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O'Mulconry, Ó Maolconaire

O'Mulconry Family Crest

Azure an ancient book open
indexed edged or, a chief
embattled of the last.
Crest: A dexter arm vested or
cuffed ermine grasping a wreath
of laurel proper.

Duald Mac Firbis, the noted genealogist, compiled, in 1650, an extensive treatise on prominent Irish families among them the Ó Maolconaires. They were one of the most able families to adopt the profession of keeping historical records and the preparation of genealogical tracts when such pursuits flourished among the ruling families of Ireland.

They matured into a widespread clan, nine members of which eventually became attached to the courts of the principal houses in Munster and Connacht. These families were granted free mensal lands in their own territory in which they set up schools devoted to the study of law, medicine, history and poetry and where their successors were also trained. Having gained experience in this art, they were led to prepare accounts of their own origin and in this regard claimed a line of descent stretching back to Maine, brother of King Loughaire, who met St. Patrick at Tara.

There are, however, quite a number of entries in mediaeval manuscripts relating to them going back as far as the 13th and 14th century, for example - "Conaig Ó Maolconaire, chief poet of Connacht, died this year 1314. Author of Arelec Riog Leithe Cuinn". "In 1383 Tanaidhe Ó Maolconaire died, who was chief ollamh in history and poetry in all Connacht". "Muiris Ó Maolconaire of 1603 left a poem of praise for Eogan Ó hAllmhurain the harper".

Perhaps the most illustrious member of the clan - Ferfassa Ó Maolconaire, best known because of his association with Br. Michael O'Clerigh, and for his work in collating and preparing for production "The Annals of the Four Masters". Fr. John Colgan, the Franciscan historian, had this to say of him: "a man of consummate learning on the antiquities of the country."

It is evident that there was close contact between the families who organised these schools; individual members were sent away to study, free from distraction to the outlying classes of which there were many more in Thomond, especially devoted to Irish literature and poetry. An entry from the records of the law school conducted by the MacAodhagain (The MacEgans) reads "here in 1432 Gregory, son of John Ó Maolconaire, who was to be professor of history, died in the house of Mac Aodhagain, whilst he was being instructed there."

Dr. Dermot F. Gleeson in "A History of the Diocese of Killaloe" provides us with some details of the Thomond branch of this family and a recorded description of their history school which they set up at Ard Choill in the Parish of Broadford during the 17th centry. Flan Mac Aodhaghain, who was the last brehon in his own family, was educated there and left us this account; "I saw numerous number of books written or being translated in the history school of Sean Ó Maolconaire, son of Tarna Ó Maolconaire, the tutor of the men of Ireland in general history and chronology and who had all that were in Ireland learning that science under his tuition." He further added that Sean was an able professor "in this science of hard words."

It is also revealed that his brother, Iollan of Clan a Tradraighi (Cleanagh, Newmarket-on-Fergus ) copied in a fine script Fr. Geoffrey Keating's "Foras Feasa", finishing it on April 30, 1643 (Royal Irish Academy MSS. No. 23) and that among his helpmates was Muircearath Oig Mac Flanncadha (Mac Clancy) to whom he offered a prayer in appreciation.

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Learned Families of Thomond