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McLaughlin & O'Neill

The McLaughlins and O'Neills were descended from a long line of Irish High Kings who trace their ancestry to the fabled Niall 'of the Nine Hostages', who died in 505 A.D.  Nial's son Owen established the kingdom of Tirowen in present day county Tryone and for centuries this dynastic line ruled the North of Ireland from its royal seat at the Grianan of Aileach near Derry in Donegal.  Their kings were styled Kings of Aileach and later Lords of the Cinel Eoghain by the Irish annalists, many of whom were High Kings of Ireland.  In the 10th century the Kings of Aileach moved their royal seat to Tullahoge in Tyrone, the later coronation site of the O'Neill kings of Tryone.   The McLaughlins and O'Neills were the royal dynasty of the tribe known as the northern Ui Neill, or descendants of Niall 'of the Nine Hostages', whose progeny also included the O'Donnell Kings of Tirconnell, the O Melaghlin Kings of Westmeath (the southern Ui Neill), and the O'Connor Kings of Connacht in western Ireland.

Domnall 'of Armagh', the grandson of Nial glundubh, the High King of Ireland, was the first to be styled "Ua Neill" by the annalists and the later bearers of this famous surname ruled the north of Ireland until its the final conquest by the English in the 16th century.  For several centuries the McLaughlins and O'Neills were rivals for the kingship of Aileach.  The sources are unclear as to the exact descent of the McLaughlins.  Some show the McLaughlins descending from Domnall, the younger brother of Nial glundubh (Clan Domhnall) ; others have them descend, like the O'Neills, from Domnall 'of Armagh' (Clann Neill).  The pedigree of the O'Neills is equally obscure and only partially traceable in the annals of Ireland.

Whatever their descent, the kingship of Aileach or the north of Ireland was for centuries bitterly contested between the rival families of McLaughlin and O'Neill.  At first the O'Neills held the upper hand.  After the deaths of Flaitbhertach 'of the Pilgrim's Staff' Ua Neill and his son Aodh Athlaman, in 1036 and 1033 respectively, the McLaughlins dominated the kingship of Aileach for the next 150 years, until Aedh 'the lazy youth' Ua Neill managed to break into their monopoly of the kingship.  The following years saw a vicious escalation of hostilities between the two rival families, culminating in the Battle of Caim Eirge in 1241 A.D.  In this bloody battle the forces of O'Neill and O'Donnell combined to defeat the McLaughlins, in the process slaying most of their derbfine or royal line.  The O'Neills thereafter held the uncontested right to the kingship of the north of Ireland while their kinsmen the McLaughlins gradually sank into obscurity on the political scene in northern Ireland.

Two of the MacLochlainns were styled High Kings of Ireland by the annalists.  The first was Domnall MacLochlainn (+ 1122) , the son of Ardgar.  His grandson Muirchertach MacLochlainn (+1166) was also reckoned a High King by the annalists, although with opposition.  His name is omitted entirely from some of the later kingship lists in Irish manuscripts.

The MacLochlainns were descended from an ancestor named Lochlan, probably the son of a Norse mother.  The personal name Lochlan is a curious one which first appears in history in the line of the O'Loughlins of Co. Clare, followed shortly thereafter by the Lochlan in the line of the  McLaughlins of northern Ireland circa 1023 A.D..  In the annals of Ireland the home of the Norse invaders of Ireland was invariably referred to as Lochlaind or Lochlan.  Marstrander believed the name Lochlan was a corruption of one of the districts in Norway from which the Norse invaders of Ireland originated.  O Corrain believes Lochlan instead referred to the territory of the Norse in Innsi Gall in the western Isles of Scotland.  In time the name Lochlan was adopted by the native Irish as a personal name which became quite popular in both Ireland and the Highlands of Scotland.  Other Irish and Scottish clans have similar Norse names in their pedigrees.  Iomhair (Ivor) and Ragnaill, both Norse names, appear prominently in the pedigree of the O Cathains of Londonderry County, probably indicating intermarriage with the Norse in this family was well.
The Anradan Kindred

As noted above the O'Neills descend from Flaithbertach 'of the Pilgrim's Staff', the King of Aileach, who made a pilgrimage to Rome and died in Ireland in 1036 A.D.  His son Aedh Athlaman was the King of Aileach in his absence, and died before his father in 1033 A.D.  Aedh is said to have had two sons, Domnall an trogdam ('the young oxe') and Anradan.  From Domnall descend the O'Neills, Kings of Tyrone, and from Anradan, descend the Argyle clans of MacSweeney, Maclachlan, Lamont and MacEwen of Otter.  Anradan is said to have settled in Scotland where he received lands after some
unspecifed campaign.   Unfortunately this descent for both the O'Neills and the Anradan kindred in Scotland is untraceable in the annals of Ireland.  No sons of Aedh Athlamanh are mentioned by the Irish annalists, no doubt because their kinsmen, the McLaughlins, monopolised the kingship of Aileach for nearly 150 years after the death of Flaithbertach 'of the Pilgrim's Staff.'  According to the traditional pedigrees of the Anradan kindred in Scotland, Anradan had a son named Aedh or Hugh, nicknamed according to some sources, Aedh Alainn or Hugh 'the splendid', who according to Skene, died in Ireland in 1047 A.D.  But there isn't a trace of this Aedh Alainn in the Irish annals and Skene did not reveal his sources, leaving us with no proof of his assertion.  This Aedh Alainn is simply called Buirche in some of the earlier pedigrees, or even Aedh Alainn an buirche in later versions.

The Scots in Ireland

The Norman invasion of Ireland in 1177 set off a chain of events culminating in several disastrous defeats for the native Irish chieftains and the subsequent importation of foreign mercenaries from Scotland, employed by the Irish chiefs to combat the superior arms of the Norman knights.  These mercenaries were called "galloglach" by the Irish annalists, or "foreign fighters", heavily-armed, determined warriors armed with the famous Scot battle axe, who proved to be an equal match to the similarly equipped Normans.  The MacSweeneys, from Castle Sween in Argyle, made their first appearance in Ireland in the 12th century and soon afterwards were employed by the O'Donnell Kings of Donegal as gallowglasses.  By the early 14th century they had obtained the territory of Fanad in Donegal, and later branches spread into other parts of Donegal and some of the Irish territories in Munster and Connacht.  The Lamonts, a related clan in Argyle, also settled in Connacht as gallowglasses and are named MacBuirch in the annals of Ireland.  Traditional Irish pedigree sources contain pedigrees for the Maclachlans of Argyle, another related clan, but there is no trace of them in the Irish annals and it is unknown whether they too settled in Ireland as gallowglasses.

In addition to their employment of Scottish gallowglasses, there were close family and political ties between leading Irish families and the Scottish clans in the western Isles and the Highlands of Scotland.  Domnall oge O'Donnell married first a MacSweeney and later a MacDonald and several later O'Donnells bear the nickname "albanach", indicating they were fostered in Scotland, probably among the MacDonalds. Even prior to the employment in Donegal of gallowglasses,  the Irish annals record the campaigns of several Scottish clans in alliance with the O'Donnells, most notably the MacDonalds.

The Descent of the Anradan kindred

The traditional pedigrees in Irish manuscript uniformly make Anradan a son of Aedh Athlaman in the line of the O'Neills of Ulster.  But a number of scholars over the years have challenged this descent, believing instead that the Irish seanachies simply faked a pedigree for the MacSweeneys of Donegal, artificially linking them to the line of the O'Neills in the person of Anradan.  Their reason for doing so was to give the MacSweeneys an "official" political standing in Ireland with a pedigree from the Ui Neill, the dominant tribe in the north of Ireland, in an era in which pedigrees functioned as deeds to land or rights to rule.  In the Irish genealogical tradition only the major landholding freeholder families who were chieftains of specific territories have their descent traced in the genealogical manuscripts.  The great majority of minor families are ignored completely by the seanachies; their pedigrees are not traced at all or at best partially by the Irish seanachies.

But once the MacSweeneys gained territory in Donegal, the Irish seanachies began recording their pedigree, which first appears in the Book of Ballymote circa 1390 A.D.  This pedigree has the MacSweeneys descend from Anrathan, the son of Aedh Athlaman, through Aedh Alainn called an Buirche.  His son was Suibhne, probably the Suibhne roe of Scottish legend who is said to have built Castle Sween in Kintire, Scotland.

The pedigree of the Anradan kindred in Scotland as traced in Irish manuscript is plausible, as D.W. Sellars demonstrated in his article on the families.  Although documentation is lacking, Sellars did demonstate effectively that Anradan could have been the son of Aedh Athlamanh, based on the dating of the individuals in the pedigrees.  But there is a curious pedigree buried in the infamous Gaelic MS.of 1467 discovered by Skene which contradicts the traditional descent of the Anradan kindred in Scotland.  This collection of Scottish pedigrees is the only surviving genealogical manuscript in Scotland which traces the descent of the Highland clans and was embraced enthusiastically by Skene in his seminal work, "The Highland Clans."
In this manuscript is a pedigree of the Lamonts, in a portion of the manuscript described by Skene as unreadable in his initial transcription for the Iona Club, but later subjected to a chemical treatment which brought out the writing enough to be deciphered. The pedigree is entitled "genelach Clan Ladus" which despite its heading is nothing less than a pedigree for the Lamonts, in the Irish tradition one of the Anradan kindred.  This pedigree has the Lamonts descend from Niallgusa of Lochaber, the ancestor of the MacDonalds and MacDougals of Loarn and the western Isles of Scotland.  Here Anradan is made a son of "Gilleabeirt rig eilan Sidir", or Gilbert, king of the western isles (the Sudreys).  As in the Irish versions his son his named Buirc.

In the same manuscript, the Maclachlans, another of the Anradan kindred, are described as descendants of Niall naoigiallaigh, or Nial 'of the Nine Hostages'.  Their pedigree ends with "Anradan conerguid clanna Niel nai giall" which is clearly a reference to the Irish tradition linking Anradan to the line of the Ui Neill in northern Ireland.  Skene initially mistranslated this section to read "where Anradan meets with Clan Neill," which many took as a reference to the MacNeills of Barra and Gigha.  This is a mistake which has been perpetuated over the years in Scottish clan histories and is still repeated endlessly today.  The MacNeills of Barra and Gigha never were apart of the Anradan kindred in any Irish or Scottish manuscript.   It is curious to find two conflicting pedigrees for Anradan in the same manuscript; but the scribe was evidently a poor one (if Skene's transcription is accurate, he ran the name Aedh Alainn together as Dedalainn in the MS). In addition, the heading "Clan Ladus" may have mislead the scribe to believe some other family was being traced in the pedigree of the Lamonts.  Or he may have been copying between both Irish and Scottish source manuscripts and inadvertantly included an older Scottish pedigree for the Lamonts which predated the Irish version in the Book of Ballymote.

In the same manuscript we also find a pedigree for the MacEwens of Otter.  In it Anradan is described as the "Lord of Badenoch," a district to the west of Argyle in Scotland and a curious place to find a wandering Ua Neill prince far from the western coasts of Scotland.  The pedigree of the Maclachlans states Giollapadraic, the father of Lachlan Mor, eponym of the family, was from the district of Atholl (Gillepadruic.i. Athochlach), again to the west of Argyle.  There is also a pedigree in the same manuscript for an unidentified Clan Sorley also said to be descended from "Dunsleibe ic B" or "Dunsleibe son of Buirc".  Dunsleibe was the ancestor of the MacSweeneys in both the Irish and Scottish traditions.

Skene in his "Highland Clans" confusingly describes these families in descent from Anradan as the Siol Gillveray."  Siol Gilverary is here a reference to Gilbert, king of the western isles in the Lamont pedigree, and not to the well-known MacGilverary family in Scotland.  In later works he seems to have rejected this pedigree of the Lamonts in descent from Gilbert, king of the western isles, in favor of the more common Irish descent from the O'Neills of northern Ireland.  His "Celtic Scotland" collection of Irish pedigrees contains only the Irish tradition for the descent of the Anradan kindred and elsewhere he states that he has come to believe the Irish version is the more believable of the two conflicting versions.

Oral Tradition

The Marquis of Lorne, in "Adventures in Legend, being the Last Historic Legends of the Western Highlands" relates a legend in which two brothers, Dougal (ancestor of the MacDougals) and Domnall (ancestor of the MacDonalds) race each other in boats to the shore of Loarn, having agreed that the first to reach shore would be lord of that territory.  As they neared the shore Dugald cut off his hand and flung it ashore, thus arriving before his brother Domnall, who consequently was forced to go further North in search of a territory of his own.  The legend goes on to state that there were two other brothers as well, Ranald and Lochlan, the last of whom went to Cowal and married the daughter of Lamont, thus obtaining the territory of Strathlachlan.

This highland legend indicates that the Maclachlans, one of the Anradan kindred, were linked in popular tradition to the stock of the MacDonalds, as the pedigree of the Lamonts indicates in the Gaelic MS. Of 1457.

But the Marquis also relates another legend current in his day in the highlands involving a certain Fearchar, a man said to be descended from the Irish Nial 'of the Nine Hostages', "who had a house at Eridin, a townland near the castle of Arconnel, in Lochow."  This Fearchar is undoubtedly the Ferchair son of Duinsleibe in the pedigree of the Lamonts and MacSweeneys, in the Irish tradition said to be a descendant of Anradan.  This legend effectively nullifies the legend of the four brothers quoted previously because the MacDonalds are said to descend from Colla Uais, of the Airgialla in Ireland, and could not be described in any sense as a descendant of Niall 'of the Nine Hostages.'


Were the Anrdadan kindred in Scotland descended from the O'Neills in northern Ireland as the Irish tradition insists?  Or were they instead descended from the same stock as the MacDonalds and MacDougals as indicated by the Gaelic MS. Of 1467?  The sources are contradictory which indicates the survival of two rival traditions in Scotland, which fact alone should induce caution in those investigating the history of the Anradan kindred in Scotland.  Unfortunately documentation is lacking and we will probably never discover the truth with any certainty. The answer, if there is one, is lost in the mists of time, as is sadly the case for so many Irish and Scottish families. If there is one thing we can be sure of, however, it is that the Irish and the Scots were essentially the same race, with a common heritage and close political and familial ties, whether or not we can trust the claims of the Irish seanachies as to the descent of individual families.

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