Sogain Families – Clann an Bhaird or Ward

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The Book of Uí Maine”  – Royal Irish Academy

According to The Book of Ui Maine the Wards were descended from Eocha one of Sodain’s sons. From Eocha 24 generations are listed to Owen, who it seemed was head of Clann an Baird when The Book of Ui Maine was complied, about I380 AD. This genealogy takes the form of a poem, probably composed by Sean Mór O’Dugain. One quartain pays tribute to the long reign and continuing prosperity of Clann an Baird, from Diarmuid the ninth MacWard counting from Eocha.

Though long has been their honourable possession of their patrimony that domain still rests with the house of Ui Dhiarmada. It appears that in more ancient times the clann was known as the Ui Dhiarmada but later changed to Mac an Bhaird or Son of the Bard. There is no record as to which of the people mentioned in the genealogy was the bard.

The Sogain comprised six kindred branches and it was to one of these, Cinel Reachta, that the Wards belonged as stated in another quatrain of the poem:

Chiefs of Cinel Reachta of lasting fame

Are the strong Ui Dhiarmada of the race of the bard

The well armed stern warriors of Ulster descent.

It also appears from the foregoing that the leader of the Ward clan was Urrig or sub-king of the Sogain. The poem goes on to describe the Wards as of brownish fair hair, praised for their trustworthiness and loyalty. The reining chief Seán, when the poem was written, probably shortly before I370, is described as young, spirited and athletic and those around him a fearless, active, well armed and genial band. Counting backwards from Seán mention is made of his father Conchubhar, then MacCraith, Diarmaid, Giolla Coimdhieadh, Ura, Maelsheachainn of long reign, Giolla Dé, Muirgheas, Ura, Maelsheachainn the energetic, Giolla Dé, Muirgheas, Ura, Diarmaid from whom the Wards were called Ui Dhiarmada. The list continues back with Eachthighearna, Giolla Dé, Maiglainn of the long spears, Finnchada, Uaigne of the steeds, Nuaddearg and Reachtga from whom Cinel Reactha was named, and so on through mythical ancestors to Sodhain.

The poem goes on to predict lordship for Mac an Diarmada over the Sodhain and says that the MacWards at that time comprised three branches from one stock, with the seed of Giolla Coimdheadgh holding the ancient patrimony. Sean the reigning chief is then exhorted to hold on to the gladsom region handed down through 20 generations and on which the Foreigners never set foot. The three branches referred to above were the MacWards ofAnnagh, Ballymacward, Macwards of Coolourta, Abbeyknockmoy and the MacWards of Doon. According to an old genealogy the seat of the MacWards was at Maine Ui Chasain but the extent in ancient times of Maine Ui Chasain cannot now be determined, but it may well have included Ballymacward.

According to Documents relating to Ireland it was intended in 1302 to grant a fee farm at Maine Ui Chasain to Richard of Exter sheriff of Roscommon, but an adjustment in 1304 shows that this intention was abandoned and this portion of ancient Sodhain territory remained in Irish hands .A chancery inquisition in 1617 defines Maine Ui Chasain as lying between Ahascragh and Killasolon comprising Latoon, Cloonagard and Keave. Thomas, Rory and Dermott MacWard held land there.

During the 15th century the MacWards suffered more from the encroachment of the O’Kellys than from the Norman invaders. We know from Burkes Landed Gentry that the O‘Kellys of Pobal Caoch built castles at Aughrim and Calla and also at Gallagh and Mullaghmore. Sir Richard Bingham in 1589 painted a black picture of the Hi Manny lords when he said that they may not only have enriched themselves by extortion but also carried away by force the cows and the other animals of the less powerful chiefs. However, the MacWards maintained their position at the hearth of their domain.

A castle at Annagh, Ballymacward listed in a document of 1574, was the centre point of the MacWard influence and the residence of Mac an Baird the chief of the sept.

The Annals of Lough Cé record the death in 1586 of Mac an Baird Cula an Urtan .i. Muiris Mac Laocsigh of Coolourta. Hugh MacWard who died in 1592 may be regarded as the last MacWard chieftain to occupy the Castle at Annagh under Brehon law.

According to an Exchequer Inquisition held at Athenry on 31st January 1593 his holding ran from the mill at Whitepark on the Ballymacward River to the Allon River. According to Patent I6 of James I, Hugh’s sons William, Laoiseach and Hugh shared his estate after his death and by l6l8 a further division has occurred between Laoiseach’s four sons Eneas, Ferral, Muiris and Owen, Hugh’s two sons William and Hugh and William’s son of the same name. Another patent shows that land was held at Liscuib and Moneenaheltia by four MacWards, viz. Farrell, Eneas, Muiris and Owen, who were probably the sons of Laoiseach mentioned above. The patents also mention two castles, one at Ballymacward and the second at Carrowantanny. These patents indicates an acceptance of the surrender and re-grant principle of English law, thus ending the old clan ownership. This ending of clan ownership led to family feuding, overall insecurity, mortgaging and resultant economic weakening. This is borne out by the survey of I638 which shows portions of MacWards holdings mortgaged to Richard Moilyn and Richard Dillon. Christopher Pettit and Lord Clanmorris also acquired large tracts of land in this area.

Cromwellian confiscations

The greatest blow to the MacWards fortunes was the Cromwellian Confiscations. It appears from Simmington’s Transplations to Connacht that all MacWard properties were supplanted except for Morris Ward of Annagh who received I45 acres and John Ward of Ballymacward who got 15 acres. Under the act of Settlement of Charles 11 the old Irish proprietors expected to have their lands restored, but instead it left the ownership of the land in the Ballymacward area more alien than before and John Ward even lost his I5 acres. John S. Flynn in his book “Ballymacward” says that tradition tells how for some years after dispossession the Wards were given sleeping accommodation by their former tenants, but as time passed they had to travel for sustenance and dropped further in the social scale. Old members of the Ward tinsmith family were up until the l920s accustomed to point out the lands in Ballymacward where their ancestors were chieftains.

But not all the Wards descended the social scale and a deed of I793 shows Lewis Ward of Liscuibe leasing land from Stephen Parker and in 1840 one of the big houses with ornamental gardens in the Ballymacward area was Wards of Liscuib.

Eugene Duggan: has written Horse and Hand — a book about farming practice in the Parish of Lackagh in the first half of the 20th century. He is a regular contributor to the Athenry Journal, and the Galway Family History Association Journal.

Editor’s note: Eugene also wrote in 2004 –The Plougman and the Pound Note

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About this record

Written by Eugene Duggan

Published here 20 Jul 2023 and originally published Summer 2002

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