Maguire Clan 1607 - 1655

The Village of Tempo, 

County Fermanagh

Beneath its sleepy exterior, the village of Tempo in County Fermanagh hides a long and interesting history. The name itself seems strange and inappropriate to the outsider but like many aspects of Fermanagh life, the answer to how Tempo got its name lies in the history of the locality.

Legend tells us that St. Patrick visited the area in the 5th century on one of his many missions throughout Ireland. While preaching he placed one of his manuscripts on the ground. After he finished his sermon, St Patrick proceeded towards the area called Pobal and soon realised that he had forgotten his manuscript. He asked his servant to return and retrieve the document. This action of "the turning back" or in Irish "An tIompu Deiseal" gave the area its name. Others have seen this as a rather fanciful explanation, claiming that the Irish expression translates as "the right turn" referring to the bend in the Tempo River.

Until the early part of the 17th century, Fermanagh's inhabitants depended for their livelihood on cattle farming. This meant that few villages existed as the herdsmen moved around with their cattle from place to place. During the Plantation period that began in 1610, towns and villages sprang up as the emphasis moved from cattle herding to tillage farming. The settlement that became Tempo village began during this period as Milltown; so-called because of its corn mill situated on the Tempo River. By the late 18th century, the village had expanded and boasted a new Church of Ireland Church built in 1780. By 1900, Tempo had declined from a population of 500 in the 1860s, to just 284 residents.

The most controversial member of the royal Maguire family of Fermanagh - Brian Mac Cuchonnacht (Brian Maguire), founded the Manor of Tempo during the Plantation of Fermanagh that followed the end of the Nine Years War. Born in c.1585 in Enniskillen Castle where his father Cuchonnacht II ruled as Maguire Chieftain, he spent his childhood in a troubled Fermanagh. The English were already extending their influence into most of Ulster having already subdued the greater part of Ireland. Cuchonnacht II had married three times and fathered several sons. His first wife, Nuala O'Donnell was the mother of Hugh who ruled Fermanagh from 1589 to his death in 1600. Brian and his brother Cuchonnacht Og were the offspring of Cuchonnacht II and his third wife Margaret O'Neill.

During the Nine Years War (1594-1603) Hugh was killed in a skirmish in Munster. Cuchonnacht Og, sponsored by the O'Donnells from Donegal, then became the new leader of his clan. Though never inaugurated at The Moate Fort in Lisnaskea, he was recognised by the family as "The Maguire" until his departure for France with the other clan chiefs in 1607 in what became known as the Flight of the Earls. Following these momentous years Brian became the junior Maguire successor and soon decided that any opposition to English supremacy was futile. He must have reached this conclusion after the many Maguire defeats witnessed during his childhood. His father Cuchonnacht II had been a wise ruler and throughout his reign he managed his kingdom with skill and determination ensuring that the Maguire legacy remained intact.

When he died in 1589, the chieftaincy of his son Hugh signalled the end of peaceful days for young Brian Maguire. During the Nine Years War, Fermanagh was engaged in a bitter, armed conflict with the English and Hugh Maguire was one of the principal ringleaders. Defeat followed victory until Hugh was killed in County Cork. Next Brian saw his brother Cuchonnacht Og raise the Maguire standard in Fermanagh and fight to the bitter end. Finally he witnessed the departure of his brother from Maguire's Country in the Flight of the Earls.

Indeed Fermanagh was no longer Maguire's Country. Enniskillen had been the stronghold of the junior Maguire family for nearly two hundred years but was now an English controlled town. The Maguire era had come to an end.

King James I and his Lord Deputy, Sir Arthur Chichester now felt that the time was right for a solution to the problem of the troublesome Irish. The English Plantation plan for Fermanagh was designed to fashion a new hierarchical structure in which the old Celtic clans were controlled by the formation of completely new social units within the county. Each of these new communities would form a natural defence against any unrest or rebellion. At the heart of the complex was the manor house or castle with a village nearby. Each of the new landlords was tasked to train a suitable number of men for defence purposes. Also, they had to build a church that would form a parish in the surrounding area.

As the Plantation gathered momentum, the bulk of the county was divided between three different kinds of landowners:

1. English and Scottish Undertakers. They were called Undertakers because of the pledges they made. The main conditions of their contracts specified that they had to build a house or castle on the land (depending on the size of the allocation), to rent the property only to British tenants and to take the Oath of Supremacy. The Archdale family in Fermanagh is an example of this group.

2. Servitors. These were members of the English army who had served in Ireland. They had similar contracts to the Undertakers but could rent to Irish tenants at a higher rate. The Cole family of Enniskillen were Servitors.

3. Native Irish Undertakers. Similar conditions to the English and Scottish Undertakers except that the land was rented for one penny per acre more than the others.

Because of his display of royalty to the English crown, Brian Maguire of Tempo became the most prominent of the Native Irish Undertakers. Brian was a survivor and indeed his English masters never suspected him of any disloyalty. He was described as "one who lives after the English manner" by those he served. In 1610 he was granted 2000 acres of arable land in the barony of Tirkennedy in east Fermanagh. The actual size of the estate was considerably larger. This area of Fermanagh in the early seventeenth century was heavily wooded and marshy. An estimate of 13,000 acres as the actual size of the entire estate would be more accurate. Soon afterwards Brian took possession and built a castle in the townland of Tullyweel, near Tempo. His brother Tirlagh received 500 acres at nearby Clabby but died soon afterwards. Brian then took over his estate and added it to his own. He quickly consolidated his position and vigorously held on to what he now owned. At the time of his death, Brian owned houses at Tempo, Tullyweel and in Dublin.

Though Brian demonstrated a pro-English stance publicly, he never forgot his old Gaelic culture. In the latter part of 1631, the four most eminent Irish scholars of the time visited Fermanagh. Micheal O Cleirigh, Cuchoigchriche O Cleirigh, Fearfeasa O Maolchonaire and Cuchoigchriche O Duibhgheannain were the Four Masters and they came to Lisgoole under the sponsorship of Brian Rua, the first Lord Enniskillen, of the senior branch of the Maguires. The monastery at Lisgoole had been closed and confiscated by the new English authorities but the monks still lived and preached in the area. With their help and the assistance of Patrick Lunny of Inishmore Island in Lough Erne, the Four Masters wrote the Book of Invasions, known in Irish as An Leabhar Gabhala. Brian of Tempo was also keen to possess this great work and in 1638, under his patronage, a number of scholars copied the book for him.

Perhaps this act of Brian Maguire symbolised what was slowly happening in Fermanagh as the 1630s drew to a close. The old Gaelic families had decided that what could not be changed must be tolerated. Old culture and new order, though still suspicious of each other, were beginning to merge.

The Rebellion of 1641

Why exactly the Irish rebellion of 1641 took place is open to speculation. The root cause of the uprising seems to be that of nationalism coupled with fears of increasing religious restrictions and English bureaucracy. The goal was a final push to restore the Irish way of life. Never again would the old Gaelic people of Ulster and the now established settlers have the opportunity to regard each other as equals. This long remembered uprising would ultimately cast its shadow right into the twentieth century.

In Fermanagh, Conor Rua, the head of the senior Maguire family, had been a serious challenger for the leadership of the clan when Hugh Maguire succeeded his father in 1589. After Hugh’s death, he sought the Maguire title again against Cuchonnacht Og, only to lose a second time. The clan leadership remained with the junior Maguire family. Soon afterwards he aligned himself to the English and was granted Fermanagh by Queen Elizabeth I. Soon the county was under Conor Rua's control. Following the surrender of the Irish chiefs at the end of the Nine Years War, Cuchonnacht Og fared badly in comparison to O'Neill and O'Donnell who retained nearly all of their old estates in Tyrone and Donegal.

The English persuaded Conor Rua to share Fermanagh with Cuchonnacht Og during the plantation period that followed. This arrangement did not please either side. To add insult to injury, when the plantation eventually took place, Conor Rua was granted only the barony of Magherasteffany and not half the county as promised. This barony contained the area around Lisnaskea in the parish of Aghalurcher, sacred to the senior Maguire family since the foundation of the clan in the thirteenth century. Now a new planter family called Balfour owned the old Maguire estate. Conor Rua must have felt that the English had let him down. His new home, which he built at Deerpark in the townland of Derryheely, close to the present day village of Brookeborough, became a haven for the discontented Irish who remained in Fermanagh.

When Conor Rua died, his son Brian Rua became the first Lord Enniskillen. His son Conor, the second Lord Enniskillen, in turn succeeded him. His large estate of 30,000 acres at Deerpark with its ancestral home was hardly a mud cabin yet Conor was a committed rebel who eventually paid with his life. As the junior Maguires had led the Nine Years War in Fermanagh, so the senior Maguire family would lead the rebellion of 1641.

One of the main national ringleaders was Rory O'Moore of Kildare. With the assistance of the Maguire, McMahon and O'Neill chiefs, he constructed a plan several weeks before the uprising began. Each leader would attack the local garrisons on October 23rd. A selected group, including Conor Maguire, would capture Dublin Castle and its armoury. Conor used his position as Lord Enniskillen to reconnoitre the castle prior to the rebellion. The plan to take Dublin Castle went badly wrong when news of it was leaked to the authorities. Lord Conor and his men were captured and imprisoned in Dublin. In 1642, he was taken to London and held in the Tower. The second Lord Enniskillen was tried for treason and found guilty. He was hanged and beheaded at Tyburn in February 1644. Two hundred years later, his last will and testament that was written while he was a prisoner in the Tower of London, re-appeared in the possession of one Thomas Maguire, a hardware merchant in Enniskillen. A Gaelic scholar of the time, John O'Donovan, while conducting an Ordnance Survey of Fermanagh, interviewed Maguire in 1834. In his letters, O'Donovan describes Thomas Maguire as "continuing to sell his knives, forks, buckles, hinges and bridles, caring very little about whom he is descended from."

Following the execution of Lord Conor, the Maguire estates at Deerpark, formerly "a little bit of Gaelic Ireland left untouched" were confiscated and eventually passed to Sir Henry Brooke in 1667. The Brooke family named the new lands Colebrooke and have retained the estate to the present day.

The rebellion in Fermanagh was more successful. One of the principal leaders was Rory Maguire, brother of Conor, Lord Enniskillen.

But what of Brian of Tempo during this period? Because of his support for the English authorities, he was not trusted by the other Irish leaders during the rebellion and did not come out on the Irish side. At first Brian underestimated the extent of the conspiracy and dismissed the widespread rumours brought to him by his loyal subjects. On October 10th 1641, a Franciscan friar whom he trusted confirmed his worst fears. Brian immediately sent word to William Cole, the governor of Enniskillen. Cole informed the Lord Justices in Dublin that a rebellion was imminent and they in turn asked for further information but did nothing. Lord Conor Maguire, before his final departure from Fermanagh to seize Dublin Castle, wrote to Brian warning him to give up his pro-English stance. Written in Irish, the translation of the letter reads: -

"wherein taking notice that he (Brian) was abundantly inclined to the English which did very much trouble him (Lord Conor) and therefore desired him to banish such thoughts out of his mind and not to pursue those resolutions which in the end might be his own destruction"

But Brian of Tempo was not to be lectured by the 25 year-old Lord Enniskillen. Back in his youth he had reached his decision that Fermanagh's future and his own fortunes lay with the English presence. He was not about to change his mind. Only when the rebellion showed signs of success and fearing that he might end up on the losing side, did he act with the rebels. On Monday, October 25th 1641 Brian and his men seized Castle Coole, near Enniskillen. Already the first phase of the rebellion under the leadership of Rory Maguire was well advanced. One of Rory's commanders was Brian's only son Hugh. If the rebels won, Brian had rebelled with them and if they lost, he had simply taken the castle to protect it. Eventually, he decided that he was firmly on the English side and sought the protection of Cole in Enniskillen. Later he left for Dublin where he remained until 1650.

The uprising continued through 1642, the year that saw the start of the English Civil War. As the struggle between King and Parliament got under way, Rory Maguire's forces in Fermanagh continued with the campaign. This second phase of the rebellion was bloody with large numbers of ordinary Fermanagh people engaged in all-out war with the new settlers. Rumours of atrocities circulated and the following English account dates from 1642.

"The Last True Intelligence from Ireland; Being A true Relation of the great Victory lately obtained against the Rebels by Sir William Stewart, Colonell Sanderson, Colonell Mervyn, and Sergeant Major Galbraith, against the great Oneales and MacGwires Forces, wherein they slew great numbers of the Rebels, tooke 900 Cowes, 500 Sheep, and 300 Horses from the Rebels in the County of Fermanagh. That the present troubles, dangers, and calamities which at this perilous time we are in are so great, that this whole Kingdome is much distorted, distracted, and disturbed. That the rebels are so many in number (by credible information above 40000 men, besides women and children) that we alone are not able to resist them. That the Rebels tyranny is so great that they put both man woman and child (that are Protestants) to the sword, not sparing either age, degree, or sex or their reputation"

In 1643 the Irish forces under Eoghan Roe O'Neill were defeated at the Battle of Clones. The war continued and on June 13th 1646, O'Neill achieved victory at the Battle of Benburb. Despite this victory, the Confederation of Kilkenny under the control of the Lord Lieutenant published peace terms that were less than favourable to the Irish side.

On November 13th 1648, Rory Maguire was killed leading an attack on a fortress near Carrick-on-Shannon. The following year Oliver Cromwell and his army landed in Ireland. All Ireland united against him. At the Battle of Belturbet on October 20th 1649, Eoghan Roe O'Neill was defeated and died in the fighting. The Bishop of Clogher, Heber McMahon replaced him as head of the Irish army though he knew little of military matters. At the Battle of Glenswilly in Donegal on June 21st 1650 under his command, the Irish army was again defeated and routed. Things looked black for the Irish side. McMahon escaped but was captured by Captain King of Enniskillen on information received from none other than Brian Maguire who had returned to Fermanagh that same year. The man from Tempo had earned himself the name "Brian the Traitor". The Bishop was tried, found guilty and hanged in Enniskillen. This mortal blow effectively finished the rebellion though officially the end came in 1653.

Brian Maguire returned to his estates at Tempo. He and his wife Susan, a daughter of Calvagh O'Connor from Roscommon, had only one son. This boy grew up to become Colonel Hugh Maguire. Unlike his father, Hugh sided with Rory Maguire and the other Irish leaders during the 1641 Rebellion. He died with his Irish comrades at the Battle of Glenswilly in 1650. His father survived him by just five years. Brian Maguire of Tempo died on April 24th 1655.

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