Hugh McShane O'Neill

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search
Hugh (Aodh) MacSéan Ó Néill
Prince of Tyrone, The MacShane of Glenconkeyne
Titles and styles
Lord of Glenconkeyne and Killetragh
Family O'Neill / MacShane
Father Con MacShane O'Neill
Mother Catherine/Julian Maclean
Born est. 1575
Glenconkeyne (modern County Londonderry), Ulster, Ireland
Died after 1621
Glenconkeyne (modern County Londonderry), Ulster, Ireland
Occupation Prince, Chief of the MacShane O'Neill sept

Hugh "McSeáin" O'Neill genealogies list Hugh as the son of Con MacShane O'Neill, 3rd son of Shane O'Neill and as the 10th son of Shane O'Neill. In both cases he was a grandson of Conn O'Neill, 1st Earl of Tyrone and Gearoid Mór Fitzgerald, 8th Earl of Kildare and of the primary line of the O'Neill of Tyrone clan[1] . Shane was the Prince of Ulster and Chief of all the O'Neill septs until his death in 1567. Hugh gained his patrimony, like his father, from the O'Neill sept clan he'd been fostered by; the McShanes of Killetragh and the Glenconkeyn forest (modern south County Londonderry). This group was also called the "Wild Clan Shanes of Killetragh" or the "McShane-O'Neills"[2] . Hugh was an active rebel and commander in the 1580s through 1615. His first item of historical note was a raid his brothers conducted on Maguire of Fermanagh and his lands in early 1573. They were stated to have done great damage to the lands of Maguire. The genealogy that states Hugh was the son of Shane "The Proud" O'Neill is based on his moniker and the fact that he is often in the company of other known sons of Shane O'Neill, collectively known across Ireland in the late 16th century as "The Mac Shanes". According to Scottish sources, he and his brothers Henry MacShane O'Neill and Art "MacShane" invaded Ireland with 3000 Scots from his cousin Lachlan MacLean in 1587[3] . The link between the MacLeans and the MacShanes was close in that their mother was the daughter of Hector Mor, Chief of the MacLeans, and he and two other brothers had been secured with the MacLeans after the murder of their father, Shane in 1567. See O'Neill dynasty.

The Nine Years War

main article Nine Years War

When his cousin Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone went into rebellion in 1593 against Queen Elizabeth, Hugh and some of the McShanes put aside internal family fighting and joined their cousin the Earl. Some did not, and were eventually imprisoned by the Earl. During this war Hugh commanded a force of "200-foot and 50 Horsemen" raised out of the McShane Clan from forests of Killetragh and Glenconkeyn, then the most inhospitable and desolate forests in all of Ireland. Carew is guoted as stating that Hugh was able to field this force in 24 hours against the English. The State Papers of Ireland, in the various assessments of the strength of the rebellious Earl 1586 to 1602, state that this territory and the "woodkern race of outlaws" who lived there (the clan McShane) is considered primary to O'Neill, as it was his most secure refuge for cattle, goods, and people, and away from the military might of the English. Further, it was the Earl's secure, geographical "connection to the Clanaboy O'Neill". However, the Lord Lieutenant also lamented in 1599 that they (the English) should have "given Glenconkeyn to the sons of Shane, instead of the Earl". It was with Hugh and his McShanes that the Earl spent the final months of his rebellion in the winter of 1602–03. The Earl lived with the McShane-O'Neills after the Battle of Kinsale and the fall of Dungannon to Lord Mountjoy on the slopes of Sleive Gallion. Finally in March 1603, the Earl made peace.

Internal O'Neill Struggles

The struggles within the O'Neill family are well known. The Earl Hugh suppressed his own cousins more than he did the English in the first few years of his reign. In 1583 & 1587, the Earl put down any other claimants to the Chiefship, including Tirlough O'Neill, until he had himself recognised as Sir Tirlough Linneach's heir as The O'Neill Mor. In 1590, the Earl hung Hugh "Gaveloch", son of Shane O'Neill for conspiring against him. In 1593 the Earl had his cousin Phelim McTurlough, Lord of Loughinshollin and chief of a sept within the Clanaboy O'Neill, murdered on Toome on the Bann River, and instilled himself as the Lord of Loughinshollin.

Hugh and his McShanes were able to weather the rise of the Earl and had split loyalties to the Earl when fighting the English. However, with the loss of the 9 Years War in 1603, Hugh McShane was able to edge out the Earl and became the new Lord of Killtragh and controlling most of the Lordship of Loughinshollin. He maintained independence from 1600 to 1606, and then replaced the Earl as the sole lord in the years following the Earl fleeing Ireland in 1607. However, with the Flight of the Earls and the power vacuum that created, Hugh McShane and the other smaller lords had to deal with the sudden presence of the English military in Ulster. For a while, Hugh benefited from this independence. Sir Arthur Chichester put out a warrant for wanted rebels and in 1608 Hugh McShane, his brother Phelim, and Hugh's wild McShanes captured Shane Carragh O'Cahan in Glenconkeyn forest. They turned him over to Chichester for a pardon and remit of some leases for two years.[4] In 1610 Hugh McShane was on the jury that divided the lands out of the forfeited estate of his cousin the Earl of Tyrone. In doing so Hugh received 1,000 acres (4.0 km2) of the Earl's lands around Dungannon, and in 1611 another 120 acres (0.49 km2) in Tyrone. Conn MacShane held an adjoining portion, and he and Henry both received large estates in Armagh and Fermanagh. Hugh's new neighbour and friend was the departed Earl's nephew Brian Crossagh, son of Sir Cormac MacBaron O'Neill, something that would cement a friendship impacting them both in later life.[5]

Later life

After his pardon in 1608, Hugh slipped back into the forests of Loughinshollin barony and held on to what power he could during the early years of the Plantation of the newly established County Londonderry. He was granted 120 acres (0.49 km2) outside the ancestral home in Dungannon in 1611 and used them as a point of strength to combat outside influence. As planters moved into the territories to the north, the combination of the dense forest and Hugh's reputation kept most new arrivals out. By 1615 he had lost his lands in Dungannon over a struggle with the Lord Lieutenant. Sir Thomas Phillips tried in vain from the small fort in Desertmartin to subdue the old Chief, but his strength with the McShanes was unmatchable with the local Irish, and he was never captured. He remained on his former lands, but eventually became known as a highwayman, controlling the forests and roads of southern Londonderry and the GlenShane pass.

In 1615 he, along with Brian Crossagh (son of Cormac MacBaron O'Neill), Rory O'Cahan, and Alexander McDonald (son of the Earl of Antrim), he was named by Lord Chichester as a primary conspirator in a short-lived rising called "the Natives Rebellion.[6] They were accused of fomenting a rebellion against the English and Scots planters, and planning the escape of the Earl of Tyrone's young son from a castle in Tyrone.[7] Unlike the other conspirators, Hugh McShane was never captured and brought before the English.[8] He escaped the gallows and died sometime after 1621 still in the forest. The last historical notation was an inquisition taken within Derry in 1621 that listed him as a "gentleman". Hugh McShane had a son named Brian McHugh McShane O'Neill and possibly another named Cullough Boy and one named Owen McHugh McShane O'Neill. Brian was named the chief of McShane-O'Neills in the 1620s.

Hugh's son Brian continued a restless and aggressive life. He was imprisoned for raiding in 1627, and led the Confederate forces as "the O'Neill of Killetra" in 1643 at the Battle of Tullahoge near Dungannon against Colonel Clotsworthy of Masserene.[9] That war (1641–1650) was the end of McShane-O'Neill dominance in Glenconkeyne and Killetragh. The tone in Ireland took a major turn with the entrance of Oliver Cromwell and his New Model Army in 1648. In response to this new Protestant army in Ireland, Brian McShane O'Neill took a Royal commission and fought for the King. However, when King Charles I was defeated, Brian fled Ireland and into the exiled service of King Charles II, posted to the Spanish court. From 1656 until 1660, Captain Brian O'Neill served in an Irish regiment in Spain. By the census of 1659 the O'Neill name was dwindling as a surname use and there remained only five McShane households in all of County Londonderry. However, Captain Brian returned to Ireland with a pardon upon the restoration of the Stuart monarchy. Hugh's grandchildren continued to live on the lands Brian eventually settled in the Draper's portion of Loughinshollin barony, part of his father's old estate. In 1687, during the war between King James II and William and Mary, the grandson of Hugh, Captain Bryan McShane Og O'Neill (Og = the younger) joined the Army of King James II[10] and was attainted in 1690 for being a Jacobite supporter,as did his son Hugh "Boy" McShane O'Neill of Ballinascreen,[11]according to John D'Alton in his 1855 book.

The permanent establishment of lands by the family was by Hugh's great grandson Owen McShane (Eoghan McShane). In the Census of 1740 they had a farm called Moneyneany in Ballinascreen, and another called "Carnacose" in Desertmartin, both just outside Draperstown.[12] The family stayed and farmed the same lands and do so today; as well as in Australia and America. During the times of anti-Catholic legislation of the 18th century and again in the early 19th century, the family took the practice of translating the name from the gaelic Mac Shane or "son of John" to the English "Johnson" or "Johnston". This was the case of one of their more famous relatives Sir William Johnson whose father had been a MacShane.


  • Steve McShane – Linguist
  • Paul McShane – Footballer
  • Anthony McShane – Economist
  • Major General, Sir William Johnson, British Army General
  • J. Leonard Johnson, Scientist
  • James McShain, Monument Builder
  • Robert Treat Paine Signer of the Declaration of Independence, cousin through his father
  • Molly Kaufman- Actress, UK


  1. "The Ancient and Royal Family of O'Neill" 1996. under Conn Bacach O'Neill descendants
  2. Fall of the Irish Chiefs and Clans, by George Hill, pg 167
  3. "Conn O'Neill of Kilskerry", The Clogher Record, vol 6, no. 2, 1967. pg 388–394
  4. *Pardon Rolls of King James I; Year 1609
  5. Duiche Neill, Journal of the O'Neill Country Historical Society. Vol. 11, pg 82
  6. "Conspiracy"- The 1615 Plot,by Raymond Gillespie,pg 32
  7. *Calendar of the State Papers of Ireland, 1615
  8. Destruction of the Peace, Micheline Walsh, pg. 60
  9. Ulster Clans, by T. H. Mullin, pg 120
  10. King James Army List, 1689–1691, pg. 648
  11. King James Army List, 1689–1691, pg. 11 & 36
  12. Protestant Landowners list of 1740, PRONI
  • The Londonderry Plantation 1609–1621, by T. W. Moody, pg 51, 166;
  • Plantation in Ulster, by George Hill, pg 65, 250;
  • Londerry Lands & Families, by George Hill, pg 425;
  • Ireland Under the Tudors, by Richard Bagwell, pg 284;
  • Tyrone's Rebellion, by Hyram Morgan, pg. 18;
  • The History of Ulster, by Ramsey Colles, pg 173;
  • The Parishes of Kilrea, by J.W. Kernohan, pg. 30;
  • London and the LondonDerry Companies, by Sir T. Phillips, 18 March 1614, pg. 47 & 58;
  • Life and Time of Aodh O'Neill, by John Mitchel, pg. 223;
  • Calendar of the State Papers of Ireland, 1608–1610, pg. 15;
  • Calendar of the State Papers of Scotland 1657–1667, vol XI, pg 558:
  • Moneyneena, A Hundred Years, Ballinascreen Historical Society, LondonDerry, June 2002. pg 7 and others
  • The Pedigree of O'Neill, Coat of Arms, Government Office-Republic of Ireland, M.S. No. 168, pg. 138