The following excerpts are Chapters 3, 5, and 15 from the book, The Ulster Clans, written by Revs. T. H. Mullin and J. E. Mullin, published in 1966 by North-West Books, Limavady, County Derry, Northern Ireland, and reprinted in 1989.
It has been said that Irish history, as apart from legend and romance, begins with Niall of the Nine Hostages, so called because of the pledges he wrung from nine nations. Niall was a tall, fair-haired blue-eyed hero of Gaelic blood, who became High King of Ireland in A.D. 379. A renowned warrior, much of his life was spent in predatory excursions against neighbouring countries such as England, Wales and France. It is possible that it was on one of these raiding expeditions that Saint Patrick was carried off from Britain to become a slave who herded sheep on Slemish Mountain for his pagan master. Niall died on one of these military forays to France in A.D. 405.
The account of this visit to Inishowen indicates how the peninsula was apportioned to some of Owen's sons at a very early date in the history of his descendants, and if one is sceptical about the prophecy which Patrick is stated to have made about the future of the three favoured sons of Owen, one must admit the substantial accuracy of the fulfilment.
(Analecta Hlbernica i 8).
In the centuries following the death of Saint Patrick certain veryt important clan expansions took place in Ulster. One of these concerns the territory of Dalriada in North Antrim. The name Dalriada derives from the word Dal, meaning descendants, and Riada, the nickname of a chieftain called Cairbre Righfada (Riada) ~-- Cairbre the long-armed. The name Dalriada is still used, but chiefly in its contracted form of the Route. A descendant of Cairbre Righfada called Fergus crossed over to the sister island and founded the kingdom of Argyle or Scottish Dalriada. The invading Gaels brought with them the Gaelic language, and gave their name (for in early times the Irish were called Scots) to Scotland. The descendants of this Fergus became kings of Scottish DaIriada, and ultimately of the united kingdom of the Picts and Scots in the days of King Kenneth MacAlpin.
Finally Inishowen was lost to Clan Owen from a succession of causes. First, there was the gradual exodus of Clan Binny, a big section of Clan Fergus and the royal clans descended from Muircherteach, This inevitably weakened the northern outpost and was followed by internal conflict within the remaining Owen clans over the rich lands of Magh Ithe which lay to the south of Inishowen. This further weakening of the clans enabled the O'Dobertys, a powerful branch of the Conall peoples from Donegal, to force their way into Magh Ithe and then to use this as a base for further excursiom into Inishowen. The Owen families who held the northern part of Inishowen were finally crippled in two great battles; the first, a combined attack in 1117 by the forces of Clan Conall; and the second, an invasion from Scotland about a century later in which Trad O'Mulfoyle, chief of the remnants. of Clan Fergus in Inishowen, was slain with many of his people. Thus it was that the O'Dohertys and Clan Conall made themselves masters of Inishowen, the homeland of Clan Owen.
The main settlements around this area were those of Clan Fergus. As described in O'Dugan's Topographical poem, these vigorous chieftains "victorious over foes in every hill" who had once held territory as far north as Enagh Lough in County Derry, were now spread abroad in County Tyrone. Their lands were the very heart of the kingdom around Tullyhog. The sept of the O~Mellans had a large and well-defined territory which included Slieve Gallion to the north and what is now Cookstown to the south, the whole being known as the "Mellanaght." To the south of these lands lay the sept of the O'Hagans; some of this sept were transplanted later to a district just north of the O'Mellans. The O'Quins' land probably lay south-west of the O'Mellans in the vicinity of Lissan.
We have viewed in the last chapter the broad territories over which the O'Cahans or O'Kanes held sway. Let us now look backwards into time, and ask how the O'Cahans had attained and kept this position. There is no express record of the capture of Cianachta by thc O'Cahans. The Irish Annals, especially in the earlier period, are records of isolated striking incidents rather than a connected historical or descriptive narrative. Thus we learn of the richness of the Irish woodlands incidentally, as when it is recorded twice in the eleventh century that the flow of the rivers was impeded by the enormous nut crops.
Slaghtaverty - parish of Errigal;
Similar names have been preserved which have not become modern townland names. The Phillips manuscripts give the following place-names on the Skinner's lands:
In the parish of Rasharkin in the townland of Crushybracken is a place called Slaghttaggaart. It will be noticed that the word Slaght (meaning monument for the dead) is in a number of these instances connected with a proper name such as Neill, Manus and Averty. These may, of course, be connected with some earlier struggles, but it is noteworthy that Manus or Magnus is a Norse name, and that therefore this name is subsequent to the Norse invasions.
"Dungiven, when darkness and silence surround you,
From 1138 the O'Cahans appear regularly in the Annals. The following references to them in the succeeding years illustrate the type of material which is available, which does not lend itself to connected narrative.
"John de Courcy and the English of Ulidia marched with an army to Eas Creeva, and erected the castle of Kilsanctan, and wasted and desolated the territory of Kienaghta. He left Rotsel Pitun (probably Peyton), together with a large body of forces, in the castle, out of which they proceeded to plunder and ravage the territories and the churches. Rotsel Pitun afterwards came on a predatory excursion to the harbour of Derry and plundered the churches of Cluain-I, Enagh and Dergbruagh. But Flaherty P'Muldory, Lord of Kinel-Owen and Kinel-Connell, with a small party of the northern Hy Niall, overtook him, and a battle was between them on the strand of Faughanvale, in which the English and the son of Ardgal McLaughlin were slaughtered, through the miracles of Saints Columbkille, Canice and Brecan, whose churches they had plundered."
"Eachmarcach O'Kane, Lord of Kienaghta and Firnacreeva, was slain by Manus O'Kane after having gone on a predatory excursion into his country as far as Armoy in Dalriada."
"Bitter to my heart (to see) the grey Galls
The poems are translated in the Misccllany of the Celtic Society, 1849.
"Though to me each man is a grief,
The value of these poems lies not only in their quality, but in the fact that they are contemporary documents, and as such throw some light on the history and situation of the O'Cahans. How contemporary they are is shown by a verse from Mac-an-Bhaird's poem:
"As in the slaughter was not recognised
The headless body of O'Cahan remained apparently on the field of battle until the next day, unrecognised among the slain. Macan-Bhaird must have written the poem before the body of Magnus had been identified, as he speculates that the fairies may have carried him off.
"In fairy mound west or east Who knows but he may still be living."
Mac-an-Bhaird's poem refers to O'Cahan of Clooney, which is near Derry. Evidently the O'Cahans at this time had a hold on North Derry as far away as Clooney. There is one verse that may throw some light on the earliest O'Cahan connections:
"The son of O'Cathain of the Craebh,
O'Cahan is here O'Cahan of the Creeve, and is called King of Formaeil. O'Kelly takes this Formaeil to be that in the parish of Dunboe, where he also places the Glen of the Clan Binny of the Glen. But O'Donovan's suggestion that the Formaeil mentioned here is the Formaeil of Glenullin looks better, as does his identification of the Glen with Glenconkeyne-if indeed the Glen of Clan Binny be not Glenullin itself. O'Cahans certainly replaced Clan Binny in the glens and mountains in the approaches to the Roe valley.
At this point let us glance back to the early chapter on the three sons of Owen, and to the genealogical chart given there. The Tripartite life of St. Patrick mentions the blessings said to have been given to Murdock, Fergus and Ochy Binny, sons of Owen and grandsons of Niall of the Nine Hostages. The blessings promised kingship to the descendants of Murdock, ordained persons to spring from Fergus, and warriors from Ochy Binny. Clan Binny made the first thrust into County Tyrone, and their story has been dealt with by Dr. O'Kelly in his book, "Gleanings from Ulster History." The history of the O'Neills and McLaughlins, who were descended from Murdock, and exercised kingship from Aileach and Tullyhog, is intertwined with Irish national history. In the earlier part of this study we have endeavoured to fill a gap in Ulster history by providing a sketch of the main septs or divisions of Clan Connor, the O'Cahans. McCloskeys and O'Mullans. We turn now to elaborate on the descendants of Fergus, son of Owen.
"Speak of the Siol Aedha of Eanach,
The Siol Aedha, or children of Hugh, are the descendants of the Hugh, son of Fergus, with whom we have been dealing. Eanach is probably the Enagh near Derry which later became an O'Cahan stronghold, with its castle on the island in Enagh Lough.
Some of the O'Hagan sept were transplanted at a later date to a territory lying to the north of, and adjoining that of the O'Mellans. The territory of the O'Quins of Clan Fergus, though not clearly defined, would appear to have lain to the south-west of that of the O'Mellans in the vicinity of Lissan. (There was another sept of O'Quins in the neighbourhood of Omagh who are not to be confused with the O'Quins of Clan Fergus, as the Omagh O'Quins belonged to the Fir Magh Ithe.)