CELT document G102004

Covenant between Mageoghegan and the Fox


Covenant between Mageoghegan and the Fox, with brief historical notices of the two families.

The following compact or covenant, which was made between Mageoghegan, chief of Cinel-Fhiachach, or Kineleaghe, and the Fox, chief of Muinter-Thadhgain (or, as it is anglicised, Munterhagan), on the 20th of August, 1526, is printed from the original, now in the possession of Sir Richard Nagle, Baronet, of Jamestown House, in the County of Westmeath. It is written on a small piece of parchment, in the handwriting, as stated, of James, the son of Cairbri O'Kinga, who was present at the making of the covenant, and who committed it to writing two days afterwards.

That the reader may understand the exact nature of this covenant, it will be necessary to give here a brief sketch of the history of both families, and a description of the relative situation and extent of their territories.

The Family of Mageoghegan: — This sept bore the tribe-name of Cinel or Kinel-Fhiachach, (anglicised Kineleaghe), which name was also applied to their territory; for the custom among the Irish was, not to take their surnames or titles from places and countries, as is usual with other nations, but to give the tribe-name of the family to the seigniory by them possessed. 1 This tribe name of Cinel-Fhiachach, was derived, as the Macgeoghegans boasted, from Fiacha, the third son of the Irish monarch Niall of the Nine Hostages; and their claim to this high descent was allowed by King George IV., who, as shall be presently shewn, permitted the head of a branch of this family to take the name of O'Neill, in the sense of descendant of Niall of the Nine Hostages. There occurs, however, a story in the Leabhar Breac,  p.180 fol. 35b, being a lampoon on the Cinel-Fhiachach by certain satirists, in which it is asserted that they are not descended from Fiacha, the son of the great Niall, but from a plebeian Fiacha, son of Aedh, son of Maelibressi:

  1. O Kinel Fhiachach behold your genealogy,
    Fiacha, so of Aedh, son of Maelibressi.

This lampoon enraged the tribe to such a decree, that, at a place called Rosscorr, they murdered the satirists 2 although they were under the protection of O'Suanaigh, the patron saint of Rahen; and it is added, that for this sárughadh, or violation of the saint's protections, the Cinel-Fhiachach forfeited two townlands to O'Suanaigh, which formed part of the possessions of the church of Rahen at the time when the story was written.

Shortly after the period of English invasion, Mageoghegan was reduced to insignificance and obscurity; but on the decay of the family of De Lacy in Meath, he became more powerful than ever he had been before, and was soon very troublesome to his Anglo-Irish neighbours and the government. In the year 1329 he took the field at the head of his followers in Westmeath, during the government of Sir John Darcy. The Lord Thomas Butler marched, with a considerable force, to check his proceedings, but was routed by Mageoghegan,  p.181 near Mullingar, with great slaughter. In the following year Mageoghegan fought the united forces of the Earls of Ulster and Ormond, but was put to flight after a spirited resistance. His Anglo-Irish neighbours continued their hostilities against him during the next century, but without much effect; for, in the year 1449, when he was summoned by Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, (the father of Edward IV.), to make his submission, he was treated with such honour by that wise and conscientious prince, that Mageoghegan, who regarded this respect as the result of fear, boasted, on returning among his sept, ‘that he had given peace to the King's Lieutenant.’ (Leland's Hist. of Ireland V. ii, p. 35.)

Campion has published the letter of Richard to his brother, the Earl of Shrewsbury, in which he thus complains of Mageoghegan and his associates:

‘ Right worshipfull and with all my heart entirely beloved Brother, I commend mee unto you as heartily as I can. And like it you to wit, that sith I wrote last unto the King our soveraigne Lord his Highnes, the Irish enemy, that is to say Magoghigan, and with him rebells, notwithstanding that they were within the King our Soveraigne Lord his power, of great malice, and against all truth, have maligned against their legiance, and vengeably have brent a great towne of mine inheritance, in Meth, called Ramore, 3 and other villages thereabouts, and murdered and brent both men, women, and children without mercy. The which enemies be yet assembled in woods and forts, wayting to doe the hurt and grievance to the King's subjects that they can thinke or imagine, [...]’ (Campion, Historie of Ireland, Dublin reprint of 1809, p. 146.)

On this letter Campion made the following remark in 1571:

‘Of such power was Magoghigan, in those dayes, who as he wan and kept it by the sword, so now he liveth but a meane Captaine, yeelding his winnings to the stronger.’ (Campion, Historie of Ireland, Dublin reprint of 1809, p. 148.)


The pedigree of Mageoghegan is deduced by Duald Mac Firbis, from Niall of the Nine Hostages. See the accompanying genealogy for this page.

On an old map, made in the year 1567, published with the third  p.183 Part of the State Papers (Ireland), the situation of Mageoghegan's country is described as follows:

“McEochagan's country, called Kenaliaghe, containeth in length xij myles, and in bredth 7 myles. It lyeth midway betweene the ffort of Faly Philipstown and Athlone, five myles distant from either of them, and also five myles distant from Mollingare, which lyeth northward of it. The said McEochagan's country is of the county of Westmeth, situated in the upper end thereof bending to the south part of the said county, and on the other side southward of it is O'Moloye's country. And on the south east of it lyeth Offaly; and on the east side joyneth Terrell's country alias Ffertullagh. On the north side lyeth Dalton's country; and O Melaghlen's country on the west side between it and Athlone, wher a corner joyneth with Dillon's country.”

The territory of Cinel-Fhiachach, however, originally extended from Birr; in the present King's County, to the hill of Uisneach, in Westmeath; but subsequently the O'Molloys and Mageoghegans, who were the principal families of the race of Fiacha, son of Niall, became independent of each other, and divided the original territory into two parts, of which O'Molloy retained the southern portion, called Feara-Ceall, and Mageoghegan the northern portion, which retained the original name of the tribe. In the year 1207, both families were nearly dispossessed by Meyler Fitz-Henry and the sons of Hugh de Lacy, who, in this year, contended with each other for the lands of Cinel-Fhiachach, as appears from the following entry in the Annals of Clonmacnoise, translated by Connell Mageoghegan: ‘A.D. 1207. The sons of Hugh Delasie, with the forces of the English of Meath, laid siege to the castle of Ardinurcher, and the same continued for the space of five weeks, until they forced Meyler to abandon and forsake all the cantred of Kynaleaghe from Birr to Killare.’ (Annals of Clonmacnoise)

Sir Richard Nagle, Bart., now inherits the property of the last chieftain of the Mageoghegans, from who he is maternally descended. Another branch of them was removed by Cromwell to the  p.184 castle of Bunowen, in the west of the county of Galway, where they still possess several thousand acres of mountainous land. 4 The last head of this family (who wrote his name Geoghegan, without the prefix Ma or Mac), conceiving a dislike to his name, because in England he found it difficult to get it correctly written or pronounced, was induced to apply to King George IV., for license to change it to O'Neill, which name he selected because it sounded well in English ears, and was one of great celebrity in Irish history; and also because he thought he had every claim to it, as the Mageoghegans were descended from Niall of the Nine Hostages, and, therefore, regarded as a branch of the southern Hy-Niall race. This license was granted, and the name of this branch of the Cinel-Fhiachach is now O'Neill. Such of the family, however, as have remained in the original territory and its vicinity style themselves Geoghegan, Gahagan, or Gegan, but there is not an individual of the race in Ireland who now writes his name Mageoghegan, according to the original and correct anglicised form. The Abbe J. Ma-Geoghegan, who published his Histoire de l'Irlande at Paris, in 1758, was the last of the family that retained the old name.

The Family of Fox: — The family of O'Caharny, who afterwards took the name of Sinnach, or Fox, were originally chiefs of all Teffia and, previously, to the English invasion, far more powerful than the Mageoghegans; but, shortly after that event, they were subdued by the De Lacys and their followers, and reduced to comparative insignificance. The country of Teffia, of which the Fox O'Caharny had been the chief lord before Sir Hugh de Lacy's time, comprised the districts of Calry, Brawny, Cuircne, now the barony of Kilkenny West, besides the lands assigned to the Tuites, Pettys, and Daltons, in Westmeath, as  p.185 well as Magh-Treagha, Muinter-Gillagan, and other districts in the county of Longford; but, for many centuries, the country of the O'Caharnys or Foxes has been confined to one small barony, namely, the district of Muinter-Tadhgain, which was formed into the barony of Kilcoursey, and made a part of the King's County.

The following extract from a Patent Roll of Chancery (42 Eliz) will shew the extent and subdivision of Fox's country at that period:

Hubert Foxe of Lehinchie Barony Kilcoursie alias the Foxe his country, Gent. commonly called the Foxe, chiefe of his name, by deed dated 1 May 1599, to express his zeal and loyalty, surrendered to the Queen all his estate spiritual and temporal within the whole barony and territory of Kilcourcie called Mounterhagan or the Foxe his country, which was divided into three parts and parishes, viz. Shantway, Roaghan and Moye, and Monterdowlan and containing 30 corcives or plowlands, part free and part chargeable, with intent that her Majesty shou'd regrant the same in tail male to him and others of his kinsmen, in accomplishment whereof and pursuant to privy seal dated at Richmond 29 January 1599. 42.o f. R.8. her Majesty hereby granted the same to him and the heirs male of his body, remainder to his nephew Brissell Foxe, son of his brother Arte and his heirs male, remainder to his uncle Owen Foxe of Lissinuskie in the said barony and county and his issue male, remainder to Phelim Foxe of Tolghan ne Brennye said barony Gent. and his issue male, remainder to Brissell Foxe of Kilmaledie said barony Gent. son of Neile Foxe, who died lately in the Queen's service, and his issue male, to be holden by knight's service in the capite by the 20th part of a knight's fee and the ancient service of 4 footmen at every general Hosting yearly as he and his ancestors were accustomed to bear, with power, during his life, to keep once a month a Court Baron, and twice a year a Court Leet within any part of the said barony before himself or his Sub-Seneschal, and hereby appointing him Seneschal thereof, and to appoint deputies under him, and a power of alienation to him and his successors, according to the said limitations.

The O'Caharnys or Foxes are descended from Maine, the fourth son of the monarch Niall of the Nine Hostages. The following line  p.186 of their pedigree is given by Duald Mac Firbis and others: the letters 'K.T.' stand for King of Teffia.

  • Niall of the Nine Hostages, Monarch of Ireland.
  • Maine, ancestor of the men of Teffia (a district sometimes called Tir-Many) died in 425. Ann. Clonmacnoise.
  • Brian.
  • Brendan, K.T., who granted the site of Durrow to St. Columbkille in 550; he died in 569.
  • Aedh, K.T., living in 590.
  • Blathmac, K.T., d. 661.
  • Congalach.
  • Colla or Conla, K.T., d. 738.
  • Braite; and Bec, K.T., d.764.
  • Maelbeannachta.
  • Tadhgan, a quo Muintir Tadhgain, the tribe name of the O'Caharnys or Foxes.
  • Bec.
  • Conchobar.
  • Breasal.
  • Cearnachan.
  • Cathalan.
  • Catharnach, a quo O'Caharny, the real surname of the Foxes.
  • Fogartach.
  • Ruaidhri, or Rory.
  • Tadhg Sinnach O'Caharny, K.T., slain 1084 by Melaghlin mac Conor O'Melaghlin.
  • Ruaidhri.
  • Niall, chief of Teffia, d. 1233.
  • Maeleachlainn; and Conor K.T., slain 1226.
  • Congalach.
  • Ruaidhri.
  • Niall.


By comparing this line with that of Mageoghegan's pedigree, above given, we must conclude, from the number of generations, that this Niall was contemporary with Congalach More Mageoghegan, who flourished in the thirteenth century. He was probably the Niall Sinnach, or Fox, chief of Muinter-Thadhgain, who was killed in the battle of Athenry, in the year 1316. It is quite clear that there were four or five generations between this Niall and the Breasal who made this covenant with Mageoghegan, in 1526. Of these, the document itself furnishes two, viz., Eoghan, his father, and Cairbri, his grandfather; and the Annals of the Four Masters will probably be found to supply remaining ones; for, under the year 1446, they record the death of Cucogry, chief of Teffia, son of Maine, who was son of Sinnach, or Fox, lord of the men of Teffia. The probability is, that this Cucogry was the brother of Cairbri, the grandfather of the Breasal who made the covenant in 1526. See the accompanying genealogy for this page.

At what period, or wherefore, the O'Caharnys of Teffia first assumed the name Sinnach, or Fox, it is now not easy to determine. It would appear from the Irish Annals, that Tadhg, or Teige O'Caharny, King of Teffia, who was slain in 1084, was the first called Sinnach. In the old translation of the Annals of Ulster is the following entry, which traces the name Sinnach to a very opprobious origin; but where the translator found authority for it the Editor is  p.188 not prepared to say, as it is not in either of the original Irish copies of these Annals.

“A.D. 1024, Cuan O'Lochlan, Archpoet of Ireland, was killed treacherously by the men of Tehva, auncestors of the Foxes. They stunk after[wards], whereby they got the name of Foxes,—a miracle shewed of the poet.”

According to the tradition in the district, as told to the Editor by Mr. John Daly, of Kilbeggan, on the 5th of January, 1838, when he was in the eightieth year of his age, there were three branches of the Foxes in Muinter-Thadgain, of which one possessed the estate of Ballymaledy, lying between Horseleap and Clara; another possessed Cloghatinny (Cloch a' tSionnaigh), in the same neighbourhood; and the third had Streamstown, in the county of Westmeath. The two last estates were lost during the troubles of 1641; and the first, Ballymaledy, was sold, about fifty-eight years ago, by Charles Fox, Esq., who was the last estated gentleman of the name in that vicinity.

It appears from an inquisition taken at Mullingar, on the 18th of December, in the 14th year of the reign of James I., that Robert Nugent enfeoffed to Patrick Fox, of the city of Dublin, the lands of Templepatrick, near Myvour, in 1609; and from another inquisition, taken at the same place, on the 22nd of April 1623, we learn that a Sir Patrick Fox was in possession of the manor of Moyvore, and of the lands of Templepatrick, and several other lands; that this Sir Patrick Fox died on the 27th January, 1618, leaving Nathaniel Fox his son and heir, then thirty years of age, and married. It appears from another inquisition, taken at the same place, on the 19th of March, 1634, that this Nathaniel died on the 4th of February, 1634, leaving Patrick Fox his son and heir, then 20 years of age, and married. Sir Patrick was the ancestor of Fox of Fox-Hall; in the county of Longford, who supposes him to have been an Englishman; but, according to the tradition in the country, he was one of the Sinnachs, who settled in Dublin as a merchant, where he accumulated a considerable  p.189 fortune, and afterwards purchased lands in Westmeath. His son Nathaniel, to whom there is a curious monument in the demesne of Fox-Hall, is said to have been an officer in the service of Elizabeth and James I. The name Patrick shews clearly that the founder of this family of Moyvore or Fox-Hall was not of the English Foxes.

The present head of the Irish Sinnachs, or Foxes of Kilcoursey, is said to be Darcy Fox, Esq., of Foxville, in the county of Meath, but the Editor does not know whether that gentleman has any original documents to prove his descent from any of the persons mentioned in the Patent Roll of 1599 above quoted.

There are numerous families of the name living in humble circumstances, in various parts of the counties of East Meath and West Meath; but the Editor never met any persons of the name who had any knowledge of their pedigree, or who could trace their descent beyond a few generations by tradition. Indeed the Foxes of this race “are brought so low, now-a-days,” as Connell Mageoghegan has observed, with respect to the O'Kellys of Bregia,—“that the best chroniclers in the Kingdome are ignorant of their descents, and they are so common, having dwindled into mere churles, and poor labouring men, that scarcely one of the family knoweth the name of his own great grandfather.” There are chasms in the pedigree of the Breasal, who made the covenant with Mageoghegan in 1526, and from him to the Hubert of 1599, and from him to Brasill, chief of his name, who died in 1639, leaving a son, Hubert, aged thirty years.

We proceed now to give, in the original Irish, with a translation and a few notes, the curious deed which has given rise to the foregoing remarks.


Séamus Ó Cionga

Edited by John O'Donovan

Covenant between Mageoghegan and the Fox

A n-ainm an Athur agus an Meic agus an Spioruid Naoim an cunnrudh so Mheig Eochagáin agus an t-Sionnaigh.


Ag so cunnrudh agus ceangal Meig Eochagáin, .i. Connla, mac Conchubhair meic Laignigh, agus an t-Sionnuigh Muinntiri Thadhgáin, .i. Breasal mac Eoghain mei Cairbri, .i. Mag Eochagain 'na tighearna ar an Sionnuch agus ar a dhuthaidh, agus ag so a bhfuil do chomartha tighearnuis ag Mag Eochagáin ar an Sionnuch agus ar a dhúthaidh, .i. gníomh d'fhearann saor ar gach ein-cion, agus muc 's a ngníomh o sin amach da n-íocfaidh tighearnus ris an Sionnuch, agus an muc do bheth do nóss mhuice clasaighe, agus an gníomh nach biath muc ann caora 'n-a h-ionad; agus gach ionad a biath fearonn a ngioll ó Shionnchuibh ag daoinibh taobh amuigh do tir, agus nach tiocfaidh do h-Shionnchuib a fhuaslugudh, cead ag Mag Eochagáin a fuasgladh. Gach ionad a d-tiocfaidh sreath no gearradh ó fhior ionuid an riogh ar Mag Eochagain cion a dhuthaidh ar an Sionnuch de so. Agus gach ionad a biath fasach no asurra a n-duthaidh an Shionnuigh d' fhiachuibh ar Macc Eochagáin tabhuch do dhéanamh air,  p.192 agus gan a cion do tabairt ar an ti do biath 'n-a shuidhe. Agus dá d-tiseadh sreath no gearradh o fhior ionuid an riogh ar an Sionnuch cuid a dhuthaidh ar Mag Eochagain mur bias ar an Sionnuch; gach oireachtas Samna no Bealtuine da mbiadh a n-duthaidh Meig Eochagain a thabhairt go Baile Atha an Urchair no go Cuirr na Sgean, agus an Sionnuch agus maithe a thíri do theacht lais ann; siat fa eunnos agus fa aon chanuidh asdtig agus amuigh; gach saoirsi agus gach tighearnus da bhfuil ag Mag Eochagain ann sin ag fear a ionaid 'n a dhiaigh, acht go n-dearnadh se a dhithcheall maitheasa agus cumduigh do'n Shionnuch agus d'á thír; gach ionad a biadh cogadh no ceannairg ar Mag Eochagain no ar an Sionnuch agus ó n-a d-tiobhra fear aca lucht a cumdaigh leis tar tír amuigh, cion a dhuthaidh ar an bh-fear eile do na buanudhuibh agus tabhach an assurrudhuis ar Mag Eochagain.

Agus ag so a bh-fuil d' fhiachuibh ar Mag Eochagáin a n-diaigh gach sochair dá n-dubhrumuir ann sin, .i. a dhithcheall cumduigh agus fosguidh do dhéanam do'n Shionnuch, agus da gach duine 'n a dhuthaidh edir beag agus mór; agus gach ionad a n-aigeoraidh mac Goill no Gaoidhil an Sionnuch no duine 'na duthaidh, breath Muircheartaigh Mic Aodhagáin, no an bhreitheamain beas ann uatha an t-ionad nach  p.194 geabthar sin uatha d' fhiachuibh ar Mag Eochagan a duthadh fein agus duthaidh an h-Sionnuigh do caitheam re ceart d'fagháil do'n h-Sionnuch agus d'a duthaidh, agus do tabhairt uatha agus uaidhe; agus gach ionad a bfuil a n-duthaidh d'á congbhail ó h-Sionnchuibh a seilbh eagcóra no assurrudhuis d' fhiachuibh ar Mag Eochagain a dhithcheall fein da tabhuirt do tabhuch na duithchi; an t-ionad a léigfidh iarla Cilli dara gan a tabhuch, d' fiachuibh ar Mag Eochagain a dithcheall da tabhuirt d'á tabhuch; agus da d-toibhghe sé an duthaidh, a leath aga fein, agus an leath eile ag fear na seilbe fein; ní h-é amháin acht gach ionud nach diongnadh mur do gheunadh sé da bhaile puirt fein do díon agus do tabuch do'n h-Sionnuch agus do Muinntir Tadhgain gan cíos no saoirsi no tighearnus aige orrtha, acht gach duine ar a shon fein.

Ag so fiadhnuisi an cunnrudh so, .i. Mag Eochagain agus Dia roime, agus Mairsill inghean Criosdóra, agus O'Brain, .i. Tomas Buidhe mac Eoghuin Brain ó'r Craoibh, agus an pearsun O'Seancháin, .i. Cucrichi agus Eoghan O'Cionga, mac Diarmada Duibh, agus Seamus Ruadh, mac  p.196 Aodha, mic Feargail, agus Muircheartach O'Cionga, ollam an da thir. Ag sin a roibhe do Ceineal Fiachach againn. Ag so a roibhe do duthaidh an h-Sionnuigh aguinn, .i. an Sionnuch fein, agus da mac Eamuinn, .i. Muircheartach agus Felim, agus da mac Briain h-Sionnuigh, .i. Breasal agus Cucrichi; agus Muircheartach, mac Eoghain, mic Thaidg Onoire, .i. ollamh an Shionnuigh. Agus misi Seamus O'Cionga, mac Cairbri Cionga, do bhi do lathir an chunnartha do dheanum, agus do sgriobh e, agus a Suidhe Adhamnáin do rinneadh an cunnrudh so agus dia ceudaoin do h-sunnradh, agus dia h-Aoine ro sgriobhadh é, agus ag so aois an Tighearna an tan so .i. 6 bliadhna agus 20, u. 100 sgeo 1000 bliadhain, agus an dara la 20 do mi Agustus.

+ Misi Mac Eochagain.

+ Misi an Sindach.

aiingind íííí scfttidc íííí bec nglcnt ... ncsrbhsicscsisgrbngnscdc bhfuil a n-Eirinn + Sinni clann Eamuinn h-Sionnuigh.

+ Sinni clann Bhriain h-Sionnuigh.


In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, this compact of Mageoghegan and the Fox is made.

This is the covenant and contract of Mageoghegan, i.e. Connla, 5 son of Conchobar, 6 son of Laighnech, 7 and of the Fox of Muinter Tadhgain, 8 i.e. Breasal, son of Eoghan, son of Cairbri, viz.: Mageoghegan to be lord over the Fox, and his country; and this is all the sign of the lordship 9 which Mageoghegan has over the Fox and over his country, viz., a gniomh 10 of land free from every impost, and a hog out of every other gniomh 11 which pays chiefry to the Fox; and the hog to be in the condition of a muc clasach; 12 and the gniomh on which there is not a hog to give a sheep in its place. And wherever land is mortgaged from the Foxes to persons living outside the territory, and the Foxes not able to redeem it, Mageoghegan is at liberty to redeem it. Wherever cess or cutting comes from the King's Deputy on Mageoghegan, the due proportion of it to be paid by the Fox for his own territory. And every place that is deserted and rent unpaid 13 in Fox's country, Mageoghegan is obliged to distrain upon it, without making  p.193 the person settled there liable to him. And if cess or cutting be levied by the King's Deputy upon the Fox, Mageoghegan is to pay the proportion of his territory 14 of it as well as the Fox. Every All Hallows or May meeting that shall take place in Mageoghegan's country shall be convened at the town of Ath-an-Urchair15 or Corrna-sgean, 16 and the Fox and the chieftains of his country shall come with him thither. They are to be under the same custom and the same tribute within and without. Every privilege and ascendancy here ceded to Mageoghegan shall be enjoyed by his representative after him, provided he does his utmost to endeavour for the benefit and protection of the Fox and his country. Whenever a war or disturbance comes upon Mageoghegan or the Fox, on account of which one of them may bring his forces with him out of the territory, the other shall bear the proportion of his territory of the expense of the bonaghtmen, 17 and Mageoghegan is to distrain in case of non-payment. 18

And these are the liabilities of Mageoghegan for all the privileges which we have mentioned above, viz. that he do his utmost for the protection and shelter of the Fox, and every person in his country, both small and great. And whenever either an Englishman or Irishman shall sue the Fox, or any person in his territory, that the decision of Muirchertach Mac Egan, or of the Brehon who shall be by them appointed, be submitted to; and when this will not be accepted  p.195 from them, then that Mageoghegan shall be bound to spend his country 19 and Fox's country, for obtaining justice for the Fox and his country, as well as to compel them and him to render justice. And whenever any part of their territory is unjustly or with default or rent detained, 20 Mageoghegan is bound to do his utmost endeavour to recover such part of the territory. Whenever the Earl of Kildare 21 declines to recover it, Mageoghegan is bound to lend his utmost endeavours to recover it. And if he shall recover the land, then one half of it shall be his own, and the other half be left to the man in possession. 22 Not this alone, but whenever he Mageoghegan shall not endeavour to shelter and distrain for the Fox and Muinter Thadhgain as he would for his own mansion, he shall not have rent, privilege, or lordship over them, but every man shall be for himself.

These are the witnesses of this covenant, viz.: Mageoghegan and God before him; and Marcella, the daughter of Christopher; 23 and O'Breen, i.e. Thomas Buidhe, 24 the son of Eoghan 25 O'Breen, of Craebh; 26 and the parson O'Senchain, 27 i.e. Cucrichi; 28 and Eoghan  p.197 O'Cionga 29 the son of Diarmaid Dubh; 30 and James Ruadh, 31 the son of Aedh, 32 son of Ferghal; 33 and Muirchertach 34 O'Cionga, the chief poet of both territories. These are all we had present of the Cinel-Fhiachach. 35 Here are all we had of Fox's country that we had with us, viz. the Fox himself; and the two sons of Edmond, i.e. Muirchertach and Felim; 36 and the two sons of Brian 37 Fox, i.e. Breasal 38 and Cucrichi; and Muirchertach, the son of Eoghan, son of Tadhg Onoire, 39 i.e. the chief poet 40 of the Fox. And I am James O'Cionga, the son of Cairbri 41 O'Cionga, who was present at the making of this covenant, and who wrote it; and it was at Suidhe Adhamnain 42 this covenant was made, precisely on Wednesday, and on Friday it was written; and this is the age of the Lord at this time, six years, and twenty, five hundred and one thousand years, and the twenty-second day of the month of August.

+ I am Mageoghegan.

+ I am the Fox.

aiingind iiii scftidc iiii bec nglcnt . . . . . ncsrbhsicscsisgrbngnsdc. That is in Ireland. 43 + We are the sons of Edmond Fox.

+ We are the sons of Brian Fox.

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Title (uniform): Covenant between Mageoghegan and the Fox

Title (extended): with brief historical notices of the two families

Author: Séamus Ó Cionga

Editor: John O'Donovan

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translated by: John O'Donovan

Electronic edition compiled by: Beatrix Färber and Benjamin Hazard

Funded by: University College, Cork and The Higher Education Authority via the LDT Project

Edition statement

2. Second draft.

Extent: 7075 words

Publication statement

Publisher: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts: a Department of History Project at University College, Cork

Address: College Road, Cork, Ireland—http://www.ucc.ie/celt

Date: 2005

Date: 2011

Distributor: CELT online at University College, Cork, Ireland.

CELT document ID: G102004

Availability: Available with prior consent of the CELT programme for purposes of academic research and teaching only.

Source description

Manuscript Sources

  1. Dublin, Royal Irish Academy, 23. Q. 1, pp. 164–167. For further details see Kathleen Mulchrone, T. F. O'Rahilly et al. (eds.), Catalogue of Irish manuscripts in the Royal Irish Academy (Dublin 1926–70) MS. 570, pp. 1762–5.
  2. Dublin, Royal Irish Academy, 23. D. 4, pp. 15–18. For further details see Kathleen Mulchrone, T. F. O'Rahilly et al. (eds.), Catalogue of Irish manuscripts in the Royal Irish Academy (Dublin 1926–70) MS. 1035, pp. 2944–7.

The edition used in the digital edition

‘Covenant between Mageoghegan and the Fox, with brief historical notices of the two families.’ (1846). In: The Miscellany of the Irish Archaeological Society‍ 1. Ed. by John O’Donovan, pp. 179–197.

You can add this reference to your bibliographic database by copying or downloading the following:

  editor 	 = {John O'Donovan},
  title 	 = {Covenant between Mageoghegan and the Fox, with brief historical notices of the two families.},
  journal 	 = {The Miscellany of the Irish Archaeological Society},
  number 	 = {1},
  address 	 = {
  publisher 	 = {Irish Archaeological Society},
  date 	 = {1846},
  pages 	 = {179–197}


Encoding description

Project description: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts

Editorial declarations

Correction: Text has been checked and proof-read twice.

Normalization: The electronic text represents the edited text. Names are capitalized in line with CELT practice. Text supplied by the editor is marked sup resp="JOD" ; editorial notes are marked note type="auth" n=""; Latin words are marked. Two genealogical tables supplied by O'Donovan are not part of the sgml file, but available as images in the HTML version .

Quotation: Quotations from written sources are tagged qt. These may be contained in a tagged citation (cit).

Hyphenation: In the English text, soft hyphens are silently removed. No hyphens were added to the Irish text. Words containing a hard or soft hyphen crossing a page-break have been placed on the line on which they start.

Segmentation: div0=the agreement; div1=the section (Introduction, Irish text and English translation); page-breaks are marked pb n="".

Interpretation: Names, and some terms are tagged.

Reference declaration

A canonical reference to a location in this text should be made using “section”, eg section .

Profile description

Creation: by Séamus Ó Cionga and John O'Donovan respectively.

Date: 1526 [Irish text]

Date: 1845 translation]

Language usage

  • Original text is in Irish. (ga)
  • Introduction, translation and editorial notes are in English. (en)
  • Some words are in Latin. (la)

Keywords: law; agreement; prose; 16c; translation

Revision description

(Most recent first)

  1. Pre-1997: Irish text keyed in and first proofing. (data capture; ed. Staff of the CURIA Project)
  2. 2011-02-11: File updated, cnoversion script run; new wordcount made; new SGML and HTML version created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  3. 2008-08-29: Keywords added; file validated. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  4. 2008-07-27: Value of div0 "type" attribute modified, content of 'langUsage' revised; minor modifications made to header. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  5. 2005-08-25: Normalised language codes and edited langUsage for XML conversion (ed. Julianne Nyhan)
  6. 2005-08-04T15:32:33+0100: Converted to XML (ed. Peter Flynn)
  7. 2005-05-05: File proofed (2); header modified; more content markup applied; file re-parsed and new HTML file created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  8. 2005-04-28: File proofed (1); header constructed; manuscript details supplied; structural and content markup applied to text; file converted to ASCII and parsed; HTML file created. (ed. Benjamin Hazard)
  9. 2005-04-27: Image files created from editor's genealogical material for pages 182 and 187 of the file. (ed. Benjamin Hazard)
  10. 2004-10-25: Translation, Introduction and editorial footnotes scanned. (data capture Benjamin Hazard)

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  1. See Ogygia Vindicated, p. 170. 🢀

  2. Satires or lampoons of this description have been productive of much mischief in Ireland, giving occasion to family feuds and various outrages. In the reign of James I. Teige Dall O'Higgin lampooned six persons of the sept of O'Hara of Leyny in the county of Sligo, who, in retaliation, cut out the poet's tongue, and murdered his wife and child. See O'Reilly's Irish Writers (Transactions of the Iberno-Celtic Society), p. clxx. About the year 1713 Egan O'Rahilly wrote a lampoon on an industrious farmer in Kerry, named Teige Duff O'Cronin, in which he traces his pedigree in thirteen generations to the Devil! This is the most outrageous satire in the Irish language, and was intended by its author to ridicule the plebeian families planted in Ireland by Cromwell, and such of the native Irish as united with them in oppressing the old Irish who were permitted to live on the lands of their ancestors. 🢀

  3. Ramore, now Rathmore, near Athboy. The castle and church are standing, but no trace of a town exists. 🢀

  4. For the pedigree of this branch, as furnished by themselves, see Burke's History of the Commoners of Great Britain and Ireland. 🢀

  5. Usually anglicised 'Conly', but sometimes 'Connell', as by the translator of the Annals of Clonmacnoise🢀

  6. Now anglicised 'Conor' and latinized 'Cornelius'. 🢀

  7. This name, which denotes Leinstermen or Lagenian, would be anglicised 'Lynagh'. It is now obsolete as the proper name of a man. According to the Annals of Clonmacnoise this Laighneach died in the Ides of September, 1400. 🢀

  8. Usually anglicised Munterhagan. It was the tribe name of the Foxes or O'Caharnys, and was also applied to their country, which was co-extensive with the barony of Kilcoursey in the present King's County. This tribe-name they derived from Tadhgan, the seventh in descent from Brendan, chief of all Teffia, who granted the site of the monastery of Durrow to St. Columbkille, in the year 550. 🢀

  9. i.e. his chiefry and privileges shall not extend beyond what is stated in this covenant. 🢀

  10. This term is anglicised 'gnieve' by English writers. See Harris' edition of Ware's Antiquities, p. 226. In the south of Ireland a gníomh is the twelfth part of a plough-land. In the will of Teige O'Donovan of Raheen and Drishane, who died in 1639, he defines nine gnives as forming three quarters of a plough-land. In a MS. in the Lambeth Library (Carew Collection), No. 614, p. 197, 'a plow-land' is said to contain 'about 120 acres.' Hence it is quite evident that a gnive was considered to contain about ten acres. 🢀

  11. This was a very considerable tribute rendered to Mageoghegan, for Muintir-Thadhgain contained thirty plough-lands, or three hundred and sixty gnieves, so that Mageoghegan was, by this covenant, to receive three hundred and fifty-nine hogs. This must have been a yearly tribute; but this is not stated in the document. It should have been stated in the covenant whether this tribute was paid yearly. 🢀

  12. a fat pig.—O'Reilly. 🢀

  13. There is an imperfection in the language here. It should be stated thus: Mageoghegan is entitled to appoint tenants upon such lands as are void of inhabitants in Fox's country, and he is bound by this covenant to distrain the property of such tenants as have not paid their tributes to the Fox, and deliver up such distress to the Fox, without claiming any chiefry over such lands except such as are already specified. 🢀

  14. i.e. the proportion of Fox's country which is given him by this covenant. 🢀

  15. This place is still called in Irish Baile Atha Urchuir, and in English, Horseleap. It is situated in the parish of Ardnurcher, in the barony of Moycashel, and county of Westmeath. There was a strong castle erected here by Sir Hugh de Lacy the younger, in the year 1192, but on the decay of the power of the De Lacys in Meath, it was seized by Mageoghegan. Sir Henry Piers, in his Chorographical Description of the county of Westmeath, which was published in the first volume of Vallancey's Collectanea de Rebus Hibernicis, describes this castle (p. 84) as a stately structure; and such it evidently was; but there are no distinct ruins of it at present, except two piers of the draw-bridge. Masses of the walls are to be seen scattered about in various directions; but the ground plan of the building could not now be determined. See Annals of the Four Masters 1192, 1207, 1470. 🢀

  16. The Editor has not been able to determine the present name or situation of this place. 🢀

  17. i.e. the kerns or gallowglasses employed. 🢀

  18. i.e. if expenses are incurred by Fox or Mageoghegan in hiring kernes or gallowglasses to fight outside the territory, such expenses are to be levied on both their territories, in proportion to their extent, and should any of the kennfines or freeholders refuse to pay the additional tributes or taxes levied for the purpose in either territory, then Mageoghegan, as head chief of both, is bound by this covenant to distrain and compel the payment of such tributes or taxes. 🢀

  19. i.e. to levy such taxes on the lands as will obtain justice through the medium of the English law, or perhaps by force of arms, in case that the party offending or offended will not abide by the decision of the Irish Brehon appointed to both territories. 🢀

  20. i.e. detained by tenants without paying any, or the usual rents. 🢀

  21. From this it would appear that the Fox had entered into a somewhat similar covenant with the Earl of Kildare. 🢀

  22. i.e. the freeholder who had held the land tributary to the Fox, until he was dispossessed by an intruder. According to the pleading between Teige O'Doyne and Dr. Charles Dunne, already referred to, the chief of Iregan could not dispossess any of the kennfines in the territory. All he could claim was tribute and custom, which, if they refused to pay, he might enter upon their lands and distrain. If any townland were left waste or uninhabited in the territory, he might enter upon it, and seize it to his own use. 🢀

  23. The third wife of Conla Mageoghegan, who submitted to Elizabeth in 1567, was Margaret, daughter of Christopher Nugent, Lord Delvin; see Mr Hardiman's edition of O'Flaherty's West Connaught, Note Y, p. 276-278; but she can scarcely be identified with the Marcella here mentioned. 🢀

  24. i.e. Thomas the Yellow. O'Breen was chief of the territory of Breaghmhaine, now the barony of Brawney, adjoining Athone and the Shannon, in the county of Westmeath. 🢀

  25. This is now anglicised Owen and Eugene. 🢀

  26. Now the castle of Creeve, in the parish of Ballyloughloe, barony of Clonlonan, and county of Westmeath. See Ordnance Survey of the County of Westmeath, Sheet 30. 🢀

  27. Now anglicised Shannaghan, and sometimes shortened to Shannon. 🢀

  28. This name, which signifies dog of the boundary, march, or frontier, is sometimes anglicised Cucogry, or Cucowgrie, but more usually translated Peregrine. 🢀

  29. Would be now anglicised Owen O'King, or Eugene King. The name is still common in Meath. 🢀

  30. i.e. Dermot the Black. The name Diarmaid is now anglicised Darby and Jeremiah. 🢀

  31. i.e. Jacobus Rufus, or James the Red-haired. 🢀

  32. Now Hugh. 🢀

  33. Now anglicised Farrell, or Ferrall. It is almost obsolete as the Christian or baptismal name of a man. 🢀

  34. Now generally anglicised Murtough, or Murtha, and sometimes changed to Mortimer. 🢀

  35. i.e. Mageoghegan and his correlatives. 🢀

  36. This is now changed to Felix. It is generally written Phelim by English writers. 🢀

  37. Now sometimes Bernard; but the original form of the name is retained by several. 🢀

  38. Anglicised Brassal, Brissel, and Bazil, and sometimes Basil. 🢀

  39. i.e. Teige, Thaddaeus, or Timothy, the son of Honora. This is an instance of a man being called after his mother, as is very frequently the case, at the present day, in many parts of Ireland. 🢀

  40. Ollamh, means a professor of any art or science. Tadgh was, probably, chief poet to the Fox. 🢀

  41. Now anglicised Carbery, or Carberry. 🢀

  42. i.e. Sessio Adamnani, now Synon, by a corrupt imitation of the pronunciation; a castle in a townland of the same name, in the parish of Ardnurcher, in the barony anciently called Kinealeagh, now Moycashel. See Ordnance Survey of the County of Westmeath, Sheet 31. 🢀

  43. The rest of this sentence is written in the Ogham Consaine, but many of the letters are effaced. For the key to the reading of this character, see Molloy's Grammatica Latino-Hibernica, pp. 133-135. It is a mode of writing rendered obscure, by substituting certain consonants for vowels, and the vowels for consonants. Thus 'bh' stands for 'a', 'sc' for 'e', 'ng' for 'i', 'dl' for 'o', and 'ft' for 'u'; also 'a' is substituted for 'c', and 'c' for 'a'. 🢀


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