Madden of Lusmagh

© Donal G. Burke 2013

Lusmagh as a parish formed a small foothold of the ancient O Madden territory of Síl Anmchadha on the east bank of the river Shannon, separated by the river from the remainder of the territory and from the rest of Connacht. The only part of Connacht east of the river from ancient times, it provided access to an important major and a minor crossing ford into Connacht at Meelick. In addition to the site of the Anglo-Norman castle at Meelick, taken over by the O Maddens following the decline of the Anglo-Norman lordship of Connacht in the mid-fourteenth century, the O Maddens constructed a tower house in Lusmagh at Cloghan which dominated their lands east of the ford and provided additional protection for the same. In the mid seventeenth century Lusmagh was separated from Connacht and included as part of the King’s County (later known as County Offaly) while still remaining part of the east Galway diocese of Clonfert but its tradition of separateness from its King’s County neighbours and affinity with Meelick and east Galway was still maintained into the nineteenth century.

Melaghlin balbh O Madden

Prominent members of a family group found later based about Lusmagh in the late sixteenth century were vigorous opponents of another branch of the extended ruling house, descended from the chieftain Brasil O Madden who died in 1526 and whose descendants were based, for the most part, about Claremadden and the parish of Kilquain. Among the significant members of this former family group engaged in warfare with the descendants of Brasil or ‘sliocht Breasail’ was one Melaghlin balbh ‘the silent’ O Madden who, in an account of his killing Cobhthach, a young scion of the ‘sliocht Beasail’ in 1547 was described as a son of the O Madden and who as expediency determined allied himself with the English.[i] His sons, however, for the most part of their lives, appear to have opposed the English authorities and law and were banished from the territory in the wake of the taking of Meelick castle by the Lord Deputy in 1557.[ii]

Hugh O Madden

After the death of Melaghlin balbh, the English-recognised ‘Captain of his Nation, the Crown came to an arrangement in 1566 with Hugh, ‘eldest son and heir of Melaghlin Ballagh O Madden, Captain or Chief of his Nation of the Longefort with Silanchia commonly called O Maddens country’, whereby ‘in consideration of his father’s death and for the good and better government of the said country,’ the Queen recognised Hugh as Captain of his Nation. In return Hugh was to pay ‘100 beeves and fat cows at or before the Feast of All Saints, to furnish 80 galloglasses for four weeks annually, to find 8 armed horsemen and 24 foot-soldiers for 40 days at the Royal hosting, and to pay annually twelve pence for every carucate of land within the said country.’[iii] Hugh, however, was killed in the following year by Donal son of John O Madden of the ‘sliocht Breasail’ in his rise to power.

It is noteworthy that Melaghlin balbh as Captain of his Nation was described as of Longford, indicating the position of that castle or tower house in the parish of Tirnascragh as the principal castle of the territory attached to the office of chieftain and his for the duration of his time in office in addition to other lands and traditional services and dues derived from constituent families.

Given the distinction made by the annalists between the descendants of Brasil and their various rivals, it would appear that the branch of the ruling house to which Melaghlin balbh and his descendants belonged were a separate branch from the ancestors of Brasil from at least the early sixteenth or late fifteenth century. From the descendants of Brasil or ‘sliocht Brasil’ derived Donal of Longford the last chieftain of the name, whose line was regarded as the mainline of the name.

Owen O Madden

Cloghan was regarded as the ‘principal house of strength’ in the late sixteenth century of Owen O Madden, a junior brother of that Hugh ‘Captain of his Nation’ killed by Donal O Madden in 1567 and a son of Melaghlin balbh, one time ‘Captain of his Nation’. He appears to be the same man as ‘Eugenius mutus O Madayn’ or Owen the silent O Madden (or in the Irish language ‘Eoghan balbh’), who had usurped or detained from the diocesan Church the rectory in which lay the vicarage of Kilmochonna.[iv] The location of Kilmochonna in Lusmagh, wherein Owen was located would suggest that this was the same man but the Annals of the Four Masters refer to him in 1595 as ‘Eoghan dubh,’ Owen ‘the black.’

Kilmochonna church Lusmagh

The ruins of the late medieval church at Kilmochonna, near Cloghan Castle in Lusmagh, built on a height overlooking the Little Brosna River to the south.

In September of 1568 Edward Butler, the subject of complaints to the Lords Justices by the O Carrolls of Ely, complained to the Lord Justices of depredations and attacks committed in Ormond over the previous three years by various O Carrolls. Among those individuals, such as the Mores of Leix, John McCoghlan and the White Knight, for whom Butler asked the Lords Justices to send to account for their actions was this ‘Owen McMelaghlin Ballo of the Cloghan.’[v] The same man was described as ‘Ouin O Madden of Mylyck, Co. Galway’ when granted a pardon alongside two others in 1582.[vi]

A list of the chief men of the barony of Longford, drawn up in 1574 gave Owen O Madden of Lusmagh as second only in prominence to the then chieftain Donal of Longford in the barony and holding both Cloghan castle and the tower house at Brackloon.[vii] Much of Owen’s life was spent at odds with the English administration and he was in the forefront of those rebels locally who rose against the English in 1595. Cloghan castle, to where a party of rebels under the leadership of Owen of Lusmagh and various rebellious Burkes repaired, was taken by the English and loyalist forces under the Lord Deputy in 1595. John Lye, the Elizabethan Captain attending the Lord Deputy in 1595 on his foray into Madden’s country, wrote to Sir Geoff Fenton in the aftermath ‘from the defaced castle of Cloghan in Losmagh’ The castle he described as lying ‘betwixt two rivers in Losmagh and upon the edge of the Shanon, and in the strongest place in Ireland.’[viii] Owen O Madden’s death in action in late 1598 or early 1599 still saw four of his sons leading a party of fifty-foot soldiers in rebellion.[ix]

Early seventeenth century

The acquisition of Owen’s castle and estate by the early years of the seventeenth century by John More altered the appearance of the land ownership in Lusmagh. More replaced Owen Madden as the area’s principal landholder. Of the remaining O Maddens, by 1618 there were only three significant landholders of the name resident in the parish of Lusmagh; Hugh O Madden, Owen oge ‘the young’ and Donell mcOwen O Madden.

The first of these, Hugh O Madden of Newtown, gent., held the other castle or tower house in Lusmagh. His property in 1619 comprised the castle of Newtown, five ninths of Carowancastle in Newtown, one sixth part of the quarter of Carowchara, a third part of the quarter of Bally-Ilirie, a third part of the quarter of Gortcrinan, seven eighteenths of a quarter of Leanagh and one quarter of Ballynashrahy. Owen oge mcOwin O Madden of Curriclogha, gent. in that same year held two ninths of the quarter of Carowancastle, a third of the quarter of Bally-Ilirie, a third part of the quarter of Gortcrinin, seven eighteenths of the quarter of Leanagh, a third part of the quarter of Corclogha, a sixteenths part of the quarter of Carrowcorra, while Donell mcOwen O Madden of Gortcrinan, gentleman, held two ninths of the quarter of Carrowancastle, a third part of Bally-Ilirie and a third part of Gortnecrinin, four eighteenths of the quarter of Leanagh and a sixth part of Carrowcorra.

Hugh of Newtown married Elinora Ny Horan and died on the 15th December 1624.[x] His heir was his only daughter Margaret Cooge alias Madden and it was as a result of her marriage that by the late 1630s the bulk of his property, entirely in Lusmagh, was held by Doroghan mcEdmond mcCooge or MacHugo.[xi] (It is noteworthy, however, that a small portion of Hugh O Madden’s former lands were also then held by Donnogh O Madden of Lismore, in the parish of Clonfert. This would appear to be the same Donnogh O Madden, gentleman, who was alleged by McCooge, in a legal case taken in 1638, to have encouraged one Daniel O Madden and his wife Margaret to enter, and take possession of, a house or cottage located within the grounds of Newtown Castle and who then held it in opposition to tenants of McCooges.) [xii]

By 1641 ownership of the castle of Newtown passed from McCooge to a settler named Phillip Bigoe, who had established a glass factory nearby at Gloster in Lusmagh, one of a number of English and French settlers, for the most part Protestant, who had settled in the vicinity in the early decades of the seventeenth century and whose presence was resented by many of the long established Roman Catholic landholding families.[xiii]

1641 Insurrection

With the prospect of fresh land confiscation’s and colonisation’s looming large in the background and unable to depend on an unreliable monarch or an increasingly powerful anti-Roman Catholic English Parliament for satisfaction, several of the Ulster Roman Catholic land-owners took advantage of the divisions then current between the King and English parliamentarians and in 1641 rose up in arms against the colonists. The leading rebels claimed as justification for their actions that they were rising out in support of the King, in his struggle with an English parliament determined to divest him of his powers. As the Ulster rebels, composed mostly of the Gaelic aristocratic families, claimed to be acting in the interest of the Crown, the old Anglo-Norman families or the Old English, found themselves on the same side as the Gaelic lords, facing a common enemy. Many of the Old English joined the insurgents and the rebellion met with considerable initial success. 

On the outbreak of rebellion in 1641 the lands and property of many of the new settlers were despoiled, including that of Phillip Bigoe and more than forty settler families sought refuge at Bigoe’s Newtown castle, wherein he maintained a small number of soldiers. About September or October of 1642, a number of leading rebels, for the most part from Kings County and County Tipperary but including the Lusmagh landholder Owen oge O Madden ‘of Curclogh, gentleman’, together with what was, according to Bigoe, a force of at least five hundred soldiers ‘layd stronge seege’ to Newtown for twelve continuous days.

This is the same man as that Owen oge O Madden described as ‘of Curriclogha’ in the general confirmation of land ownership dating from 1619, and in the mid seventeenth century Books of Survey and Distribution as Owen oge mcOwen O Madden. From his identification in the latter as a son of Owen, he would appear to be a son of the slain rebel Owen O Madden of Cloghan Castle. Both he and Donell McOwen O Madden held almost equal portions in the same townlands in Lusmagh and it would appear both of these men were sons of the same Owen of Cloghan. Hugh O Madden of Newtown who died in 1624 may also have been a son of the same Owen of Cloghan, having a similar share in the same lands, but, holding Newtown castle and fractionally more land, Hugh may have been the more senior of the three. (If Hugh was not a son of Owen of Cloghan, it is likely that he was of that same family group of Melaghlin balbh, father of Owen of Cloghan.)

Owen oge survived the upheaval of the mid seventeenth century, his will, wherein he was described as Owen oge of Gortcriven, dated March 1673. (Among the other lands he held prior to the 1641 Insurrection was a third part of the quarter of Gortcriven in Lusmagh.) His will gave his mother as Mary Horan, his sisters Elinor and Anably and his son as Hugh O Madden and his brother in law as ‘Laghlen Balluw.’[xiv] Despite the land confiscations during the Cromwellian period, the lands to which referred Owen oge in his will were those in Gortcriven, Ballyleyry, Killamcanna and Gortnanorgnonge, all about Lusmagh.[xv] He would appear to be the same man whose obituary the Franciscan friars at Meelick recorded simply as ‘29 (March), Dns. Eugenius Madden obijt 1673 R.I.P.’[xvi]

As a result of confiscations about the beginning of the seventeenth century and the upheavals of the Cromwellian period, much of the lands that were in the ownership of the O Maddens at the end of the sixteenth century had, by the end of the seventeenth century passed to the Moores of Cloghan Castle and others. By mid century, the parish itself, from ancient times part of O Maddens ancestral territory of Síl Anmchadha and therefore part of Connacht and the sixteenth century County of Galway, was separated from that province and made part of King’s County, the River Shannon forming the new border.


[i] Another associated with Lusmagh appears to have been Brasil dubh ‘the black’ O Madden, who, having killed John, the chieftain of Sil Anmchadha in 1556, was proclaimed joint-chieftain alongside the slain John’s brother Melaghlin modartha O Madden of the ‘sliocht Breasail.’ This Brasil dubh was resident at Cloghan during the taking of Meelick in 1557. It would appear to suggest that Cloghan served either as a tanistry castle or an alternative power base for a joint-chieftain to that of the main castle attached to the office of chieftain; Longford or the principal base of a rival family group opposed to that based about the parish of Kilquain in this century.)

[ii] Among the sons of Melaghlin balbh were Hugh, his eldest, later ‘Captain of his Nation’, Owen, later described as ‘of Lusmagh’, in a pardon of 1576 as ‘of Cloghan, Co. Galway, gent.’ and in a pardon of 1585 as ‘Owen mcMelaughlen ballow O Madden of Myleck, gent.’ and also one ‘Coaghe mcMolaghlyn baluf O Maddyn of Myelecke’, who was issued a pardon from the crown in 1550. (Fiants Edw. VI.)

[iii] Fiants 8th Eliz. I. and J.G.A.H.S. Vol. II pp 21-33 1902.

[iv] McNicholls, K.W., Visitations of the Dioceses of Clonfert, Tuam and Kilmacduagh, c. 1565-67, Analecta Hibernica, No. 26, 1970, p. 146.

[v] Hamilton, H.C. (ed.), Calendar of State Papers relating to Ireland of the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth, 1509-1573, London, Longman, Green, Longman & Roberts, 1860, p. 391.

[vi] Calendar of Fiants Queen Elizabeth I, The thirteenth Report of the Deputy Keeper of the Public Records in Ireland, 12 March 1881, Dublin, A. Thom & Co., 1881, Appendix, p. 161.

[vii] Cloghan was erroneously placed in the barony of Leitrim in at least one later account of this 1574 list, as was ‘Lisnacode’, the castle of ‘Murrogh mcfferiagh’ O Madden. Lisnacode was a reference to Lisanacody in the parish of Dunanoughta but confused with Lissenhackett in Leitrim barony on at least two occasions. Cloghan was given as Owen O Maddens residence in his pardon two years later.

[viii] Cal. State Papers 1595-6 Vol. CLXXXVI, 1860, p499-500.

[ix] Cal. Carew Mss. 3, 1589-1600, p. 300 ‘A general computation of the Irish forces in rebellion when the Earl of Essex arrived in Ireland.’

[x] Repertories of Inquisitions (Chancery) Co. Galway, Eliz. I – William III.

[xi] MacHugo held Hugh O Maddens parcel of Newtown (five ninths of the quarter) and, therefore, he also held O Maddens former residence therein. In 1619 the quarter is referred to as ‘Carowancastle in Newton’, a reference to O Maddens castle.

[xii] Crawford, J. G., A Court of Star Chamber in Ireland; The Court of Castle Chamber, 1571-1641, Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2005.

[xiii] Trinity College Dublin, Ms. 830, fols. 132r-133v. Deposition dated 24th March 1643 & Trinity College Dublin, Ms. 814, fols. 271r-272v. Deposition dated 16th June 1646.

[xiv] Dunsandle Papers, Analecta Hibernica, No. 15, 1944.

[xv] Tenants mentioned in his will included Marcus Flattery, Moyler or Miles Burke and Edmond Hynan. His will was witnessed by Francis Pilley or Pelly, William Pilly and Owen Lorcan. His parish priest, who was a beneficiary of a bequest was Fr. Daniel Gellaun, as were the Franciscan friars at Meelick and one Fr. William Murphy and one Hugh Lorcan.

[xvi] NLI, G.O. MS 5203, Copy of records of the Franciscan Convent of Meelick, Co. Galway, made by Fr. James Hynes in 1858.