Madden of Brackloon

© Donal G. Burke 2013

A branch of the wider O Madden family was based in the easternmost part of Síl Anmchadha or the barony of Longford in the late medieval period. Their lands composed much of the eastern region of the then parish of Clonfert and formed an arc immediately to the north of the O Madden family group of Lismore, stretching from the eastern foot of Redmount Hill eastward across Kilmacshane and to Esker and Kilnaborris on the western bank of the Shannon, north of the Manor of Meelick.

Lands of Rory McCollo O Madden of Brackloon c 1590

Map of the late medieval territory of Síl Anmchadha (in yellow) showing the townlands wherein the lands of Rory mcCollo O Madden of Brackloon were located circa 1590 (in green) in relation to modern towns and villages (in white) and the castles of Brackloon, Meelick, Cloghan and the residence of the Bishop at Clonfert (in red).

A large tract of the western lands of this branch provided a rental income to the Bishopric of Clonfert from an early period. In 1407 rent was owed to the Bishopric from the lands of Culrachayrin (ie. modern townland of Coolacurn), Killoran, Cluainche (ie. modern townland of Cloonkea) Breaclyain, Cluainmicmus and Cugalla, all of which lay in the parish of Clonfert.[i] These lands formed part of the lands of the Maddens of Brackloon in the late sixteenth century and at a certain stage prior to the mid sixteenth century a small tower house was constructed at Brackloon which served as the principal residence of this branch of the O Maddens, to the north of which lay the town and ecclesiastical centre of Clonfert and the residence of the Bishop of the diocese.

The taking of Meelick and Brackloon 1557

From the mid sixteenth century the officials of the Tudor Crown of England made significant developments in extending the power of the monarch across the country. In 1557 Brackloon was attacked by the forces of the then Lord Deputy in his campaign to remove the rebel O Connors of the Midlands from their supporters in O Madden’s territory. After having received the submission of Breasal dubh O Madden, one of the two joint-chieftains of Síl Anmchadha at Cloghan castle in Lusmagh the Lord Deputy proceeded against the castle at Meelick, wherein the rebels were holding out. After putting those defending Meelick castle to flight, Brackloon was taken by the Lord Deputy’s forces and Donogh McCollo O Madden ‘together with others of the warders’ was killed. (From about that time the English regained an intermittent control over Meelick and its manor lands, leasing it to those regarded as loyal or of potential service to the Crown.)

While the territory of Síl Anmchadha was ruled by two joint-chieftains at that time; Melaghlin modartha and Breasal dubh O Madden, the principal rebels banished from the territory in the aftermath were the sons of Melaghlin balbh O Madden, among whom would have been Owen, a younger son who later in the century would be seated at Cloghan in Lusmagh.

It is noteworthy that the occupier of Brackloon in 1557 was described as a warder, as Brackloon in 1574 was given as one of two castles in the hands of this Owen O Madden, the second-most powerful individual within the lordship after the chieftain in the late sixteenth century. (Both Owens elder brother, father and grandfather having served as chieftain or ‘captain of his nation’ at various times in the sixteenth century.) Cloghan, Owen’s other and larger castle, served as his principal seat of power. This would imply that the family group whose lands were based about Brackloon owed a family allegiance to Owen, whose family was the more senior and dominant.

Rory McColloe O Madden was resident at Brackloon about 1570 in which year he received a pardon from the Queen.[ii] (He was again pardoned in 1581.) It is unclear if Rory McCollo was a younger brother of that Donogh McCollo killed in 1557. Rory McCollo appears to have a brother named Donogh, whose son Feriagh was mentioned in an inquisition of 1629, but the dates would suggest that this Donogh, brother of Rory may have been a younger man than the warder killed in 1557.[iii]

The tower house at Brackloon was held for much of the latter part of the sixteenth century by the descendants of Collo O Madden, which may equate this family group with the ‘Sloughe Callow’ O Madden (ie. ‘Sliocht Collo’ O Madden, ‘the descendants of Collo O Madden’), one of the family groups of Síl Anmchadha from whom services and dues were claimed by the O Madden chieftain in 1585.

Composition of Connacht 1585

Those services and dues were surrendered in 1585 by the then chieftain, Donal O Madden, as part of an agreement with the Crown regarding the future governance of the territory.  To finance their administration and military presence in Connacht, the Government resolved that a rent be agreed and charged from each division of land in the province. The rent would be payable to the crown, and called the Composition rent, after an agreement drawn up in 1585, between the Queen’s servants and the Connacht chieftains; the Composition of Connacht, effectively abolishing the various exactions and services imposed by the ruling Gaelic chieftain. By signing up to the Composition document, the signatories acknowledged their lands as private property, held under English law, in return for the agreed rent and on condition that they provide an agreed number of soldiers to support the administration when required. In so doing the signatories repudiated the Gaelic legal system in favour of that of England and repudiated the old Gaelic system of government, chieftaincies and titles.

In the 1585 indenture of O Madden’s territory relating to the Composition, Rory McCollo O Madden was described as ‘of Brackloon’ while Owen, son of Melaghlin balbh, was given as ‘of Lusmagh.’

In May of 1603, both ‘Rory bane McDonagh O Madden of Bracklin’ and ‘Annagh moyle (‘maol’, ‘bald’) O Madden of Bracklin’ were among the many issued a general pardon from the new king, James I. (This is the only instance where he is referred to as the son of Donagh and appears to have been an error.)

Rory McCollo, according to an inquisition taken at Loughrea on 7th October 1629, died on the 12th March 1616. The inquisition made reference to his lands at Esker, Kilmacshane and Killeragh and reference to a deed dated February 1592 by which he conveyed his lands at Brackloon, Clonkea, Cagalla, Killoran and Clonashease, all in the parish of Clonfert, to Roger or Rory O Horan of Fahy for the duration of his life, and after his death to use of his son Ambrose maol O Madden. The lands conveyed to O Horan were held of the king by soccage in capite while Rory O Madden’s premises at Esker, Kilmacshane and Killeragh were held of the king by military service ‘as of the castle of Athlone’. Rory’s son was given in that inquisition as Ambrose maol O Madden and his nephew as Fearigh McDonnogh O Madden, who was of age and married at the time of the inquisition.[iv]

The lands conveyed by Rory O Madden to O Horan in the late sixteenth century were part of the lands from which a rental was due to the Church. In the early seventeenth century, as the Protestant Church struggled to sustain itself and replace the Roman Catholic within the diocese, the Bishopric appears to have derived a rental income from these lands unlike numerous other denominations about the diocese from which rent was unsuccessfully claimed from the landholders by the Bishop. The 1615 Regal Visitation of the Diocese of Clonfert noted the rents received by the then Protestant Bishop in the Deanery of Milick, as held by his predecessors, were derived from lands located in the parish of Clonfert, within a short distance of his demesne. These were again in the quarter of Coillvichain (Kilmacshane), the quarter of Killoraine and in Bracklin, Clinkeh (Cloonkea), Coolakeirin (Coolacurn), Cagalie, Lisdaville, Bellechose and Rookhan.

Ambrose maol was still alive into the late 1630s and was given in the mid seventeenth century ‘Books of Survey and Distribution’ as ‘Ambrose moyle (or ‘meol’) O Maddin’. It would appear therefrom that most of his property about 1637 lay in the eastern part of Clonfert parish. In that parish he held lands in Esker, Killnaborris, Kilmacshane, Cankilly (including bog common), Killeragh, Fynagh and Ballinakill. In Meelick parish he held lands on Incherke and held property in Lusmagh parish. He also held the quarter of Cagalla in his own right but the lands of Brackloon, Clonkea and Killoran were identified as the property of the Bishop and O Madden appears to have continued to rent the lands upon which his tower-house stood from the Protestant Bishop at that time.

Rory mac Collo of Brackloon would appear to have had other sons excluding Ambrose maol; Feary (ie. Fearadhach or Farrigh) and Bryan reagh, whose lands appear to have been primarily in Kilmacshane and one Colla McRory of Cloonesease. One Colla McRory of Cloonesease served as a juror alongside several prominent landholders of the barony of Longford, including ‘Ambrose O Madden of Breakloone’ at the 1629 inquisition into the property of the deceased Nicholas Blake of Ballymacroe.[v] Given that Clonashease in the parish of Clonfert formed part of the lands of Rory of Brackloon in the late sixteenth century, it is likely that this individual was an uncle of Ambrose of Brackloon. In addition, in the late 1630s, the one and a half quarters of Kilmacshane was almost entirely held by Ambrose and his extended family, with the exception of a half cartron and three quarters of a cartron, which were then the property of Terence Coughlan. Bryan reagh mcRory was proprietor of one cartron in Kilmacshane while Murrogh mcFarrigh and Daniel mcFeary mcRory O Madden, who appear to have been nephews of Bryan reagh, each held one quarter of a cartron in that townland, their lesser share reflecting their more junior status.[vi] Ambrose himself held the greater part of the townland, three cartrons and a half cartron at that time.[vii]

Cromwellian Period and the Restoration

The O Maddens lost ownership of their lands in this area as a result of the Cromwellian confiscations and transplantations 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.

Ambrose Madden ‘of Brakiloone’ was given as one of the dispossessed landowners in 1664 whose lands was confiscated by the Cromwellian authorities and whose names were submitted to the Lord Lieutenant in that year for consideration for restitution.[viii] However, under the Act of Settlement and subsequent transactions much of the former O Madden lands were confirmed in the possession of, or acquired by, others such as the Cromwellian Eyres of Eyrecourt or the Moores of Cloghan Castle in Lusmagh. The Bishop’s lands of Brackloon, Killoran, Cloonkea and Cankilly, together with the adjacent former lands of Ambrose maol O Madden of Cankilly and in Killeragh were acquired by John Eyre of Eyrecourt, while the Moores of Cloghan acquired ownership of the Madden lands, including those of the junior members in Kilmacshane, in Kilnaborris, Esker and Kilmacshane.[ix] Despite this the heiress of the senior male of the line maintained the use of certain of her ancestral lands into the early eighteenth century.

The senior-most member of the Maddens of Brackloon in the early eighteenth century was Penelope Lawrence alias Madden of Lissreaghan, who was described in 1720 as ‘sole daughter and heiress of Ambrose Madden Bracklone, junior, deceased  and granddaughter of Ambrose Madden Bracklone the elder, deceased.’[x] She married one of the Lawrence family of Lissreaghan and as a widow in 1720 sold what was evidently former Madden lands to Anthony Brabazon of Creagh. The property sold to Brabazon comprised ‘six cartrons and a half cartron in Kilmacshane, two cartrons in Esker and one cartron in Killnaborris, containing in all four hundred acres by Stafford’s Survey in the parish of Clonfert,’ which lands apparently formed the easternmost block of her family’s ancestral lands.[xi]

The description of Penelope’s father as ‘of Brackloon’ would suggest that he may have resided for a time at least at the tower house but it is uncertain at what stage the senior line of the family ceased to reside there. Evidence that junior male members of the family were still identified as being ‘of the Brackloon family’ beyond the death of Penelope’s father is provided in the 1733 will of Fr. James Merrick, sometime Connacht Provisor of the Irish College des Lombards in Paris. Although he appears to have been a native of County Mayo, Fr. Merrick had County Galway connections and was related to the Maddens of Brackloon. (References to Fr. Merrick in Paris occur on a number of occasions in surviving correspondence between the Franciscan friars at Meelick, near Brackloon, and their brethren travelling on the Continent about 1730.) He made provision in his will to establish a five-year bursary to provide an education in Paris for men either in the ecclesiastical state ‘or resolved to embrace it’. Eligibility for funding was restricted to the children of his cousin Andre Merrick or those of the name Merrick and the ‘closest relatives of the name Maddin of Brachlon or Linch’, natives of the dioceses of Tuam or Galway. Fr. Merrick died in May 1734 and three years later Peter Donnellan, Bishop of Clonfert supported the entitlement of Jean or John Maddin, priest of the diocese of Clonfert, then resident in Paris, to avail of the Merrick bursary as ‘the closest relative of the family of Braclon’.[xii]

While the senior line of the family appears to have died with Penelope’s father, a number of Madden families of some standing were established in the eighteenth century about Kilnaborris and Kilmacshane, within what were formerly the lands attached to the family group of Brackloon.


[i] Nicholls, K.W., The Episcopal Rentals of Clonfert and Kilmacduagh, Analecta Hibernica, No. 26, IMC, 1970, pp. 130-143.

[ii] Fiants Eliz I, 22 March XIII. In this pardon of 1570-1, ‘Rory McColloe of Breakelone’ was listed third, following Cornelius or Conogher roo O Horan of Fahye in Sillamchi in Co. Conaghe, gentleman and Conogher O Horan, his son.

[iii] Cal. Inquisitions (Chancery), Co. Galway, Eliz. I -William III. Rory McCollo’s nephew was  given as Feriagh McDonogh.

[iv] R.C.4 Reporteries of Inquisitions (Chancery), R.C. 4/14 Co. Galway Eliz.–Wm. III, p.361-2.

[v] Blake, M. J., Blake Family Records 1600-1700, Second series, London, Elliot Stock, 1905, pp. 36-7.

[vi] MacGiolla Choille, B. (ed.), Books of Survey and Distribution, Vol. III, County of Galway, Dublin, Stationary Office for the I.M.C., 1962, pp. 189-194. Murrogh mcFeary also held ¾ cartron of the quarter of Cullakerne in Clonfert in 1641.

[vii] MacGiolla Choille, B. (ed.), Books of Survey and Distribution, Vol. III, County of Galway, Dublin, Stationary Office for the I.M.C., 1962, pp. 189-194.

[viii] The Irish Genealogist, Vol. 4, p. 275.

[ix] MacGiolla Choille, B. (ed.), Books of Survey and Distribution, Vol. III, County of Galway, Dublin, Stationary Office for the I.M.C., 1962, pp. 189-194.

[x] Registry of Deeds, Dublin, Lib. 29, p. 415, memorial no. 18151.

[xi] Registry of Deeds, Dublin, Lib. 29, p. 415, memorial no. 18151. Witnesses to the deeds of lease and release were Richard Burke of Oxgrove, Co. Galway, gent., Ulick Burke of Oxgrove, Co. Galway, gent. and James Burke of Derryhoran in the barony of Longford, Co. Galway, gent.

[xii] Swords, L., History of the Irish College, Paris 1578-1800 Calendar of the Papers of the Irish College, Paris, Archivium Hibernica, Vol. 35, 1980, p. 60, no. 232, pp. 65-6, nos. 257-8.