Aughrim: Its Genealogies, Traditions and Stories

By Samuel J. Maguire

Patrick Sarsfield and the Battle of Aughrim

There is a tradition that Sarsfield, Earl of Lucan while on his way to rejoin De St. Ruth, from whom he had separated at Athlone, met with one of the O'Kennedys of Ormonde. Sarsfield saluting O'Kennedy asked him where he was going. O'Kennedy replied that he was on his way to Nenagh. "Then follow me", said Sarsfield, "the way to Aughrim is the way to Nenagh." By this Sarsfield meant that unless the English were defeated at Aughrim Kennedy might as well not return to Nenagh as his lands there would be confiscated, he being a Catholic.

The Castle of Aughrim and its Occupants

In olden times the strong and ancient Castle of Aughrim belonged to a junior branch of the O'Kelly's Chiefs of Hy-Many, descended from William, the ninth son of Macleachlainn (Malachy) O' Kelly, chief of territory for twenty six years, who died in 1401. It is recorded that William O' Kelly, lord of Hy Many, patron of the O'Duigennans, extolled as the man of greatest character, worth and renown of his own tribe, invited all Irish poets, brehons, bards, harpers, with the gamesters and jesters, the learned, the travellers, and the poor to his house for Christmas, where all, noble and ignoble, were served to their satisfaction, so that they were all thankful to him and sang songs to his praise - "the Poets of Erin to one House". The death of William is recorded in the Annals of the Four Masters:

"William, son of Malachy, son of William O' Kelly, the intended Lord of Hy-Maine, a man full of prosperity and hospitality, died after the victory of extreme unction and repentance."

Charles Ffrench Blake-Forster gives the following genealogy:-

Patrick had issue -

  1. Aodh or Hugh
  2. Malachy
  3. Tadhg or Thadeus, surnamed Caoach

Hugh, the eldest son, surnamed na Coille, succeeded Hugh, son of Brian O' Kelly, as Chief of Hy-Many, in 1467. He married Catherine, daughter of Meyler Burke, of Shrule, and dying in 1469 left issue-

Daniel O' Kelly, who married Catherine, daughter of Ulick Burke, Lord of Clanricarde, and had issue-

  1. Cellach
  2. Fionla, who married Daniel O' Kelly, surnamed a Bharca.

Cellach O' Kelly married Julia daughter of Thadeus O'Kelly, of Gallagh, surnamed Duff, or the black, and had issue -

  1. Ferdaragh or Ferdinand
  2. Hugh, Chief of Hy-Many, who died without male issue.

Ferdinand O'Kelly who was the best of the Aughrim family that became Chief of Hy-Many, married first, Catherine, daughter of MacHugo, by whom he had issue, four daughters. He married, secondly, Julia daughter of John MacCoghlan, surnamed na Scuab, and had issue -

Malachy O' Kelly Esq., of Aughrim Castle, who married Honora, daughter of John Burke, of Cloughrourke, and had issue -

  1. Teige
  2. Brian, who married Honora Kennedy

Teige O'Kelly, of Aughrim Castle, married Honora, daughter of Sir William Burke, and was father of Cellach O'Kelly of Aughrim Castle. This gentleman having espoused the cause of Charles I, was slain in A.D. 1641. Some time previous to his death he sent a deputation to John Kelly Esq., of Clonlyon, conferring on him, in case himself should die without issue, the honours of his family. John Kelly of Clonlyon by his wife Isma, daughter of Sir William Hill, of Ballybeg, County of Carlow, was father of, with other issue -

Colonel Charles Kelly, a staunch adherent of James II, and author of Macariae Exidium, or the Destruction of Cyprus, under which title he wrote an account of the Jacobite and Williamite war in Ireland, giving to Sarsfield the name Lysander, and to Baron de Ginckell that of Oraris. On the death of Cellagh he was succeeded in his property by his first cousin - Thadeus (son of Brian O' Kelly, and his wife Honora Kennedy), who married Mary, daughter of William O' Fallon, Esq., and had issue -

Malachy O' Kelly, Esq., of Aughrim Castle, who joined James II, and went to France, after the last siege of Limerick. The last legitimate representative of this ancient family married an Italian nobleman, Count Marcolini, Prime Minister to the Elector of Saxony. On the death of the Countess Marcolini, the O'Kellys of Aughrim became extinct.

Aughrim in the Seventeenth Century through the Eyes of John Dunton

In Edward MacLysaght's Irish Life in the Seventeenth Century: After Cromwell, are to be found unpublished letters by John Dunton, and the following references to Aughrim should prove of interest:-

"From hence (Athlone) I continued my journey through a rough country towards Galway, here the miles lengthen very much as the country grew worse, as if the badness of the commodity made the inhabitants there afford better measure. At the end of ten miles I came to a place called Ballinasloe, which has nothing remarkable in it. Here the River Suck divides the counties of Galway and Roscommon, three miles beyond this town is Aughrim, and obscure village consisting of few cabins and an old castle, but now made famous by the defeat of St. Ruth and the Irish army; the bones of the dead which lie yet to be seen would make a man take notice of the place. Tis said the Irish here lost 7000 men with their whole camp and all their cannon, whilst the whole loss of the English did not exceed 1000. This which I am very well assured of is very strange. After the battle the English did not tarry to bury any of the dead but their own, and left those of the enemy exposed to the fowls of he air, for the country was then so uninhabited that there were not hands to inter them. Many dogs resorted to this aceldama where for want of other food they fed on man's flesh, and thereby became so dangerous and fierce that a single person could not pass that way without manifest hazard. But a greyhound kept close by the dead body of one who was supposed to have been his master night and day, and though he fed upon other corpses with the rest of the dogs, yet he would not allow them nor anything else to touch that which he guarded. When the corpses were all consumed the other dogs departed, but this used to go every night to adjacent villages for food and return presently to the place where the beloved bones lay, for all the flesh was consumed by putrefaction, and thus he continued from July till January following, when a soldier passing that way near the dog, who perhaps feared a disturbance of what he so carefully watched, he flew upon the soldier, who shot him with his piece. ... It (the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham) is so large that after the battle of Aughrim there were 1200 sick and wounded men in it, but then the hall and galleries had beds laid in them ..."