Lusmagh – The Plain of Herbs

Thomas O’Conor, O’Donovan’s colleague reviews the local history of the Lusmagh district together with Meelick and the wars of the sixteenth century.


[Letter no. 22 from Thomas O’Conor ]

January 16th 1838.

Lusmagh, which is now the name of a Parish in the Barony of Garrycastle, signifies “the Plain of the Herbs” – Campus Herbidus (Lus may signify a leak or any luxuriant herb with the Irish). It is said by the people that Lusmagh is but latterly used as a Parochial name; that Killmochonna was the former name of the Parish.

An old Church lies in ruins within a graveyard in the Townland of Killmochonna in this Parish. The name Killmochonna signifies “the Church of St. Mochonna” – “Celle Sancti Mochonnae.”

This Saint may probably be noticed in Colgan and must certainly be spoken of in the Calendar. Let these documents be searched, as I have no extract from them relative to him or his Church at present.

The Annals of the Four Masters, at the year 1548, record that:-

“Edmond a Fail pitched his camp around the Castle of Feadan and remained there for eight days. Cormac Mac Coghlan, who was during this time within the castle, was obliged to give hostages and he and A Fail formed a Gossipred with each other. Not long after this, Edmond a Fail requested Mac Coghlan and the inhabitants of Delvin to accompany him on a plundering excursion into Ely, but this they refused to do and Edmond became highly enraged and irritated, so that hostilities broke out between them and O’Carroll and Mac Coghlan banished Edmond on account of his despotic and tyrannous conduct towards them. They took the Castle of Cill-Comain and Ceann-Coraidh* from him, and thus was he deprived of Delvin after it had been for half a year subject to his command.”

*Now Kincora, a Townland in Wheery alias Killegally Parish.

The Down Survey places a castle and a mill upon Kincora in Killegally Parish.

“The Lieutenant (——– Cosby) and the English, at the instance of Edmond a Fail, made an incursion into Delvin in revenge of his expulsion and burned and plundered from Bealach-an-Fhothair to the Causeway of Ceannmona and also Baile-Mheg-Ullachain in Lusmhagh.” And the same writers state at the year 1557, that: “The Lord Justice, having heard the O’Conors of Ophaly were at Meelick, he mustered an army to banish them from it and conveyed Canon to Athlone, and from thence to Meelick, while he himself led his army through Bealach-an-Fhothair and by Lurgan Lus-Mhagh. He afterwards took Meelick and Breac Cluain, slew Donogh, the son of Colla, together with others of the warders and then ravaged and destroyed the entire country.”

Baile-Mheg-Ullachain in Lusmagh, above mentioned, is now Anglicised Ballymacoulahan (in the Down Survey this is written Ballymac-Cooleghan) which is the name of a Townland in the western part of the Parish of Lusmagh. The Castle of Feadan was entirely demolished. The Irish name, Caislean an Fheadain, is as yet retained and is commonly called in English the Castle of Faddan, the site of which is pointed out in the Village of Newtown in this Parish.

The erection of this castle is ascribed to Torlogh, son of Felim Mac Coghlan, Lord of Delvin Eathra, according to the Annals at the year 1520, where they record that:-

“Torlogh, the son of Felim Mac Coghlan, Lord of Delvin Ethra, a sage in wisdom and learning; a man of prosperity and great affluence, and who had erected Caislen An Fheadan and the Castle of Ceann Corath, died after having spent a virtuous life.”

At the year 1540 it is related that:-

“James Oge, the son of the Prior Mac Coghlan, was treacherously beheaded by Cedach O’Melaghlin in his own castle viz., the Castle of Feadan, in consequence of which event great mischief was done to the country. Felim O’Melaghlin brought the Treasurer and the English with him to Delvin, but did not take Feadan and they returned to their respective homes after having destroyed a great portion of the country.”

A.D. 1548. See what is said above at this year.

“A.D. 1557. The Castle of Feadan in Delvin Ethra was taken by a prisoner who was confined there and given up to Mac Coghlan, and the descendants of Fergal were expelled and their hostages hanged on Shrove Monday, being the first day of March.”

Bealach an Fhothair, occuring at the year 1548 above cited, is now Anglicised Ballahanoher, which is the name of a Townland in the Parish of Rinagh. It will be taken notice of in the description of that Parish.

In the description of Lusmagh Parish in the Down Survey, it is stated that:-

“The improvement thereon is on the lands of Cloghan, Gragh and Glanduff, a castle, and on Newtowne, part of Corator, another castle.”

There is a castle in Cloghan Townland in this Parish, which was, according to tradition, erected by ——– O’Madden and is now occupied by Garret O’Moore Esq.

It is said there was a castle in Glanduff Townland but there are no remains of it now. As to the castle in Newtown it is not known that there ever was a castle there other than that, the site of which is above described as lying in Newtown Village.

It is curious to observe that among the several denominations of lands in the just mentioned description there is that of Feden, which does not exist now as to name and also that of Newtowne, now the name of a Townland. That on Newtowne, it is said in the description, there was a castle. That there is found, within the Townland of Newtown, the site of a castle called the Castle of Faddan by the people. From this it appears that Fedan was a sub-denomination of the present Newtown, but Fedan is applied now only to the castle that was there.

It appears also that, as it is said in the Down Survey, there was a castle on Newtowne and no castle placed in Fedan, which was a denomination of land at the time of the Survey being made, and as the castle found to have existed in Newtowe is called the Castle of Faddan, it must be the Castle of Feadan that the Down Survey notices as standing on the lands of Newtowne, which name might have been formed from An Fheadain, Caislean being omitted and the a of the An being rejected, thus: ‘N’ eadan (the F aspirated is not sounded in any form). The Neadan might be made Newtown and also Newtowne.

In Cloghan Beg Townland in this Parish there is a burying place for children. The hillock on which it is is called Cnocan Amharbhain i.e., “the Hill of the Dead” – Collis Mortui. …

Your obedient servant,
T. O’Conor.