The Lords of Upper Ossory

Seaffraidh Fin Mac Giolla Phádraig, Lord of Upper Ossory (?-1314 AD)

Seaffraid Fin Mac Giolla Phádraig was the son of Seaffraidh Bacagh Mac Giolla Phádraig, the Lame.  The date of his birth is not recorded but he died in 1314 AD.  By most accounts he is the first to hold the title of Lord of Upper Ossory which is basically where County Laois is today.  He married the daughter of Richard Mor Tobin and had three sons Domhnal Dubh, Melachlin (slain by the British in 1367) and Cearball (killed by Robert Le Gros the Baron of Courstown in 1345 and one daughter, Ragual (also called Rynai) who was killed by the Rochforts in 1340.

Domhnal Dubh Mac Giolla Phádraig, Lord of Upper Ossory (1265 AD – 1325 AD)

Domhnal Dubh Mac Giolla Phádraig, the next Lord of Upper Ossory was born in 1265 AD.  He married Inghen Ni Braenan, daughter of the Chief of the Ui Duach.  This marriage produced at least one son, Domhnall Mac Giolla Phádraig. Of interest, he was slain by his own subjects in 1325 AD.

Domhnall Mac Giolla Phádraig, Lord of Upper Ossory (? – ?)

Domnhnall Mac Giolla Phádraig, the next Lord of Upper Ossory does not have a known birth date.  He married an O’Ferral and this union produced two sons, Fingbin and Sean.  During his reign, the clan Mac Giolla Phádraig became very aggressive and extended their lands.  In 1346 AD, the English stronghold of Aghaboe  (see story of Aghaboe Abbey) fell to our family under the leadership of another powerful member of the clan, Dermot MacGilpatric.  He is described by British historians as having one eye and being treacherous.  Most of the town was burned by Dermot and his soldiers.

Fingbin (Florence) Mac Giolla Phádraig, Lord of Upper Ossory (? – ?)

Fingbin Mac Giolla Phádraig had two wives.  His first wife was Ingen Ni Cearball and was the daughter of the King of Ele.  This marriage produced at least four sons Finghbin na Culcoile, Diarmaid, Domhnall (Tanist or Prince of Ossory) and Melachilia Ruadh (see below).  The fate of the first wife is not recorded but it is know that Fingbin had a second wife named Sadbh (Sabine), who was the daughter of a Mac Murrough.  She is known to have died in 1411.

Aghaboe Abbey

 Aghaboe Abbey was originally founded in the 6th century by St. Canice.  It became a center of learning, commerce and agriculture.  In 913 AD, the church was plundered by the Norsemen and the “Great Church” was rebuilt in 1052 AD but then damaged in a fire in 1116 AD.  The church was once again rebuilt in 1189 AD but then destroyed in an attack by Dermot Mac Giolla Phádraig in 1346 AD when he was attacking a Norman castle that once stood in an adjacent field. 

Aghaboe Abbey in County Laois

Aghaboe Abbey in County Laois

The ruins that are still present today are from a Dominican friary that was founded in 1382 by Finghan Mac Giolla Phádraig, Lord of Upper Ossory.  The church, which was conserved by the local community, contains a beautifully carved three-light window on the east wall.  There is a doorway on the north wall which led from the cloister.  This doorway was used by the monks while the doorway on the west wall was used by the public to enter the church.

Butlers – Arch Enemies of the Clan Mac Giolla Phádraig

The Butlers are of Norman origin.  They first came to Ireland when they landed in Waterford in 1185 AD.  The original Butler was Theobald Fitzwalter who was awarded large tracts of land in Limerick, Tipperary and Wicklow.  King Henry II gave him title of Le Boitiler or the king’s chief butler, which became the family name.  The powerful Butlers supplanted our family as the dominant family of Ossory.  The Butlers and Fitzpatricks have intertwined histories in the form of murders, revenge killings and even marriages.  Melachilia Ruadh Mac Gilla Patraic (see above) is the first known member of our clan to be slain by a Butler (killed in 1443 AD).

Fingbin na Culcoile Mac Giolla Phádraig, Lord of Upper Ossory (? – 1443 AD)

Fingbin na Culcoile married Margaret Butler, a daughter of Edmund Butler.  They had at least five sons but may have had six sons.  Fingbin na Culcoile was beaten to death in Kilkenny in 1443 by Edmund Mac Richard Butler.  The nature of the dispute is not known.  During his reign Cullahill Castle was build around 1425 and was the principle stronghold of the clan..  It is one of 23 recorded castles known to have been built in Upper Ossory by our family.  The ruins of Cullahill Castle can still be seen in County Laois.  It was partially destroyed by cannon fire from a nearby hill by Cromwell’s forces around 1650 and by 1657 it was described as “ruinous and uninhabited.”

Cullahill Castle in County Laois

Ruins of Cullahill Castle in County Laois

Sean (John) Mac Giolla Phádraig, Lord of Upper Ossory (?-1468)

Sean Mac Giolla Phádraig married Inghen Ni Maelmuaidh. a daughter of of O’Mulloy, the King of Fercall.  They had one son, Brain na Luirech.  Sean exacted revenge for the murder of his father by slaying Richard Butler, the son of Edmund Mac Butler in the doorway of St. Canice’s church (see photograph below) in Kilkenny in 1478.  Two or three other “murderers” were also slain in this revenge killing.  Sean died of plague in 1468.

Saint Canice Church, site of the revenge of the clan Mac Giolla Phádraig.

Saint Canice Church, site of the revenge of the clan Mac Giolla Phádraig.

Brian na Luirech Mac Giolla Patraic, Lord of Upper Ossory (? – 1537)

Brian na Luirech married Inghen Ni Morda, a daughter of a member of O’Moore family in Leix.  They had two sons, Brian Oge and Diarmaid (Dermot) and one daughter Catherin.  Historical records state that he was a member of the “Shirts of Mail;” however, the significance of this organization is not known.  Based on the date of construction, he or one of the members of his family built Ballaghmore Castle.

Sarcophagus of Brian Luirech Mac Giolla Phádraig

Sarcophagus o Brian Luirech Mac Giolla Phádraig

His sarcophagus (see adjacent photograph) can be found in the MacGillpatrick Chapel near the Round Tower at Granefertagh in County Kilkenny.  Some websites identify this sarcophagus as belonging to John MacGillpatrick, which is most likely not correct. The tomb has effigies of Brian in armor and his wife with a fine gothic carving.

Ballaghmore Castle

Ballaghmore Castle was built in 1480 by Brian na Luirech Mac Gilla Patraic and it is the only surviving intact castle from the clan.  According to historical references, at one time there were 23 Mac Giolla Phádraig castles in Upper Ossory. This castle is in the county Laois and is situated on 30 acres.  The castle dominates the Great Road or Bealach Mór (origin of the name of the castle) that connects Roscrea to Mountrath.  The castle was partially destroyed in 1647 by Cromwell’s army but was eventually restored.  A 16th century Manor Guest House is also on the grounds. 

Ballaghmore Castle and Manor Guest House

Ballaghmore Castle and Manor Guest House

It is now owned by Grainne Ni Cormac and it is open to visitors for a small fee.  It is used for weddings and as a boutique hotel and the entire castle can be rented for a weekend for about 1,500 euros and can sleep 15 guests.  Guests can also stay at the Manor Guest House for about 60 euros per night.

Castle Ballagh

Castle Ballagh, another Mac Giolla Phádraig castle, is located south of the village Errill in County Laois.  The exact date that this castle was built is not known but it has been estimated to have been built in either the late 15th century or early 16th century.  The castle is a five-story tower with two ogival-headed windows at the lower levels of the NE and SE walls and segmented windows at the fifth story level.  The bartizan at the corner between them has a chamber within.  The NW wall contains passages at the second and third stories and there are fireplaces in the main rooms of the third and fourth stories.

Castle Ballagh in County Laois

Ruins of Castle Ballagh in County Laois

Little is known about this castle although it is known to have been occupied by Geoffry Fitzpatrick, the son of Florence and Catherine Fitzpatrick, the Lord and Lady of Upper Ossory.  Geoffrey died in 1638 and his estate was confiscated.  In 1653, the castle was given to his grandnephew, the traitor Colonel John Fitzpatrick.


The Kings of Ossory

Mac Giolla Phádraig (Gilla Patraic I)

As mentioned in the previous post, Gilla Patraic I (also sometimes called Mac Giolla Phádraig) was the eponymous ancestor from which the Fitzpatrick name will be derived.  He was King of Ossory (shown in bright green on the adjacent map). He was the oldest son of Donncadh macCellaig who was powerful King of Ossory that defeated the Leinstermen and slew the King of Leinster in 945 AD.  Gilla Patraic I was born around 940 AD and died in 996 AD.  He maIreland with the Kingdom of Ossory in shown in bright green.rried Aelmuire, who was the daughter of Amlaibh, the son of Sitric, King of the Danes.  From this marriage at least six sons were produced.  At one time, he was captured by the powerful Brian Boru (King of Ireland who was the ancestor of the powerful Gaelic O’Brien family) who was plundering Ossory.  He was eventually released and was killed by Donovan who was the son of Ivar, the King of Waterford, in 996 AD.  His brother Muiredach I (Muircheartach) was lord of one-half of Ossory and he was slain by one of the O’Kealy sept in 1041 AD.  At this point the O’Kealys rival the power of our family and they have independent rule over part of Ossory and are the rulers of several less powerful families.

Duncadh Mac Giolla Phádraig (Mac Giolla Patraic II)

Duncadh Mac Giolla Phádraig, the son of Gilla Patraic I, was born in 990 AD and died in 1039 AD.  He is the only member of our clan to become King of Leinster, which represents approximately one-fourth of Ireland.  He married Ni Braenan, the daughter of the Chief of Ui Duach.  From this marriage they had at least three sons including Giolla Phádraig, Diarman (the Prince of Leinster) and Dombnal.

Mac Giolla Phádraig (Gilla Patraic II)

Mac Giolla Phádraig, the son of Duncadh Mac Giolla Phádraig, was born around 1020 AD and died in 1055 AD and was King of Ossory.  He is known for killing Doncadh mac Aedh, King of Hy Bairrche in 1042 AD.  He .  supposedly died of grief.  He is known to have had two sons, Domhnall Mac Giolla Phádraig and Gilla Patraic Ruadh III in addition to a daughter, Dubhcobhlaight, the “Lady of Ossory.”

Domhnal Mac Giolla Phádraig (Mac Gilla Patraic II)

Domhnal Mac Giolla Phádraig, the son of Mac Giolla Phádraig and King of Ossory, died in 1087 AD, the date of his birth is not recorded.  He was described as being a warlike chief.  He had two son, Gilla Patraic Mac Giolla Phádraig and Doncadh mac Gilla Patraic IV.  He died after a long illness.

Gilla Patraic Mac Giolla Phádraig (mac Gilla Patraic II)

Gilla Patraic Mac Giolla Phádraig, the son of Domhnal, was King of Ossory although later references refer to him as Lord of Ossory (see map of Ossory in the 12th century). The date of his birth is not recorded but he died in 1146 AD.  He married Orla, the daughter of Murcadh mac Flan O’Melachlin and the produced two sons, Scanlan and Domhnall (slain by the O’Moores in 1165 AD).  He was slain by in Kilkenny by the sons of Congalach Ua Braenan, Chief of the Ui Duaich.

Scanlan Mac Giolla Phádraig (Mac Gilla Patraic)

Jerpoint Abby is a ruined Cistercian abbey that was founded in the second half of the 12th Century in County Kilhenny.  It is famous for its stone carvings and it is a well-known tourist attraction.

Jerpoint Abby is a ruined Cistercian abbey that was founded in the second half of the 12th Century in County Kilhenny. It is famous for its stone carvings and it is a well-known tourist attraction. The abbey flourished until the Dissolution of the Monastaries that was decreed by Henry VIII.

Scanlan Mac Giolla Phádraig, the son of Gilla Patraic Mac Giolla Phádraig , was born a around 1115 AD and died around 1185 AD.  During his reign, Ossory was invaded by Muircheertach O’Lochlain in 1156 AD and the power of the clan Mac Giolla Phádraig was greatly diminished.  His primary claim to fame is that Jerpoint  Abbey was built by the clan Mac Gilla Patraic.

Domhnall Mac Giolla Phádraig (Mac Gilla Patraic)

Domhnall was the son of Scanlan and he was known to be born 1170 AD in Magh Lacca, on the plain of Leix.  He died around 1240 AD.  By this point the clan has lost much of its land.  In 1192 AD, there was even a decree of eviction by the Norman over-lord and there was a flight of the Mac Giolla Phádraig clan to the north in the area that will be known as Upper Ossory.

Seaffraidh Mac Giolla Phádraig (Mac Gilla Patraic)

Seaffraidh Mac Giolla Phádraig’s date of birth is unknown but he died in 1269 AD.  It is uncertain if he still used the title King of Ossory but it isknown that he used the title King of Sliabh Bladham, which is in an area called the Slieve Bloom Mountains between County Offaly and County Laois.  He is known to have had three sons, Seaffraidh Bacagh, Oistegan and William.

Seaffraidh Bacagh Mac Giolla Phádraig, the Lame

Seaffraidh Bacagh’s date of birth is not recorded but he died in 1289 AD.  He married Inghen, daughter of O’Meachair, King of Ui Cairn Ikern in Tipperary.  This marriage produced four sons, Seaffraidh Fin, Donadh, Cellach and Diarmanid Caoic.  His title is not recorded in history, but after him all heads of the Mac Giolla Phádraig clan will be referred to as Lord of Upper Ossory, with their power being markedly diminished.

The history of the Lords of Upper Ossory will be the subject of the next post.

Origin of the Clan Mac Giolla Phadraig

The Fitzpatrick surname is the most common variant derived from the Gaelic clan Mac Giolla Phádraig, which is frequently Anglicized to Mac Gilla Patric, MacGillapatrick, McGilPatrick, Macllpatrick, Mcllpatrick or Kilpatrick.  In addition to these readily recognizable variations, one of the clan members changed his surname to the Gaelic equivalent of Geoffrey and this sept of the family has numerous variations including MacSherra, McSherra, McShera, McSheera, Shera, Sherar, Sherra and Sheera.  The name Fitzpatrick does not appear until the late 1500s when Sir Barnaby Fitzpatrick, Second Baron of Upper Ossory, who is raised in the English court, combines the Norman Fitz with the Gaelic Patrick.  Variations of this name include Fitz-Patrick and Fitzpatrick.

There are family researchers who claim to have established a pedigree of this clan showing descent from King Milesius (also spelled Mil Espaine in some references) who was a Gaelic king of a portion of what is now Spain.  He was married to an Egyptian princess whose name was Scota who he apparently married as part of an alliance against the King of Ethiopia.  In the 5th century, he sent either a trading mission or an army headed by one of his sons who was killed by the resident Irish kings (the Danans).  The enraged King Milesius prepared a fleet and sent an army to take revenge but died before being able to fulfill his quest.  His wife Scota, uncle Ith and his sons completed the mission and conquered at least part of Ireland.

Ancient Ireland map- 1a

Ireland at the time of the Anglo-Norman invasion

Heremon, the eldest son of King Milesius and his brothers Heber, Ir and Ilthe ruled the newly conquered territory.  According to one source, they initially named the land Scotia in honor of their mother who by at least one account was killed in battle.  Some historical references record that Scotia Major was initially used as a name for Ireland and Scotia Minor was used as a name for Scotland which had also been conquered.  There are at least three versions of how the name became Ireland but according to one source, that is was named after Ir (youngest son of King Milesius) and was initially known as Ir-land.

The earliest that a name recognizable as being of our family first appears in the 9th century with the issue of Doncadh (also known as Doncadh macCellaig), who is a descendent of King Melesius.  Doncadh was the King of Ossory (Osraige in Gaelic).  His son was named Gilla Patraic I and the clan Mac Giolla Phadraig would arise from his descendants.  Ossory lies within the Kingdon of Leinster (see map).  While its size and dimensions of Ossory have varied over the centuries, in the 12th century it comprised most of the modern county of Kilkenny and the western portion of the modern County Laois (also known as Queens County at one point in history).  While the clan Mac Giolla Phadraig were the historical rulers of this region there were many other important smaller Gaelic families (septs) including O’Phelan (Whelan), O’Brody, O’Brophy, O’Coveney, Dunphy, O’Gloherny (Glory), MacBreen, O’Broder (Broderick), O’Delany, O’Horahan, O’Kealy, O’Brennan and O’Carroll.  It is likely that the Mac Giolla Phadraig family both intermarried and at times fought for control of Ossory with these less powerful families.  The clan Mac Giolla Phadraig would eventually loose control over everything except the northern part which is known as Upper Ossory.


1913- Elizabeth Kunze Fitzpatrick cropped sepia

Elizabeth Bertha Kunze as a young lady in 1904.

1922 circa- Grandfather Thomas Fitzpatrick holding baby Jack- 1b

Thomas Joseph Fitzpatrick holding Jack in 1922.

This blog has been created to preserve the history, traditions, photographs and stories of the “Fitzpatricks of Omaha” who are the descendants of Thomas Joseph Fitzpatrick (shown holding Jack Fitzpatrick) and Elizabeth Bertha Kunze (shown as a young lady when she was dating Thomas) and their six children.  Subsequent blogs will discuss the early history of the clan Mac Giolla Phadraig and their position in the history of Ireland.  Later additions will follow the history of the Fitzpatricks after they arrive in the United States and disperse across their new country.