Argent three lions passant reguardant in pale
and langued azure.
Crest: A dexter arm in armour embowed proper garnished or holding
in the hand a sword both
proper pommel and hilt or.
This is one of the most numerous surnames in
County Clare and said to be derived from the Irish word "mathganham",
meaning "son of a bearlike man." Holders of this name
may claim descent from Mahon, son of Murtagh Mór Ó
Briain, King of Munster who was interred in St. Flannan's Cathedral,
Killaloe, early in the 12th century. The richly carved Romanesque
doorway within the Cathedral is said to mark the entrance to
Two ruling branches of the clan became firmly
established in Corcabaskin, West Clare, where their once strongholds,
Carrigaholt Castle and Clonderlaw Castle, are prominent landmarks
and a source of local interest today.
Several MacMahons took prominent roles during
the course of history in Thomond, Teige Caech MacMahon rose
in rebellion against the English authorities and was the only
local chieftain to lend support to Red Hugh Ó Donnell
and participate in the last great battle of Kinsale for the
survival of the Gaelic chieftains. Many other MacMahons were
later to distinguish themselves in far-flung fields of battle.
Art McMahon appears in King James Army List as Colonel-in-Charge
of an Infantry Regiment and played a notable part in several engagements.
Subsequently, many Irish officers were to achieve further honours for
the Irish Brigades in the service of France.
Another member of the clan, John MacMahon (1715-1780),
was created the Marquis d'Eguilly but it was his grandson Patrick Maurice
MacMahon who achieved the highest distinction, being chosen to act as
President of the French Republic from 1873 to 1879. Following his victory
at the Battle of Magenta he was named the Duke of Magenta and later
on decreed a Marshall of France. This dynasty gave four Bishops to the
See of Killaloe; Dabhaidh (David) Mac Mathghamhna who died in 1317,
Terence MacMahon who ruled the Diocese from 1724 to 1728, Michael Peter
MacMahon O.P. from 1765 to 1807 and Patrick MacMahon from 1819 to 1836.
The most celebrated lady of the name must be Maire
Ruadh MacMahon who has become the best-remembered folk figure of County
Clare. Maire Ruadh was born in 1615, the daughter of Torlach Rua MacMahon
of Clonderlaw and she has left a strong impression on the folk memory
of the people. She lived happily for some years in Dysart Castle with
her first husband Daniel Neylon and following his death married again
within a year to Conor O'Brien of Leamanagh. There they built a fine
new residence adjoining the old tower-house with well laid-out gardens,
a fishpond and a deer park. Research by Marie MacNeill, the noted folklorist,
has shown that the mistress of Leamanagh was far from being the inhuman
figure we were led to believe.
The magnificent tomb erected in the chancel of the old
Friary in Ennis is a another reminder of the family's high standing in
times past. One of the most creative panels on their tomb depicts the
figure of a graceful lady wearing a medieval head dress and holding a
book and is said to represent Lady Moira MacMahon, "who caused this
tomb to be erected in 1470."
The Entombment. Panel on MacMahon Tomb, Ennis Friary
Mac Néill, Máire, "Máire Rua, Lady of Leamaneh".
Markham, Paul, "Clonderlaw Castle and its neighbourhood".