© Donal G. Burke 2013
The Lallys or O Mullallys of east Galway are an offshoot of the wider Uí Maine family group, the principal family of which came to be the O Kelly chieftains of Uí Maine. The O Mullallys, together with the O Naughtons, ruled the territory of Maonmoy, covering a wide area about Loughrea prior to the Anglo-Norman conquest of Connacht in 1325. Thereafter they relocated further north to the parish of Tuam in the barony of Dunmore in the north-east of what would later be County Galway. They were seated about Tullaghdaly, immediately north of the town of Tuam, leasing their new lands from the Anglo-Norman de Berminghams.
Two members of the principal family of the name, established at Tullaghdaly, served as Archbishops of Tuam. The head of this family in the late sixteenth century was William Lally, Protestant Archbishop of Tuam. His eldest descendant and head of the family in the late seventeenth century was James Lally, who, together with his four brothers, Gerard, William, Mark and Michael, served the cause of the Roman Catholic King James II in the Jacobite-Williamite War at the end of the seventeenth century. Most of the brothers left Ireland and served as officers in the French army thereafter.
James Lally, the eldest of the five brothers, was outlawed by the Williamites and his estate declared forfeit. He was unmarried at his death in 1691 and the line of his brother Gerard became the senior line.
Gerard likewise had been outlawed by the Williamites and attained high rank in the French army and married, Marie Anne de Bressac, the daughter of a French aristocrat. He was succeeded by his son Thomas Arthur as head of the family. This Thomas Arthur served as Colonel of Lally’s Regiment in the French service and also attained high rank. A committed Jacobite, he was active in support of Prince Charles Edward Stuart in his attempt to regain the throne in 1745 and for his service to the Stuart cause the Old Pretender, known to the Jacobites as King James III, created Lally Earl of Moenmoyne, Viscount Ballymole and Baron of Tollendally. King Louis XV of France, sometime about 1755, is believed to have either created Lally Count de Lally and Baron de Tollendal in the French Peerage or recognised his Stuart title as official. Noted for his military prowess and bravery, he was given a commanding role in the French East Indies but on his defeat there he was falsely accused of betraying the King’s interests, deprived of his property and titles and executed in 1766.
Count Lally de Tolendal was succeeded by his legitimised natural son Trophime Gerard, to whom the identity of his father was only revealed the day after the latter’s execution. Through the efforts of the philosopher Voltaire and others, he succeeded in clearing his father’s name and having his sentence reversed posthumously. A committed supporter of the Bourbon Kings of France, after the fall of Napoleon he was made a Peer of France and created 1st Marquis and 2nd Count Lally Tolendal by King Louis XVIII. He served for a time as a Privy Councillor and Minister of State and was elected as a member of the prestigious French Royal Academy in 1816. Among the honours he received in his lifetime he was invested as a Knight Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour and a Knight Commander and Grand-Treasurer of the Order of the Holy Ghost. Having no sons, at his death in March 1830 his peerage passed to the Count d’Aux, husband of his daughter Elizabeth Félecité Claude Lally de Tolendal.
The arms of Trophime Gerard 1st Marquis and 2nd Count Lally Tollendal as a Peer of France were described and portrayed as ‘Argent, three eagles displayed Gules two and one each holding in the beak a sprig of laurel Proper between as many crescents one and two Azure.’ Above the shield, on a coronet, he bore for crest an eagle displayed with a sprig of laurel as in the arms and above that, on a scroll, the words ‘intaminatis fulcet honoribus.’ Below the shield a scroll bore the motto ‘Just and Valiant.’ For supporters he bore two lions combatant, between the forelegs of the dexter lion a flag Vert bearing the words ‘Usagur aboo,’ written using characters from the older Irish alphabet, and between those of the sinister lion a flag bearing the crest above a coronet. The shield, crest and supporters were displayed before the mantle of a Restoration Peer of France, capped by a coronet of rank.
The arms appear as such in an article on the family of the Marquis written by Miss J. Martyn in the Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society about 1905-6 Miss Martyn noted that she had in her possession the copy of a pedigree provided by the Marquis to his relative Thomas Lally of Tuam who died in 1837. She noted that among the mementos given to his Irish relative by the Marquis was an engraving of the arms of the Marquis and it is likely that the illustration provided with that article was a copy of that engraving.
The pedigree compiled by Hawkins about 1777 was among a set of documents relating to both Counts Lally-Tolendal put up for sale in Paris in December of 2012. The arms of the Count portrayed in that pedigree gave the crest, above a heraldic helmet, as an eagle displayed Azure holding in its beak a sprig of laurel Proper atop a coronet. No supporters were shown and the motto given on a scroll below as ‘Just and Valiant.’ Behind the shield was draped a cloth Vert fringed Or and behind all a mantle Gules fringed Or.
Of the use of the words ‘Usagur aboo,’ the Ulster King of Arms claimed that an early O Mullally bore the cognomen ‘Usagur,’ meaning ‘just and valiant’, which he claimed was the motto of the family. Both Miss Martyn and the antiquary John O Donovan attributed its creation as a fictitious word to Hawkins Ulster King of Arms who compiled a pedigree of the family for the Marquis in the eighteenth century. While containing some accurate information, the pedigree contained a number of dubious entries and it would appear that, on Hawkin’s advice, the French Lallys came to use this motto.
The Marquis appended his seal to a copy of the family pedigree that he signed in 1817 and gave to his relative Thomas Lally of Tuam. The seal was said to have consisted of ‘an eagle displayed, with a riband containing the motto just and valiant.’
The eagle again appeared in Hawkin’s pedigree when he claimed that John O Mullally, younger son of Melachlin O Mullalla, dissatisfied with his father’s submission to the King of England, went to Rome with his followers and offered his services to the Pope in his wars. Hawkin’s account referred to this John travelling to Rome ‘with his red eagles painted in black on his scutcheon.’ O Donovan regarded the confused description as a fabrication.