The Chieftaincy of Doe Today.
In 1944 Edward Mac Lysaght, Chief Genealogical Officer, Keeper of Manuscripts and chairman of the Irish Manuscripts Commission, drew up a Register of Irish Chiefs and Chieftains to present to government. The Irish Government was aware of the survival of Irish noble families whose Heads had retained their Gaelic titles despite the "abolition" and "extinction for ever" of Gaelic titles under English laws passed between 1541 and 1613. In December 1944 the Irish Government announced that "courtesy recognition" as "Chief of the Name" would be granted to the "senior known male descendant of the last inaugurated or de facto clan Chief".
July 14, 1999, Thomas A. Sweeney, a direct, senior male line, descendant of Maolmhuire/ Sir Myles Mac Sweeney, Chief of Doe, 1596-1630, submitted a petition with genealogical proofs to the Office of Chief Herald of Ireland seeking recognition as "Chief of the Name" of the Mac Sweeneys of Doe.
July 29, 1999, the Office of Chief Herald informed Thomas A. Sweeney that his petition for recognition as "Chief of the Name" of the Mac Sweeneys of Doe would be referred to an independent consultant, expert in genealogy, for validation and that the choice of consultant would rest with the Chief Herald of Ireland.
August, 2003, the consultant chosen confirmed Thomas Sweeney's descent from Maolmhuire/ Sir Myles Mac Sweeney, Chief of Doe, 1596-1630.
The Mac Sweeney Doe genealogy recorded in 1835.
Dr. John O Donovan acknowledged, in his 1835 Donegal Survey Letters, that the Mac Sweeney Doe genealogy he recorded from Eamonn Rua Mac Sweeney was "a generation short". Eamonn Rua Mac Sweeney's father, Eamonn Mór, 1738-1834, Head of the House of Doe, had been omitted. The omission of Eamonn Rua's father (Eamonn Mór) did not impair the Mac Sweeney Doe genealogy for the following reasons.
Year 1835. Dr. George Petrie, antiquarian, scholar, collector of Irish traditional music and member of the team assembled by the British Government to survey/ examine County Donegal in 1835, recorded that Eamonn Mór Mac Sweeney, Head of the House of Doe, died in Donegal the previous year, i.e., 1834. (Eamonn Mór was a piper.)
Year 1851. An extract from the 1851 census for Derryveagh, Co. Donegal, lists Edward Sweeney/ Eamonn Rua Mac Sweeney (Head of the House of Doe) as residing in Altnadague, Derryveagh, and his oldest son, Eamonn Óg, as dead. Eamonn Óg, the first born, was named according to tradition after his grandfather, Eamonn Mór.
(Comment. The 1851 Derryveagh census extract was acquired by Irish Land Commission officials, in the early 1930's, to enable them to identify accurately the names of forty-seven families evicted from Derryveagh, April 1861, and to ascertain the names of descendants entitled to compensatory land in Derryveagh.)
Year 1870. Eamonn Mór's name and age and confirmation that he was a piper and the grandfather of the renowned piper Tarlach Mac Sweeney (An Píobaire Mór/ the Big Piper) were recorded in an account of the Mac Sweeneys of Doe in "The Fate and Fortunes of the Earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnell" by Rev. C. P. Meehan. M.R.I.A., (1870 edition, page 553).
Year 1909. The "Irish Weekly Times" (April 24), published an article re Eamonn Rua Mac Sweeney's youngest son,Tarlach Mac Sweeney (An Píobaire Mór/ The Big Piper), entitled "Prince on a Pension". The genealogy of the Mac Sweeney Chiefly family of Doe from Tarlach back to Maolmhuire/ Sir Myles Mac Sweeney, Chief of Doe, 1596-1630, was included. Tarlach (An Píobaire Mór/ The Big Piper) provided the genealogy and gave his grandfather's name as "Eamonn Mór".
"The scholarly work of Dr. John O Donovan"
In the early 1840's John O Donovan edited texts for the Irish Archaeological Society and in 1845 he wrote "A Grammar of the Irish Language" and two years later he published "Leabhair na gCeart/ The Book of Rights". In 1847 he was elected a member of the Royal Irish Academy and the following year was presented with its Cunningham Gold Medal. In 1849 he became professor of Celtic Languages in Queen's College, Belfast.
The "Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland/ Annals of the Four Masters" (compiled by a team of historians between 1632 and 1636) remained largely unpublished and untranslated until John O Donovan translated them between 1847 and 1856. The copious topographical, historical and genealogical material in the footnotes fill more than half the 4170 pages and have been universally acclaimed by scholars. Dr. Douglas Hyde (distinguished Gaelic scholar and writer, first professor of modern Irish at University College Dublin, 1909, first President of Ireland, 1937) wrote that the O Donovan edition of the Annals represented " the greatest work that any modern Irish scholar ever accomplished".
In his introduction to the recently published third edition the medievalist Dr. Kenneth Nicholls of University College Cork noted: "O Donovan's enormous scholarship, breathtaking in its extent when one considers the state of historical scholarship and the almost total lack of published source material in his day, still amazes one, as does the extent to which it has been depended on by others down to the present. His translations are still superior in reliability to those of Hennessy, Mac Carthy or Freeman to name three editor-translators of other Irish Annals ..... his footnotes are a mine of information."
A footnote, under the year 1603, confirms that "Eamonn Rua Mac Sweeney, aged 61 in 1835", whom O Donovan met in Donegal, 1835, was the "lineal legitimate descendant" of Maolmhuire/ Sir Myles Mac Sweeney Doe, Chief of Doe, 1596-1630.
John O Donovan and his brother-in-law, Eugene O Curry (scholar, scribe, and professor of Archaeology and Irish History at the Catholic University), were the foremost scholars of their day and were joint-editors for the transcription and translation of the old Irish law texts. On September 5, 1835, the day he met Eamonn Rua Mac Sweeney, John O Donovan wrote to Eugene O Curry informing him that he had met "Mac Sweeney Doe".
Nine days after he wrote to Eugene O Curry, John O Donovan wrote to Owen Connellan (editor-translator of the "Annals of the Four Masters" and Irish Historiographer to King George IV and King William IV) informing him that he had met "the present chief of the Mac Swinies Doe".
Dr. John O Donovan recorded in writing in Donegal in 1835, information known and recognized in Donegal in 1835 "by the O Donnells and the Mac Sweeneys" and by "every old Milesian from Fanaid to Ballyshannon", i.e., that Eamonn Rua Mac Sweeney (born 1774) was"Mac Sweeney Doe, and heir of Doe Castle and the sinsear (the Senior, Chief or Head) of the Clann tSuivné".
Thomas A. Sweeney (left) is the senior great, great grandson of Eamonn Rua Mac Sweeney Doe, and therefore, "the senior known male descendant" of Maolmhuire/ Sir Myles Mac Sweeney Doe, last publicly inaugurated Chief of Doe.
The Donegal Survey Letters - Background and Comments
Year 1824. Detailed maps of Ireland began to be drawn.
Year 1830. John O Donovan was employed, by Lieut. Col. Thomas Larcom, to research the ancient forms of place-names to be marked on the maps and was appointed leader of a team of Irish scholars recruited for that purpose. Donegal was the fifth county examined by O Donovan and he travelled most of the county on foot.
Year 1899. Professor Eoin Mac Neill wrote in An Claidheamh Soluis: "John O Donovan's great natural talents and extensive knowledge placed him at the head of the true school of native learning in Ireland, the foundation and honourable progress of which were mainly the results of his labour and influence ... he was mainly instrumental in obtaining for native Irish learning a recognized and important position in the estimation of the world".
Year 1926. Transcripts of O Donovan's Survey Letters were typed and placed in the National Library of Ireland, the Royal Irish Academy, the Universities, the British Library and the Vatican Library.
Year 2000. John O Donovan's Donegal Survey Letters were published by the Four Masters Press, Dublin. In his introduction to O Donovan's Donegal Survey Letters, Professor Herity, M.R.I.A., noted that O Donovan (working almost entirely without reference books) had quoted thirty two times from the 17th century manuscript "Annals of the Four Masters" and eleven times from "The Martyrology of Donegal" dating from the same era. Acta Sanctorum and Trias Thaumaturga published in 1645 and 1647 in Louvain were referred to 34 times. The "Life of Columcille" written in 1532 by Manus O'Domhnaill, Chief of Clann Uí Dhomhnaill, was quoted extensively. Philip O Sullivan Beare's "Historiae Cath. Hib. Compendium" published in Lisbon, 1621, was quoted as were Virgil and Livy.
In his preface, to O Donovan's Donegal Survey Letters (published 2000), the renowned Donegal playwright Brian Friel summarized John O Donovan's accomplishments thus: "His virtues are patent. He was intelligent, diligent, scrupulous in his scholarship, loyal to his employers, considerate of his associates and genuinely sympathetic to the people he moved among . ... He was aware, for example, that ghosts of the old Gaelic order still haunted the landscape he was naming and he wrote of these apparitions with understanding and affection. ... By men like O Donovan empires are forged."
Year 2003 Kevin Myers, (Journalist and Author) writing in the "Irish Times" December 17, described John O Donovan as "one of the giants of the nineteenth century whose importance may be measured as much in what he did as in the effect he had on other people's minds. He enabled people to see that Ireland was not just a defeated country populated by ineffectual peasants, but it was a landscape teeming with archaeological ruins and with a rich and widespread lore, both in English and Irish.
..... For these (O Donovan's Survey Letters) are the Dead Sea Scrolls of the Scriptures of Irish identity: and important though they would anyway have been, the date of their composition makes them absolutely vital. O Donovan and his fellow interrogators of local people about place-names and local lore, were working just before the Famine. They took vibrant snapshots of popular memory just moments before the cataclysm. ... From these illustrations of a world about to vanish derives the entire body of topographical literature which is so central to our knowledge of what this country is."
Year 2003 (September 12) the "official" Sweeney Clan Association based in Donegal proffered a contrary opinion. The Association P.R.O. speaking in Irish on the Irish language radio station, said : "Now it's very easy to say, here (i.e., Dr. John O Donovan) was an eminent genealogist and very easy to say, here (ie., Dr. John John O Donovan) was an eminent historian, but truthfully, Ordnance Survey was the job he had and in the course of doing that he sent lots of letters back to his office in Dublin. From what he has written he was a very funny person. He always had funny little stories about people, and so on, and lots of stuff he found/ picked up from people who lived around here (Derrybeg, Gweedore) was only hearsay."
(Comment. John O Donovan's Donegal Survey Letters reveal that he never visited/ examined Gweedore. The nearest he, or his team, came to Gweedore was Crossroads - now known as Falcarragh - to the north-east, Gartan/ Glenveagh to the south-east and Doocharry/ Dungloe to the south/ south-west.)
Revised November 6, 2004.