The Sept of O'Mulligan
Millican, Milligan, Millikan, Milliken, Millikin, Mullican, Mulliken, Mullikin etc.

The O'Mulligans of County Donegal, Ireland


~ The Sept of Ua Maolagain ~

In O'Dubhagain’s late 14th century topographical poem of Ireland, the Sept of Ua Maolagain, called the ‘Siol Maolagain’ were lords of ‘Tir Mac Carthain’, that is, the ‘territory of the son of Carthain’, and are listed under that section headed “Tir Chonaill” in Ulster. This territory is the medieval name for Co. Donegal. The modern townland of Tirkeeran located next to Croaghan Hill in the civil parish of Clondeigh (see map, ref. no. 79), takes its name from Tir Mac Carthain. The name ‘Carthain’ appears in the earliest sections of the Cenél Conaill genealogical tractates, but the name is confused with some making Fiachra, said to be Carthian’s son, the son of Fergus son of Conaill and others make Carthain son of Fergus. This discrepancy cannot be reconciled as the pedigree for the Mac Carthain is lost and at best, the link between Carthain and Tir Mac Carthain remains unproven.

Townland of Tirkeeran

O'Dubhagain's Tir Mac Carthain of the 14th Century.

Tir Mac Carthain of plundering slaughters
Belongs to the high-minded Siol Maolagain
To put them in our poem it is our judgement
There was a time when we would not repent of it

The Siol meaning ‘seed’ of Maolagain appear to have been at the height of their power in the thirteenth and fourteenth century and had a fearless reputation for plundering in Donegal and beyond. Their lineage cannot with any certainty be traced to the Cenél Conaill particularly since the early medieval history of the parish of Clonleigh is merged with the Cenél Enna and Cenél Moan, neither claiming a traditional pedigree traced from the eponym of the Cenél Conaill. However, there is a genealogical tractate that traces the Ua Maolagain from the Cenél Moan, which is given in the 'Book of Lecan' compiled by 1397 and 1418.

Book of Lecan (Unpublished Genealogies, folio. 54 v a 38)

Naill Noi-giallach > Eogan > Muiredach > Muan (or Maien) > Colmain > Faelan > Etalach > Tendalach > Ferrdalach > Cathanch > Maelacain > Ua Maelacain.

Book of Ballymote (Unpublished Genealogies, folio. 44 v a 15)

Neill .ix. ghiallaig > Eogan > Muiredhaigh > Muain > Colmain > Faelain > Edalaigh > Tendalaig > Ferrdalach > Catharnigh > Maelagain > Ua Maelagain.

The pedigree of the Ua Maolagain traced from Cathanch has not survived. However, the genealogical tractates link the ‘Ua Maelagain’ with the Ua Gailmredaigh and Ua Luinigh kindred, who were also septs of the Cenél Moan. All three can be compared in the following link, where the pedigree of the Ua Gailmredaigh, anglicised to O’Gormley, can be traced to ‘Domnall ua Gailmredhaigh’. I have left the gaps in the pedigree for the Ua Luinigh, anglicised to O’Looney, and the ‘Ua Maelagain’, anglicised to O’Mulligan, which is omitted by O’Clery, but mentioned in MacFirbis’s Genealogies.

In the eight century a series of victories were gained by the Cenél Egoan over the Cenél Conaill in Magh Itha, where Tir MacCarthain is located. Over the next few centuries, the Cenel Moán came to dominant Magh Ith under the Ua Lochlainns. In the Annals of Ulster, a branch of the Cenel Moán, the Ua Gailmredaigh, anglicised to O’Gormley, emerged as chiefs of the kindred in 1084.

In 1177, Naill Ua Gailmredaigh, lord of the men of Cenel Moan, was slain by Donnchadh Ua Cairellan and the Clan Diarmada in the centre of ‘Daire (Derry) Columcille’. Donnchadh (Duncan) subsequently made peace with the community of St. Columcille, and the family, i.e. clergy of Derry, for himself and his descendants, and confirmed his own mainchine (gifts) and those of his sons, grandsons, and descendants, forever to St. Columcille and the family of Derry. He also granted to them a ballybetagh near Donaghmore (and near Lisnamulligan), and delivered up to them the most valuable goblet at that time in Ireland, called Mac Riabhach i.e. ‘the tan-coloured son’, as a pledge for sixty cows. There was also a house erected for the cleric, in lieu of that one burned over the head of Naill, and reparation was made by him for all damage caused by the burning.

The townland of Lisnamulligan, meaning ‘the fort of Maelagain’, is located southwest of Castlefinn and bounds the townland of Dungorman in the civil parish of Donaghmore (see ref. no. 68).

Townland of Lisnamulligan

In 1207, Domnall Ua Muiredaigh, chief lector of Derry Columcille died and ‘Muircertach O'Millugain’ was chosen in his stead. Muircetach held the office of chief lector of Derry until the death of Fonachtan Ua Bronain in 1220. When Fonachtan died, a dispute arose between the community of Derry Columcille and the Cenel Eogan over the selection of the new successor of St. Columcille. It followed that Flann Ua Brollagan was appointed, however, a further dispute arose between the community of Derry and Cenel Eogan, and Flann was disposed. After this, the community of Derry and the Cenel Eogan chose Muircetach Ua Maolagain to be the next successor of St. Columcille. His son, John Ua Maolagain, was chosen to the lectorship of Derry Columcille. Unfortunately, the annals make no reference to the obit of Muircetach, leaving it unclear as to who succeeded him.

In the absence of verifiable records, we can only assume Muircertach and John belonged to the Siol Maolagain, lords of Tir MacCarthain, which is located 14 miles from the City of Derry. However, Muircertach’s election to the abbacy relied on support from within the Cenél Eogain, suggesting an association with them. The Siol Maolagain was still in the same district by the end of the fourteenth century, and by the beginning of the seventeenth century, we find the name anglicised to O’Mulligan in the Fiants and Pardon rolls. In February 1604, Rory O’Donnell, the last king of Tyrconnell and 1st earl of Tyrconnell, and all his ‘natural followers’, including Donell and Twohell O’Moylegane of Tyrconnell, received a royal pardon from King James I for their part in the late rebellion lead by Hugh O’Neill, earl of Tyrone. For O’Donnell's submission, the king granted him additional territorial in the lordship of Tyrconnell.

In 1608, another rebellion erupted in Ireland and its leader Sir Cahir O’Doherty, lord of Inishowen, was killed in a skirmish against government forces near Letterkenny. Amongst those pardoned the following year for their part in the rebellion were Shane O'Molligan, Donnogh Ballagh O'Molligan and Swine O’Molligan, whose names are listed in the company of Owen O’Gallagher of CoolemscItrian, pardoned on 10 March, 1609. In September, 1610, King James I granted to Cuthbert Cunningham, a native of Scotland, a patent of naturalisation, and the land and manor of CoolemcItrien in All Saints Parish, which had belonged to Owen O’Gallagher in the barony of Raphoe. It seems very likely then that Shane O'Molligan, Donnogh Ballagh O'Molligan and Swine O’Molligan were either members of the O’Mulligan kindred still living in the district of Raphoe and/or the ‘Mointermolligan’ (Muinter-Mulligan), who were herenaghs of Tullyfern the parish of Kilmacrenan in 1609.

In his ‘The Book of Ulster Surnames’, Robert Bell states the O’Mulligans lost their lands during the plantation of Ulster and migrated to Counties Fermanagh, Monaghan and Mayo. According to the same author, in Fermanagh the O’Mulligans settled in Magherasteffany and Clankelly, and in Monaghan, in the northwest and centre of the county. Others, remained in Co. Donegal, as we find the name of John O’Mulligan in the parish of Donaghmore in the Hearth Roll Tax lists of 1665. He might well have been living in or near the townland of Lisnamulligan, where the stronghold of Mulligan seems to suit the Siol Maolagain of the Cenél Moán. Some might well have moved into Co. Tyrone, where Donell O’Mellegan and Toole O’Mollegan were pardoned on 13 January, 1609. It is worth noting that ‘Twohell’ is Toole, and with the names Donell and Toole also appearing in Tyrconnell, was there a connection between these two families?

Muinter-Maelagain of Fermanagh

AD 1485

Feidhlim, mac Donnchaidh Meg Uidhir, do lot & do gabail & Donnchadh Og, a brathair, mur an cetna, le Mac Gilla Ruaidh (.i. Brian) & le da mac Emuinn Meg Uidhir, .i. Aedh & Gilla Isu. Ocus Gilla Padraig, mac Maghnusa, mic Domnaill Aird h-Ui Mailigein & Cathal Buidhe, mac Aedha Citaigh, h-Ua Timaín do marbadh ann leó. Mac Seaain Mic Gilla Ruaidh (.i. Gilla Padraig) do marbadh 'na diaigh-sin ar greis oidhci leisin Feidhlím-sin, mac Donnchaidh & le Muinntir Maelagain & le Muínntir Timain & araile.

Translation: Feidhlimidh, son of Donchadh Mag Uidhir, was wounded and taken and Donchadh junior, his kinsman, in the same way, by Mac Gilla-ruaidh (namely, Brian) and by two sons of Edmond Mag Uidhir, namely, Aedh and Gilla-Isu. And Gilla-Padraig, son of Maghnus, son of Domnall Ua Mailigein the Tall and Cathal Ua Timain the Tawny, son of Aedh the Left-handed, were slain there by them. The son of John Mac Gilla-ruaidh (namely, Gilla-Padraig) was slain after that on a night incursion by that Feidhlimidh, son of Donchadh and by the Muintir-Maelagain and by Muintir-Timain and so on.

[Airt, Seán Mac & Niocaill, Gearóid Mac (Ed): The Annals of Ulster (Dublin (1983), Vol. III, p 296]