Uí Maine

Uí Maine, often referred to as Hy Many, was one of the oldest and largest kingdoms located in Connacht, Ireland. Its territory of approximately 1,000 square miles encompassed all of what is now north, east and south County Galway, south and central County Roscommon, an area near County Clare, and at one stage had apparently subjugated land on the east bank of the Shannon, together with the parish of Lusmag in Offlay. It wasn't until the rise of Southern Uí Néill that the kingdom of Uí Maine divided into several smaller kingdoms, whose name derived from the dynasty that ruled it, the Uí Maine. There were two different parts of the Ui Maine, the Ui Maine of Teathbha and the Uí Maine of Connacht; these tribes were separated by the Shannon River. The people of the kingdom were descendents of Maine Mor who was somewhat of a legendary figure in Irish History. According to tradition, Maine Mór was granted the territory by Saint Grellan. Its sub-kingdoms, also known as lordships, included - among others - Tír Sogháin, Corco Mogha, Delbhna Nuadat, Síol Anmchada, and Hy Fiachrach Fionn. These kingdoms were made up of offshoots of the Uí Maine dynasty, or subject peoples of different races.

Early Times

Maine Mor actually established Uí Maine as a kingdom a short time after 357 AD. As a ruler, Maine Mor lasted for 50 years, and was succeeded by his son Breasal. With Maine Mor's leadership the kingdom of Uí Maine enlarged greatly and eventually covered one third of Connacht. Before the Hy Manians and the Maine Mor's leadership, the area inhabited by the Uí Maine tribe had previously been occupied by the “Fir Bolg”. When the Hy Many and their leader, the Maine Mor, came into the territory the Fir Bolg's leader, Cian, realized that the Ui Maine were much stronger and had many more people in their tribe. The Uí Maine and Fir Bolgs traded hostages and the Fir Bolg leader withdrew and allowed the Uí Maine to settle on his land. Once settled onto their new territory, the Uí Maine tribe prospered greatly. The tribe eventually became one of the most powerful tribes of the area as they defended their land and tribes against the Eoganacht and the Uí Briuin. The Uí Maine was also to known to have defeated the Delba Nuadat, who were located all over the Connacht area and very densely in Southern Co. Roscommon. (Lyndon, MacCurtain 1972) According to Lyndon and MacCurtain in their book, Ireland Before the Normans, the Delba Nuadat tribe lost their independence and by the 9th and 10th century, ‘few of them had survived’.

The Uí-Maine descended from the Colla da Chrioch. The Colla da Crioch was one of “The Three Collas” “who sought to restore the monarchy to their line.” At one point The Three Collas were exiled from Ireland and made to live in Scotland, however “through the influence of the King of Alba, and the intervention of the Druids, the Collas were pardoned by the Irish King, and were invited back to Ireland." The Uí-Maine did not originate from the area of Connacht. They once “flourished” in Oirghialla, their kingdom there was founded in the early parts of the fourth century. Eventually their kingdom became extremely overpopulated and food and land became scarce. “The Prince Maine Mor set out for the province of Connaught." “Maine Mor was accompanied by his father Eochaidh, and his two sons Breasal and Amlaff." Mor’s tribe descended on the territory and tribe living there, the Firbolg. “St. Grellan prayed to god, who caused the Firbolgs to be swallowed into the earth at the bog of Magh Liach. The Hy-Mainians prevailed against the Firbolg in battle." Eventually, St. Grellan granted the territory to Maine Mor and his tribe. The area became known as Hy-Many. In return, the Hy-Mainians honored St. Grellan and he became the patron saint of the families who descended from Maine Mor and his people. As a clan the Uí Maine generally didn’t participate in wars or conflicts with other tribes in the area. The first major conflict the Uí Maine were involved in was in the late 700’s with the arrival of the “Norseman” who took over vast parts of the areas surrounding Hy Many.

Early leaders (in order)

Name Years Ruled Death
Maine Mor 50 years Natural Death
Bresal son of Maine 30 years Natural Death
Fiachra Finn son of Bresal 17 years slain by brother
Conall Cas-ciabhach son of Bresal 22 years slain
Dallan brother of Fiachra Finn 11 years mortally wounded then drowned
Duach son of Dallan 16 years slain by Maine Macamh
Lughaidh son of Dallan 14 years Natural death
Feradhach son of Lughaidh 24 years slain by successor
Marcan 15 years slain by sword
Cairbre Crom son of Feradhach 9 years slain by successor

Main families

Uí Maine tribe was “more or less in the hands of the O’Kellys as well as the O’Maddens and the Keoghs, whose ancestors were O’Kellys up to the end of the sixteenth century.” “The principle ruling family of Hy Many was the O'Kelly family, and also the O’Maddens.” Descendant clans of the dynasty include the Ó Ceallaigh (Kelly), Ó Madadhan (Madden), O'Mudaigh (Moody), Ó Neachtáin (Naughton), Ó Domhnalláin (Donnellan), Ó Mullally (Lally) and Ó Fallamháin (Fallon) families. Along with these multiple families in the Hy Many region, there were 3 families that were the most prominent in ruling the region: O’Kellys, O’Donnollans, and the O’Maddens. Each family claimed that their name from ancient kings of that region.

The O'Kellys

Uí Maine has often been called “O’Kelly’s Country” because of its rich background with the O’Kelly family and descendants. The O’Kelly family has dated back to the 5th century being very influential of the Uí Maine kingdom. Within just a century, 20 O’Kelly’s ruled over Uí Maine. The O’Kellys found their demise in the 17th century with the steady decline of their fortunes in Ireland. The last tragedy to hit the O’Kellys “was the great famine of 1845-47. Large numbers died because of the blight that had arrived and caused the potato to rot.” After the “great famine” many Irish people immigrated all over the world, resulting in the O’Kelly (Kelly) name spread throughout the globe.

The O'Donnollans

The O'Donnollan family claim that they are decent from Domhnallan, lord of Clan Breasail. The original castle of Ballydonnellan was built by them in 936AD, rebuilt in 1412 after a fire.

The O'Maddens

The O’Maddens were descendants from the Clan Colla, from which the O’Kelly’s who were the princes of Uí Maine, also descended. The O’Madden family was mostly located on both banks of the Shannon river. Which included parts of Co. Galway and Co. Offaly.

Later times

The Uí Maine lost their land officially in 1585 when the last chief, Hugh O'Kelly, signed a written document stating "that the captainshippe and tanistshippe of the said country, heretofore used by the said O'Kellies, and all elections and Irish customary divisions of the land shall be utterly abolished and extinct forever." (Lectures, 78)

Customs and beliefs of the Uí Maine

The Uí Maine tribe believed that there province "was to be their patrimonial country forever. And the 3rd part of every treasure found hidden or buried in the depths of the earth is to be given to these tribes." The Maine Mor of Uί Maine was given rewards and treasures such as:

  • A portion of all ‘strongholds and seaport towns in the province’
  • A portion of all prizes and wrecks of the sea
    • This included any wines or goods that had been washed to shore from shipwrecks, etc
    • It also included whales and fish which became to be known as ‘royal fish’ and were given to only the kings and queens
  • Hidden treasures found underground, all silver and gold mines and other metals
  • They were given a third of any revenues received by the king of Connacht of any other provinces where wrong had been done
  • The revenue (or eric) of killing a person was considered very large and in one document recorded was states as being ‘168 cows’

Along with the privileges that Kings and queens of Uí Maine received, the tribes that fought for Uí Maine were also given privileges and rights:

  • Any member of a tribe was given a choice to go to battle in Spring or Autumn. Most members that chose not to attend battle spent time maintaining their crops.
  • Hy Many tribe also believed that "no man of the province is to be taken as witness against these tribes, but another Hy Manian is to bear witness."
  • If the King of Connacht didn’t pull out or end a battle in 6 weeks or less when fighting in Ulster or Leinster, any member was allowed to return home.
  • "However great may be the accusation brought against them by dishonest people, only one man or one witness is required to dent it or prove it against the other party."
  • Hy Manians that were baptized were to be baptized by the Comharba of St. Bridget. If parents chose not to baptize their children at St. Bridget's because they lived too far away they were required to pay the Comharba a penny.
  • Hy Manians were required to pay a ‘sgreaball ongtha’ to the Comharba to prepare for death during an illness. This fee was said to be 3 Irish pennies.

See also


  • Joyce, P.W. and Benjamin Blom. A social History of Ireland
  • Lyndon, James, and MacCurtain Margaret. Ireland Before the Normans- The Gill History of Ireland

External links

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