Mac Sweeney Banagh
We are most grateful to heraldic scholars and historians who have given us permission to publish their research.
Mac Sweeney Banagh: Mac Suibhne Boghaineach. ("Donegal History & Society", Geographic Publications, 1995.)
Author: Fergus Gillespie, Chief Herald of Ireland.
The third branch of Clann tSuibhne in Tír Conaill was that of Mac Suibhne Boghaineach, who according to Leabhar ChIainne Suibhne,were descended from Dubhghall Mac Suibhne, who was granted the territory of Tír Boghaine by his grandfather, Murchadh Mear, who, as we have seen, died about the year 1320. The district of Boghaine comprised the modern barony of Banagh in southwest Donegal, as well as a part of Boylagh.
The story of this branch of the Clann, because of a lack of early sources, is less clear than those of the branches in Na Tuatha and Fanad. Dubhghall, the founder of the branch according to Leabhar Chlainne Suibhne, was slain in 1356, although in the Book of Ballymote (ca. 1400) six of his grandsons are said to belong to Mac Suibhne of Connacht. The eldest of these, Toirdhealbhach, who is described in A.F.M. as Ard Chonsapal Connacht, or High Constable of Connacht, was slain in battle with two of his brothers, Donnchadh and Donn SIéibhe in 1397. It is interesting, however, that he is included in the seventeenthcentury Ó Cléirigh genealogies as being of Boghaine. From him descend the later lords of Banagh.
The first clear mention of a Mac Suibhne Banagh in the annals is as late as 1496, when Maol Mhuire, "Mac Suibhne Thíre Boghaine" died. The following year another lord of Banagh is mentioned as follows: "Mac Suibhne Connachtach .i. Mac Suibhne Baghineach (i.e. of Banagh), Eoghan décc". This and other evidence led Father Paul Walsh to argue, and to show very clearly, that the Banagh branch were in fact, a late offshoot of the Connacht branch whose territory was Cúil Chnámh in the civil parish of Dromard, county Sligo.
At the end of the sixteenth century the seat of Mac Suibhne Boghaineach was at Rahan in the parish of Killaghtee near Dunkineely overlooking MacSwyne's Bay, and it was there that Mac Suibhne Thíre Boghaine (Niall Mór mac Eoghain) died in 1524, "a constable of hardest hand". It was at this castle, too, that his son Maol Mhuire Mór, lord of Banagh, was killed in 1535 by another son, Niall Óg.
Also within their territory was Killybegs, Na Cealla Beaga or "the small churches", in which stood the church of Saint Catherine. In 1513 Killybegs was plundered by Eoghan Ó Máille and the crews of three ships, who were, however, unable to return home to Connacht with their prisoners because of stormy weather. The leaders of Banagh were away in Ó Domhnaill's army at the time, but a youth called Brian Mac Suibhne, along with some shepherds and farmers, rescued the prisoners and slew Eoghan Ó Máille. We hear of another raid by sea in 1542 when the crew of a ship under the son of Ó Flaithbheartaigh of lar-Chonnacht landed at Rathlin O'Beirne. This time they were taken by Toirdhealbhach Mac Suibhne, son of the then Mac Suibhne Boghaineach, Niall Óg, and slaughtered, with the exception of Ó Flaithbheartaigh's son, who was pardoned by Mac Suibhne and sent home.
Niall Óg, himself, was killed in 1547 at Badhbhdhún Nua by the sons of his brother, Maol Mhuire, because of Maol Mhuire's death at the hands of Niall Óg, in 1535 . He was succeeded in the lordship by Toirdhealbhach Meirgeach Mac Suibhne, who had a short rule, being slain at Baile Mhic Suibhne by the Clann Coilín and the Clann Coinneigéin in January of 1550.
After Toirdhealbhach's death, Ruaidhrí Ballach Mac Suibhne requested Maghnus Ó Domhnaill to create him lord of Banagh and when Ó Domhnaill refused Ruaidhí plundered Killybegs. He was, however, killed by Maol Mhuire, son of Aodh Mac Suibhne, who became lord.
During Maol Mhuire's rule, in August of 1569, the MacCleans of Scotland, who were in the service of Ó Néill (Toirdhealbhach Luineach), arrived in Banagh and killed "Hue Boy Row and eighteen galloglas more". In 1581 Maol Mhuire himself was slain fighting under Ó Domhnaill (Aodh) against Ó Néill (Toirdhealbhach Luineach), when the latter defeated the Cinél Conaill at Kiltole, near Raphoe. Also slain in this battle were Maol Mhuire's sons, Murchadh and Toirdhealbhach Meirgeach and many others of his kin.
The rule of the next lord, Maol Mhuire Óg, son of Maol Mhuire, lasted only a year he was slain in 1582 by a party of Scots attending a meeting between Ó Neill and Ó Domhnaill on the shores of Lough Foyle. He was succeeded by Brian Óg, son of Maolmhuire (lord of Banagh, who died in 1535). He, in his turn, was slain by Niall Meirgeach son of Maol Mhuire (lord of Banagh who died 1581), who was next to rule, but Niall, like his predecessors, did not rule for long and was killed on St. Brigid's day in 1588 by Donnchadh son of Maol Mhuire Meirgeach (lord who died in 1564), at Derryness, an island off the coast of the parish of Inishkeele in the barony of Boylagh.
In 1590 while Aodh Ruadh Ó Domhnaill (Red Hugh O Donnell) was still imprisoned in Dublin Castle his half brother, Domhnall, made an attempt to wrest the lordship, of Tír Conaill from his ageing father, Aodh. Aodh Ruadh's mother, An Inghean Dubh Nic Dhomhnaill, mustered Ó Dochartaigh, a large army of Scots and the Mac Suibhne branches of Na Tuatha and Fanad to oppose him, as she wanted the lordship for her own son, Aodh Ruadh. Donnchadh, however, who was now lord of Banagh, took Domhnall's side, as did Ó Baoighill, and on the fourteenth day of September the opposing forces met near Glencolumbkille, where Domhnall's forces were defeated and Domhnall, himself, killed at Derrylahan near Teelin harbour. In 1592 Aodh Ruadh was at liberty and Donnchadh, who was back in favour, attended his inauguration the same year at Kilmacrennan.
In September 1596 it was reported that ten Spanish ships had arrived Banagh and that Aodh Ó Néill, lord of Tír Eoghain, had gone to meet them. In June 1600 we hear that Spanish and French ships came there "with all manner of relief, to the comfort of the rebels". However, in April of 1601, Donnchadh was sending signals that he wished to join the English and help expel Aodh Ruadh from Tír Conaill. In the autumn of that year Mac Suibhne's Castle had fallen to English, but was later recaptured by Ó Domhnaill. In November, with Aodh Ruadh out of Tír Conaill, Donnchadh submitted to Niall Garbh Ó Domhnaill, who was acting on behalf of the English. We hear little else of him until the beginning of 1608 when he was one of jurors who indicted Ó Néill and Ruaidhí Ó Domhnaill, earl of Tírconnell, after their flight from Rathmullan in 1607. Later in the year the English authorities had reports that he was plotting to help restore the earls to their lands and that he had attacked the ward of Donegal. In November he was in prison for having joined Sir Cathair Ó Dochartaigh's uprising and in 1609 he was arraigned for having entered "Calebegg with sixty or eighty men" the day that Cathair Ó Dochartaigh burned Derry. The jury would not find him guilty, however, and he was acquitted. At this time the English could report the only people of account left in Tír Conaill were the "Mac Swynes".
In the subsequent plantation of Donegal, Donnchadh received 2000 acres in the barony of Kilmacrenan. A son of his, "Hugh Donnogh bane Mc. Swyne" and others were renting the halfquarter of Mullagh in the Rosses in 1633, "meere Irishmen, whoe are not English or British descent". Donnchadh, himself, died about this time. Donnchadh's eldest son, Niall Meirgeach, is probably the "best MacSwyne" who was killed in a skirmish near Killybegs by a settler force under Andrew Knox in 1641.
Niall Meirgeach is not listed in the Books of Survey and Distribution but the lands held by his son, Donnchadh Óg, in Dore, now in parish of Gweedore, were held forfeit after the Rising.
Aug. 29, 2003