Feudal Westmeath - Longford
FEUDAL NOBILITY OF
"Westmeath hath many goodlie lakes and marshes of fresh water of great quantities, whereof
the greatest part falleth into the Sheynon, above Athlone, and the rest into the Brosnagh, which also falleth into
the Sheynon, near Mellick. It hath no noblemen in it, but the baron of Delvin, -whose name is Nugent, and under the
bishop of Meath as ordinarie hereof. Whereinto is lately united by Parliament, the little diocese of Clone, in
O'Meaghlin's country." —(Ireland in 1598)
Its Ancient History.
The name Delvin is of Druidic origin. It is called after the Druid Delbaeth (known Lugaiahdh Delbeath—" the fine
producer.") It is recorded in the History of the Dalcassian Race of Thomond that the Druid Lugaidh, the head of the
sept, having been driven from his territory in the County Clare, travelled to Carn Fiachach in South Westmeath,
where the son of Niall Fiacha, of the Nine Hostages was buried. When he reached the Carn, Delbaeth lighted a great
fire by his druidic power. Out of this fire there rushed five streams of flame. By directions of the Druid his sons
followed, one each, the streams of fire, saying at the same time that their fierv streams would bring them to their
future territories. One of the streams passed into the eastern part of Westmeath where the son who followed it
settled down, and the district was ever after known as Dealbhna (anglicised Delvin) from his father Dealbaeth the
Druid. This story may .appear mythical and legendary, but the fact remains that the name Dealbaeth the Druid still
lives in the name and the barony and village of Delvin.
After the Norman invasion the territory of Delvin passed into the hands of Hugh de Lacy who granted it to his
son-in-law, Sir Gilbert de Nugent, and erected the Castle which still remains in excellent preservation in the
village. Sir Gilbert de Nugent subsequently built the Castle ,of Clonyn. which was burned at the approach of
Cromwell's army during the Parliamentary Wars.
About two miles from Delvin is the townland of Drumcree (Irish—Druim Craich) the name of which is of very ancient
origin. It is referred to in a celebrated poem written by the great Irish poet, Cuau O'Lothchain, who lived in the
Druim Criach, meeting place of a hundred hosts,
Though now a desert, thy fame fades not,
Though thou are now Druim Criaich, thou wert once Drumcree,
As well as the cold Druim Airthin, on the same day.
Druim Criaich means the hill of the sighs (Druim a hill, and Criaich—cri, the heart and ach a sigh or moan) on
account of the Monarch of Tara Eochaidh having received on this hill the heads of his three sons, who had rebelled
against him. This Eochaidh Ferdhlech was Monarch of Ireland about a century before Christ. Maeve, the celebrated
Queen of Connaught was his daughter, He had also three sons named Tir, Fin, and Eaushna, who, when very young, were
sent by their father to the great military school of the Red Branch Knights at Emania. When they had gained a
thorough knowledge of the science of war they conceived the idea of seizing their father's throne, and to carry out
their project they assembled a large force in Ulster and set out on their march to attack the Royal Palace of Tara.
Their father, Eochaidh, having heard of their designs, advanced to meet them with a large body of the Royal troops.
The opposing armies met at Drumcree, where a desperate battle ensued in which- the sons were defeated and in their
flight, were captured. They were beheaded on the spot and their heads brought back to their father whose heart was
deeply touched on seeing them, and from that day forward until his death he never ceased lamenting their sad fate,
hence the name Drumcree, or Druim Criaich—" the hill of the sighs."
Another incident of a very historic character took place at a much later period at Drumcree. Donagh son of Flann
Sinna, King of Ireland, having attacked the territory of a Chief named O'Duban of Druim Dairbreach, in the
neighbourhood of Drumcree, a battle took place between them on the hill of Drumcree and O'Duban was slain. The
victorious Donagh buried the vanquished Chief O'Duban on the hill and had a monument erected over him to
commemorate the victory. It may be mentioned here that this Donagh was father of the celebrated Malachy II. who
succeeded Brian Boru, and died in the year 1022 on Cro Innis (now Cormorant Island) Lough Ennel.
Castletown Delvin, or as it was anciently called Debhlana More, or the Great Delvin, after the name of the owner of
the barony, Debhlaneth. Prior to the Anglo-Norman Invasion the barony belonged to the O' Fenolen Sept. The
O'Fenolens were of remote Munster or Dalcassian origin. Their last chief in Delvin was Ceallagh or Kellagh in 1174.
Since then those of the race under the modernized name of Fenolen have been in a state of obscurity and poverty,
and Dr. O'Donovan adds that when he examined the barony of Delvin in 1837 he did not find many of the family in
their original locality. Delvin is ten miles north-east of Mullingar, and thirty-nine miles north-west of Dublin,
containing according to Lewis's Topographical Dictionary, 4,513 inhabitants, of which number 419 were living in the
town. The castle which is in the village was built by Hugh de Lacy, Lord of Meath, for his brother-in-law, Sir
Gilbert de Nugent, who resided in it for some time and then built the Castle of Clonyn, not far from Delvin, which
was burnt by the Earl of Westmeath to prevent it falling into the hands of the Cromwellian soldiers during the
Parliamentary War of 1641. The town in 1836 contained seventy-seven houses. The parish is situated on the road from
Athboy to Drumcree, and contains 15,659 statute acres, as applotted under the Tithe Act, besides a considerable
quantity of waste land. There are tracts of bog and small lakes, and limestone is abundant. Clonyn Castle, for
centuries the seat of the Nugent family, is near the town and is surrounded with extensive grounds richly
ornamented with timber. In 1598 the chief towns of the barony of Delvin were— Delvin, Taughmon, Drumcree, and
Ballenamonie. There are no traces to be found of the last three towns named. The Nugent family played a prominent
part in the history of Westmeath and of Ireland.
"Westmeath hath many
goodlie lakes and marshes of fresh water of great quantities, whereof the greatest part falleth into the Sheynon,
above Athlone, and the rest into the Brosnagh, which also falleth into the Sheynon, near Mellick. It hath no
noblemen in it, but the baron of Delvin, -whose name is Nugent, and under the bishop of Meath as ordinarie hereof.
Whereinto is lately united by Parliament, the little diocese of Clone, in O'Meaghlin's country." —(Ireland in
( /w ɛ s t ˈ m iː ð/ ; Irish : Contae
na hIarmhí or simply An Iarmhí ) is a county in Ireland . It is
in the province of Leinster and is
part of the Midlands Region . It originally formed part of the historic Kingdom of Meath ( Midhe 'middle'). It was named Mide because the kingdom was located in the geographical
centre of Ireland (the word Mide meant 'middle')
Longford was once a
province of the kingdom of Conmaicne. In 85AD, the High King formed the province of Meath, which included the
present counties of Longford, Meath, Westmeath and also Dublin.
Longford was later known as
Teabhtha or Teffia. In the ninth century, a prince, ‘ Annaly, ruled over Teffia and named the territory,
Annaly after himself. Thus the territory was a Feudal 'Fons Honorum' Titled Seat where the princes and
heirs to the Longford/Annaly seat or caput would be titular rights to the principality.
Westmeath was separated from Meath. Westmeath's most
western portion was Annaly or Longford which was also called the kingdom of Annaly or kingdom of Tebtha or
In 1543, during the Tudor re-conquest of Ireland
, the Parliament of Ireland
passed an act dividing the county into two, the eastern portion retaining the name Meath and the western portion
The territory corresponding to County Longford was
presumably a frontier colony of the Kingdom of Meath in the first millennium. Between the fifth and twelfth centuries the territory was
called the kingdom of Tethbae ruled by various tuath such as
the Cairpre Gabra in the north. Tethbae (Latin:
Teffia) originally referred to an area north of the River Inny approximating to present day County
In the year AD 1070, Tethbae was conquered by the Ó Cuinns,
Ó Fearghails, and other Conmhaícne tribes, henceforth being known as Muintir Annaly, so named after "Anghaile" the great-grandfather of Fearghail O'Farrell. Furthermore County
Longford was often called Upper Conmaicne, to distinguish it from south Leitrim, then called Lower Conmaicne,
because both districts were ruled by the descendants of Conmac, son of Fergus and Queen Meadbh of
Following the N
orman invasion of the 12th century, Annaly was granted
to Hugh de Lacy as
part of the Liberty of Meath. An
English settlement was established at Granard, with
Norman Cistercian monasteries being established at Abbeylara and Abbeyshrule, and Augustinian monasteries being established at Abbeyderg and at Saints' Island on the shore of Lough
Monastic remains at Ardagh, Abbeylara,
Abbeyderg, Abbeyshrule, Inchcleraun Island in Lough Ree, and Inchmore Island in Lough
Gowna are reminders of the
county's long Christian history. However, by the 14th century, English influence in Ireland was on the wane. The
town of Granard was sacked by Edward
Bruce's army in 1315, and the
O'Farrells soon recovered complete control over the territory. Annaly later became Longphoirt, now Longford,
after O'Farrell's fortress of this name.
The county Longford was officially shired in 1586 in the
reign of Elizabeth I from the northern portion of Westmeath,
County Longford was added to Leinster
by James I in 1608
(it had previously been considered part of Connacht), with the
county being divided into six baronies and
its boundaries being officially defined. The county was planted by English and Scottish landowners in 1620, with
much of the lands of former ancient kingdoms and owhers being spread around and granted to new owners. The
change in control was completed during the Cromwellian plantations of the 1650s. On these lands in County Longford, are the historic ruins of
the Coolamber Hall House, which was besieged by one of the Cromwells.
WESTMEATH,a title held in the
Irish family of Nugent since 1621. During the reign of Henry II. Sir Gilbert Nugent received the lordship or barony
of Delvin in WesternMeath, which soon passed by marriage from the Nugents to the family of Fitzjohn Tuit. About two
hundred years later the barony returned to the Nugent family along with rights of Fitzjohn and Tuit, Sir William
Nugent (d. c. 1415) marrying Catherine, daughter of John Fitzjohn. The
barony, however, is considered to date from the time of Sir William Nugent and not from that of Sir Gilbert, 1389
being generally regarded as the date of its creation.
Sir William Nugent, who is generally
called the 1st, but sometimes the 9th, baron Delvin, was succeeded by his son Sir Richard (d. c. 1460) as 2nd
baron. In 1444 and 1449 Sir Richard was lord deputy of Ireland.
His grandson, Richard, the 4th baron
(d. c. 1538), was
summoned to the Irish parliament in 1486. During his whole life he was loyal td the English king, and both
before and after the years 1527 and 1528 when he was lord deputy, he took a vigorous part in the warfare
against the Irish rebels. Among his descendants was Robert Nugent, Earl Nugent.
Richard's grandson, Christopher, the 6th baron
(c. 1544-1602), also
served England well, but about 1576 he fell under the displeasure of Queen Elizabeth and he was several times
imprisoned, being in the intervals employed in Ireland. He was a prisoner in Dublin Castle when he died.
Delvin wrote A Primer of the Irish Language, compiled at the
request and for the use of Queen Elizabeth.
His son, Richard, the 7th baron
(1583-1642), took part in 1606 in a plot against the English government and was imprisoned, but he soon escaped
from captivity and secured a pardon from James I. In 1621 he was created earl of Westmeath. Having refused in 1641
to join the Irish rebellion, he was attacked by a party of rebels and was so seriously injured that he died shortly
His grandson, Richard, the 2nd earl (d.
1684), served Charles II. against Cromwell in Ireland and afterwards raised some troops for service in Spain. His
grandson Thomas, the 4th earl (1656-1752), served James II. in Ireland. Thomas's brother, John, the 5th earl
(1672-1754), left Ireland after the final defeat of James II. and took service in France. He fought against England
at the battles of Ramillies, Oudenarde and Malplaquet and remained on active service until 1748. He died in Brabant
on the 3rd of July 1754.
His son Thomas, the 6th earl (d. 1792),
also served in the French army; later he conformed to the established religion, being the first Protestant of his
house, and took his seat in the Irish House of Lords in 1755. His son George Frederick, the 7th earl (1760-1814), a
member of the Irish House of Commons before 1792, was succeeded by his son George Thomas John (1785-1871), who was
created marquess of Westmeath in 1822 and who was an Irish representative peer from 1831 to 1871. He died without
legitimate sons on the 5th of May 1871, when the marquessate became extinct.
The earldom of Westmeath now passed to a
distant cousin, Anthony Francis Nugent (1805-1879), a descendant of Thomas Nugent (d. 1715) of Pallas, Galway, who
was a son of the 2nd earl. Thomas was chief justice of Ireland from 1687 until he was outlawed by the government of
William III. In 1689 he was created by James II. baron of Riverston, but the validity of this title has never been
admitted. In 1883 his descendant, Anthony Francis (b. 1870), became the 11th earl.
Cadets of the Nugent family were Nicholas Nugent (d. 1582), chief
justice of the common bench in Ireland, who was hanged for treason on the 6th of April 1582; William Nugent (d.
1625) an Irish rebel during the reign of Elizabeth; Sir George Nugent, Bart. (1757-1849), who, after seeing service
in America and in the Netherlands, was commander-in-chief in India from 181 to 1813 and became a field-marshal in
1846; and Sir Charles Edmund Nugent (c. 1759-1844), an admiral of the fleet. More famous perhaps was Lavall, Count Nugent
(1777-1862), who rose to the rank of field-marshal in the Austrian army and was made a prince of the empire. His
long and honourable military career began in 1793 and sixty-six years later he was present at the battle of
Solferino. His most distinguished services to Austria were during the war with France in 1813 and 1814, and he was
also useful during the revolution in Hungary in 1849.
See D'Alton, Pedigree of
the Nugent Family; and Historical Sketch of the Nugent Family, printed by
C. Lyons (1853).