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Ballymote Castle, Sligo, Ireland
Parent house Connachta (Uí Briúin Ai) becoming Mac Diarmada
Country Kingdom of Connacht
Founded 1315
Founder Donnchadh Mac Diarmada

The surname McDonagh, also spelled MacDonagh is from the Irish language Mac Dhonnchadha, and is now one of the rarer surnames of Ireland.

Mac Dhonnchadha, Mac Donnchadha, Mac Donnacha or Mac Donnchaidh is the original form of McDonagh

These surnames are found in their greatest numbers in Connacht (Connaught), especially the counties of Sligo, Roscommon and Galway.

Dhonnchadha, literally translated from the Irish language, means "brown warrior". The prefix mac means "son of".

Naming conventions[edit]

Male Daughter Wife (Long) Wife (Short)
Mac Donnchadha Nic Dhonnchadha Bean Mhic Dhonnchadha Mhic Dhonnchadha

Early history[edit]

Tomaltach na Cairge mac Diarmata (Tomaltach of the rock) was the King of Moylurg from 1197 until his death in 1207. One of Tomaltach's sons, Donnchadh, was the progenitor of the MacDonagh sept. The family later became Kings or Lords of the túath of Tír Olliol and Corran now the barony of Tirreril in Co. Sligo.

The first to be known as Mac Donnchadha was Tomaltach Mac Donnchadh, Donnchadh MacDermot's grandson, alive in 1309. Tomaltach Mac Donnchadh and his men fought with Aedh Breifneeh O'Conchobhair (Hugh the Breifnian) defeating in battle Aedh Ó Conchobair, King of Connacht for control of the Three Tuathas.[1]

The Dynastic Wars of Connacht and the Bruce Campaign in Ireland[edit]

Following Robert the Bruce's victory at the Battle of Bannockburn over the Kingdom of England in 1314, his brother, Edward Bruce, led a three-year military campaign in Ireland against the English controlled Lordship of Ireland (Norman Ireland) beginning in 1315. A large scale dynastic war broke out in Connacht as a result of this intervention into Ireland as Fedlim saw opportunity in the chaos. This proved to be just as momentous on a national level.[2] In 1316, Tomaltach Mac Donnchadha and his clan joined Maelruanaidh mac Diarmata, Domhnall Ó Conchobair, Fedlim Ó Conchobair and an assortment of Norman-Irish families and defeated the army of Ruaidri Ó Conchobair, Diarmait Gall Mac Diarmata (King of Moylurg) at the Battle of Tochar Mona Conneda.[3] Fedlim became king of Connacht. He installed Ualgharg Ua Ruairc as King of Breifne and started a campaign to “to banish the [Norman colonists] of West Connacht". This resulted in the killings of Stephen de Exeter, his brother Philip, Miles de Cogan, Lord de Prendergast, William Lawless, Nicholas de Staunton, William and Phillip Barrett, Maurice de Rochefort and many more. With one stroke, vast swathes of the principal Anglo-Irish of Connacht were gone. With another, Fedlim installed Donnchad Ó Brian as kingship of Tuadmuma, uniting the Dal gCais under him. The Lordship of Ireland, under William Liath de Burgh (de Burke), assembled a large Anglo-Norman army and defeated Fedlim Ó Conchobair at the Second Battle of Athenry. Five of the Clann Donnchadha fell there; Tomaltach son of Gilla Crist Mac Donnchadha, Murchad Mac Donnchadha, Conchobar son of Tadc, Muirchertach and Maelsechlainn Mac Donnchadha. Eoin Mac Aedacain, brehon to Ó Conchobair, Gilla na Naem son of Dail re Docair Ó Dobailein, the standardbearer, and Tomas Ó Conallain fell around their lord.

In 1318, Maelruanaid mac Diarmata assembles a large army, against Cathal O Conchobair. The chief men in it being Toirrdelbach O Conchobair, king of Connacht, Ualgharg Ua Ruairc, king of Brefne, Conchobar O Cellaig, king of Ui Maine and Tomaltach Mac Donnchadha, Lord of Tirerrill. Skirmishes are fought and in 1320, Tomaltach Mac Donnchadha is captured.

By 1381, the clan had settled Ballymote Castle in Sligo. In 1390, Tonnaltagh Mac Donnchadha commissioned the writing of the Book of Ballymote by the family's scribes and ollavs.

The name also arose in Co. Cork where it was located in the Barony of Dunhallow, as a branch of the McCarthys. They were known as the "Lords of Dunhallow" but their stronghold was actually in Kanturk.

Cromwellian Conquest and Jacobite Risings[edit]

The clans titles and lands, being Catholics and followers of the Stuarts, were looted under Oliver Cromwell for taking part in the 1641 uprising of Gaelic leaders against the Parliament of London. At this point the family started to scatter and spread from Sligo.

The family was involved with the Jacobite Risings supported the cause king James II who was later defeated by William of Orange in 1691.[4]

Exile to Europe and the Americas[edit]

Deprived of their lands, the McDonaghs found scope for their abilities in Europe. Like thousands of their compatriots, they committed themselves to the service of Louis XIV of France, in the Irish Brigade. This period was known in Ireland as the Flight of the Wild Geese and resulted in many members of prominent families and Irish nobility leaving the island. Between 1690 and 1770, no fewer than forty-two McDonaghs served as officers in the Dillion regiment of the Irish Brigade.

The family's presence was widely noted at the decisive French victory at The Battle of Fontenoy. On this day, a charge by six Irish battalions of the French Army turned the favour of the battle against the combined forces of the British, Holy Roman Empire, Dutch Republic and Hanoverian allies. Captain Anthony McDonagh defeated in single-handed combat, in presence of the opposing armies, a British officer who had challenged the best officer his opponents could produce. He later advanced the charge ahead of his company and was the first of the Brigade to engage the enemy, receiving distinctions.[5][6]

Another acclaimed member of the clan was Colonel Andrew McDonagh, recipient of the Order of Saint Louis. McDonagh along with General Lazare Hoche and Theobald Wolfe Tone, was involved in the Bantry Bay expedition. Under McDonaghs command was 400 men.[4][5] His life was the subject of writings by Camille Desmoulins and James Rutledge due to his false imprisonment and eventual release during the French Revolution.[7][8]

Modern diaspora[edit]

In modern times, descendants include Thomas McDonagh, Commandant of the 2nd Battalion Dublin Brigade of the Irish Volunteers during the Easter Rising in 1916. Thomas was a signatory of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic and was executed aged 38. Martin McDonagh is an Oscar nominated playwright and film director brought up in London but originally from Sligo and Galway.

Notable people with the surname[edit]




United Kingdom[edit]



  1. ^ Hennessy, W. M. (William Maunsell); MacDermot, Brian (1871). The annals of Loch Cé : a chronicle of Irish affairs from A.D. 1014 to A.D. 1590. Kelly - University of Toronto. London : Longman.
  2. ^ "One King to Rule them All – Edward Bruce and the Battle of Athenry 1316". The Irish Story. 25 February 2013. Retrieved 25 November 2018.
  3. ^ Freeman, Martin (1944). The Annals of Connacht (A.D. 1224–1544), English translation. ISBN 1-85500-010-5.
  4. ^ a b Pomey, M.; Roustan Delatour, C.; Veran, M.-L. (2003). "DÉCOUVERTE DE CINQ MANUSCRITS D'ANDREW MAcDONAGH, PRISONNIER À L'ILE STE-MARGUERITE DE 1777 A 1790" (PDF). Provençe historique. Fascicule 212: 277–292.
  5. ^ a b Hayes, Richard (September 1944). "Biographical Dictionary of Irishmen in France". Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review. 33 (131): 367–377. JSTOR 30099513.
  6. ^ Ellis, Peter Berresford (15 June 2005). "Remember Fontenoy!". Retrieved 24 November 2018.
  7. ^ Alger, John Goldworth. Englishmen in the French Revolution.
  8. ^ Rutledge, James (1791). Amusement du despotisme ministériel, ou Mémoire d'un prisonnier de douze années et sept mois. Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Philosophie, histoire, sciences de l'homme, 8-LN27-13119: Camille Desmoulins. ark:/12148/bpt6k5625128z.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  9. ^ "79-83 Mcdonagh Road, Wyong, NSW 2259".
  10. ^ "McDonagh Park".
  11. ^ "2 McDonagh Place, Gunnedah".
  12. ^ "Thomas MacDonagh Museum".
  13. ^ "RoscreaOnline Roscrea Community Remembrance Garden". Archived from the original on 5 November 2016.
  14. ^ "MacDonagh Junction | Kilkenny Shopping Centre".
  15. ^ "1 McDonagh Street, Nenagh, Tipperary - REA Eoin Dillon - 4305350 - Residential".
  16. ^ "TF4 2RZ - Check My Postcode".
  17. ^ "See the Cast of 'Pretty in Pink' then and Now".