Shirley: Some Account of the Territory or Dominion of Farney
Some Account of the Territory or Dominion of Farney by Evelyn Philip Shirley (1812-1882) was published in 1845 and is an account of the history of the Barony of Farney and County Monaghan from ancient times until the mid 19th century.
Monaghan was inhabited for thousands of years and features a host of Stone Age monuments, Celtic ringforts and Christian ruins. The area became the domain of the MacMahons who were subjects of the O'Neill clan who dominated Ulster . Following the Norman invasion of 1169, the English encroached on the borders of the MacMahon territory, an area of lakes, hills and heavy woodland, that served as a buffer that protected the lands of the O'Neills to the north from invasion. The MacMahons were in a state of constant warfare with the English invaders and the O'Neills to whom they paid tribute and played both sides off against each other, while fighting their own internal quarrels.
In the late 16th century, Sir John Perrot, the Lord Deputy of Ireland , struck a deal with the MacMahon chiefs to create County Monaghan divided into the five baronies of Farney, Cremorne, Dartrey, Monaghan and Truagh. The deal suited the MacMahons who allied themselves closely with the English to protect themselves from O'Neills. A different branch of the MacMahon clan would control each of the five baronies.
However it soon became clear that the English were using the opportunity to settle the area with Protestant British newcomers. The native Irish Catholics revolted under the leadership of the O'Neill clan but the MacMahons continued to fight among themselves. The O'Neills and their allies were defeated at the Battle of Kinsale and fled to the European continent and during the reign of James I, the Ulster Plantation began in earnest.
Catholic rebellion in Ulster in 1641 and brief independent rule in Ireland by the Catholic Confederacy was followed by Oliver Cromwell's conquest of Ireland . Gaelic Irish civilisation was destroyed and the MacMahon clan in particular were decimated. Only 112 members of the MacMahons were registered in the 1659 census in County Monaghan .
From the 17th century to the late 19th century, Ireland was dominated by an Anglo-Irish Protestant landowning class. Aristocratic families such as the Dawson, Shirley, Leslie, Westerna and other dynasties owned the lands farmed by Gaelic Irish Catholic tenants and landless peasants which included the descendants of the 'Farney' MacMahons. Shirley's book was published in 1845, the year that the catastrophe of the Great Irish Famine ravaged Monaghan and thousands died from famine and disease or emigrated to America .Evelyn Philip Shirley, politician, geneaologist and antiquarian was born in 1812 in London . Like his father before him he was also served as MP for both County Monaghan and South Warwickshire . He was a descendant of Robert Shirley, 1st Earl Ferrers. He was educated at Eton College and later Magdalen College , Oxford . He died in 1882 when the Land League and Irish Parliamentary Party were in the midst of an intense campaign of agitation for the rights of tenants and land reforms. By the early 20th century the Anglo-Irish estates had been broken up as the Catholic Irish were able to purchase their own land.
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