History records that Dermod MacMurrough, King of Leinster, did, in the year 1152, steal the wife of Tiernan O’Rourke, Prince of Breffni; for which act, as well as many other cruelties he had committed, the whole country rose up against him, so that he was forced, in 1167, to fly to England and implore the king of that country to extend to him his assistance to recover his lost possessions. The King of England (Henry II.) was an ambitious tyrant, who was just after committing a horrible crime in instigating the murder of St. Thomas a Becket; and, anxious to distract the attention of the nation from his crime, as well as to satisfy the ambitious projects which he and his predecessors had entertained for the conquest of Ireland, he sent, in 1168, a force of armed men, under the command of an adventurer named Strongbow, to restore the incestuous libertine, MacMurrough, to his throne in Leinster. And in the beginning of the year 1169, the English invasion of Ireland took place – an invasion that, from a petty footing in Waterford, soon extended through several portions of the country, until, in 1171, when Henry II. landed first in Ireland, he received the court of every king and prince in Ireland, except Roderic O’Connor, who was then reigning as Ard Righ. The Irish were dazzled; they were awe-struck by the splendour of the invader’s retinue, the equipment of his troops, and the many pomps with which he was surrounded, and they approached, like wondering children, to gaze on the scene. Oh, fatal curiosity! – oh, unfortunate, cursed blindness! What a different tale might not the Irish people of to-day have to tell, had the petty footing in Waterford been instantly stamped out! But no! Strongbow and his legions were allowed to improve their narrow position, and, finally, Henry II., by his suavity, politeness, and winning policy, was enabled, by the very blindness of the Irish chieftains themselves, to extend his petty footing to Dublin, and to make the English invasion almost a triumphal success in 1171. But soon the innocent, guileless Irish saw the drift of Henry’s movements; they saw in his advent a recurrence to the days before Clontarf, and they withdrew one by one to carry on a desultory, and, finally, unsuccessful struggle against his mailed warriors – unsuccessful, because of its very disorganization.
What particular part the chieftains of Annaly took in this portion of their country’s affairs, history does not record; nor can the most enquiring search obtain any clue as to the exact way in which the affairs of Annaly stood at the time. However, a Donnell O’Farrell (see Ardagh) is recorded as being the then tanist, and he having been slain shortly after the arrival of the English king, his son Moroch became King of Conmacne. He assisted in a raid made in the year 1166 by Roderic O’Connor, the last monarch of Ireland, who, on the death of Murtaugh O’Loughlin, became Ard-Righ, and in that year marched from Sligo across country to Dublin,. passing through Annaly, and being joined en route by the men of that country, who assisted him to invade Munster and Ossory, and also assisted in the defeat and banishment of the traitor, Dermod MacMurrough.
The following extracts in reference to Annaly were translated by Mr. O’Donovan from the Annals of the Four Masters, in 1837. They will give the reader the best idea of how things went on in this county during those days :-
“1172. The sons of Annadh O’Rourke and the English made an incursion into the County Longford, and during the expedition slew Donnall O’Farrell, Chieftain of Annaly.
“1183. Auliffe (Oliver) O’Farrell assumed the Lordship of Annaly, and Hugh was expelled.
“1196. Hugh O’Farrell, Lord of Annaly, was treacherously slain by the sons of Sitric O’Quinn.
“1207. Auliffe O’Farrell, Chief of Annaly, died.
“ 1209. Donogh O’Farrell, Chieftain of Annaly, died.
“1210. The sons of Roderic O’Connor, and Teige, the son of Connor Moinmoy, accompanied by some of the people of Annaly, crossed the Shannon, and making an incursion into some of the territory east thereof (Meath), carried a spoil with them into the wilderness of Kenel-Dobhtha. Hugh, the son of Charles the Red-handed, pursued them, and a battle was fought between them, in which the sons of Roderic were defeated and driven again across the Shannon, leaving some of their men and. horses behind them,
“1232. Hugh, the son of Auliffe, son of Donnal O’Farrell. Chieftain of Annaly, was burned on the island of Inislochacuile (Lough Owel) by the sons of Hugh Cialach, son of Morogh O’Farrell, having been nine years chieftain of Annaly, from the death of his predecessor, Moroch Carragh O’Farrell.
“1262. A great pillage was committed by the English of Meath on Giolla-na.Naomh O’Farrell (the Just), Lord of Annaly. His own tribe also forsook him and placed themselves under the protection of the English; afterwards they deposed him, and bestowed the lordship on the son of Morogh Carragh O’Farrell. In consequence of this, Giolla committed great devastations, depredations, spoliations, and pillages, upon the English, and fought several fierce battles upon them, in which he slew vast numbers. He also defended vigorously the lordship of Annaly, and expelled the son of Murrough Carrach O’Farrell from the country.
“1274. Is recorded his death, having achieved the victory of penance. He was son of Auliffe.
“1282. Cathal, his son, who succeeded him in the lordship, died in lniscuan, and Jeffry O’Farrell, his brother, succeeded him.
“1318. Jeffry, the grandson of Giolla-na-naiomh O’Farrell, Lord of Annaly, died.
“1322. Moragh, son of Giolla and Lord of Annaly, was treacherously slain by Sconnin (Little John) O’Farrell at Cluainlisbeg.
“1328. Connor MacBrennan was slain by the inhabitants of Annaly.
“1345. Brian O’Farrell, worthy heir to the lordship of Annaly, died.
“1347. Giolla-na.Naomh, the son of Jeffry, who was son of the other Giolla, died at Cluanlisbeg, having held for a long time the lordship of Annaly.
“1348. Cathal O’Farrell, lord, died.
“1353. Mahon, the son of Giolla, Lord of Annaly, died.
” 1355 Donall, the son of John O’Farrell, Lord of Annaly, died.
“l362. Dermot, son of John, Lord of Annaly, died.
“1364 Melaghlin, son of Morogh, son of Giolla, son of Hugh, son of Auliffe, Lord of Annaly, died.
“1373 The English of Meath made an incursion into Annaly, in the course of which they slew Roderic, the son of Cathal O’Farrell, his son, and numbers of his people. Donagh O’Farrell pursued them with all his forces, and slew great numbers of them; but whilst following the English he was killed by the shot of an arrow, whereupon his people were defeated .
“1374. Melaghlin, son of Dermot O’Farrell, went from Annaly to Muntir Maolmordha, to wage war with the English. A. fierce and determined conflict ensued, in which O’Farrell and many others were slain.
” 1375. Geoffrey O’Farrell, a man of many accomplishments, died.
“1377. The Castle of Lios-ard-ablha (now only marked by the moat of Lisserdowling) was erected by John O’Farrell, Lord of Annaly.”
“1383. John died, and was interred at Abbeylara.
“1384. Cuconnaught, son of Hugh, and Jeffry O’Farrell, died.
“1385. Cathal O’Farrell, worthy heir to the lordship of Annaly, died.
“1398. Morogh O’Farrell, a very renowned man, died a month before Christmas, and was buried in Abbeylara; and Thomas, son of Cathal, son of Morogh, also a renowned man, was slain at his residence (at Killeen in Legan), by the English of Meath and the Baron of Delvin. He had been elected Lord of Annaly in preference to John, his elder brother. John was then inaugurated as his successor.
“1399. John O’Farrell, Lord of Annaly; died.
“1411. Murtogh O’Farrell, son of the Lord of Caladh, in Annaly, died.
“1417. Mathew, son of Cuconnaught, Lord of Magh Treagh, died.
“1430. Owen O’Neill, accompanied by the chiefs of his province, marched with a great army into Annaly. He went first to Sean (old)- Longphort (now the town) – and from that to Coillsallach (Kilsallagh), where he resided for some time. He went afterwards to Meath, and returned home in triumph, bringing the son of Donall-boy O’Farrell with him to Dungannon, as a hostage to ensure O’Farrell’s submission to him as his lord.
“1443. Brian, the son of Ever, who was son of Thomas, son of Cathal O’Farrell, was slain as he was endeavouring to make his escape by force from the island of Inis-purt-an-gurtin, where he had been detained in confinement two years by Donnall Boy O’Farrell.
“1445. William, the son of John, who was son of Donall O’Farrell, Lord of Annaly, died after a long and virtuous life ; and two chieftaincies were then set up in Annaly. Rossa, the son of Murtough the Meathian, who was son of Brian O’Farrell, was called The O’Farrell by all the descendants of Morogh O’Farrell and the sons of the two Hughs – the sons of John O’Farrell and all his other friends proclaimed Donall Boy, tho son of Donall, who was son of John, as chief of the tribe. The territory was destroyed between the contests of both, until they made peace and divided Annaly equally between them. (Here the division of Annaly into Upper and Lower is clearly defined – Granard and Longford being the respective seats.) In this year also, in which two chieftaincies were set up in Annaly, John, son of Brian, son of Edmond O’Farrell, and eight others along with him, were slain by John O’Farrell and the sons of Donnell Ballach O’Farrell, on the mountain which is now called Slieve Callum Brigh Leith (Slieve Galry), in Ardagh.
“1452. The Earl of Ormond and the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland marched into the territory of Annaly, where O’Farrell made submission to the Earl, and promised him beeves as the price of obtaining peace from him. The Earl and Lord Chief Justice then proceeded to Westmeath.
“1462. Thomas, the son of Cathal, who was son of Cathal O’Farrell, Tanist of Annaly, was slain at Bail-atha-na-pailse (now Palles, Goldsmith’s birthplace) at night, whilst in pursuit of plunder which a party of the Dillons, the Clan Chonchabar, and the sons of Murtagh, were carrying off. They carried away his head and his spoils, having found him with merely a few troops, a circumstance which seldom happened to him.
“1467. Donnell Boy O’Farrell, Chieftain of Annaly, and Lewis, the son of Ross, who was son of Cathal O’Farrell, died; Iriel O’Farrell was elected to his place, and John asssumed Iriels place as sub-chief of Annaly.
“1474. John O’Farrell was appointed to the chieftainship of Annaly in preference to his brother, who was blind (and so incapacitated).
“1475. John O’Farrell, Chief of Annaly, died at Granard, after the feast of his inauguration had been prepared, but before he had partaken thereof ; he was interred at Lerrha. At the same time O’Donnell, son of Niall Garve, at the head of his forces, accompanied by the chiefs of Lower Connaught, marched first to Ballyconnell, with intent to liberate not only his friend and confederate, Brian O’Reilly, but also to conclude peace between The O’Rorke and O’Reilly; O’Reilly repaired at once to Ballyconnell, where a peace was ratified between him and O’Rorke. After this he marched to Fenagh, and from thence he directed his course to Annaly, in order to assist his friends, the sons of Iriell O’Farrell. He burned and destroyed Annaly, except that part of it which belonged to the sons of Iriell, whom he established in full sway over the County of Annaly.
“1486. Teigue MacEgan, Ollave of Annaly, was slain by the descendants of Iriel O’Farrell – an abominable deed.
“1489. A great intestine quarrel arose among the inhabitants of Annaly, during which they committed great injuries against each other, and continued to do so until the Lord Chief Justice made peace among them, and divided the chieftainship between the sons of John and. the sons of Cathal.
“1490. Edmond Duff, the son of Ross, Lord of Calahna-h-Angaile, died, and Phelim, the son of Giolla, who was son of Donnell, assumed his place.
“1494. Cormack O’Farrell, the son of John, son of Donall, the second chieftain of Annaly of that day, died.
“1497. A great battle was fought between the rival parties for the chieftaincy, in which Donnell, son of Brian, Lord of Clan Auliffe, and Gerald, son of Hugh Oge, Lord of Magh Treagh, were slain, and a great many others.
“1516. William, the son of Donogh O’Farrell, Bishop of Annaly, who assisted the Lord President to subdue The MacWilliam Burke, and thus prevented him ruining The O’Kelly of Hy Maine, in 1504, died.
“1576. Brian O’Rourke committed great predatory outrages this year in Annaly.
“1595. Red Hugh O’Donnell marched an army into Connaught, plundering the parts of the country that he passed through. On his arrival in Leitrim, near Mohill, his enemies thought he would return thence into Ulster, but this he did not do, but privately despatched messengers to Hugh Maguire, of Fermanagh, requesting that he would meet him in Annaly. He sent scouts before him through that country, and ordered them to meet him at an appointed place. He then marched onwards secretly and expeditiously, and arrived with his troops at the dawn of day in the Annalies, then the territories of the O’Farrells, though the English had some time previously obtained some power there. The brave troops of O’Donnell and Maguire marched from Sliabh Carbry (or the Hill of Carragh), in Granard, to the River Inny, and as they passed along they set the country in a blaze, which became shrouded under a black and dense cloud of smoke. They took Longford, and set fire to every side and corner of it, so that it was only by a rope that Christopher Browne, his brother, and their wives, were conveyed in safety from the prison, of which he was marshal.”
This brings us down almost to the time of the Four Masters, who compiled the Annals of Ireland.
The foregoing brief summary of the history of Annaly, from 1172 to 1595, is perhaps the very best idea that could be given of the way in which things were managed in those days. Very few people would believe at first sight that the headquarters of the Clan O’Fearghal was situate at Lois-ard-Ablha, or the Moat of Lisserdowling, but such seems to have been the case. In all probability the original chief towns or North Teffia and South Teffia were Granard and Ardagh, respectively, but it is more than probable that Granard was at all times an important place in the county. The Abbey of Lerha, or the present Cemetery of Abbeylara, seems to have been the universal burying-place of the O’Farrells; and although a few of them were buried elsewhere, according as they were killed in battle, yet a great number of the lineal chieftains are recorded as being interred here. It will, therefore, I am sure, be a very interesting study to trace from thence the descendants of the real old O’Farrells-none of those whose motto and desire was to repress rather than assist their countrymen.
Historical Notes and Stories
James P. Farrell
Dollard Printing House, Wellington Quay, Dublin