Tirkeerin

 

Ireland is divided into 327 baronies. Tirkeerin is one of five of these baronies in Co Londonderry (sic) and in the 1659 Census and Hearth Money Returns (1660s) we see that the population totalled 1,619 in the barony; a very sparse population indeed.

Tir Ui Mhic Carthainn has been anglicised as Tirkeerin, Tirkerran, Tirkeeran, Tir Keeran, Tirkearan etc. There are quite a few renderings of the name in Irish as well as in English e.g.Tír Mhic Caoirthinn, Tir Caorthainn etc.

One of the earliest mentions of Tirkeeran is in 1212. (1)

 

Alan fitz Rolland received a charter for all Dal Riada, the island of Rathlin, the cantred of Cineal Ainmhireach?, the lands of Tweskard and Larne, all apparently situated in the modern county Antrim, and the cantreds of Ciannachta and Tir Caorthainn (bar. Tirkeeran) in the modern county Londonderry.

 

The  population totalled 1,619 in 1659 in the barony. Macafee and Morgan (1) whose table is partly reproduced below, suggest that this is an underestimate but even allowing a even a fifty per cent error we can see just how sparsely the barony had been  populated at this time.

 

1659 Census and Hearth Money Returns (1)

Adults

Households

Barony

English & Scots

Irish

Total

British

Irish

Total

Co Londonderry

Derry City

572

480

1,052

302

50

352

Tirkeeran

640

979

1,619

214

104

318

Keenaght

1,012

1,215

2,227

319

218

537

Coleraine

1,549

1,201

2,750

627

171

798

Loughinsholin

655

1,431

2,086

308

457

765

Totals

4,428

5,306

9,734

1,770

1,000

2,770

 

 

It is more likely to be that the territory, in the early days say 500 AD, extended from Magilligan in the North to the Burndennet river in the south and from the Sperrins in the west right into Donegal towards Letterkenny.(3) The territory would have fluctuated in size as time went by with the splitting of the sept into differing allegiances. Later some of it would be subsumed to some extent into the O’Neill clan with further subdivision into family names. Finally the sept was reduced and, or, relocated at least once during the plantation.

 

The east rim of the territory is made up of the Sperrin mountains. This girdling of the territory has been described by Seamus Heaney, no doubt from the other South Derry side, but remember that he spent his teenage years in school in Derry:

 

“Mountains ghosted that horizon, sometimes like blue smoke, sometimes like beached hulls”(4)


Today the name Tirkeeran is actively used near Garvagh where there is a Tirkeeran Road at postcode reference BT51 and in (London)Derry City at BT47.


Wikipedia has an entry for Tirkeeran (5) which gives a good map of the barony and gives the date of 1585 for its creation.

A small townland in Donegal outside Castlefin is also called Tirkeerin and it is described interestingly on the website of The Septs of O'Mulligan (6).

Another description of the area can be found in and Article in the Journal of the Antiquaries of Ireland "The Book of Ballymote, in discussing the genealogy of the Clann Colla, states that of the two sons of Colla Uais, the descendents of Erc held the land "fria Sliabh a tuaidh" i.e. north of the Mountain. These were the Ui Meic Carthainn whose name is preserved in the present Barony of Tirkeerin." The mountain is a reference to the Sperrins.(7)
 

1 Macafee and Morgan, Plantation to Partition Essays, edited by Peter Roebuck Blackstaff Press 1981 Page 48

2 Tir Eoghain ‘North of theMountain’ by Katharine Simms

3 In Derry and Londonderry History & Society Eds O’Brien & Nolan Geography Publications ISBN 0 906602 85

In 1212 Alan fitz Rolland received a charter for all Dal Riada, the island of Rathlin, the cantred of Cineal Ainmhireach?, the lands of Tweskard and Larne, all apparently situated in the modern county Antrim, and the cantreds of Ciannachta and Tir Caorthainn (bar. Tirkeeran) in the modern county Londonderry. The next year the same lands were granted instead to Alan’s brother Thomas, Earl of Athol, together with O Neills share of ‘the vill of Derekoneull’ (i.e. Doire Cholm Chille, the ecclesiastical city of Derry?) and the cantred of ‘Talachot’ (Tullyhogue?) as a fief to be held for the services of the three knights. Earl Thomas immediately took steps to make good this ‘licence to conquer’. According to the annals he came with a fleet of seventy–six ships, plundered Derry on two occasions, allied with O Domhnaill to ravage Inishowen, and with the English to build a castle at Coleraine.
4 From Seamus Heaney's preface to Derry & Londonderry History & Society; Interdisciplinary Essays on the History of an Irish County edited by Gerard O'Brien, published by Geography Publications 1999

5 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barony_of_Tirkeeran

6 SeptUaMaelagain at genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com 

7 The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland
Seventh Series, Vol. 4, No. 1 (Jun. 30, 1934), pp. 143-146
 
 7 From Seamus Heaney's preface to Derry & Londonderry History & Society; Interdisciplinary Essays on the History of an Irish County edited by Gerard O'Brien, published by Geography Publications1999