McGRATH OF ULSTER
"When I set out from the Termon, the Lord of the place who is a great lord (the McGrath, the Comharba, Muiris, son of Nicholas) and his brother, who had great devotion to Saint Patrick and helps much to direct the pilgrims, volunteered to go with me and accompanied me as far as the monastery (on Saints' Island) where I was very well received...."
Raymond, Viscount de Perelhos, a Spanish Noble and Pilgrim, 1397 AD.
The Clan McGrath of Ulster historically occupied the territory within the confines of the Barony of Tirhugh, Co. Donegal, adjacent counties of Tyrone and Fermanagh. The McGrath Chief held the hereditary title of Corab and Termoner of Lough Derg. However in the late 16th century many McGraths from the Termon followed Archbishop Miler McGrath to Cashel in Tipperary and the neighbouring county of Waterford when he took the Archbishopric. We are fortunate to have the names of many of those who followed him from a contemporary document, a pardon issued by King James I to Archbishop Miler McGrath and his followers in 1608. The pardon lists many of these migrant McGraths from Ulster by name.
To this day our name is still marked in the landscape of Ulster, the area is known as Termonmagrath and is the location of the Castle McGrath. This website was established by the Cumann Chlann Mhic Craith / the Clan McGrath Society and sponsored by the McGrath Ceann Fine, a descendant of the McGrath of Ulster.
To the north of Termonmagrath just outside Ballybofey is Carraig McGrath, the possible inauguration site of the McGrath Chiefs. Since at least the 13th Century the Clan McGrath provided the hereditary Corabs of Termon Davog which incorporated the ancient lands of Termonmagrath and Termonamongan and included the ancient pilgrimage island of Lough Derg. The Clan McGrath controlled the routes to the lough and the revenues from pilgrims making their way from across Europe to the site.
In the historic record we have some wonderful descriptions of medieval pilgrims making their may to Lough Derg who were privilaged to receive the hospitality of the McGrath. The noble Spanish pilgrim of 1397, Raymond, Viscount de Perelhos, left us this description of his visit to the Termon on his way to Lough Derg:
" I made my way through various lands as far as one of their towns called Termin. They did harm to no one, but they hold Saint Patrick in great devotion. And for long both Kingdoms and Kings have kept the town in safety. And the pilgrims who go there are obliged to leave their beasts there, for neither horses nor beasts could pass the mountains or the waters. So that thence I went on foot to the town where the Priory is (i.e. Saints' Island, then connected to the mainland by a causeway)....The bogs are so great in Ireland that scarcely upon the highest mountains can one pass through the waters. And even then one goes knee deep, so that on foot there is the greatest difficulty, and on horseback even greater, and it would be wonderful if anyone could pass over it. When I set out from the Termon, the Lord of the place who is a great lord (i.e. The Mac Craith / McGrath, the Comharba, Muiris, son of Nicholas) and his brother, who had great devotion to Saint Patrick and helps much to direct the pilgrims, volunteered to go with me and accompanied me as far as the monastery (on Saints' Island) where I was very well received...."
Most of the Gaelic genealogies and pedigrees of the 15th and 16th centuries accept the Clan McGrath of Ulster as descendents of the McGraths of Thomond and in turn have an hereditary link to the Princes of Thomond and Brian Boru, High King of Ireland.
The Clan McGrath of Ulster are also related to many of the noble families of Ulster, including the O'Neills of Tyrone. We know from the Annals of Ulster and the Annals of the Four Masters the names and lineage of the McGrath Chiefs from the 13th century until the eventual demise of the Gaelic order in the 17th century.
McGRATH OF WATERFORD AND TIPPERARY
By the 16th century the McGraths of Thomond had spread out from Clare to the counties of Waterford and Tipperary were they had established the bardic school at Cahir.
The best known Waterford McGraths, often referred to as McCragh, were located on the eastern slopes of the Knockmealdown Mountains. These families were descended from the Mac Craiths of Thomond and were associated with the Fitzgerald family (Earl of Desmond). The McGraths and O’Briens were invited to occupy the slopes of the Knockmealdown and Commeragh Mountains respectively to protect the Fitzgerald territory from incursion from the North.
The head of the sept in the early 1600's was Philip McCragh of Sliabh Gua who constructed a castle called Sleady Castle in 1628 at Curragh na Sleady. Part of the walls of this impressive 17th century, four story structure are still standing. Sleady Castle is located just east of Cappaquin a little off the road to Clonmel. A further castle was constructed at Mountain Castle (which is still standing), where Philip lived prior to building Sleady Castle.
A tower house at Abbeyside across the river from Dungarvan was built by a member of this sept in the mid 1500s. They were protectors and patrons of the nearby Augustinian Abbey. The castle was finally demolished in the 1960’s. The site of the castle was marked with the unveiling of a commemorative plaque in 2015.
There were also other branches of the Waterford family living near by: McCraghs in Ballynagilty, north of Sleady Castle and McCraghs of Lisfinny, southwest of Lismore (McCragh of Lismore Muchada).
The Civil Survey of 1654AD for Co. Tipperary effectively groups together three main clusters of McGraths. One group are the descendents of the Ulster McGraths who arrived with Archbishop Miler McGrath to central Tipperary. In this time of religious conflict and war Archbishop Miler brought 200 men-at-arms from Ulster that included McGraths and their bannermen from Clan McMenamin and Clan Monaghan. all acting as Archbishop McGrath's personal bodyguard,. This migration from Ulster increased McGrath numbers in the region where their descendents reside to this day. The other Tipperary family was listed as McCragh in northwest Tipperary and the third was again listed as McCragh in the Cahir area.
A further McCraith family occupied the tower house at Loughlohery both before and after the Cromwellian transplantation that removed many Irish families from their homesteads. Their descendants still occupy the townland of Loughlohery to this day. Over the subsequent years some of these McCraghs migrated into Co. Limerick, Co. Cork and Co. Waterford.
THE CLAN McGRATH TODAY
Today the Clan McGrath is represented by two active septs, these septs are located in the ancient Clan territories of Ulster and Waterford and Tipperary. Both septs are registered Clans of Finte na hEireann (Clans of Ireland).
The Ceann Fine of the Clan McGrath of Ulster is Seán Alusdrann Mac Craith (pictured right with the Cathaoirleach (Chairman) of Clans of Ireland Mr Gearoid O Ceallaigh). Seán sponsored the foundation of this Clan McGrath website and chairs the Cumann Chlann Mhic Craith (Clan McGrath Society) .
Membership of the Clan Society is FREE and information on how to join can be found by clicking on the 'MEMBERSHIP' tab on the main menu. The Clan McGrath Society welcomes new members and seeks to promote and preserve our ancient heritage by organising events including the McGrath Clan Gathering 2020 which will take place in our ancient northern ancestral territories of Donegal, Fermanagh and Tyrone. Please follow the link to the gathering facebook page and click LIKE to be kept updated on latest news including dates, venue and programme of events.