Where did and do the Ui Mhic Carthainn live?
The Ui Mhic Carthainn territory is bounded by the river Foyle on the East, the Sperrin mountains on the West, Downhill at Magilligan on the North and the Glenelly & Owenkilly rivers (1) on the south. Through the middle of this part of Ulster in the North of Ireland run the rivers Roe and Faughan making two natural pathways through the territories for the sept. This is where most Cartins live today.
Ballycarton outside Limavady has the best claim for a long settlement of the sept. Indeed there are remains of a fort there. (16)
“Ballycarton Fort is formed entirely of earth, of circular form, 112 feet in diameter. The parapet is 6 feet higher than the trench and the interior is covered with a growth of thorn and hazel. It is situated in the townland of Ballycarton, at the base of a hill called Dowland hill and 300 yards northeast of the corn mill on the edge of the stream leading to the mill.”
Ballycarton and it's surrounds probably ceased as a major stronghold around 1641 when the surviving inhabitants fled to poorer and higher ground as the plantation progressed. A working hypothesis is that this is when Forglen became the remaining stronghold; though the evidence is tenuous. See the section on Ballycarton.
Oral sources suggest that there was a strong settlement of Cartins in Foreglen up until fifty years ago. There were certainly several families of Cartins or O'Cartins in the area. This is close to Dungorkin where there was reputedly a Ui mhic Carthainn fort. From there some Cartins moved to the Craigbane and Kilgort area (Lower Cumber) and possibly on to the lands which were to comprise the Learmount Castle Estate owned by the Beresford family. The author's uncle pointed out "old wallsteads" in Learmount forest which he was told belonged to his great or great great grandfather (15).
The Barony of Tirkeerin encompasses the general area from Limavady and Ballycarton across to Foreglen and as explained in the section on Tirkeerin this was known as the land of the Ui meic Carthainn or Cartins.
The river Foyle runs north-south through the north west of Northern Ireland and into Lough Foyle. Sept territories would have fluctuated. In the past and the sept territory may have extended at it's height across the Foyle well into Donegal in the West, into Tyrone in the south and as far as Coleraine in the North. Bear in mind the river Foyle would have been the modern equivalent of a motorway rather than a barrier to people whose choice of transport was either rowing or walking.
While it is tempting to use the phrase “The land of the Cartins” it can only be useful shorthand. The Ui Mhic Carthainn who ultimately left some descendents with the name Cartin, Carton etc. also broke up or was broken up into other clans; for example O’Connell and McColgan (2) (3) who share the history as well as the territory. There are early references to Tirkeeran as the land of the Ui Mhic Carthainn or the Ui mac Carthainn
(4) in the case of the Onomasticon Goedelicum or Ui Mic Cairthaind of L. Febail in the case of the Book of Ballymote(5) (6). There are references suggesting that the territory did indeed run into Donegal (7). In getting from Tir (“land of “ in Irish) Carthainn to Tirkeeran we must bear in mind the pronunciations of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and how they were anglicised. “The natives of the mountains of Dungiven, Banagher and Ballynascreen pronounce the name of this barony as if it is written Tir Caorthain, by which they understand “land of rowan trees” because the name Carthan is no longer current among them as a proper name.” said one of the authors of the Ordnance Survey Memoirs of Ireland. He was correct about the pronunciation but rather wrong about the endurance of the proper name (8).
The territory is elegantly described by Brian Lacey (9) as follows:
“From the Ui meic Cairthinn is derived, in the Anglicised form Tirkeeran, the name of one of the baronies of County Londonderry. The southern border of the territory of the Ui meic Cairthinn Locha Febail was probably formed by the Glenelly and Owenkillew rivers in county Tyrone, while to the west they were probably bound by the Mourne and Foyle rivers and to the north by Lough Foyle itself. Some of this land would have been thickly tree covered such as Prehen above the Foyle near Derry.”
This reference to the thick tree cover highlights the irony of the “Plantation of Ulster” which in fact led to the deduding of this area of its forests in order to supply London with charcoal.
A fuller description of "The Location of the Tribe" is found in the Brian Lacy (Lacey) more seminal publication in Derrianna (10);
"We know that in a general way the barony of Tirkeeran represents at least part of the territory of these people, however, an attempt is made here to give a more detailed description of the area in which they lived, although much of this is based on speculation rather than firm evidence. To the west their territory was bounded by the river of Lough Foyle and to the north by the open Lough itself,( Onomasticon p533). To the east of their lands lay some hilly country, which separated them from the valley of the river Roe which was the territory of the Ciannachta of Glenn Geimhin. The actual boundary line may be preserved in the surviving townland name Coolkeenaght, which Moore Munn suggests derived from Cuaille Ciannachta the 'bare tree or pole, of the Ciannachta'. This townland is bounded on the Ui Meic Cairthinn side by the Coolagh stream, which flows northwards into the lough from its source on the summit of Loughermore mountain, near the townland of Glasakeeran, which itself could be derived from Glais Ui Meic Cairthinn or stream of the Ui Meic Cairthinn. About 12 miles to the south is Dart mountain, which is close to the Glenelly river, which passes by the site of the old church of Both Domhnach, in Glenroan townland in Co. Tyrone. Eoin Mac Neill argued that the Tripartite Life of St. Patrick allows us to see that by the time of Tirechan in the late seventh century, the powerful Cenel Eogain had pushed as far south as Dart and Both Domhnach.(14) We hope to show here, that this was only made possible by the extinction of the power and independence of the Ui Meic Cairthinn of Lough Foyle and that therefore the southern limit of Cenel Eogain influence, revealed in Tirechan's notes, represents the former southern boundary of the people who had been recently defeated. The actual boundary was probably the Glenelly river which joins the Owenkillew and Mourne rivers before flowing into the Foyle and bringing us back again to the established borders of these people. These rivers would have separated the Ui Meic Cairthinn from the closely related Ui Fiachrach of Ardstraw to the South west.
In the Ordnance Survey Memoirs of Ireland parishes of Co Londonderry 1831-5 Volume 36 the section of the Memoirs by J.O’Donovan and G. Petrie, with additions by J. Stokes gives a brutal history of the early people of the parish of Magilligan and inter alia the Ui Mheic Carthainn. In a section “Early Inhabitants” they write:
“From the notices given in the preceding section it will be seen that this parish was peopled at the earliest period of which we have historic records by the Cruithne or Picts, the ancient inhabitants of the great portion of modern Scotland. In subsequent ages this race, being either expelled or amalgamated with the Scoti or native Irish, all traces of them were eradicated long prior to the Plantation of Ulster. From the traces of cultivation which appear on the mountain side, 200 feet higher than modern industry has reached, it may with probability be inferred that the parish was not too thinly inhabited in those distant times, but what the amount was there are no data now remaining to enable us to ascertain. In the wars of the native chieftains of the North with Elizabeth, the parish must necessarily, as tradition reports, have been nearly depopulated, and on the Plantation of Ulster a number of families of English and Scottish race were fixed among the survivors on the unoccupied lands. The rebellion of 1641 brought still greater desolation in its train, and Magilligan become once more dessert. But few of either race escaped its destructive effects, and of the Irish clan from whence the name of the parish is derived, not one is now to be found either in it or the adjoining districts.”
(1) Derry and Londonderry History & Society Eds O’Brien & Nolan Geography Publications ISBN 0 906602 85 8 Page 123
The Ui meic Cairthinn Locha Febail
Directly opposite Derry on the East bank of the Foyle, but stretching further North and South, was the territory of the Ui meic Cairthinn Locha Febail. (Brian Lacey, The Ui meic Cairthinn Locha Febail, Derriana 1979 pp 3-24). From the Ui meic Cairthinn is derived, in the Anglicised form Tirkeeran, the name of one of the baronies of County Londonderry. The southern border of the territory of the Ui meic Cairthinn Locha Febail was probably formed by the Glenelly and Owenkillew rivers in county Tyrone, while to the west they were probably bound by the Mourne and Foyle rivers and to the north by Lough Foyle itself. Some of this land would have been thickly tree covered such as Prehen above the Foyle near Derry. The woods still surviving are probably the vestiges of a more extensive forest of earlier times. To the east lay the hilly country rising up to the Sperrin Mountains, but this was penetrated by the valley of the Burndennet, Faughan and Glenmornan rivers. Not surprisingly, relatively major fortifications of the period can be found near the head of these valleys such as the impressive ring fort at Ballynabwee overlooking Burndennet, and fortified sites at Dungorkin overlooking the Foreglen river, a tributary of the Faughan.
(2) O'Dugans topographical poem cites O'Corbmaic, over the valiant Ui MacCarthainn, and goes on to note the chieftains of Ui Meic Carthainn as O'Colgan and O'Connell (perhaps two separate regions in Oirghialla).
(3) McColgan/McCulkin/ McQuilkin's http://myweb.cableone.net/cjwitchypoo/wilname.html
The O'Colgan's of County Offaley and the O'Colgan's/McColgan's stem from different origins. The Offaley clan is from the O'Conner's, and the McColgans of Derry and Donegal stem from the Celleach, who had a son Colca, a quo Clann Colgain of Ulster. The McDonnell's of Clan Kelly also are descended from this Celleach, who came from Colla da Croich of the great Clan Colla. In 776, this "Colcca son of Celleach" was King of the Ua Cermhthain, a clan of the Oirghilla. The McColgans were later Chiefs of the Ui MacCarthainn, until dispossessed by the Cinel Eoghain. The O'Kanes are the clan which probably replaced them and they then became a broken clan.
(4) Onomasticon Goedelicum http://minerva.ucc.ie:6336/dynaweb/locus/dictionary/@Generic__BookTextView/158468 ui maic cairthind; I. 136 b, Lis. 143 b, Bb. 150 b; their genealogy, Ll. 325; nr Loch Foyle, Lec. 181, Ll. 333, Of. 362, Lh. 187, X. 58; Ui mac Carthainn, b. Tirkeeran, c. Derry, Tp., Lct., Mi., Ci., Ui.; al. Ui Cormaic, Of. 361. t. mic cairthaind; b. Tirkeerin, c. Derry, Lct. 122, Fm. ii. 952.ú. carthainn; Fy.; nr Cros Pátraig, in Tirawly (?).
(5) The Book of Ballymote cites Síl Colla Uais, i.e. Ui Mac Uais, Ui Tuírtre, Fir Luirg, Ui Fiacrach Arda Sratha, Ui Mic Cairthaind, Fir na tri leth, Fir Leitreach, Fir Lugaidh, Fir in Muighe, Ui Tabarna, Fir in Chláir, Ui Mic Cairthaind of L. Febail, and the Fir ili (Fir Li?)
(6) Irish Kings and High Kings where Francis Byrne states the Uí Maic Caírthinn south of Lough Foyle, the Uí Fiachrach Arda Sratha and Uí Thuirtri west and east of the Sperrins were collectively known as the Uí Macc Uais
(7) A Tír Mac Cartainn is cited by Goedelicum east of the barony of Boylagh in county Donegal.
(8) Ordnance Survey Memoirs of Ireland parishes of Co Londonderry 1831-5 Volume 36
Edited by Angelique Day and Patrick McWilliams Published by the Institute of Irish Studies The Queen’s University of Belfast 1991
“ It Appears from old Irish books of genealogy and O’Flaherty’s Ogygia Part III that Carthann, the great-grandson of King Colla Uais, had a son Forgo, who was patronymically called MacCarthan from his father, and that from him a people and territory near the bay of Lough Foyle which washes Londonderry are called Hy-MacCarthen.
The Abbe Mageoghegan, in his map of the dynasties of Ulster, lays down Hy-Mac-Carthen to the south east of Lough Foyle as if comprehending this (the parish of Templemore) and several other parishes. In the laying down of this however, he was entirely guided by O’Flaherty’s words, and he can scarcely be called an authority. There is every evidence, however to prove that the Hy-Mac-Carthen of Irish writers is the present barony of Tirkeeran, inasmuch as the ancient Irish indiscriminately used Hy and Tir to denote a territory. Thus, when they wished to express the tribe and territory the used hy, but when they wished to express the territory only they always used tir which means “land or territory” as UI-Oililla or Tir-Oilillia in Connaught, Tir-Awley or Ui-Awley, Tir-Fiachrach and Ui-Fiachrach.
It is also curious to observe that O’Caerthanian, a family name formed by prefixing O’ to the name Certhanan, a diminutive of Caerthan, is now always anglicised Rowantree, a family name not unusual in Oriel. Now as we find and ancient territory bordering on Lough Foyle called Hy-MacCarthen and a modern barony bearing a synonymous name of Tir-Cairthen, the conclusion is unavoidable that they are the same territory.
On the increasing power of the Clandermot, a part of Hy-Mac-Carthen seems to have merged into their territory and taken their name; but it appears that the more original name of the territory, like that of Keenaght, was never laid aside, as the English, in dividing the county into baronies, found it the most convenient name to adopt. But whether or not they took the whole of Tir-Vic-Carthan to form the barony of Tirkeerin cannot now be prove, though it is more than probable that they did, as they would have found it difficult and troublesome to establish new boundaries and obliterate the old ones which time had rendered venerable, as natural or artificial representations of terminus.
The ancient chiefs of Hy-Mac-Carthen, as appears from O’Dugan’s topographical poem, were the O’Colgans and O’Connells both of whom were of the Kinel-Owen race. The former are still very numerous about Derry and in Inishowen but the latter seem extinct, as we know that O’Connnells of Munster are of a different sept.
The English generally named the barony from the principal town or castle lying within it, and in which they held their court, baron and gaol, and this frequently laid aside the original territorial name of the Irish tricha cheud. Thus Firnacreeve was changed to Coleraine barony; Kinel-Ferady in Tyrone to Clogher barony; Hy-Meith-tire in the county of Monaghan to the barony of Monaghan, etc. Conformably to the same custom, an attempt was made to change the original name of Tir-Cairthen to the barony of Annagh, from a castle of that name which stood on an island in Lough Enagh, to the lord of which this district belonged; but such is the power of ancient established custom that the ancient territorial name was again resumed.”
(9) County Derry in the Early Historic Period by Brian Lacey
In Derry and Londonderry History & Society Eds O’Brien & Nolan Geography Publications ISBN 0 906602 85 8 Page 123
(12) A History of County Derry by Sean McMahon published by Gill & Macmillan 2004 ISBN 0 7171 3799 6
(13) Tir Eoghain ‘North of the Mountain’ by Katharine Simms In Derry and Londonderry History & Society Eds O’Brien & Nolan Geography Publications ISBN 0 906602 85 8 Page 155
In 1212 Alan fitz Rolland received a charter for all Dal Riada, the island of Rathlin, the cantred of Cineal Ainmhireach?, the lands of Tweskard and Larne, all apparently situated in the modern county Antrim, and the cantreds of Ciannachta and Tir Caorthainn (bar. Tirkeeran) in the modern county Londonderry. The next year the same lands were granted instead to Alan’s brother Thomas, Earl of Athol, together with O Neills share of ‘the vill of Derekoneull’ (i.e. Doire Cholm Chille, the ecclesiastical city of Derry?) and the cantred of ‘Talachot’ (Tullyhogue?) as a fief to be held for the services of the three knights. Earl Thomas immediatlly took steps to make good this ‘licence to conquer’. According to the annals he came with a fleet of seventy–six ships, plundered Derry on two occasions, allied with O Domhnaill to ravage Inishowen, and with the English to build a castle at Coleraine
(14) Macafee and Morgan, Plantation to Partition Essays edited by Peter Roebuck Blackstaff Press 1981 Page 48
Table 1 1659 Census and Hearth Money Returns
(15) From conversations with Philip Cartin formerly of Craigbane and latterly of Aghadowey
(16) Ordnance Survey Memoirs of Ireland parishes of Co Londonderry 1831-5 Roe Valley Lower Volume 11 Edited by Angelique Day and Patrick McWilliams Published by the Institute of Irish Studies The Queen’s University of Belfast 1991 ISBN 0 85389 390 X