Prior to the arrival of the
The origins of the McNamara Clan can be traced back to around the ende of the second century AD when Cormac Cas ruled as King of Munster and with it Thomond. It was Cormac Cas (D. 254AD) who was the ancestor of the Dalcassian tribe to which the MacNamara Clan belongs.
Six generations on from Cormac Cas we have Cas. Having twelve sons of which the second was named Caisin. It is from Caisin that Clan McNamara takes it’s earliest name ‘Ui Caisin’ the children of Caisin. The territory ruled over by the Clan came to be known as Ui Caisin. Which comprised of a larger part modern day
Seven generations on and another branch of the clan emerges. The Clan Cuilean named after Coilean, seventh in decent from Caisin. Whist separate names for branches of the Clan were emerging they all still identified as Dalcassian and of the same Clan.
Some time around the middle of the eleventh century Cu-Mara is born. It is from ‘Cumuir’ anglicized ‘Cu-Mara’ that the Clan MacNamara were to eventually take the name. Cu-Mara’s grandfather Meanma was a contemporary of the Brian Boru progenitor of the O’Brien clan and High King of Ireland.
‘Cu’ which later became con, [a warrior] and ‘muir’, later became mara, [the sea Latin- ‘mar-e’ Arabic- ‘mar a’]. Means something along the lines of the Hound/ Warrior/protector of the sea. Not much is known of Cu-mara apart from his title of Chief of Magh Adhair.
Descendants of Cu-Mara took the name Macconmara meaning son of the hound/warrior/protector of the sea and in turn Cu-Mara’s own son Donal (D. 1099AD) assumed the surname name MacNamara.
Whilst variants of the name exist The title ‘Clan MacNamara’ is used to the present day.
In ancient times the MacNamara Clan (then known as the Ui Caisin) belonged to a tribal yet highly organised Society. Gaelic society of the time was governed by a democratically egalitarian system of laws that influenced and directed the day to day lives of early Irish people. The Ui Caisin at the time lived in a world of rituals, warfare, farming and community. There was no thought of an Irish nation at the time, rather the country was made up of tribal kingdoms, some large and some small. Each of these kingdoms had a petty king or overlord and the chiefs of each family within a particular kingdom would contribute to the armies and wealth of the king.
Cormac Cas (D. 254AD) was one such king and during his thirty year reign he he ruled over much of
The second son of Cas, Caisin give us the first name or identity for the clan, the Ui Caisin or children of Cas. Ui Caisin is the branch of the Dalcassians that would eventually become known as Clan MacNamara. With the dispossession of Firbolg the Ui Caisin established themselves on the Magh Adhair or 'plain of Adhar'. The plain was known as Ui Caisin for the next thousand years.
Eight generations on from Caisin we have 'Coilin' or Cullin. The Ui Caisin acquire another name at this time (date unknown), 'Clan Coilin' or Clan Cullin whilst many of the clan retained the title Ui Caisin, the descendants of Cullin became known as Clan Cullin.
The ancient histories of the Clan often read as lists of names and accounts of battles, but through them we can glimpse the evolution of the Clan and it's identity. Early tribal society was complex and rich in culture and during forth and fifth centuries AD witnessed dramatic changes in spiritual and religious beliefs and practices, farming methods and day to life for pagan Gaelic tribes. One of the most significant things to happen during this period was the coming of Christian monks from the then collapsing
Arriving sometime around 795AD the Vikings (or Ostmen as the Irish called them) came from Scandinavia to find an
For a short time the Vikings were a dominant force on the island forcing the native Chieftains and nobles to put aside old feuds and unite. The Vikings were dealt a final blow putting to an end their dominance in 1014AD when Brian Boruma (king of the
The Vikings were not expelled completely from
By the end of the eighth century The Ui Caisin (Clan MacNamara) had consolidated it's power in eastern Thomond, growing in numbers and wealth and rising to become a powerful clan second only to the ruling O’Brien’s. The clan had by this time forged martial ties and allegiances with the O’Brien’s and had attained the hereditary position of
Prior to the Viking presence in
In addition to the devastating raids the Vikings had by 950AD established the settlements of Limerick,
By the end of the ninth century the Chief of Ui Caisin was known as the Lord of Ui Caisin, and Chief of Magh Adhair. 'Aodh' was one such Lord and was a contemporary of Brian Boru King of the Dal gCais and High King of Ireland. In 1014AD the Ui Caisin fought along side their Dalcassian tribesman at the battle of Clontarf (near Dubhlin). Clontarf did not rid
Meanma the son of the Aodh, Lord of Ui Caisin died in 1014AD but it is not certain if his death was related to the Battle of Clontarf. The coming of the Vikings didn't result in the invasion and suppression of the native Irish, rather the Vikings lost over time their own culture and were absorbed into the Irish society of the time. Inter marriage between Irish and Viking families brought about new alliances, trade enterprises and cultural influences. Dubhlin flourished and continued to be ruled by a Viking King and many Viking sites can be found around
Sometime before 1099AD 'Cumara' the grandson of Meanma was born. He would be Known eventually as Lord of Ui Caisin and Chief of Maghadhair. Cumara meaning hound/warrior/protector of the sea is the progenitor of the MacNamara name. His son Donal was the first to adopt a Surname MacConmara meaning Son of the hound/warrior/protector of the sea. The Name MacConmara was anglicized with the coming of the
In 1170 Richard De Clare, Earle of Pembroke, arrived in
McMurrough cemented his new found alliance by marrying his daughter Aoife (pr: Eaf – Ha) to Strongbow. A year later McMurrough died and Strongbow ascended to the throne of
When Henry II arrived, Rory O’Connell had been allowed to retain his nominal title of High King of Ireland but in effect Henry II now held the balance of power. Rather than enter into outright warfare many of the Irish Kings and Chieftains’ ‘Came into the House’ of Henry II. To the Irish this meant protection in return for allegiance and provision of fighting men when needed. To Henry however being a Plantagenet (
To the west of
The pale by definition was the area in which Norman English law and customs were prevalent. Outside this area was ‘Wild Ireland’ where the great tribes of
During the Norman era the
The success of the Dalcassians in maintaining a ‘Norman free’ Thomond was short lived and when Donal Mor O'Brien died in 1194AD the
Following his success Donagh Cairbreach (now King of Thomond), rewarded his Norman supporters with grants of land in
During these turbulent times the Clan MacNamara had managed to hold onto its Ui Caisin territories, despite disputes and martial encounters with the ruling O’Brien’s it maintained its Lordship over Ui Caisin lands. The period saw the Clan MacNamara respond to the Norman threat through the capturing, and building of many Castles and Towerhouse around the eastern part of Thomond. The Norman period also saw the power of the MacNamara Clan expand and claim new territory and titles.
The expansion of the Clan MacNamara peaked in 1318AD at the battle of Dysart O'Dea When together with the O’Brien’s The Clan McNamara met an invasion force led By the Norman ‘Richard De Clare’ and long time rivals the Ui Bloid Clan at in the district of Tradree. Defeating de Clare and the Ui Bloid the Clan MacNamara not only not only ran them out of Tradree but expelled them from the traditional Ui Bloid territories to the east of Ui Caisin. Ui Caisin was subsequently expanded and the lands Tradree and Ui Bloid were added to the Ui Caisin territories. In order to stop any chance of the Ui Bloid gaining back their territories the Clan McNamara started an unprecedented period of castle building in the area and by 1580AD no less than forty two castles and tower houses had been built.
Once they had defeated the Ui Bloid and acquired almost all of the eastern half of what is modern day County Clare the Clan MacNamara changed the traditional names associated with their now expanded territory and called it East and West Clancullen (from Clan Coiilin). The family by this time had evolved into two distinct branches and divided the territory between them. The older branch (Traditionally known as Ui Caisin, Chiefs of Magh Adhair) became known as MacNamara Reagh, Lords of West Clancullen and the younger branch became known as MacNamara Fionn, Lords of East Clancullen.
Evidence that Clan MacNamara had taken on some of the Norman influences of the period is the fact that they began to tax the towns and parishes that made up their territories. Traditionally land had been held as ‘communal holdings’ with all members of the clan having the right to farm crops and graze livestock. When the
After 1318AD Thomond endured no further threat from the
Information on the MacNamara clan from the middle of the fourteenth century is scarce. The little information we do have mainly concerns inter Clan disputes with the O’Brien’s and amongst the prominent members of the clan itself. What we do know is that around that time the English became preoccupied with domestic problems In England and furthering their campaigns on continental
At the beginning of the fifteenth century
After Fitzgerald’s defeat he retired for a short time to Thomond under the protection of King Connor O’Brien and the Dalcassian nobles. Initially the plan was for Fitzgerald to remain in Thomond until a ship could carry him to the safety of Catholic Spain. Fitzgerald faltered however and gave himself into the hands of Lord Leonard Gray. Whilst Gray had ensured Fitzgerald safety, Henry VIII did not. For his part in the Fitzgerald affair
After the Death of Connor O’Brien in 1539 he was succeed by his brother and Tanist Murrogh O’Brien. In order to further their enterprise in the subjugation of Thomond the English offered huge bribes to Murrogh. The English offered Murrogh all the lands he had previous received tributes from as king. This meant that land previously held by other chieftains in addition to his personal territories became his person property. They also offered him Land stolen from the church. This would have been like winning the lottery fro Murrogh and he readily wrote to king Henry in his capacity of Tanist (he had yet to be inaugurated as king of Thomond) begging pardon for his part in the rebellion led by Fitzgerald and the northern Chiefs and surrendering his title of the O’Brien in return for the title of Earl with the privilege of sitting in parliament. His requests were acceded to and he was summoned to the
The English plan of Divide and Conquer worked as the Dalcassians now having no kingdom were forced to follow suite. Sheeda MacNamara, The Lord of Clancullen submitted and requested peerage and lands from which he had previously received tribute. The peerage was refused but he was given his request of lands. The title of Chief remained however as this suited the English idea of primogeniture, where title and possessions are handed down from father to son, rendering the notion of communal lands and responsibility for the clans folk ineffective. It was the beginning of the end for the Dalcassian clan system.
Over time the the English stratagy won out. The Cheifs and Nobles became distant from the people and in turn the people were put under the yoke of rent and taxes. Whist the Clan MacNamara had apparently been refused it's traditional title we find that in documents such as the Annals of the four masters the MacNamara's are still being refered to as the Lords of east and west clan cullen. Whist to the English admistrators of the day the Clan had only a cheif. To the clan it'self there was still a noble house hold.In fact during the time of Elizabeth we find the Clan MAcNamara still in posession of extensive lands in Thomond which was being renamed County Clare. The rents alone had Made the MacNamar's wealthy and they are stil refered to a gentlemen and Cheif of Clan Cullen.
Eventually as Ireland fell more and more to English administration the old Nobility of Ireland began to adopt Irish customs. The practice of wearing traditional clothing and speaking the Irish languange had falling by the way side and the Irish gentry of the time were adopting English clothing and speaking more of the English language. The Irish people in Thomnd, now Clare were still going by Irish tradition but changed was being forced on them.
Cromwell irrived in Ireland in 1649 with the intention of supressing the rebellion and stamping out all opposition to parliament Ctholic Ireland had risen and was known as the Catholic Confederacy. Cromwell, a Puritan, ‘believed he was an instrument of divine retribution for (alleged) atrocities committed by Catholics against Protestants in 1641 and as a result he would not afford mercy to Catholics. His views were taking to the extreme with the deaths of countless innocents and slavery of anyone thought to be of no residence, including orphans, widows and those made homeless by the actions of his 'Iron side' troops His campaign was brutal and is remembered for the slaughter of women and children as well as unarmed captives. He captured Drogheda and slaughtered the garrison. At Wexford the townspeople as well as the garrison were put to death without exception. Cork, Kinsale, Bandon, Youghal and Clonmel had surrendered before he returned to England in May 1650. Cromwell not only slaughtered any the Catholics but presbyterians and anyone from any other religious monority as well. During his time in Ireland the Clan MacNamara finally met it's downfall. As with other Catholic nobility of the time it's lands (the source of it's wealth) were confiscated and and it's people scattered. The Ancient tribe of Cas, it's Cheifs and clans were dealt a formidable blow that would take the better part of four hundred years from which to recover.
After Cromwell the Clan MacNamara like so many others was scattered. Many of it's families were displaced after Cromwell with repeated efforts of the English and Irish admistrations of the time to subdue and gain controll of the people. Many people from the north of the Ireland that had fought against the English were moved from their lands transplanted in Clare. This meant over populating and displacing the local population. Some of the wealthier members of the Clan MacNamara managed to stay on, keeping small parcels of land and wealth, often by converting to protestantism. The cheifs for the most part had died out leaving the families without the traditiional system of clan leadership. During the 1700's various branches of the family had left Clare migrating to Australia, France, New Zealand and America. Many families also relocated themselves oin the sourounding counties. By the early eighteen hundreds Ireland was practicaly broken and with repeated acts of government to supress Irish language, customs and the Catholic faith (practiced by the majority) many families opted for new lives overseas. With the coming of the Famine years in the 1840's the population of Ireland was decimated, hunger and disease raged through the country resuling in many deaths, shattering of families and forced imigration to the colonies. As a result the Clan MacNamara became part of that great diaspora of Irish refugees that found new homes around the globe. The old Clan system was gone and the The once great Caln MacNamara entered the modern world.
Clan MacNamara like so many other Irish families is spread across the globe. Whilst once living in exile in far flung colonies and on the European mainland, the Clan today has once again taken it's place among the Dalcassians. The kingdom of Thomond may have long since passed into history but the Dalcassian families that once called it home still survive. Represented on the Dalcassian Council, Clan MacNamara together with other Dalcassian families preserves and promotes it's rich cultural heritage and history.