The Last Chieftain of Gno Beg

Ruaidhrí Ó Flaitheartaigh (1629-1718)

Treasa Bairéad Mhic-Mathúna

The last Chieftain of Gno Beg Ruaidhrí Ó Flaithearaigh 1629-1718
by Treasa Bairéad- MhicMathúna

Clann Mhurchadha- From Muigh Seola to Iar- Chonnacht

For centuries, the O'Flahertys (Clann Mhurchada) had occupied the ancient territory of Muigh Seola,
east of Lough Corrib. Their power was absolute until in 1185, when Donal Mór O'Brien, King of
Thormond, led a party of English into the western parts of the province where they pillaged,
wrecked and destroyed the countryside. After some time Cathal Crobh Dearg O'Connor, King of
Connacht, led more English into the province and Cathal delivered Roderic O'Flaherty, Chief of the
tribe, over to the English and he was put to death. The die was cast for the two warring tribes of the
O'Connors and O'Flahertys whose permanent whose permanent hostilities allowed ease of entry to
a superior force. But the end of the road was in sight for Muinntir Murchada, when Henry 111
commanded William, earl Marshall, Lord Justice of Ireland ''to seize on the whole country of
Connaught and deliver it to Richard de Burgo''. O'Flaherty property was then handed over to the
O'Connors. The O'Flahertys and their troops barricaded themselves in the fort at Bun na Gaillimhe
where eventually Richard de Burgo took over the fort and the O'Flahertys were expelled from their
ancient territory of Muigh Seola. They then crossed the Corrib dispossessed and humiliated bearing
grudges that would haunt them though the generations to come.
Rulers of Iar Chonnacht and Conmaichne-Mara

From the middle of the 13th century they ruled the vast rugged terrain of Iar Chonnacht and
Conmaichne-Mara, displacing others as they spread out through the divided territory but even then
there were intertribal disputes over boundaries and possessions. Moycullen Castle was in the
territory of Gnobeg and Aughnanure in Gnomore, The Gnomore Fahertys made several forays into
Gnobeg which resulted in serious damage to life and property. Other castles were at Ross, Fouagh,
Ballynahinch and Bunowen, Renvyle or Currath and Doon.

Surrender and Re-grant

In 1558 when Elizabeth 1 assumed the English throne, she continued with Henry V111's policy of
''Surrender and Re-grant''. By The Indenture of Composition for Iar Connaught entered into with
Queen Elizabeth in AD1583 Ruaidhrí Mór O'Flaherty (grandfather to Ruaidhrí Óg) was one of the
principal contracting parties. It ''provided for his better maintenance of livinge, and in respect of his
good and civil bringinge up in England he should have letters pattentes of the castle and house of
Moycullen and all his lands in Gnobegge''. This agreement provided temporary stability of possession
to the castleand lands which would eventually pass to the famous scholar and chronologist Ruaidhrí
Ó Flaitheartaigh also known as Roderic(k) and sometimes Rory O'Flaherty.

Early life of Ruaidhrí Óg- Darcy Connections

Ruaidhrí Óg Ó Flaitheartaigh, son of Aodh MacRuaidhrí Uí Fhlaitheartaigh and grandson of Ruaidhrí
Mór was born in the castle at Moycullen in 1629. His mother, Elizabeth Darcy, was the daughter of a
wealthy Galway merchant and Alderman, Martin Darcy (Martin Mac Shéumuis Riabhaigh). Patrick Darcy(1598-1668), the celebrated lawyer and politician, was a brother of step brother of Martin
Darcy. The Darcys were one of the fourteen merchant tribes who ruled Galway as an English enclave.
Duald Mac Firbis(Dubhaltach MacFhirbhisigh) refers to them as descendants of the Gaelic family of
Ó Dorchaidhe from Partry in Co.Mayo.

Two deaths in the family

From an early age Ruaidhrí Óg's life was dogged by adversity. At the age of two his father, Aodh
(Hugh) died leaving him as sole heir and future chieftain of Moycullen Castle and the territory of
Gnobeg. He had four sisters, two unmarried and two, Jane and Mary (Bridgid) married respectively
to Oliver and Cormac O'Hara of Sligo. In 1632 his mother remarried. Her husband, John Bermingham,
was heir to Lord Athenry and they had three daughters, step-daughters to Ruaidhrí Óg. When
Elizabeth died in 1636 Ruaidhrí Óg was orphaned. Even in these tougher and harsher times,
abandonment of aa three year old child at such a tender age questions the possibility that Elaizabeth
Darcy may have brought her young son to her new home; that is if the laws and customs did not
dictate his remaining in his ancestral O'Flaherty home. What interest was shown by his stepfather,
John Bermingham, in his future is also a matter of speculation. However, it is very likely that his
influential Darcy uncles and relatives would have taken special interest in their nephew's future. The
ultimate responsibility would, of course, rest with the O'Flaherty of Gnobeg. Ruaidhrí O'Flaherty's
early childhood would seem, by today's standards, to have been a traumatic one.

Ward of the Crown

Following his father's death Ruaidhrí Óg was made a Ward of the Crown, a fact of which he was
extremely proud. It was customary since the reign of Elizabeth 1
to persuade Irish Chieftains and other important personages to go to England for their education as
was the case with Ruaidhrí Óg's grandfather, Ruaidhrí Mór. James 1 continued with Elizabeth's policy
of an English education, but as this did not always succeed he inserted a clause in all grants of
wardenship ''that the wards should be maintained and educated in the English habits and religion in
Trinity College Dublin''. As to what arrangements were made for Ruaidhrí Óg, there is nothing
written but we do have a record of his gratitude and appreciation in the dedication of his Ogygia to
the Duke of York in 1684. '' I was born in the reign of your father, the blessings of peace of which I
enjoyed at my coming into the world in my infancy and in my youth were favours I most gratefully
acknowledge to have received from his bountiful protection. I had not attained my second year when
after the death of my own, whose gracious tutelage amply supplied the wants of my nonage''. What
was meant by ''Amply supplied'', whether monetary or otherwise is open to interpretation, but what
does seem certain is the fact that Ruaidhrí Óg's basic education was more than adequate; his
mastery of Classical Latin, English and History are proof of this. Of his knowledge of Irish, the great
Irish scholar, Charles O'Connor of Belangare, Co. Roscommon wrote ''Under the celebrated scholar
Duald MacFirbis he studied his maternal language in its classical purity and naturally turned his
thoughts from the misery of his country in his own day to its prosperity in better''.Unlike the walled
city of Galway which was referred to then as an ''ancient colonie of English'', the wild and
mountainous' people outside the walls continued the Gaelic tradition in all its facets, unfortunately
we do not have any examples of O'Flaherty's use of the Irish language in his writing except for some
explanatory notes and the use of Irish words.

This page was added on 02/04/2019.

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