Mac Cana

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The Mac Cana clan were an ancient Gaelic tribe, who were Lords of Clanbrasil[1] and held lands in both Clancann and Clanbrasil. According to Irish tradition they are a Milesian people descended from Breasail, a grandson of Colla-da-Chrioch, the first king of Airgialla. The name translates to "son of Cana". Cana being a personal name meaning 'wolf cub', and one of the tribes earliest descendants.[2]

The tribe originally inhabited the lands of Clancann, and also became Lords of Clanbrasil after they dispossessed the O'Garvey's of their land around the time of Richard de Clare's Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland.[3] Their territory lay to the south of Lough Neagh in modern-day County Armagh and County Tyrone, flanked by the River Bann and River Blackwater. They were a branch of the Cenel Eoghain, the large group of Northern Uí Néill septs claiming descent from King Eógan mac Néill, the son of the High King Niall of the Nine Hostages.

The first written record of the family name is shown to be that of Amhlaoibh Mac Cana, Lord of Clanbrasil and is mentioned in the Annals of the Four Masters during the reign of Tairrdelbach Ua Conchobair. He was praised for his chivalry, his vigour, and his strong drink he made from apples in his orchard. The clan are also stated as having had a castle at Portadown in County Armagh. The last recorded Chief of the name, Donall MaCanna, was still known as Lord of Clanbrasil as late as 1598, when he apparently supported the uprising led by Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone. O'Neill was successful for nearly nine years, but he was finally defeated at Battle of Kinsale in 1602. Most of his supporters were dispossessed and driven from their homelands and this would seem to include the Mac Cana clan. The name was then anglicized into various forms such as MacCana, McCann, McGann, MacCann, MacCan, Maccan (this part of the Maccans had connections with many European noble and royal families, such as the Maccan Romanoff or the Maccan of Villanova or Maccan de Gueldre), and became Canny and Canney upon Ulster migration to the south (Leinster and Munster). The title of Lord of Clanbrasil is still held by the family of McCann in the area of County Louth.[4]

The Mac Cana line features in John O'Hart's 19th century pseudo-historical book, Irish pedigrees. In this book, the McCann line along with other surname lines are taken right back to Adam and Eve.