the year 1029 the annalists record the
victory of Mathghamhain O Riagain, King of Brega, over Sitric, Viking King of Dublin. The
O’Regans were dispossessed soon after the Anglo-Norman invasion, and dispersed into
what is now County Leix. Branches of the family later spread into County Limerick.
The MacKennas or Kennys (Mac Cionaodha) were chiefs of Truagh, now the
barony of Trough in North Monaghan, but they were traditionally "Meathmen"
("Meath" was an area primarily associated with what is now Meath, Westmeath and
North Offaly) by origin, and are a branch of the Southern Ui Neill. Branches of this
family settled in the seventeenth century in Down and in South Munster.
The family of O’Higgin or Higgins (O hUigin) were a distinguished
literary family of the Southern Ui Neill, originally settled in what is now County
Westmeath. No fewer than eleven of them are mentioned in the Annals of the Four Masters as
poets or professors of poetry between 1300 and 1617. A branch of the family settled early
in Sligo, where they acquired large tracts of land in the southwest of that county.
The South Gaels
The South Gaels were known by the dynastic name of
Eoghanacht (descendants of Eoghan). They rose to preeminence at Cashel in central
Tipperary during the fifth century and were instrumental in the establishment of Gaelic as
the dominant dialect in the South, much as the North Gaels were responsible for its
establishment and prestige in the North (without the prestige of the Eoghanacht as the
dominant group during the critical early centuries surrounding the establishment in
Ireland of the Church—and hence of writing—the other Munster tribes, being a
geographically remote pre—Gaelic population, would not have adopted Gaelic as a
written lingua franca). The Eoghanacht had close ties with the church, and a number of
abbots of the Eoghanacht line were elected to kingship during the Viking period in the
ninth and tenth centuries.
The true branches of the Eoghanacht descend from Conall Corc, their
first great king, though some Munster tribes (such as the Ui Fidhgheinte of the Erainn)
had themselves nominally tacked on to the traditional stem as descendants of Mug Nudat
(alias Eoghan) , mythic
traditional ancestor of Conall Corc. This, together with the fact that Mug Nudat means
"the slave of Nuadu" (a divine pre—Gaelic ancestor figure) suggests that
the Eoghanacht early consolidated their traditions with that of their subject-tribes in
The MacCarthys (Mac Carthaigh) were the chief family of the Eoghanacht,
being of the Chaisil (Cashel) branch, descended from Ceaillachan of Cashel,