Maguire Chieftains of Fermanagh (1160-1610)

Donn Mor (c.1160)
Giolla Iosa
Donn Carrach (c.1260-1302)
Flaithbheartach (1302-1327)
Ruaidhhri an Einigh (1327-1338)
Aodh Ruadh (1338-1363)
Pilib na Tuaighe (1363-1395)
Tomas Mor (1395-1430)
Tomas Og (1430-1471)
Eamonn (1471-1484) (Senior Line)
Sean I (1484-1503) (Junior Line)
Conchobhar Mor (1503-1527) (Senior Line)
Cuchonnacht Comharba (1527-1537) (Junior Line)
Giolla Padraig (1537-1540) (Senior Line)
Sean II (1540-1566) (Junior Line)
Cuchonnacht II (1566-1589) (Junior Line)
Hugh (1589-1600) (Junior Line)
*Cuchonnacht Og (1600-1607) (Junior Line)

* not officially inaugurated as chieftain

Post-Plantation Maguire Chiefs - Senior Branch

Conor Rua (died 1625)
Brian 1st Lord Enniskillen (died 1633)
Conor 2nd Lord Enniskillen (executed 1644) Rory (died 1648) Brian Thomas
Philip Thomas
Theophilus Hugh
Alexander (died 1801)   |
*Terence Maguire
* inaugurated as 'The Maguire' at Lisnaskea in 1992

Post-Plantation Maguire Chiefs - Junior Branch

Brian of Tempo (d.1655)

Hugh (d.1650)

Cuchonnacht Mor (d.1691)

Brian (d.1712)

Hugh Stephen
Philip (d.1789) Robert Hugh



Hugh (d.1800)

Constantine (d.1834) Brian Stephen
Hugh (d.1866)

"Judge" Philip (died 1901)

Constantine (d.1907)


Hugh (d.1915)


Philip (d.1921)


headship passes to USA ---->

James Hamilton (d.1936)
Philip (d.1980) James (d.1986) Ronald Hugh (d.1986)
*Robert Charles (USA)
*regarded as the true descendant of Hugh, the last inaugurated Maguire to rule Fermanagh

When the Norman Conquest came to Ireland in the 12th century, the Maguire dynasty had not yet become established in Fermanagh and indeed the family may have been helped to power by Norman influence or more likely, by the sponsorship of the O'Donnell or O'Neill clans. Donn Mor, the first Maguire ruler, consolidated his small estate in south Fermanagh and was succeeded in turn by Giolla Iosa and Domhall. When Donn Carrach came to power in c.1260, the family expansion had extended outwards to such an extent that his death notice in 1302 describes him as "the first King of Fermanagh of the sons of Maguire." During his reign he gained the title of "Ireland's most generous Lord" and this reputation for hospitality coupled with strong government became the hallmark of Maguire rule in later centuries.

After Donn Carrach's death, Fermanagh was ruled by Flaithbheartach (Flaherty) 1302-1327, Ruaidhhri an Einigh (Rory the Hospitable) 1327-1338 and Aodh Ruadh (Red Hugh) 1338-1363. This increased the family influence still further although other clans were beginning to nibble at Maguire territory. When Pilib na Tuaighe (Philip of the Battleaxe) took control in 1363, the clan produced its first great warrior king. He established the Maguire dynasty beyond any doubt and made Fermanagh an important buffer kingdom between the Irish provinces of Ulster and Connacht. His death notice describes him as "the defender of his territory, a man of whose fame and renown all Ireland was full." During his reign he expanded the kingdom as well as leaving it secure for his successor. Philip was master of Lough Erne - literally. He funded an armada of white-sailed battle ships, which were feared by opposing clans when fighting ensued.  Between the years 1366 and 1370 Philip was in conflict with the aggressive O'Connors of Roscommon. Finally he defeated them in battle and made peace, but only on his terms. Philip of the Battleaxe died in 1395 and his son Tomas Mor (Thomas the Great) succeeded him as leader of a secure and prosperous Maguire kingdom.

During the reign of Tomas Mor, the Maguire clan divided into two distinct factions. Thomas' brother Hugh "the Hospitable" was one of the many colourful figures in the family. A brave and pious man, he eventually settled into a way of life where he gained prominence for his kindness and generosity. Later he built Enniskillen Castle and founded what became known as the junior line of the Maguire clan. He died and was buried in County Cork in 1428 following his return from a pilgrimage to the Christian shrines of Europe. The Annals of the Four Masters record his passing as follows.

"Hugh the Hospitable, son of Philip Maguire, the most famous and illustrious man of his time for hospitality, died at Kinsale, the first night after his arrival in Ireland, after performing the pilgrimage of St. James, on the third of the Ides of August, and after rigid penance for his sins. Tomas Og Maguire, who was along with him, conveyed his body to Cork, where he was interred."

The senior branch of the Maguire family, based in the parish of Aghalurcher, near Lisnaskea in south Fermanagh, initially resisted this split in the clan. When Tomas Mor was succeeded by his son Tomas Og (Thomas the Younger) in 1430, the discord developed into a dispute between Maguire and his brothers Philip and Donal. The quarrel settled into an uneasy truce when Thomas granted Enniskillen Castle to his two brothers. This became the seat of the junior Maguire family until the clan fell from power in the last years of the sixteenth century. The senior branch continued to rule from the old homeland at Lisnaskea and in these later centuries shared power with the junior branch based in Enniskillen.

When Tomas Og retired in favour of his son Eamonn in 1471, the separation of the Maguire clan entered a new phase. Even while his father reigned, Eamonn sided with his uncles against him. Once the chieftainship was his, he attacked his own heir-apparent who later joined with the O'Donnells and thus separated himself from his chief. The junior branch of the family in Enniskillen had become powerful enough to act and soon violence broke out all over Fermanagh. In 1484, Eamonn's son, Giolla Padraig, was murdered at the altar of Aghalurcher Church by his half-brothers. The Maguire clan almost broke apart as this mutually destructive feud continued. Finally, the junior branch proclaimed Sean (John) I as the rightful Maguire. Even the senior family were somewhat relieved when Eamonn was forced to resign the kingship of Fermanagh. He retired to the barony of Coole where he spent his final years.

With the arrival of Sean I as Maguire Chieftain, we see the first signs of the junior family gaining the upper hand for control of Fermanagh. Though the Maguire chiefs ruled, they did so under the threat of interference from the more powerful neighbouring clans of O'Neill in Tyrone and O'Donnell in Donegal. Sean I aligned himself to the O'Donnells. The O'Neills naturally became discontented with him and attacked Fermanagh. Eventually a truce was arranged which lasted for the duration of his reign. When Sean I died in April 1503, his obituary states that he was "the choice of the chieftains of Ireland in his time, the most merciful and humane of the Irish, the best protector of his country and lands, the most warlike opponent of inimical tribes and neighbours, the best in jurisdiction, authority, and regulation, both in Church and State". Like his forefathers, he was dressed in the habit of a Franciscan friar and buried at a monastery in Donegal.

Conchobhar Mor (Conor the Great) succeeded Sean I as Maguire Chief and unlike his predecessor was a member of the senior or Lisnaskea branch of the clan. He ruled for 24 years until 1527. Because he was a senior Maguire, he aligned himself to the O'Neills of Tyrone thus upsetting O'Donnell in Donegal who promptly invaded Fermanagh in 1508. Conchobhar sought the help of O'Neill and the struggle continued between the prevailing Ulster clans with Maguire and his kingdom in the middle. The conflict ended when O'Neill and O'Donnell agreed to split their influence over Fermanagh between them. Conchobhar's reign was an unhappy one and demonstrated clearly that the dominant neighbouring clans had to be appeased or Maguire rule was in serious jeopardy. When he died in 1527, his simple obituary tells its own story. "Maguire died and the Coarb, namely, Cuchonnacht, son of Cuchonnacht, who was son of Brian, was styled The Maguire in his place by O'Donnell".

When Cuchonnacht Comharba (Cuchonnacht I) was inaugurated as king of Fermanagh, the junior branch regained control of the Maguire kingdom. He aligned himself to O'Donnell but soon the O'Neills began raiding Fermanagh. Cuchonnacht was uncertain about what to do but eventually began to move his allegiance towards the more powerful O'Neills. This signalled a shift in traditional loyalties in the Maguire family. When Cuchonnacht was killed in October 1537 after reigning for ten years, he was described as "a charitable and humane man, the most renowned for dexterity of hand, nobleness, and hospitality".

The next Maguire Chieftain, Giolla Padraig (Patrick) ruled Fermanagh for just three years. He came to power in 1537 at a time when the family's influence was in serious trouble because of the continuing unrest between the O'Neill and O'Donnell clans. As a senior branch Maguire from Lisnaskea, his allegiance leaned towards the O'Neill camp but the head of the clan - Con O'Neill - was already courting the sympathies of the more influential junior family in Enniskillen. In 1538 O'Neill invaded and devastated the Fermanagh kingdom. Two years later he returned, deposed Giolla Padraig and installed a junior Maguire in his place. When Sean II was inaugurated by Con O'Neill in 1540, Fermanagh would not see a senior Maguire as Chieftain for another four and a half centuries.

Though the O'Neills inaugurated Sean II as Maguire chief, his relationship with the clan was not always what it should have been. Indeed, the ever-increasing English presence in Ulster at this time made life difficult for all the Gaelic clans. Sean refused to pay tribute to the O'Neills and in 1566 they invaded Fermanagh and deposed him. Shane O'Neill installed Cuchonnacht II, Sean's brother as the new Maguire ruler.

The Last Maguire Chieftain

In the 1530s, King Henry VIII of England began to take more interest in the conquest of Ireland. First he removed the power of the Norman-Irish nobles who had for a long time controlled English interests in Ireland. In 1541 he became King of Ireland as well as England. Soon afterwards he established English laws and introduced Protestantism. Already he had dissolved the great English monastic system and then extended this to the Irish monasteries. Irish monastic property was declared forfeit to the Crown and the Anglicised Church of Ireland became the established church.

By the time Queen Elizabeth I came to the throne in 1558, most of Ireland except for the province of Ulster was under English control. Instigated by Henry VIII, the gradual displacement of the native Irish by English and Scottish settlers had not been a resounding success. Unrest and rebellion had diminished English influence and Elizabeth decided that more stringent measures were needed to stabilise the conquest of Ireland. She began to expand the plantation system and bring Ulster under the direct control of the Crown.

During this period, the Maguire kingdom of Fermanagh was ruled by Cuchonnacht II (1566 to 1589) who had been a junior line prince and was a man committed to peace. He was an astute and skilled politician, carefully reconciling the two great threats to his existence - the ever increasing English presence and the powerful neighbouring clans of O'Neill and O'Donnell. Though inaugurated as chieftain by Shane O'Neill, he married Nuala O'Donnell to reassure the Donegal clan. Their son Hugh grew up to become the last and perhaps the greatest of the Maguire rulers.

When pressured by the English, he cleverly surrendered Fermanagh to Queen Elizabeth I and had it re-granted to him on condition that English presence was recognised and that the kingdom would not revolt against the Crown. He continued to pay tribute to the O'Neills thus preventing invasion from his right flank. In spite of the threat to the Irish monasteries, he founded a new Franciscan abbey at Lisgoole in 1583. When he died on June 17th 1589, Ireland sang his praises. His obituary states "he was truly a lord in his munificence towards churches, ollaves, soldiers, and servants and a learned and studious scholar, adept in Latin and Irish".

Following the death of his father, Hugh Maguire was inaugurated as Chief of His Name at the Moate Fort in Lisnaskea in 1589. For centuries this ancient burial mound had been the traditional coronation site for the Maguire clan. The youthful Hugh began his reign in troubled times but soon proved to be a man of his era. He quickly displayed the statesmanship and leadership qualities required of his aristocratic rank. In spite of his bravery and tenacity, within a generation the Maguire dynasty would fall forever.

Hugh Maguire's generation of Gaelic rulers were very different to their predecessors. Among these men was Red Hugh O'Donnell who, like his cousin Hugh Maguire, had succeeded his father and become the Donegal Chieftain at a time when the old Celtic clans of Ulster were under serious threat from England. Red Hugh had escaped from Dublin Castle in 1592 having spent almost four years as a captive of the English. Hugh Maguire harboured his fugitive cousin in Fermanagh, an act of rebellion in itself, and when young O'Donnell reached his homeland, the preamble to the Nine Years War (1594-1603) began. Soon afterwards Maguire expelled the English Sheriff, Captain Willis, and proceeded to raid the province of Connacht. Initially led by a junior Maguire chieftain, the final battle for Gaelic supremacy in Ireland had begun.

At the outset, the older and wiser Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, sided with the English and was employed by Queen Elizabeth I to march against Maguire with Sir Richard Bingham, the Governor of Connacht. O'Neill had been educated in England and was a personal friend of the Queen. Though he seemed to embrace the English, Hugh O'Neill's secret agenda was to challenge the Elizabethan conquest to maintain the existing Gaelic order. To achieve this aim, the Irish sought help from England's greatest enemy - Spain.

In 1594, O'Neill joined forces with Maguire, O'Donnell and the other clan chiefs and led the Irish army into battle. After early defeats including the loss of Enniskillen Castle, Hugh Maguire led his forces to victory in Fermanagh at the Battle of the Ford of the Biscuits on the Arney River defeating an English relief column destined for Enniskillen. The ford or crossing point is so-called because of the large amount of food seen floating down river after the battle was over.

The year 1595 saw more Irish victories including the re-taking of Enniskillen Castle and as the year closed peace negotiations took place with the English. During the next two years the clans were on the defensive. In August 1598 the Irish and English forces met on the River Blackwater at The Battle of the Yellow Ford. Hugh Maguire led the cavalry during the battle, which became the greatest Irish victory of the war. After this, the three "Hughs" and their Irish army had complete supremacy in Ulster.

In January 1600, O'Neill and Maguire marched south into Munster. In March the army made camp in County Cork between the River Lee and the River Bandon. Hugh Maguire took a troop of cavalry to scout the neighbourhood and eventually arrived at Kinsale where he defeated a large force. On the return journey, the troop pitched camp but Maguire and a small contingent continued on their way. Word soon reached the Deputy Governor of Munster, Sir Warham St. Leger, who assembled a company of soldiers and prepared an ambush for Hugh Maguire and his men. Not long afterwards the two parties came in sight of each other. Maguire and St. Leger fought in single combat within the confines of a narrow pass. St. Leger and five of his horsemen were killed. Mortally wounded, Maguire left the battle and fell from his mount a short distance away. The last of the great Maguire Chieftains of Fermanagh was dead. The Annals of the Four Masters describe him as "the bulwark of valour and prowess, the shield of protection and shelter, the tower of support and defence, and the pillar of the hospitality and achievements of the Airghialla, and of almost all the Irish of his time."

With the death of Hugh Maguire, O'Neill and his Irish army lost one of its most able commanders. In 1601, Spain sent a force of four thousand men to Ireland to help the Irish cause. The Spaniards under the command of Don Juan de Aguila landed at Kinsale in county Cork and prepared to defend the town. The English forces attacked while O'Donnell and O'Neill marched with their army to assist.

As the year 1601 closed the Battle of Kinsale raged, culminating in an unexpected English victory. By January 1602, the combined Irish and Spanish army was defeated. Cuchonnacht Og Maguire, half-brother of Hugh, having previously raised the Maguire standard in Fermanagh, marched his men to Cork and lost a large portion of his forces at Kinsale. O'Donnell fled to Spain where he died the same year. The final defeat came in 1603 when O'Neill surrendered on March 30th. Cuchonnacht Og was the last to capitulate just as his brother Hugh had been the first to start the war. He returned to Fermanagh where his rival Conor Rua of the senior Maguire family had tried to take control of the old homeland. Conor Rua eventually settled on a split of the kingdom with his junior line cousin. Cuchonnacht Og became discontented under the new English regime and eventually travelled to France. Here he bought a ship and returned to Lough Swilly in September 1607. After collecting its passengers, the ship set sail for France. The Annals of the Four Masters describe the migration.

"Maguire (Cuchonnacht Og) and Donough, the son of Mahon, son of the Bishop O'Brien, brought a ship with them to Ireland, and put in at the harbour of Swilly. They took with them from Ireland the Earl O'Neill (Hugh, the son of Ferdorcha), and the Earl O'Donnell (Rory, the son of Hugh, son of Manus), with a great number of the chieftains of the province of Ulster. They entered the ship on the festival of the Holy Cross, in autumn. This was a distinguished crew for one ship; for it is indeed certain that the sea had not supported, and the winds had not wafted from Ireland, in modern times, a party of one ship who would have been more illustrious or noble, in point of genealogy, or more renowned for deeds, valour, prowess, or high achievements, than they, if God had permitted them to remain in their patrimonies until their children should have reached the age of manhood."

The "Flight of the Earls" is seen as one of the great watersheds of Irish history and signalled the end of Gaelic rule in Ireland.

After the Irish defeat in the Nine Years War, we see a different Fermanagh emerging. Although Maguire influence was still prevalent, the English conquerors set about the task of consolidating their position not only in Fermanagh but also in Ireland as a whole. The master plan consisted of transporting families from mainland Britain to Ireland and in particular to the province of Ulster. Fermanagh was one of the areas ear-marked for the new plantation. In 1610, after various surveys of the area, this plan was converted into action. Conor Rua Maguire of the senior line was given almost the entire barony of Maghersteffany in south Fermanagh and the remainder divided amongst new English and Scottish settlers. Some land was also assigned to native Irish farmers. The new plantation was designed to have a calming action on the existing population overseen by the new settlers and their English masters.

Conor Rua Maguire settled into his new estate and built his home at Deerpark near the modern village of Brookeborough. The junior line of the family who remained after the death of Hugh and the flight of Cuchonnacht Og to France were even more accommodating to Fermanagh's new overlords. Brian Maguire, half-brother of Hugh and brother of Cuchonnacht Og, soon realised that rebellion was not for him. During the new plantation he received 2000 acres of arable land in the barony of Tirkennedy and soon established his new home near the village of Tempo.

Thus a new dynasty of junior Maguires emerged. In the succeeding centuries this branch of the family became Anglicised, shifting their allegiance from Gaelic to English influence, later converting from Catholicism to Protestantism but above all surviving everything destiny places in their path. The family would experience trial and tribulation, success and failure, peace and war, eventually to leave their native county for Tipperary only to return to Fermanagh in the early part of the twentieth century. The final exodus of the royal Maguire family from Fermanagh came with the death of Philip Maguire in 1921. Eventually we see the family move to the United States where they have prospered just as they did in Fermanagh. The current head of the junior Maguire clan is Robert Charles Maguire, a highly successful businessman in Charleston, South Carolina. The junior Maguire coat-of-arms bears the motto "JUSTITIA ET FORTITUDO INVINCIBILIA SUNT" meaning "Justice and Fortitude are Invincible." Appropriate indeed for such a resilient Fermanagh family.

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