society, Dublin, 1843, pp. 28-9, 85.
[x] Egan, Rev. P.K., The Parish of Ballinasloe, its history from the earliest times to the present century, Clonmore & Reynolds, Dublin, 1960, pp. 16-7.
[xi] O Donovan, J., Tribes and Customs of Hy Many, commonly called O Kelly’s Country, Irish Archaeological Society, Dublin, 1843, p. 126.
[xii] Lodge, J., Archdall, M, The Peerage of Ireland, or, a genealogical history of the present nobility of that kingdom, with engravings of their paternal coats of arms, James Moore, Dublin, 1789, Vol. IV, pp. 138-9.
[xiii] Lodge, J., Archdall, M, The Peerage of Ireland, or, a genealogical history of the present nobility of that kingdom, with engravings of their paternal coats of arms, James Moore, Dublin, 1789, Vol. IV, pp. 138-9; N.L.I. Dublin, G.O. Ms. 66 Funeral Entries, 1604-1622, p. 4.
[xiv] Lodge, J., Archdall, M, The Peerage of Ireland, or, a genealogical history of the present nobility of that kingdom, with engravings of their paternal coats of arms, James Moore, Dublin, 1789, Vol. IV, pp. 138-9.
[xv] Lissanisky Roman Catholic church stood in the townland of Ballydoogan in the mid Nineteenth Century.
[xvi] O Donovan, J., Tribes and Customs of Hy Many, commonly called O Kelly’s Country, Irish Archaeological Society, Dublin, 1843, pp. 28-29. Footnote j.
[xvii] Cal. Patent Rolls 1 James I, p. 28.
[xviii] Cal. Patent Rolls 1 James I, p. 18.
[xix] Tremlow, J.A., Calendar of Papal Registers relating to Great Britain and Ireland, Vol. VIII, 1427-1447, 1909, pp. 636, 639-640; Connellan, Rev. M.J., Eglish monastery: Ahascragh Parish, Co. Galway, J.R.S.A.I., Vol. 13, No. 1, 1943, pp. 15-21.
[xx] O Donovan, J., Tribes and Customs of Hy Many, commonly called O Kelly’s Country, Irish Archaeological Society, Dublin, 1843, pp. 28-29. Footnote j.
[xxi] Cal. Patent Rolls, 15 James I, p. 356.
[xxii] Cal. Patent Rolls 16 James I, p. 414.
[xxiii] Cal. Patent Rolls 16 James I, p. 418.
[xxiv] Simington, R.C., The Transplantation to Connacht 1654-58, Shannon, Irish University Press, for the I.M.C., 1970, p. 128. Donogh O Lyne of Leharga was allocated twenty-five profitable Irish acres within the barony of Kilconnell.
[xxv] MacGiolla Choille, B. (ed.), Books of Survey and Distribution, Vol. III, County of Galway, Dublin, Stationary Office for the I.M.C., 1962, p. 282.
[xxvi] MacGiolla Choille, B. (ed.), Books of Survey and Distribution, Vol. III, County of Galway, Dublin, Stationary Office for the I.M.C., 1962, p. 146.