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 extended from the eastern foot of Redmount Hill eastward across to the denominations of Esker and Kilnaborris on the western bank of the Shannon, north of the Manor of Meelick. 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. Immediately to the north of these lands lay the town and ecclesiastical centre of Clonfert and the residence of the Bishop of the diocese 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.

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).

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 at Cloghan Castle in Lusmagh of Breasal dubh O Madden, one of the two joint-chieftains of Síl Anmchadha, 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 Owen’s 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 immediate family was the more senior and dominant.

About 1570 Rory McCollo O Madden was resident at Brackloon in which year he received a pardon from the Queen.[ii] As ‘Rory McCallo of Breackland in the barony of Longford, Co. Galway, gentleman,’ he was again pardoned in 1581, on that occasion on the recommendation of Sir Nicholas Malbie, Governor of Connacht and Thomond. (Others pardoned about that same time on Malbie’s recommendation included such prominent Connacht figures as the O Madden chieftain Donal of Longford, Redmund na scuab Burke of Clontuskert, Redmund Burke of Tynagh, the illegimate son of Roland, Bishop of Clonfert, Shane ne moy O Kelly and various members of their immediate families and followers. Rory mcCollo O Madden, however, appeared alone in his pardon dated 8th July of that year.) It is unclear if Rory McCollo was a younger brother of that Donogh McCollo killed in 1557 but the dates associated with various events in Rory’s lifetime and with his death would not rule out that possibility.[iii]

Brackloon castle southeast elevation

Brackloon Castle in the parish of Clonfert in June of 2017.

Composition of Connacht 1585

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. 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.

Rory mcCollo O Madden of Brackloon was one of thirteen ‘good and lawful men’ who gave evidence in an inquisition taken in August of 1585 into the extent of Síl Anmchadha or the barony of Longford. The inquisition, held at Galway before Sir Richard Bingham, Sir Nicholas White and others of the Queen’s Commissioners informed the indenture of O Madden’s territory relating to the Composition. Nine of those thirteen men were senior members of the wider O Madden family, including the chieftain Donal of Longford and Owen son of Melaghlin balbh (given variously as ‘of Meelick’ and ‘of Lusmagh’). Also among the thirteen were Conor oge O Horan of Fahy and Donal oge McSwiney and one of Welsh and one of English extraction; William Mostion ‘of Kilcowan’ and Walter Lawrence. In May 1603 both ‘Annagh moyle (‘maol’, ‘bald’) O Madden of Bracklin’ and ‘Rory bane (ie. ‘ban’ ‘white’) McDonagh O Madden of Bracklin’ (another it would appear of the wider family as distinct from Rory mcCollo) were among the many issued a general pardon from the new king, James I.

Rory McCollo, according to an inquisition taken at Loughrea on 7th October 1629, died on the 12th March 1616.  At his death he was seized in fee of the castle, town and lands of Briackluone, comprising one quarter together with lands in the townlands of Clonkee (1/2 quarter), Cagall (1 quarter), Killoran (1 quarter), lands in Clonesease called Gortecloghans, Gortechearda and Gortskehcoyle, lands in Esker (1/2 quarter), Killmcsheane called Kleadarragh (1/2 quarter) and three cartrons of Kelleheragh. The inquisition made 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 use of Rory for the duration of his natural life, and after his death to use of his son Ambrose moyle 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’. The lands conveyed by Rory O Madden in trust 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 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 from the Deanery of Milike (Meelick) by Roland Lynch, then Protestant Bishop, 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.

Three years prior to his death, Rory mcCollo appears to have granted some of his lands to his son Ambrose maol. In January of 1613 he conveyed to Ambrose lands in the half quarter of Esker and one month later conveyed to him two of the three cartrons in the quarter of Killeragh. (Details of this conveyance and provision to his estate for Rory’s younger sons under the 1592 land transaction were crossed out in the later transcription of the inquisition but without explanation.) Although Rory mcCollo had a number of sons, the senior-most of whom in the mid seventeenth century was Ambrose maol, the inquisition of 1629 stated that his heir was ffearigh mcDonnogh (ie. ffearigh son of Donnogh), who was of age and married. ffearigh mcDonnogh was described as Rory’s ‘nepos’, a term invariably used in other contemporary Irish inquisitions to indicate a grandson. There is no known surviving reference to Donnogh son of Rory in contemporary pardons or fiants. In addition, while ffearigh is described as heir, the transaction of 1592 makes provision for the use of Rory’s lands after his death firstly by Ambrose maol ‘filius prefati Rogeri’. It would appear likely that Donnogh was deceased by 1592 and that ffearigh was too young at that time. The fate of this ffearigh is uncertain but, in any event, it would appear that Ambrose maol came into possession of the greater part of his father’s estate including the castle of Brackloon.[iv] Ambrose maol was still alive into the mid 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.

The Inquisition of 1629 detailed the descent of Rory mcCollo’s property in ‘Breackluone, Clonkee, Cagalla, Killoran and Cloneseuse’ by virtue of the 1592 legal agreement in the event of the failure of Ambrose’s heirs. In that event the property was to descend to Rory’s sons Terence and his male heirs and, on the failure of those, to descend to Rory’s other sons; Roger or Rory oge, Colla and ffeardoragh and their male heirs in turn under the same conditions. While this section of the inquisition dealing with Rory’s other sons was later crossed out, the identity of the sons would appear to be correct, being supported by other evidence. 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 Colla appears to be that Colla McRory of Cloonesease who 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] In addition, about 1641, 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. These latter sections of Kilmacshane were then the property of the prominent Kings County landholder Terence Coghlan of Kilcolgan, who, by the early 1640s, was possessor of considerable tracts of lands in the east of Clonfert parish in the general vicinity of Brackloon. Bryan reagh mcRory O Madden was proprietor of one cartron in Kilmacshane while Murrogh mcFarrigh and Daniel mcFeary mcRory O Madden each held one quarter of a cartron in that townland, their lesser share possibly reflecting their more junior status.[vi]  Murrogh and Daniel were in all likelihood brothers, sons of Rory mcCollo’s son ffeardoragh. While the 1629 inquisition made no reference to a Bryan, he did appear among the family landholders in 1617 as Brian rewagh O Madden holding in fee half quarter in Kilmacshane. Ambrose maol himself held the greater part of the townland about 1641, amounting to three cartrons and a half cartron.[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 whose lands was confiscated by the Cromwellian authorities and whose names were submitted in 1664 to the Duke of Ormonde in his capacity as Lord Lieutenant for consideration for restitution. In that list Ambrose was categorised among those who, ‘by their early repentance redeemed their former failings by submitting to the cessation in (16)43, to the peace of ’46, to the cessation with the Earle of Inshiquyn and uppon all other occasions manifested their good affections to his Majestie’s service’ and those ‘who submitted and constantly adhered to the peace of ’48.’[viii] However, under the Acts of Settlement and Explanation 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 and Cloonkea, 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]

Captain John Eyre, a native of Wiltshire, acquired extensive estates in the east of County Galway and elsewhere in the mid seventeenth century during the Cromwellian period. In 1652 the Cromwellian Commissioners of Revenue sitting at Galway set to him ‘the castle and lands of Clonfert in the barony of Longford, County Galway, formerly belonging to the Popish Bishop of Clonfert and now in disposal of the Commonwealth.’ (British Library, BL Egerton Ms 1762, Commonwealth Papers 1650-1659, p. 206.) On his settling in the region initially, Eyre’s appears to have resided at Clonfert and while the exact location of his residence is not known, it would appear that the castle referenced by the Commissioners of Revenue was the Bishop of Clonfert’s house, in close proximity to Brackloon. (The Bishop’s house was described as a castle in 1595 when attacked and burned on that occasion.) Captain Eyre married a daughter and co-heiress of the wealthy Huguenot Phillip Bigoe of Lusmagh in King’s County and about 1656 purchased approximately 500 acres in the parish of Donanaughta and Clonfert from the transplanted Sir Thomas Esmonde on which he would later erect a modern mansion to be known thereafter as Eyrecourt Castle. He was resident at Clonfert throughout the mid and late 1650s but by the mid 1660s was seated at Ballymore, the Lawrence’s former castle in what was then also part of the wider parish of Clonfert. When he came to draw up the legal document to settle his estates in December of 1670, listed among the numerous denominations alongside the ‘Capitall House Bawne Towne and Lands of Killenehy als Eyrcourt’, were the ‘Castle, Towne and Lands of Bracklone, Killoran, Clunkea, Kinkelly als Cankell, Killireagh’, the townland of Killmcshane and others that had formerly formed the estate of the Maddens of Brackloon. While Eyre was proprietor of the properties, the Maddens appear to have remained as tenants and the heiress of the senior male of the Madden 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. Father Merrick appears to have been the son of William Merrick, who died prior to 1685 and nephew of Jasper Merrick of Kilglassan in County Mayo. Although the Merricks were established in 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 Andrew 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] National Archives, Dublin, R.C.4/14 Repertories of Inquisitions (Chancery), Vol. 14, Counties Galway and Leitrim, Eliz.–Wm. III, pp.361-3. Rory McCollo’s ‘nepos’ was  given as ffearigh McDonogh.

[iv] National Archives, Dublin, R.C.4/14 Repertories of Inquisitions (Chancery), Vol. 14, Counties Galway and Leitrim, Eliz.–Wm. III, pp.361-3.

[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; RIA Dublin, OS EI/33/51 Part 1, Inquisition taken at Kilconnell, dated 26 September 1617.

[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; Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris, Archives of the Irish College, Call No. B1b1; NAI, Dublin, Crossle’s Genealogical Abstracts, Parcels 1A-32-23v M, pp. 184-186, 1A-32-20v G-J, p. 249. Father James Merrick’s sister Mary married Robert Kilkelly of Liss, County Galway and his sister Dorothy married James Egan, whose son Robert was living in Tuam and another son, Patrick Egan, was serving as a priest in Paris in the 1730s.