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A unique and fascinating investigation of the History of the Duggans

In the Millennium Edition of The Athenry Journal I said that one of the important family surnames of Sogain origin was O’Duggan, the others being the O’Mannions and the McWards.

The Duggan’s had their homeland in Fohenagh and there are a number of town land names in the area that bear testimony to this i.e, Ballydoogan, Carterdoogan and Dundoogan. Some 20th century historians and genealogists mistakenly give Ballydoogan near Loughrea as the seat of the Duggan’s, but this place has no connection whatsoever with the Duggan clan. (This townland was originally known as Ballyhardugan or O’Hardiganstown, and with the passage of time the ’har’ was dropped leaving it as Ballydugan.)

Last remnant

The Book of Survey and Distribution for the year 1641 records the transfer of land at Ballydoogane in the parish of Fonenagh, barony of Kilconnel, from Teigh O’Doogane to Denis O’Doogan. This shows that the Duggans still held on to land in their hereditary thuagh or country into the 17th century. According to Simington’s Transplantations to Connacht, they lost their lands during the Cromwellian Confiscations, but in 1654 the Commissioners at Loughrea re-granted 73 acres to Teigh O’Doogan in the parish of Ahascragh. There were no O’Doogans or Duggans listed in Griffith’s Valuation for the parishes of Fohenagh and Ahascragh, but it does show John O’Doogan holding 74 acres, 1 rood and 15 perches as a tenant of Lord Clonbrock in the towns land of Killasolan, parish of Killasolan. Michael Duggan (pronounced Doogan in that area) is the present owner of this land (1988), and it would appear he is the last remnant of the Duggan clan in this particular part of County Galway.

According to my interpretation of the book of Ui Maine, which deals with the druid Mog Ruith, it would appear that he was of the same family origins as the Duggans. Some historians believe that with the changeover to Christianity the druids carried on their profession as fili or seers. These fili were socially very important and held in the same esteem as the King. They differed entirely from the modern notion of the poet as a creative man of literature. They were custodians of the oral tradition, which embraced genealogy and history. ln Ireland, a man enjoyed his status, rights and privileges in virtue of his descent from royal lineages so that genealogical material was of high political consequence. Dynasties ruled kingdoms by virtue of descent from ancient royal lineages and their genealogy was proof of their legitimacy to rule.

Change of script

It was not until about the 6th century that writing as we now know it, came to Ireland with the introduction of the Latin alphabet. Previous to this the only form of writing comprised a series of cuts and notches know as ’Ogham’. This was a very cumbersome form of writing and was used only on tomb slabs and such, and therefore the only method of recording history and genealogy was the oral tradition.

This ancient tradition was known as senchas. In the absence of writing this senchas has to be committed to memory and for the ease of memorising it was recorded in verse form. The fili’s training was long and hard and started at a very early age. Consequently, the profession became the preserve of particular families, and in the case of the Sogain, the Duggans became the custodians of this oral senchas.

Around the late 6th century or early 7th century, this oral tradition was gradually committed to writing but the oral version still lived on and like some other old customs survived up to the beginning of the 20th century in some remote districts, as will be seen later in the case of Ristard O’ Dubhagain of Menlo.

Strange omission

Strangely enough there is no genealogical record available for the Duggans themselves, and Roderick O’ Flaherty, the famous l7th century Galway scholar, says in his Ogygia that no line of pedigree of the O’ Duggan family can be found in any of the authentic Irish annals which is very strange as the family were professors of poetry and history. The most celebrated and best known member is Sean Mór O’Dubhagain who was the author of “Triallam timcheall na Fodla”, a poem which is generally regarded as a description of pre-Norman Ireland, some two centuries earlier; also ’Ata sund seanchus Ereand’ a poem of 564 verses on the Kings of Ireland, down to the high King Roderick O’Connor; ‘Rioghraidh Laighean Clann Chathaoir’, a poem with 224 verses on the Kings of Leinster, ’Teamhair na riogh raith Cormac’ a poem with 332 verses which gives an account of the battles and actions of Cormaic Mac Airt; ‘Bliadhain so salus a dath’, a poem on the festivals of the year and ‘Farus Focal luaidhtear’ a poem of 292 verses being a vocabulary of obsolete words. He is credited with the introduction of a didactic nature into this generic literature, which is also evident in the books of Ui Maine, Lecan and Ballymore. As Sean Mor held the distinction of Ollamh or professor it is logical to conclude that those later scribes were students of his. He retired to the monastery of St. John the Baptist at Rinadoon in Roscommon in 1365 and died there in 1372.

O’Kelly patrons

As already referred to, the O’Kellys acquired much wealth and power in the 14th century and to their credit many aspects of Gaelic learning, genealogy, grammar, poetry, sagas, history and folklore thrived under their patronage. To Murtoough O’Kelly, bishop of Clonfert and later archbishop of Tuam, must go the credit of having produced the greatest genealogical study known as The Book of Ui Maine. This work was due to his patronage rather than his scholarship as he employed a staff of six scribes in its production. We do not know the names of the scribes but it is almost certain that they were members of the Duggan family as Roderick O’ Flaherty refers to The Book of Ui Maine as Leabhar O’ Dubhagain or Duggan’s book.

John Lynch, another noted Galway 17th century scholar who wrote in both Gaelic and Latin, also refers to it in his book Cambronais Evarsuas as Liber O’Dubhegan and quotes from it on at least six occasions. The Sligo-born Dubhaltach Mac Firbishig, a contemporary of O’ Flaherty and Lynch, uses Leabhar O’Dubhagain as a source of material for his Seamchais Sil Ir. This is fortunate since four of the fourteen folios of the original text are now lost and the lacuna can now be supplied only from Mac Firbishig’s transcript.

Professors

The Annals of the Four Masters records the deaths of Richard O’Dubhagain in 1379 and John and Cormac in 1440. Donal O’Dubhagain is also recorded having died in 1487. They were also Ollamhs or professors. These people must be of some considerable importance when the annalists deemed it necessary to record their deaths.

The Duggan’s continued to engage in their profession of fili and in 1750 Teigh O’Duggan compiled a pedigree of John O’ Donnellan of Ballydonnellan.

John O’ Donnovan, in his book ‘The Tribes and Customs of Hy Man’ refers to the old manuscripts of Teigh O’Duggan, ‘an eminent antiquarian of about 90 years ago’. This would coincide with the aforementioned Teigh. It is most likely that Teigh was the last of the fili of the old order.

It is worth mentioning that Murchadh Riaback O’Cuindlis, the scribe who compiled the massive text of the Leabhar Breac, 1408-11), and who was a native of Ballydacker near Athleague, was more than likely of the same stock as the O’Duggans.

Eugene Duggan, historian and author of ‘Horse and Hound’, is currently writing his new book to be titled; ‘The Ploughman on the Pound Note’- a history of farming organisations in Co. Galway during the 20th century.

Click on Eugene Duggen’s name below for more of his excellent articles 

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Written by Eugene Duggan

Published here 12 Feb 2024 and originally published Summer 2003

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