]> How St. Patrick Resuscitates The Uí Ailello • R-A259 Uí Briúin Connachta

How St. Patrick Resuscitates The Uí Ailello

The Uí Ailello were descendants of Ailill, one of Eochaid Mugmedón’s sons by his wife Mongfind, mother of Brión, Ailill, and Fiachra, the ancestors of the historical Connachta. It has long been assumed that the Uí Ailello either died out or were killed off and disappeared from history. However, this may not be the case.

Everything that follows is based on the incontrovertible scientific fact that as of , all men with what are considered traditionally Uí Briúin Aí surnames fall under the R-BY18120 subbranch of the R-A259 haplogroup. This is in stark contrast to men with what are considered traditionally Uí Briúin Bréifne and Uí Briúin Seóla surnames. Both of these latter 2 groups fall under the parallel R-A260 subbranch of the R-A259 haplogroup. This is a cold, hard fact; however, its interpretation is wide open. This paper attempts to provide an interpretation that fits with the recorded history as much as possible.

The traditional genealogies place the progenitors of these 3 main septs of the Uí Briúin as brothers: Eochaid Tírmchárna, Fergna, and Duach Tenga Uma. The Book Of Ballymote shows this as:

909.Tri mc. dano ag Fergus .i. Fergna Dai Teanga Umha & Eochaidh Tirmcarna.

While Fergna and Duach Tenga Uma, as progenitors of the Uí Briúin Bréifne and Uí Briúin Seóla septs respectively, could well indeed be brothers, the possibility that Eochaid Tírmchárna, as progenitor of the Uí Briúin Aí sept, could be their brother is effectively nil. This is because the likelihood that 2 brothers could develop the same SNP mutation while a third brother develops a completely different SNP mutation is so low as to be virtually zero.

But then we have a problem, because it is not only the genealogies that say they were brothers, but also the annalistic records. As the Annals Of The Four Masters have it:

Annals Of The Four Masters 01

The above entry clearly states that Duach Tenga Uma and Eochaid Tírmchárna were brothers: “Muircheartach was a guarantee between the King and Eochaidh Tirmcharna, his brother”. Or does it? Whose brother is Eochaid Tírmchárna actually being called? In light of the genetic evidence, which says that Duach Tenga Uma and Eochaid Tírmchárna cannot realistically be brothers, then it must be Muircheartach mac Earca and Eochaid Tírmchárna that are brothers. This is somewhat substantiated by John O’Donovan’s annotations to this annalistic entry:

Annals Of The Four Masters 02

What is most telling about the above annotation is that Eochaid Tírmchárna is referred to as Duiseach’s foster-father, not as her uncle; which would most certainly be the case if Duach Tenga Uma and Eochaid Tírmchárna were brothers. It is not proof positive, but it is certainly suggestive.

Supposition 1
Muircheartach mac Earca the son-in-law of Duach Tenga Uma and Eochaid Tírmchárna were brothers.

If we accept Supposition 1, then we immediately run up against another problem: Muircheartach mac Earca the son-in-law of Duach Tenga Uma has long been equated to Muircheartach mac Muiredaig ua Néill. Further, to date no men with traditionally Uí Néill surnames have been found in the R-A259 haplogroup. Those men with traditionally Uí Néill surnames, particularly Cenél nEogan surnames, that have been tested fall in parallel haplogroups to R-A259, primarily the R-S588 haplogroup. However, we know that men who are traditionally considered to be Eochaid Tírmchárna’s descendants are definitely in the R-A259 haplogroup. So how can this issue be resolved?

When reading through the annalistic entries about Muircheartach mac Earca one gets the impression that at least 2 or 3 men were conflated. It makes much more sense if Muircheartach mac Earca the son-in-law of Duach Tenga Uma was a Connachta; the military logistics of the battles that resulted in Duach Tenga Uma’s death at Seaghais would be much less problematic if all forces involved were from Connacht. From John O’Donovan’s annotations in the Annals Of The Four Masters:

Annals Of The Four Masters 03
Supposition 2
Muircheartach mac Earca the son-in-law of Duach Tenga Uma is not Muircheartach mac Muiredaig ua Néill, but rather is a Connachta.

But if we now accept Supposition 2, then what are Connachta Muircheartach mac Earca’s antecedents? To find the answer to that question, we must turn to the accounts of St. Patrick’s endeavors in Connacht. The best source for that is The Tripartite Life Of Saint Patrick, the core of which could have been written as early as the 6th century A.D. by St. McEvin, and then later expanded (perhaps sometimes fancifully) by subsequent scribes and medieval historians. If this is correct, then the core events were recorded less than a century after occurring, which provides one of the earliest and thus most likely accurate accounts of the period.

St. Patrick had one likely and 3 definite encounters with the Sons of Erc, AKA the Mac Earca, in Connacht. It should be noted that Earca, Erca, and Eirc are all accepted forms of the genitive case for the name Erc. The first encounter is the one that requires a little speculative interpretation as shall be explained below.

The following is the account of when St. Patrick crossed the River Shannon:

The Tripartite Life Of Saint Patrick 01

There are several places that have been identified as Snám dá Én (Swimming Ford Of The Two Birds), but the author of this paper believes it was at Drumsna, County Leitrim, which was known as Droim ar Snámh (The Ridge Of The Swimming Place) prior to Anglicization. This location is on an almost straight line from Mag Slecht, where St. Patrick threw down the idol of Cromm Crúaich, to Crúachan (Rathcroghan), the ancient royal seat of Connacht. This identification of Drumsna as Snám dá Én is corroborated by the late, local Drumsna historian Tony Ward in the following article:

Drumsna Article

This is also the location of the Doon Of Drumsna, which has been declared as one of the largest man-made features in Ireland, as explained by this article in the Leitrim Guardian:

Doon Of Drumsna 01
Doon Of Drumsna 02
Doon Of Drumsna 03
Doon Of Drumsna 04

It is the surmise of this paper’s author that the Doon Of Drumsna is the Duma Graid referred to in The Tripartite Life:

The Tripartite Life Of Saint Patrick 02

There are a Moyglass and Kilmore nearby, as noted by Tony Ward in his article, that dovetail perfectly with the Cell Mór Maige Glaiss referred to in The Tripartite Life. There is also the Eanach Dubh, which “derives its name from the portion of black, low lying land which lies between the site of the abbey and the Shannon.” This is referred to in The Tripartite Life:

The Tripartite Life Of Saint Patrick 03

The points of interest so far are that the Uí Ailello are identified as being settled as far south as Drumsna in the mid 5ᵗʰ century, which is the traditional time frame given to St. Patrick’s endeavors in Connacht. Further, Bishop Maine is introduced as a recent convert, from his baptism; he is not ordained as a bishop until later. This would make him a pupil while St. Patrick was at Duma Graid. He is also clearly implied to be Uí Ailello.

Now comes the portion of the record that requires some speculative interpretation:

The Tripartite Life Of Saint Patrick 04

The above entry comes at a strange place in the chronology of events, almost as if it had been misplaced. The parenthetical “That was a prophecy.” also seems like an afterthought by a later scribe than the original author to explain something that was otherwise blatantly impossible. All of this leads to the idea that a place and a person were conflated, whether by scribal error or some other reason; the errors being the Strand of Eothaile was conflated with Eanach Dubh, and the pupil Mac Erca that was with St. Patrick at Traigh Eothaile was conflated with soon to be Bishop Maine, who would have been St. Patrick’s pupil at Duma Graid.

Supposition 3
Bishop Maine was Maine Mac Earca of the Uí Ailello.

The declaration that Bishop Maine was a Mac Earca in Supposition 3 is a little more tenuous than the first 2 suppositions, but it is still well within the realm of plausibility; and will be bolstered a little later.

The second encounter between St. Patrick and the Sons of Erc is when he acquired the property for the Church at Elphin from the druid Ono. As recorded in The Tripartite Life:

The Tripartite Life Of Saint Patrick 05

Note should be taken of the reference to the race of Mac Earca (Macc Erce) as “the mightiest and firmest in Connaught”. It is a declaration that the Mac Earca were a powerful family group in Connacht. Careful attention should also be given to the pedigree provided for Ono: “Óno, son of Oengus, son of Erc the Red (Erc Derc), son of Brón”. Notice that Erc Derc is very specifically called the son of Brón, not Brión. As there was a Bishop Brón in St. Patrick’s entourage, the name would be very familiar to any chroniclers. Further, the Mac Earca are not in any way referred to as Uí Briúin, and this despite the reference to the Uí Briúin Seóla just a little later in the text. Finally, St. Patrick’s encounter with the Sons of Brión is recorded as follows:

The Tripartite Life Of Saint Patrick 06

Firstly, Brión is distinctly referred to as Brian, which completely distinguishes him from Brón. Secondly, the enumerated list of the Sons of Brión has a Bolc Derc (Bolc the Red), but no Erc Derc. This is in stark discord with the traditional genealogies. From the Book Of Ballymote:

5.2.1.3) Do genelach na Tuath annso
1492.Eisiu m. Ona m. Aenghusa m. Earca derg m. Briain m. Echach mugmedoin.
1493.Atiat so sis Cland
1494..H. Cairnen & .H. Cearran & .H. Conallan & .H. Balban & .H. Dufaigh & .H. Fhedhaigh & .H. Sindain, aen tellach sin.
1495.Ua Gorman & .H. Suide & .H. Mithighen & .H. Mhaeluidhir & .H. Inmainen & .H. Maenachan, tellech eli sin.
5.2.1.3.1) Genelach mc. Branan
1510.Diarmaid m. Echmarchaigh m. Diarmada m. Echmharchaig m. Cuind m. Echmharcaig m. Branan m. Gilla Crist m. Cuind m. Echmharcaig m. Branan m. Duindtsidhe m. Murcaidh m. Gilli Crist m. Echthigern m. Aidith m. Uramhan m. Mailmhichil m. Nuagad m. Flaithniadh m. Ona m. Aengusa m. Earca derg m. Briain m. Ecach mugmedoin.
5.2.1.3.3.1) Genelach I Ainlighe
1544.Aed & Imhar da mc. Concubair m. Domnaill m. Imhair m. Domnaill m. Amlaim m. Imhair mhoir m. Muircertaig le frit i tuac geal Taidhg m. Concubair m. Ragnaill catha Briain m. Murchada m. Domnaill m. Taidg m. Muircertaigh muirnigh m. Ainlidh o fuilet I Ainlidhe m. Uthaile m. Maeladuin m. Cluichechair m. Fuinis m. Dobhtha m. Aengusa m. Erca derg m. Briain m. Echac muigmedoin.

And from An Leabhar Donn:

3) Genelach hI Ainlige
2.Ruaidri buide & Uaithne & Tadc (& Tomaltach) & Murchad clann Gilla na naem m. Aeda m. Concobair m. Domnaill m. Imair m. Domnaill m. Amlaim m. Imair m. Muircertaig le frith int Ech Geal do bi ac Tadc H. Concobair m. Ragnaill catha Briain m. Murchaid m. Domnaill m. Taidcc m. Muircertaigh Muimnich m. Ainlige onab. I Ainligi m. Urrtaili m. Mailiduin m. Cluithechair m. Fuiniss m. Doffa m. Aengusa m. Erca derg m. Briain m. Echach mugmedoin.
4) Genelach m. Branain
41.Uilliam m. Aeda m. Cuind m. Aeda m. Concobair m. Ragnaill m. Concobair na fained m. Ragnaill m. Cuind m. Echmarcaig m. Branain m. Duind tshide m. Murchada m. Gillacrist m. Echtigern m. Aidith m. Unamain ? m. Mailmichil m. Nuadat m. Flaithniat m. Ona m. Aengusa m. Erca derc m. Briain m. Echach mugmedoin.

These are the traditional genealogies of the Ó Brennans, the Ó Hanlys, and the Ó Monaghans, among others. They have been thought to be Uí Briúin for centuries. However, The Tripartite Life clearly indicates otherwise; and it is potentially the best source as it may be the earliest source, as stated previously. But as of yet, there is only a tenuous connection to the Uí Ailello.

Sadly, the third encounter between St. Patrick and the Sons of Erc does not provide much illumination:

The Tripartite Life Of Saint Patrick 07

However, it does set the mood for the fourth encounter, as St. Patrick had cause to be highly vexed with the Sons of Erc due to their thievery. The fourth encounter is recorded as follows:

The Tripartite Life Of Saint Patrick 08

Firstly, here Bishop Maine is expressly identified as an Uí Ailello; eliminating all doubt on that subject. Secondly, on this fourth occasion, Bishop Maine interceded on behalf of the Sons of Erc to reduce St. Patrick’s malediction on them. It should be carefully noted that Bishop Maine refers to the Sons of Erc as his brethren; and given their evident hostility to St. Patrick, Bishop Maine most certainly was not referring to the Sons of Erc in the sense of Christian brothers, but rather as blood kindred. This is further corroborated by the passion he used to plead for them; it was a display one would expect for close kindred, not distant relatives as they would be if they were Uí Briúin. This clearly connects the Sons of Erc, or the Mac Earca, to the Uí Ailello. It also reinforces the supposition that Bishop Maine was a Mac Earca himself.

So now The Tripartite Life has established there was a powerful family group known as the Mac Earca that are Uí Ailello and whose territory ranged from Drumsna to Elphin to Assylinn, the ford near the Waterfall of the Sons of Erc, just west of Boyle on the Boyle River, near where the railway bridge now stands. This last location is not far from the Curliew Hills where Duach Tenga Uma was slain by Muircheartach mac Earca. All of this taken together now provides a plausible antecedent for Muircheartach mac Earca, and by extension, for his brother Eochaid Tírmchárna.

Supposition 4
The Uí Briúin Aí as well as the Cenél Dobtha and Uí Briúin na Sionna among others are in actuality Uí Ailello.

This is somewhat bolstered by the following rather intriguing entry in the Annals Of The Four Masters:

Annals Of The Four Masters 04

Why would the Uí Briúin kill their own king, one of their own people? However, if Áed mac Echach Tírmchárna was in actuality Uí Ailello, it makes a lot more sense. Again, this is not proof positive, but it does lend more credence to Supposition 4.

The resulting conclusion to all of this is that part of the Uí Ailello was either deliberately or unintentionally subsumed into the Uí Briúin, and that some of their descendants have survived until the present time. This conclusion is presented as a strong possibility, not as a statement of fact. However, it does explain the genetic difference between Uí Briúin Aí descendants and Uí Briúin Bréifne and Uí Briúin Seóla descendants; as well as the animus in later medieval times between the Uí Briúin Aí sept and the Uí Briúin Bréifne and Uí Briúin Seóla septs. It also helps explain the two new parallel subbranches under R-A259 that were discovered early in 2018 A.D.

This overall hypothesis can be readily proved or disproved with sufficient testing of men with traditionally Uí Fiachrach surnames like Ó Dowd, Ó Shaughnessy, etc. as well as Ó Brennans, Ó Hanlys, and Ó Monaghans. If men with these surnames all test positive for the R-A259 SNP, then that would indicate that it is a genetic marker for all Connachta, not just Uí Briúin.

Further, if Ó Brennans, Ó Hanlys, and Ó Monaghans share the R-BY18120 SNP common to the Uí Briúin Aí surnamed men, it would indicate a very strong likelihood that the Uí Ailello hypothesis has some validity. Also, one of the new, R-A259 subbranches has a possible connection to the surname Rattigan, of which Rev. Patrick Woulfe in his 1923 book Irish Names And Surnames says:

Ó REACHTAGÁIN—I—O Raghtagan, Raghtigan, Ractigan, Ratican, Ratigan, Rattigan, Rhategan, Rhatigan, &c.; 'descendant of Reachtagán' (diminutive of reacht, law, decree); the name of an ecclesiastical family in Co. Roscommon, who were coarbs of St. Finnen, in the parish of Clooncraff, near Elphin.

This makes a connection back to Elphin. Whether the Ó Rattigans actually are related to the Ó Brennans, the Ó Hanlys, and the Ó Monaghans remains to be seen; but it is an exciting possibility. This third subbranch of R-A259 could represent an early split in the Uí Ailello genetic tree. There are Brennans and Monaghans that have tested at FTDNA (Family Tree DNA); but apparently so far, none have tested deeper than R-M222. These 2 new subbranches could also represent the beginnings of Uí Fiachrach genetic trees. Regardless, there needs to be much more extensive testing to arrive at a solid conclusion. Hopefully this paper has provided a starting point for further exploration and testing.