Donal II O'Donovan

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Domhnall II Ó Donnabháin
Lord of Clancahill, The O'Donovan
O'Donovan's Shield.png
Family O'Donovan
Father Donal of the Skins
Mother Ellen O'Leary
Born circa 1560, Castle Donovan
Died 1639, Rahine Manor
Buried Timoleague Abbey

Donal II O'Donovan (Irish: Domhnall Ó Donnabháin), The O'Donovan of Clann Cathail, Lord of Clancahill (died 1639), was the son of Ellen O'Leary, daughter of O'Leary of Carrignacurra,[1] and Donal of the Skins, The O'Donovan of Clann Cathail. He is most commonly referred to as Donnell O'Donevane of Castledonovan in contemporary references of his time.

His elder brother Diarmaid O'Donovan was slain by Donal Cam O'Sullivan Beare in 1581 following a raid urged by Elizabeth I into O'Sullivan territory.[2] Donal is credited with taking the leadership of Clan Cathail following the death of his father, and was inaugurated and granted the White Rod by the MacCarthy Reagh, his father-in-law Owen MacCarthy Reagh, Prince of Carbery, in 1584. He was then later recognized by the Lord Chancellor Adam Loftus in 1592, defeating an attempt by his younger brother Teige, who alleged Donal to be a bastard, to depose him. He was the last of his line so inaugurated in the ancient Gaelic manner.

Following his adherence to Philip III of Spain during the Nine Years' War, in 1608 Donal surrendered his territory to James I of England, receiving a regrant of the entire estate to himself personally in 1615.[3][4] A series of inquisitions from 1599 to 1636 show his to have been the greatest land holdings during that period in Carbery after the territories of the MacCarthy princes,[5] although how this came about is a matter of some controversy.

Inauguration and lawsuit[edit]

Donal II's inauguration in 1584 by his father-in-law Owen MacCarthy Reagh is testified to in a complicated lawsuit filed essentially against the both of them by O'Donovan's younger brother Teige sometime previous to February 12, 1592. The suit was concurrent with the anticipated surrender of the sept lands by Donnel O’Donovane (with similar surrender of other sept lands being undertaken by other chiefs, namely Conoghor O’Kallaghane, Conoghor O’Mahoney and Teig M’Owen Carty) in exchange of a regrant of the lands into the personal estate property of the respective chief by patent.[6] The surviving court document from that date contains a summary of the case and the decision of the Lord Chancellor Adam Loftus on the matter.[7] In the suit Teige alleges that Donal was born before his father Donal I and mother Ellen O'Leary were married, and thus that he was in fact (according to Teige) illegitimate or a bastard and had no rights to the Lordship of Clancahill, with Teige even questioning whether Donal was a son of his father, Donal of the Hides, at all.[8]

According to Teige, Donal owed his entire position to Owen MacCarthy Reagh, a man of great wealth and influence and to whose daughter Joane was joined in marriage, and whom Teige alleges was not himself even the legitimate MacCarthy Reagh (Prince of Carbery) but an "intruder," the rightful ruler supposedly being Donal of the Pipes,[9] Owen's nephew. Loftus decided in Donal II O'Donovan and MacCarthy Reagh's favour, declaring them legitimate and rightful, with Teige getting nothing, however it is possible there were related events back in Carbery because Owen was deposed by his nephew later that year. MacCarthy Reagh was not popular in all circles, and influencing Loftus' decision was the testimony of another son-in-law, O'Donovan's brother-in-law Sir Fineen O'Driscoll, who was widely popular with the English and Crown government. O'Driscoll bore witness that O'Donovan "was born many years after the marriage [of his mother and father] solemnised at Dromale".[9]

Scholars of Gaelic Ireland frequently mention or refer to the case. First of all, it substantiates the report made a century later by Sir Richard Cox, 1st Baronet in 1690 that the O'Donovans were considered one of the four families in Carbery of royal extraction,[10] because the White Rod or slat, mentioned in the case as received by O'Donovan from MacCarthy Reagh, was for a king or of some grade in origin, in this case a subordinate lord princeps (prince) or petty king, in the Irish understanding, receiving his rod from his superior or overking.[11] Also one of very last known uses of the slat in Irish history, as found in the lawsuit "its citation as formal evidence of legitimate holding of lordship and lands" is considered by Elizabeth FitzPatrick to be the strongest evidence of its symbolizing "legitimate authority" even at this late date in Gaelic Ireland.[12] Returning to the relationship between the MacCarthy Reagh and O'Donovan, it has been pointed out that the O'Donovan family in Carbery apparently had a privileged position because the head paid to his superior a significantly smaller rent than the other leading families enjoyed, possibly originating from the O'Donovans' close association with Fínghin Mac Carthaigh in the 13th century and their certain support given to him at the Battle of Callann in 1261.[13]

Donal II is the last of Clan Cathal, and the only one recorded as having received, the white rod. Curiously, in spite of Crown policy, which forbid the use of Gaelic titles, Loftus refers to Donel O'Donevane as simply O'Donovan (meaning the head of his sept and thus Lord of Clancahill, etc.), confirming it in the final paragraph of the document.[14] This recognized O'Donovan as Chief of the Name or Captain of his countrie.[15]

The designation of Donal as Chief by the English court of Loftus served the Crown's purposes: by formally "recognizing" Donal as "Chief", there could be no subsequent legal doubt he was authorized to surrender clan lands of approximately 60,000 acres to the English crown. Through the surrender and re-grant of clan lands, Donal obtained granted title to the lands vested in himself as an individual.

Commenting on Donal and his contemporary descendants 250 years later, Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa, noted that Donal and his heirs "held landlord possession of lands that belonged equally to their clansmen; England protected them in that landlord possession of the robbery from their own people." [16]


O'Donovan is first noted in 1586 for burning to the ground the newly built house of the Protestant Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, William Lyon.[17][18] Not only was the new house rather ostentatious, but Lyon was also accused of stealing and selling priceless gold and silver artifacts from the early period of the church. It is possible, however, that O'Donovan was guilty of burning the whole town of Ross or Rosscarbery itself, and his men appear to have killed one of Lyon's daughters in the attack.[19]

Although not among the major figures of his time, Donal II was in their company and active in Munster affairs during the Nine Years' War, being one of the few southern lords to support Hugh O'Neill.[20] In March 1599 pledges of loyalty to the English Crown were received from all the lords in Carbery except for O'Donovan and some MacCarthys, and because of this Sir Thomas Norris "... caused their castles and houses to be taken and razed, and their people and lands to be spoiled", as he wrote to the Privy Council.[20] But a year later O'Neill was both widely regarded and acting as virtual King of Ireland, or much of it, and was acknowledged by his supporters in Munster as such, including O'Donovan,[21] wisely because those who refused had their lands wasted. In 1600 Donal joined Florence MacCarthy, whom O'Neill was acknowledging the MacCarthy Mór and King of Desmond,[22] and Owen Mac Egan in O'Neill's camp at Inniscarra near Cork city, in writing an appeal to Donogh Moyle MacCarthy, one of Owen MacCarthy Reagh's sons and thus O'Donovan's brother-in-law, to join them.[23] The letter was intercepted, and for his part and signature Donal's people were "pacified" savagely by the English forces under the command of Captain George Flower, who related:[20]

The plan was that O'Donovan and Florence's brother, Dermod Maol MacCarthy, would invade a number of territories to the north of Carbery,[23] but it is uncertain if this was ever accomplished. In any event, not long after, when Philip III of Spain sent his forces to Munster, 100 men out of the 700 were assigned to Donal's command, fully equipped and paid for, to supplement his own forces.[24] According to Philip O'Sullivan Beare, he was one of the principal men of the relief army led by Donal Cam O'Sullivan Beare (slayer of his brother Diarmaid) to support Pedro de Zubiaur at Castlehaven in early December 1601, which led to what was according to O'Sullivan Beare a small but spectacular victory for the Spaniards and Irish:[25]

Carbery in Tudor times

However the English also claimed victory and moderns scholars are very divided on whom should be considered the winners. Two months later, an apparently poorly informed or otherwise motivated Sir George Carew wrote to the English Government on February 15, 1602:[26][27]

But this was only true in the sense that they were not all present at the final Battle of Kinsale itself in late December/early January, almost a month after Castlehaven, although O'Donovan may have made an appearance earlier at the siege.[28] Changing allegiance after this ruinous event, O'Donovan joined Owen's sons Finghin and Donogh Maol, and O'Driscoll, in siding with the English, and O'Sullivan Beare wasted the territory of Clancahill after hearing of it.[29]

A surprising event occurred shortly after when some of O'Donovan's men, under the command of Finghin, killed Dermod Maol MacCarthy (cousin of O'Donovan) who was engaged in a cattle-raid into O'Donovan's territory.[30] Dermod Maol was regarded as the chief threat after Florence to the English in Munster (now along with O'Sullivan Beare, who joined the cause late) He and O'Sullivan Beare had been joined in continuing against the English by Cornelius O'Driscoll, son of Sir Fineen who was now opposing them. After a period Finghin and Donogh Maol MacCarthy may have gone back to the rebel side but O'Donovan remained loyal to the English, even though his sept was divided in their allegiances.

In July 1606, Donell M'Carthy, the M'Carthy Riough, petitioned the Earl of Salisbury that Donell O'Donevan, for whose loyalty petitioner's son was made surety and suffered four and a half years of imprisonment during the recent wars, should pay damages to him.[31] Prior to the fall of the Gaelic order, it was common that pledges were secured by the holding of the offspring of those making the pledge, or in this case, those guarantying the conduct of those under them.

After the war O'Donovan fared particularly well and ended up in control of more territories than he began with, the result a combination of the government granting him lands seized from septs of the MacCarthys and others, and his own aggressive efforts.[32] In 1611, he was one of those accused by Florence MacCarthy of occupying some of his estates while he was being held in the Tower of London.[33] Little of Donal II's later life to his death in 1639 remains known, besides what the inquisitions offer, but he was of considerable age by that period.

Marriages and issue[edit]

O'Donovan firstly married Helena de Barry, daughter of Shely MacCarthy [34] and William de Barry, son of Ellen MacCarthy Reagh [35] and James FitzRichard de Barry, Lord Ibane and Viscount Buttevant, and by her had 1) Donal III O'Donovan; 2) Conogher,[36] entered the Austrian Army and never returned to Ireland; 3), 4) possibly two other sons. He married secondly Joanna MacCarthy Reagh, daughter of Ellen O'Callaghan [37] and Owen MacCarthy Reagh, and by her had sons 1) Teige, for whom see below; 2) Capt. Murrough, royalist killed in command of a company of foot in the Battle of Rathmines; 3) Donough; 4) Dermot; 5) Capt. Richard, royalist, slain in foreign parts; 6) Keadagh. Of his three daughters 1) Honora became the second wife of Teige-an-Duna MacCarthy, Lord of Glean-na-Chroim; 2) m. MacCarthy of Mourne (junior sept of MacCarthy of Muskerry);[38] 3;) m. O'Mahony Fionn (senior sept of O'Mahony, Prince of Raithlin).

From his eldest son Donal III descended his male offspring through General Richard II O'Donovan (d. 1829), whom was the first to re-establish the use of the designation of "the O'Donovan, Lord of Clan Cahill" since the fall of the gaelic order around 1600. After the death of General O'Donovan, the title passed by agreement to the cadet line descending from 2) Teige above, who still hold it to this day. The first known male line descendant of Teige with a military career was Morgan William II O'Donovan.

The famous scholar and topographer John O'Donovan claimed descent from Donal II's unnamed sons, first claiming his ancestor Edmund was the eldest son, and after some twenty years of research without being able to prove his claim, revised his claim to naming his ancestor Edmund as the youngest son of Donal II.[39]


See also: Patronage

Belonging to Donal's household was the blind harper Conchubhar Mac Conghalaigh, for whom the lament Torchoir ceól Cloinne Cathoil was composed by the bardic poet Tadhg Olltach Ó an Cháinte.[40] Both Donal and the Lady Joanna are mentioned in the poem, where her grief for the harper is described (12th stanza):

Also mentioned is Dáire Cerbba, 4th century progenitor of the Uí Fidgenti and more famous Uí Liatháin. The O'Donovans belong to the former.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ O Murchadha, p.127. Peadar Ua Laoghaire belonged to this same branch. O Murchadha, p. 214
  2. ^ O'Sullivan Beare, Chapters, p. 26
  3. ^ D'Alton, pp. 709–10
  4. ^ Burke 1899, p. 342
  5. ^ Butler, "The Barony of Carbery"
  7. ^ O'Donovan, Hy-Fiachrach, pp. 444–8
  8. ^ O'Donovan, Hy-Fiachrach, p. 446
  9. ^ a b O'Donovan, Hy-Fiachrach, p. 447
  10. ^ Cox, Carberiae Notitia. With the MacCarthys obvious, the O'Mahonys and O'Driscolls were the others. See also Smith, Ancient and Present State
  11. ^ Dillon, pp. 4, 8; FitzPatrick, passim; Simms, p. 31; Nicholls, pp. 30–1
  12. ^ FitzPatrick, p. 214
  13. ^ Butler, "The Barony of Carbery"; Ó Murchadha, p. 125
  14. ^ O'Donovan, Hy-Fiachrach, p. 448
  15. ^ Ellis, p. 147
  16. ^ Rossa's Recollections, O'Donovan Rossa 1898, republished 2004, Lyons Press, p.348
  17. ^ O'Donovan, Four Masters, vol. VI, p. 2441
  18. ^ O'Hart, p. 200
  19. ^ Vigors, p. 303
  20. ^ a b c Ó Murchadha, p. 127; MacCarthy Glas, Life and Letters, p. 191
  21. ^ A Compendium of Irish Biography: Hugh O'Neill
  22. ^ Irish Pedigrees: MacCarthy Mor #123 (O'Hart 1892)
  23. ^ a b Carew, vol. ?, p. ?
  24. ^ Stafford and Carew, Pacata Hibernia, vol. ?, p. ?
  25. ^ O'Sullivan Beare, Chapters, p. 143
  26. ^ Calendar of State Papers, 1601–1603, p. 296
  27. ^ Baltimore, the O`Driscolls, and the end of Gaelic civilisation, 1538-1615 by Edward O'Mahony
  28. ^ O'Mahony, West Cork and its Story, p. ?
  29. ^ O'Sullivan Beare, Chapters, p. 152; Amory, p. 606
  30. ^ Ó Murchadha, pp. 55, 127
  31. ^ 'Cecil Papers: July 1606', Calendar of the Cecil Papers in Hatfield House, Volume 24: Addenda, 1605-1668. (1976), pp. 82-88.
  32. ^ O'Donovan, Four Masters, Vol. VI, pp. 2441 ff; Butler, "The Barony of Carbery"
  33. ^ MacCarthy Glas, Life and Letters, p. 396
  34. ^ (?) Probably Shely (Julia), daughter of (Sir) Finin MacCarthy (Reagh)
  35. ^ daughter of Cormac na Haoine MacCarthy Reagh
  36. ^ O'Donovan of Brisbane and Queensland)
  37. ^ daughter of Dermod O'Callaghan, Lord of Clonmeen
  38. ^ Irish Pedigrees: MacCarthy na Mona
  39. ^ O'Donovan, Annals of the Four Masters, vol. VI, p. 2154 etc
  40. ^ Ua Súilleabháin and Donnelly


Preceded by
Donal of the Hides
Lord of Clancahill

Succeeded by
Donal III O'Donovan