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MacDermotts - Kings of Moylurg and Princes of Coolavin

The more important line having precedence is that of Coolavin, Co. Sligo, formerly Moylurg. This line is led by the 'Prince of Coolavin' and the line is also known as Mag Luirg (Moylurg) line. Their territory - Moylurg - comprised the plains of Boyle, in the county Roscommon; Tir-Oilill, now the barony of "Tirerill" in Sligo; Arteach, a district in Roscommon near Lough Gara, on the borders of Sligo and Mayo; Clan Cuain was a district in the barony of Carra, near Castlebar, comprising the present parishes of Islandeady, Turlough, and Breaffy.

As the King of Moylurg, MacDermott was the chief vassal to O'Conor. For nigh on five hundred years, from about 1185 the Moylurg branch remained powerful and influential in their homeland. They were the hereditary marshals of Connaught, which included the responsibility of raising and regulating the military forces, preparing them for battle, as commanders-in-chief; and presiding at the inauguration of the O'Connors as kings of Connaught to proclaim their election. Without MacDermot's continued promised support O'Conor's position would have often been untenable; indeed there were times, especially when Mulrooney MacDermot (King of Moylurg 1294-1331) was in his prime when MacDermot was the most influential and materially powerful of all Connacht's Gaelic chieftains.

The MacDermot sept lived on The Rock of Loch Ce (also Lough Key), just off the shores of what is now Loch Key Forest park, outside Boyle in Co. Roscommon. Carrick MacDermot or MacDermot's Castle was to become the centre of the kingdom of Moylurg and it was here that the MacDermots held court, gave judgements and played chess. It was a powerful symbol not only to those who followed MacDermot and who bore his name but also to neighbouring clans and representatives of foreign power. Not once in five centuries of infighting between MacDermot, O'Conor, O'Donnell, O'Gara, O'Kelly, MacCostelloe to name but a few or of conflict with emissaries of English authority did the Rock fall in to enemy hands. The only occasions on which it did change hands following loss in conflict was when MacDermot fought and defeated MacDermot!

In 1599 Conor Og MacDermot together with the help of Brian Og O Rourke routed the English under Sir Conyers Clifford. One of the critical events in this 'Battle of the Curlews' of 1599 was the Castle of Ballinafad. Built by the English Sir Richard Bingham, to give an English presence in the 1590's, it was promptly seiged and won, by the Healys and McDermotts. The castle was held by the MacDonaghs on behalf of the MacDermotts of Moylurg and the O'Conors. The castle was built at a good vantage point from which the enemy could be observed for many miles around and it was constantly under attack from both English and Gaelic forces. For the next fifty years, it was the site of fierce battles as the families struggled to keep the English out of Southern Sligo.

In relation to the fortunes of the MacDermotts of Moylurgh, they declined rapidly with

the onset of the rebellion. They had already lost some land that previously belonged to the Church and had already been given away prior to the rebellion. With the establisment of the new English order under James 1 following the Battle of Kinsale in 1601 and the flight of the Earls in 1607, the family lost more property and power - although Connacht avoided major upheaval until after the Cromwell's campaign. In 1617 Brian MacDermot received the King James I Grant allocating him his ancestral lands of approximately 17,400 acres. The principal lands were those of what later became Rockingham and Oakport estates, but The MacDermott also recieved large or small holdings in practically every parish in the newly created the barony of Boyle. This James I grant, whilst recognizing the authenticity of MacDermot's heritage nevertheless put under foreign regal privilege (ie they made their ownership temporary and revokable) what previously had been inherited as of birthright by the descendants of Mulrooney Mor.

The Moylurg MacDermots were Jacobite in their sympathies and their influence dwindled as they lost much of the 17,400 acres at the time of the final dispersal of the Connacht Gaelic Irish families following the Cromwellian campaign in Ireland of 1649/50. As a result of this dispersal they, like virtually every other member of the old Gaelic aristocracy, were almost completely dispossessed of their ancestral lands. The final blow came in the mid 1660, King Charles II issued "Declaration of Innocence" orders which confirmed whether or not families had participated in the Irish rebellions against England during the English Civil War. These declarations were accompanied by confirmations of the earlier land grants. The Moylurg MacDermots recieved neither the Declaration or a confirmation of land grant and the last of their ancestoral lands (approximately 35,000 English acres at the time) were granted to new English planter families including the Kings, Dillons, Cootes and Croftons. Many of these new 'planter' families had either already previously settled in the area (King was granted the lands of Boyle Abbey by Elizabeth I) or were Old English transplanted from the Pale (e.g. Dillon). As a result of this the territory of Moylurg had all but disappeared.

The last MacDermot to be known as King of Moylurg was Turlough who died in 1586. Subsequently and until they lost possession of the Castle and its lands the chieftains were known as "...of the Carrick" or "....of Carrick MacDermot". In 1644 there is the first record of the chief being referred to as An MacDiarmada , The MacDermot, which to this day remains one of the two official titles of the head of the Sept. When the last of family lands in Roscommon were confiscated in the middle of the 1660s the family was without estate. Unlike many others families, the MacDermots of Moylurg did manage to salvage some of their old possessions (held on their behalf by other MacDermott lines) and in 1669 when Charles (Cathal Roe) MacDermot released to his second son Hugh lands at Shruffe, County Sligo the the Moylurg McDermotts moved to the half- barony of Coolavin in picturesque setting on the slopes of the north shore of Loch Gara. With this as their new seat, the line of descendants from the original MacDermot chiefs remains unbroken.

From the late 1600s until the late 1800s, Old Coolavin was the home of The MacDermot. Despite losing the title Kings of Moylurg the head of the family was still known as The MacDermot. The title Prince of Coolavin, was an honorary one which arose from popular usage. Despite losing their lands in Moylurg and settling to a baroncy the line was still of royal heritage.

Coolavin House was secluded and surrounded by trees. It was only a few few yards from the lake shore. The nearest towns were Ballaghaderreen

and Boyle. The house was connected to the road which joined the towns by a long winding avenue. It is quite likely that travel between these places and also between neighbours was carried out by water. The family burial grounds were at Templeronan, which too was reachable by boat rather than by road.

The family lived at old Coolavin until Hugh Hyacinth MacDermot bought the nearby lands at Clogher in 1879 and commenced building the new Coolavin which was completed in 1898. The house is a three storey manor, situated on a rise overlooking richly wooded parkland. The house is still the home of the MacDermots and is currently inhabited, although not by the current Chieftain who lives in County Kildare.

The current head of the family, known as 'the Mac Dermot, prince of Coolavin', and recognised as Chief of his name by the Chief Herald of Ireland, is Niall Mac Dermot.

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Page Last Updated: June 13, 2006

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