Arms of 1702

Modern Remnants

The sixteenth century saw the expansion into Ireland of the structure of the English state in the form of a state apparatus replicated from England by which a nominally independent 'Irish' crown was created subsidiary to the English crown. The English authorities initially envisaged its expansion across the whole island by a policy of surrender and regrant in which Irish lords were encouraged to surrender their lands in return for the regrant of these lands under a title valid in English law. This policy was unsuccessful and a policy of military conquest and colonisation was adopted in its place. By the early seventeenth century this had led to the conquest of the whole island, the elimination of the private jurisdictions of chiefship and lordship and the imposition of a government acting solely in the English interest. Ireland had been controlled but not pacified and an aggravating religious dimension had been introduced in the adoption of a protestant Anglican state identity strongly at variance with the Catholic identity of the general population.

In the wake of the English conquest the options available to the leading inhabitants of Inishowen were conformity, exile or obscurity. The latter route was the one most travelled leaving only a few MacLochlainn lines traceable beyond 1700. To consolidate their position the English authorities devised a scheme for the expropriation and colonisation of the lands of western and central Ulster known as the Plantation of Ulster. The operation of customary law and government was suppressed, all secular lands were declared forfeit to the crown for redistribution to settlers from England and Scotland, Catholic dioceses were dispossessed in favour of the protestant Anglican state church and all religious houses were dissolved. Alongside this there went a policy of anglicisation under which a few prominent natives were granted a fraction of their former lands provided that they agreed to hold them under English common law tenures. By 1621 a handful of MacLochlainns had obtained small parcels of land in Inishowen under such terms but by the time of the Civil Survey of 1654 Domhnall son of Brian oge MacLochlainn of Whitecastle was the only MacLochlainn landowner to remain. As an 'Irish papist' he forfeit his lands to the state in 1657. The Hearth Money Rolls of 1665 deal with the population in general and so provide a fuller picture, showing the more fertile lands in the south of the peninsula near the colonial settlement of Londonderry heavily populated with people bearing English or Scottish surnames whereas people bearing native surnames predominated in the north. State papers indicate that the English authorities did face sustained local resistance to this scheme. Conor an brathair ('Conor the brother') of the MacLochlainns of Grallagh can be identified as the Franciscan friar suspected in 1630 of gathering intelligence on behalf of an Irish regiment in Spanish service while a letter intercepted in 1661 indicates that the (unnamed) MacLochlainn chief was involved in a subversive conspiracy. In 1689 Diarmaid MacLochlainn, the last known chief, raised a company of soldiers at his own expense to fight the forces of William of Orange. After being badly wounded and left for dead on the battlefield of Aughrim he was taken to prison in England. Four years later he escaped to France and joined an Irish regiment in French service but after receiving further injuries he died in exile in 1713.

The private jurisdiction of the clan had no role within the English-controlled state nor did it find a role in the later resistance movements so in time the MacLochlainns of Inishowen ceased to operate as a body corporate, fragmenting into the hundreds of separate families that we find today. The MacLochlainn genealogy has fortuitously survived as a text within a seventeenth century manuscript known as the O Clery Book of Genealogies. This manuscript was examined and published by the Irish Manuscripts Commission in 1951 in its journal Analecta Hibernica from which the text has been copied to supply the basis of this website. Unfortunately no subsequent editions of the genealogy are known to have been captured, leaving only two lines of descent recoverable into the eighteenth century using the reconstructive techniques of modern genealogy. Of these only a descent from Domhnall son of Brian oge given in an Exchequer bill of 1732 can be traced forward into the present day. A descent through Diarmaid given in a confirmation of arms of 1702 can not be further traced and so joins the others in oblivion. So like other catastrophic events before it the English conquest has left its mark as a stratum within the MacLochlainn genealogy but it would be misleading to end on such a note. Today several thousand MacLochlainns live in Inishowen in natural succession to those who went before them. Their story continues.

Further Reading