Letter from Conor McCarthy dated May 24, 2000

A commentary will be added by The Clan MacCarthy Society shortly.

We are publishing this letter without endorsement or support by us.

Return to MacCarthy Mór webpage

Title Header

Wednesday, May 24th 2000

Dear Kinsmen,

I would like, with this letter, to provide the membership of the Clan Society with a brief assessment on the commentary attached to my last letter, published on the Clan MacCarthy North America website on March 27th 2000.  To begin with, however, I should like to observe that I would have preferred to have been informed by the leadership of the Clan society directly and in writing of the publication of this letter and the attached and unsolicited commentary.  As it happens, I had to stumble on them whilst browsing the Internet.  Still, the Clan Society North America has afforded me the opportunity to address you directly and this I will do.  I have been asked to answer eight questions and it is my intention to do so in due course.  However, I feel that in the meantime it is necessary to correct a number of errors and inaccuracies contained in the Clan Society's aforementioned commentary.

The commentary supplied with the text of my letter states:

"At the time of the abdication of Terence MacCarthy of the title of MacCarthy Mór, he pointed out that no one of his family was interested in claiming the title".

Indeed he did; however it should be made absolutely clear that Terence's abdication was not freely given.  In fact, Terence had been informed that he had no support whatever amongst the Clan Society North America, the Clan Society Ireland, the Niadh Nask or the other Gaelic Chiefs.  At the time of his abdication these assertions were categorically untrue.  I would even go so far as to say that my brother's abdication resulted from systematic deceit and duress.

Following a four year campaign of abusive and threatening letters, having been pilloried in the national press and abandoned, as he thought, by the very institutions he had worked so tirelessly to promote he no longer wished to have anything to do with the title.  In notifying me of his abdication Terence wrote:

"Gaelic Ireland is dead and gone.  Best leave it in it's grave.  I wasted a lifetime trying to call it forth".

Given that the views of senior members of the Clan Societies had been directly misrepresented to him I can well understand his disappointment.  The commentary also states:

"Since then, his brother, Conor McCarthy, has made a claim.  Initially Conor showed a willingness to discuss the several questions relating to the pedigree of his family, but lately, it appears that the family intends to rest on the published pedigree".

This is not entirely accurate, for whilst I do indeed rest on the published pedigree, it not having been disproved, I nevertheless have indicated a willingness to discuss the 'difficulties' albeit that they were well known and dismissed more than twenty years ago.  I had previously asked that the various 'leaks' emanating from the I.G.O. be submitted to me in hard copy in order that I might give a comprehensive answer.  Although I have heard a great many fabulous rumours, the commentary attached to my previous letter is the first document I have seen which comprehensively sets forth the opposition's case.

In view of this, and given the Clan Society's Internet link to Mr Sean Murphy's website I had concluded that the Clan Society North America had abandoned it's neutral position.  I have no objection to answering the charges leveled at my family.  I remain however unpersuaded that Mr Sean Murphy's various 'reports' and 'leaks' constitute a reasonable critique.  In fact, I would invite those interested parties to read them and assess for themselves whether Mr Murphy is the dispassionate scholar he purports to be.

It is a matter of historical record that few, if any Gaelic Chiefs can support their pedigrees with the kind of documentation that would merit registration with a European Herald.  The attempts made for over four hundred years to eradicate all vestiges of Gaelic Ireland were both ruthless and thorough.  Perhaps Mr Murphy will investigate the claims of all the surviving Chiefs.  Should he do so he will find a great many inconsistencies and contradictions on which to while away the hours until he is once again allowed to undertake contract work from the IGO.  To date Mr Murphy has attacked only the credentials of The Maguire and The O'Long.  Both are high profile and hardworking Chiefs, but more crucially, both refuse to accept the IGO's primogeniture requirements.

The commentary then proceeds to state:

"As we understand the situation now, we recognise that the following could make a claim to the title of MacCarthy Mór…" and names myself among four others.  Of those branches of the family listed, it is difficult to see how any other than myself could assert such a right for the following reasons:

1)     Heirs of the Muskerry branch of the MacCarthys

The MacCarthy Muskerry line descend from Cormac VI MacCarthy Mór (r.1326-1359) and their descent from the Royal House was therefore very remote upon the death of Donal IX, last regnant King of Desmond.  In point of fact the House of Muskerry did not even fall within the normal 'five generation' criteria for membership of the derbhfine.  It is widely considered that the House of Muskerry is extinct, even were this not the case they could now have no claim to the title MacCarthy Mór.

2)     Heirs of the Carberry branch of the MacCarthys

If the claims of the House of Muskerry cannot be admitted then those of the House of Carberry should not even be considered.  Their descent from the Royal House of Munster being more remote even than that of the House of Muskerry.  Their last reigning ancestor was Donal II (1247-1252).  W F Butler in "Some gleanings from Irish History, The Lordship of MacCarthy Mór" (London, 1925), referring to the House of Carberry posited that the MacCarthy Reaghs were ineligible for the succession of the crown of Desmond and that this exclusion represented part of a settlement:

"by which the posterity of Donnell Got (Donal II) while renouncing all claim to the kingship (of Desmond) were freed from dependence on the senior line".

Whilst this is very probable it is also highly likely that the Carberry branches rigorous exclusion from the Kingship was the result of attainder for regicide.

In 1306 King Donal IV of Desmond was brutally murdered by his cousin Donal Cairprech MacCarthy Reagh, Prince of Carberry and thereafter we find that the House of Carberry was rigorously excluded from the Kingship.

In Brehon law the Carberrys had committed the dread offence of 'Kin slaying' or fingal.  The laws and wisdom texts stress the horrendous nature of this crime.  Since in Brehon Law a killing was normally atoned for by payment to the victim's kin it was impossible to accommodate the particular crime of fingal into the Irish system of compensation.  Similarly the death could not be avenged by other members of the kin without themselves being guilty of fingal.  In a kin based society such as Ireland this crime held particular dangers and accordingly was subject to the heaviest sanction of the law.  In short, the House of Carberry was tainted and excluded in perpetuity from the Kingship.

Upon the death of Donal IX, one Florence MacCarthy of the Carberry branch did, despite the prohibition on his line, assert a claim to the Chiefship.  However his claim was inadmissible both under English law and Irish law.  This Florence had married The Lady Elena, daughter of Donal IX, who was in Irish Law a banchomarbae or female heir.  However, this merely entitled her to:

"a life interest in her father's lands normally she could not pass this land on to her husband or her sons: on her death, it reverted to her wider circle of kin".

The Lady Elena could neither succeed to her father's crown nor transmit any right of succession to her children, for the Irish observed strict Salic Tanistry.

Not only was Florence's family attainted, he was precontracted in marriage to the daughter of one Owen O'Sullivan.  In the eyes of The Roman Catholic Church, of which Florence was a member, precontract was an absolute obstacle to entering into a valid marriage with a third party.  As a result of this precontract Florence's marriage to the Lady Elena was bigamous and the resulting issue therefore illegitimate.  It should also be noted that the various branches of the Royal Family rejected utterly Florence's usurpation of the title MacCarthy Mór.

Again, it is widely assumed that this particular branch of the family is extinct.  However, even if it were not, at best they might be considered members of the Sept of MacCarthy Reagh.  Neither Florence nor his descendants ever acquired any legal entitlement to the title MacCarthy Mór; they remained members of their own distinct ancestral Sept.

3)     Heirs of Samuel Trant McCarthy

On July 1st 1921 Samuel Trant McCarthy adopted the surname 'MacCarthy Mór'.  In doing so he acquired the legal right of being addressed as Mr MacCarthy Mór.  He did not however by virtue of this legal sleight of hand acquire any right to the title MacCarthy Mór.  Samuel Trant McCarthy asserted his claim on the basis of primogeniture; his claim on that basis however was patently nonsensical.  Those interested should consult the open letter of the former MacCarthy Mór, Dr Terence MacCarthy, contained on the Clan Society North America website, where it is made immediately obvious that not only was Mr MacCarthy Mór not MacCarthy Mór by primogeniture but that he did not scruple to corrupt genealogical information to create that impression.

The Clan Society North America has indicated that the heirs of Mr MacCarthy Mór are recognised, by them, as able to make a claim to the title.  Why do they say the heirs when it is certain that this gentleman was not MacCarthy Mór by primogeniture nor ever claimed to be by tanistry? It is highly likely that more 'senior' by primogeniture branches of the Dunguile/Kerslawny branch of the family, of which Mr Trant McCarthy was a junior member, are still extant.  Of course, they will have made no attempt to exercise the Chiefship for decades, but then neither have the family of Mr MacCarthy Mór.  My family has attempted to solicit any evidence that the Trant McCarthy's have used the title (or surname) MacCarthy Mór since 1926.  No evidence has been produced that would support their use of the title or even the surname MacCarthy Mór.

By contrast, my own family has exercised the Chiefship over three generations (an absolute prohibition in Brehon Law to any alternative claim).  During that period we have made every effort to support our Clan and struggled to give them back that proud history which is their birthright.  We have published archival material, written books and lectured widely. The bench mark for any Gaelic Chief is their patronage of the arts, promotion of their Gaelic language and culture, their adherence to Brehon Law.  If we have failed in any of this it has not been for want of effort.  I think it would not be unfair to observe that my family has made every effort for our Clan.  Certainly it can hardly be disputed that Terence was a Chief who brought both energy and competency to the title.  Our exercise of Chiefship over the years has hardly been low profile; what then have the family of Mr Barry Trant McCarthy been doing these last few decades? What have they done to promote the Clan of which they believe themselves 'Chief'? Where is their record of good work? With years of tireless effort Terence helped to make the Clan MacCarthy what it is today: A proud clan with a proud history.  The institutions established or supported by Terence have flourished, their record of good work is second to none.  Yet, just when these institutions reach maturity and after years of silence from the Trant McCarthys, a retired English accountant announces that he is "MacCarthy Mór".  Odd then that he has done nothing whatsoever that might reasonably be expected of a Gaelic Chief and odd that it never occurred to him, years ago, to advance a claim.

A Gaelic Chief is not simply some hereditary ornament, he has obligations to his Clan and culture.  If he fails to give his Clan meaning and if he fails to promote Gaelic Ireland then he is simply an irrelevant anachronism, regardless of his descent.  I would prefer to see Gaelic Chiefship consigned to the dustbin of history than that it become a quasi-English institution, divorced from the very people and culture which gave it meaning.

I reiterate that the basis of the claim to the title MacCarthy Mór advanced by the heirs of Samuel Trant McCarthy is primogeniture, despite which fact it can be amply demonstrated that Mr Barry Trant McCarthy's great uncle Samuel was not MacCarthy Mór by primogeniture.  Mr Trant McCarthy's claim is erroneously advanced on the basis of English common law, which law utterly abolished the title of MacCarthy Mór.  Furthermore, the three generations of use of the title by my own family render any claim advanced under Brehon Law inadmissible.

The Clan Society has stated that their investigation is to:

"prevent the possibility of another such public scandal to taint the MacCarthy family"

In view of the above I would like to make it absolutely clear that in advancing their 'primogeniture' claim the heirs of Samuel Trant MacCarthy have at no time approached either the former MacCarthy Mór, Dr Terence MacCarthy, or any member of our family with a view to avoiding such a public scandal.  I understand that in advancing their 'claim' the heirs of Samuel Trant McCarthy did not trouble themselves to contact the officers of either the American or Irish Clan societies.  By appealing directly over the Clans leaders to a civil servant of the Irish Republic the heirs of Samuel Trant demonstrated a lack of common courtesy at least.  They have pursued their 'primogeniture claim' disregarding the fact not only that our dynasty never observed primogeniture but that Mr Barry Trant McCarthy's 'claim' on that basis is unsustainable from the evidence cited in his own great uncle's book.

I would also like to make it a matter of public record that a one Cormac Trant McCarthy, a close relative of the 'claimant' Mr Barry Trant McCarthy, in joining the Clan Society implicitly acknowledged Terence's prior claim, for if he did not many may consider him a hypocrite.  Whether the Clan would wish to have such a 'Chief' is best judged by the membership of the Clans themselves.

4)     Heirs of Donal MacCarthy, the "Base son", who was an illegitimate, but recognised son, of the last ruling King, King Donal IX MacCarthy Mór

Finally we come to Donal the base born.  To begin with it should be noted that in the entire history of the Kingdom of Desmond from 1118 to 1596 no illegitimate person ever ascended the throne.  This prohibition almost certainly stemmed from the practice of anointing the king with chrism at the coronation.  Canon law forbade the consecration of illegitimate males to the priesthood and as the kingship and priesthood were believed to be united in the Mixtae Persona of an anointed King the same regulation will have applied.

More crucially there is not the slightest doubt that, although Donal the base born was indeed recognised by his father, King Donal IX, it is also clear that the settlement of Castle Lough on him was intended to be of an exclusionary nature.  By accepting this inheritance the illegitimate son forfeited any other claims he might have enjoyed to the personal property of his father.  The provision in his father's will is clearly referred to in the patent rolls of King James I:

"Grant of the king to Donal MacCarthy, natural son of the late Earl of Clancare, of Castle Lough etc., with remainder to Donell his reputed son, and his male heirs… Ordered to give him all lands left him by his late father, 28 ploughlands, all of which the late Queen Elizabeth granted to him by patent of 21 June 1598, thereonot adjoining, with remainder to his reputed son Donal borne before marriage"

Once again I am bound to point out that not only is the line of Donal the base born considered to be extinct, even if it were not they would have no right whatever to the title of MacCarthy Mór.

Despite all the above, the Clan Society can of course approve whomsoever they wish as MacCarthy Mór.  However in doing so they should recognise that such 'approval' will have nothing whatever to do with the ancient Gaelic title MacCarthy Mór.  Quite simply the title devolves by dynastic successional laws which have governed it's descent for six hundred years.  Neither I nor the Clan Society North America has any power to alter these Laws.

"This then is Patrick's law and no mortal jurist among the Irish is competent to rescind anything he shall find in it".  The Senchas Mór.

I note that the commentary states:

"Conor MacCarthy has made a claim for the title MacCarthy Mór and has asked the Clan MacCarthy Society to both approve his claim and to publish his letter of claim in our website"

In fact, I have not asked the Clan MacCarthy Society to 'approve' my claim.  I have stated "I believe it is time that the wider Clan is notified of my succession to the title.  It is my earnest hope that members of the society will acknowledge the prior and exclusive right of the Derbhfine in the matter of the succession".  I would dearly love the Clan Society North America to acknowledge my position.  I have never attempted to subvert their wishes or deny them a voice but I cannot concede them the right either to promote a 'MacCarthy Mór' who is constitutionally ineligible or deny the derbhfine that choice which is it's by right.

I would also like herein to address a number of inaccuracies that have crept in to the Clan Societies eight questions.  Question four begins "Terence's family claims that the only evidence of the relationship of their family to the County Kerry Srugrena MacCarthy family, is that of a wedding register in Terence's own handwriting".  This is categorically not the case and we make no such claim.  I would refer interested parties to the statement of the MacCarthy Mór's solicitor dated 10th July 1999:

"By letter dated October 20th, 1998, I replied at length to the above mentioned letter of July 22nd, 1998.  This was a detailed reply of sixty one pages, supported by fifty one documents, including copies of original eighteenth century documents proving my clients connection with the Srugrena Sept, and a pedigree prepared on October 30th, 1905 for his grandfather by Sir Arthur Vicars, Ulster King of Arms".

No reply has been received to date from the Chief Herald nor any further documentation required.

The commentary also states "Terence McCarthy has claimed that his great grandfather was Daniel McCarthy".  In fact, our great grandfather was James MacCarthy not Daniel.  In consequence it will be necessary that the Clan Society rephrase their questions before a meaningful answer can be given.  To add to the confusion it continues "records show" that Terence's great grandfather was Bernard and not Daniel.  I believe that in this instance the Clan society commentary confuses Daniel with his son John, for of course the supposed ambiguity in the genealogy, to which they refer, relates to John rather than Daniel.  If indeed they do mean John then it should be noted that records do not show this, a single record widely known and dismissed as a misregistration over twenty years ago makes this error.  The 'Bernard' puzzle is not in any sense new information; indeed, it was well known to the Chief Heralds Gerard Slevin and Donal Begley.  Both considered it a misregistration by a notoriously remiss registrar.

The Clan Society has noted that "as far as we know" the derbhfine of our House includes Terence, our father and myself.  All my father's sons are included in the derbhfine, the Tanist Eóghan MacCarthy and my elder brother Thomas have registered their support.  Not a single voice has been raised against my Chiefship.

Finally, I would like to thank the Clan Society North America for this opportunity to publicly address the wider Clan.  I have attempted to correct the errors and inaccuracies contained in their commentary not by way of censure but simply to prepare the ground for a comprehensive answer to the eight questions posed.  Without these corrections any response I might supply would be unintelligible.  I will however endeavour to answer the eight questions as a matter of priority.  The Clan Society has very kindly provided me with a public forum and it is simply common courtesy to reply to the queries they raise.  In the meantime, should any member of the Clan Society wish to contact me they are free to do so, by mail, to The MacCarthy Mór, PO BOX 126, Belfast, N. Ireland, BT7 3JU.  I will endeavour to answer all correspondence personally and I would therefore ask those writing to be patient whilst awaiting a reply.

Yours Sincerely

Signature
The MacCarthy Mór, Prince of Desmond

Return to MacCarthy Mór webpage