Madden of Esker and Killaltanagh

© Donal G. Burke 2017

A minor and obscure family of the O Maddens of Síl Anmchadha (ie. the barony of Longford in the east of Galway) was based on the lands of Esker and Killaltanagh in the parish of Clonfert in the late medieval period. Donogh mcCogh ‘of Easker’ was among numerous O Maddens granted a pardon by the Crown in 1585.[i] In that grant he was described as a ‘cottier’ but this provides a misleading depiction of his status. In the case of that particular group of pardons in which Donogh mcCogh appears, a number of others of an equivalent social standing were also described as cottiers yet were found to have held sizeable lands in one or more townlands more akin to minor landholders.[ii] Heading that particular list of pardons was the powerful Owen mcMelaghlin balbh O Madden of Meelick, gentleman, suggesting that this Donogh son of Cogh O Madden of Esker was a follower of Owen. This latter individual, the grandson, son and younger brother of previous chieftains or ‘captains of their nation’, was among the most prominent of the O Maddens in the last decades of the sixteenth century. Opposed to the Crown during the Nine Years War, Owen O Madden’s principal estate lay across the Shannon from Esker in the parish of Lusmagh. His principal castle was that of Cloghan in that parish while in 1574 the small tower house of Brackloon in Clonfert parish was also recorded as being under his control. (Brackloon, however, was defended against the Lord Deputy in 1557 by Donogh mcCollo O Madden and occupied by the immediate descendants of Collo O Madden throughout the second half of the sixteenth century; Rory bán mcCollo O Madden of Brackloon being one of the largest landholders in the parish of Clonfert prior to his death in 1616.) The lands of Donogh mcCogh and his most immediate descendants lay between these two castles. Such was their location in the easternmost region of the O Madden territory that the nearest modern town to those lands was Banagher in King’s County (later County Offaly).

Donogh mcCogh appears to have died prior to 1619 as ìn November of that year Teig, Coagh, Ferdoragh and Melaghlin McDowny of Esker, gentlemen, were confirmed as the joint proprietors of the town and quarter of Killata (ie. Killaltanagh). Another of this family was Ambrose O Madden, who died on 20th January 1616. An inquisition taken six years later into the extent of his property revealed that he was seised in fee of two cartrons and a half cartron of land in both Esker and Killaltanagh, divided equally into one cartron and a quarter part of another in each denomination.[iii] At the time of his death his property was held of the King by military service and his son and heir at that time was Malachi alias Melaghlin mcAmbrose O Maddin, aged only eleven years at his father’s death. Ambrose’s wife was Cicilla ny William O Kelly. His mother Cicilla Ny Kelly was still alive at the time of the inquisition and claimed a third part of her son’s property.

Cicilla ny Kelly was also mother of Ceahagh mcDonnagh O Madden who died in May of 1619 and would therefore appear to have been widow of Donogh mcCogh of Esker, ‘cottier’. Ceahagh may have been a more senior son than Ambrose as he held a similar but slightly greater portion of the family lands. Like his brother Ambrose he also was seised in fee at his death of two and one half cartrons of land in Esker and Killaltanagh. He also held a half cartron in the adjacent townland of Killeragh and a fourth part of a cartron in the neighbouring townland of Kellneburishe and a moiety of ‘2 piscarum anglice 2 ealeweares’ in the River Shannon called Carrowmore and Carrowbegge.[iv] Like his brother’s property, Ceahagh mcDonnagh’s was also held of the King by military service. At his death his son and heir Murroghe mcCeahagh O Maddyn was only ten years of age. Ceahagh’s wife was Evelin ny Walter while the inquisition taken into the extent of his property in April 1622 found that his mother held a right to a third part of her son’s premises.

As Esker (excluding Farrenesker, which contained a half quarter of land) was composed of one and a half quarters of land and Killaltanagh of one quarter in 1641, the division of both townlands about 1619, if based on the same pattern as seen in the inquisitions of Ceahagh and Ambrose, would suggest they were divided into four equal parts. By 1641, however, the entirety of Esker (excluding Farranesker) and Killaltanagh was in the ownership of the prominent Kings County landholder Terence Coghlan of Kilcolgan, Esq., who also then held a cartron in Killeragh, a half carton in Kilnaborris and other lands in the nearby townlands of Reisk and Coolacurn, all in the parish of Clonfert.

Betham’s transcript of Linea Antiqua, in what is currently known as Genealogical Office Manuscript number 146, (once maintained in the records of Ulster King of Arms and currently in those of his successor the Chief Herald of Ireland) contains a pedigree of the principal members of the O Madden family. That pedigree, however, and also a brief pedigree given in G.O. Ms. 221, known as Milesians II, erroneously gives Ambrose O Madden ‘of Killatannagh, in the County of Galway’, as the son of Melaghlin O Madden of Claremadden, second son of the last chieftain Donal of Longford Castle. He is given in the latter source as ‘heir to O Madden’ and married to Cecilia, daughter of William O Kelly. The same account gave his son as Melaghlin.[v] Rather than an offspring of this prominent line of Claremadden, the Exchequer Calendar of Inquisitions clearly identify Ambrose and his son as of this minor landholding branch of Esker and Killaltanagh, descended of Donogh mcCogh O Madden.


[i] Fiants, Elizabeth I, 1585.

[ii] One other such example is Donough boy McHugh (O Madden) of Downvickberra, also given as a cottier although his son Richard mc Donnoghboy O Madden held one sixth of a quarter of the quarter of Doonecunaram alias Doone Mc Nerane in the parish of Donanaghta about 1641.

[iii] National Archives of Ireland, Dublin, R.C. 9/14, Exchequer Calendar of Inquisitions, Co. Galway, Vol. 14, pp. 152, 157, nos. 101, 103.

[iv] National Archives of Ireland, Dublin, R.C. 9/14, Exchequer Calendar of Inquisitions, Co. Galway, Vol. 14, pp. 152, 157, nos. 101, 103.

[v] NLI, Dublin, G.O., Ms. 221, Milesians II, p. 331.