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.


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