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An elderly journalist I once knew confided in me one of the 'secrets of his trade.' "The easiest way to destroy the reputation of any person, no matter how innocent he or she may be," he said, "is to tell the absolute truth about them." I disputed this, naively asserting that no innocent person need ever fear the truth. In reply he asked, "Haven't you heard of the 'Christ treatment?" A few days later he gave me a copy of a spoof article he had written to demonstrate otherwise. Under a banner heading: "BOGUS KING EXPOSED AND CRUCIFIED" and dated Passover A.D. 33 he had written:
"On Friday last, Jesus Christ, an itinerant carpenter and leader of a cannibalistic sect, was crucified for falsely claiming to be 'King of the Jews.' During the court proceedings a professional genealogist proved to the satisfaction of the High Priest and leading members of the Clergy that far from being descended from the Royal House of David, Christ, who was born in a filthy stable surrounded by stinking animals, was the illegitimate son of an unmarried woman called Mary. As a minor, she had run off to live with an elderly carpenter old enough to be her father. Christ, 33, an unmarried vagrant of no fixed abode, was the leader of a gang of a dozen 'hand picked' young men, many of whom are 'unattached,' the others having abandoned their wives and families. John, the youngest member of this single sex gang, is only 16 years old. Christ called him his "beloved"! Another close associate of this dangerous criminal was the notorious prostitute Mary Magdalene. .. ."
The truth is therefore never absolute, rarely simple, and almost always capable of being so twisted that it becomes to all intents and purposes the most monstrous lie.
In the June 20th, 1999 edition of the Sunday Times in an article entitled "Chief's Reign May Be Over", published in the Irish Edition, I was given the 'Christ Treatment'. A journalist, coached by people with a vested interest in destroying my credibility not only as MacCarthy Mór, but also as a moral individual, wrote his version of the truth about my background, ancestry, and claim to the Chiefship and criminal connections. It was a thoroughly vicious and venomous attack, unbalanced and, I hope to those who know me, unbelievable.
Following the publication of the article in question I sought legal advice on how to obtain redress. I have been told that to sue the Sunday Times, one of Ireland's leading newspapers and therefore one of the richest, would cost at least [sterling]250,000 and take up to three years to bring to Court. I do not have such resources available to me, nor do I wish to put my family through such a protracted period of worry and doubtless further attacks on me, and them. Having instructed my solicitor to lodge a complaint with the 'Press Complaints Commission' I have decided, in addition, to make the following public response to the Sunday Times article.
A number of minor peccadilloes are ascribed to me including the accusation that I am often addressed as 'Royal Highness' and have received a number of Orders and Decorations from Royal Families. As many people are aware I have often, and in public, rebuked people for using the term 'Royal Highness' in addressing me, not because I believe that Gaelic Princes are not of equal rank with European ones, but simply because the style is un-Gaelic and lacks cultural relevance. As to receiving Orders and Decorations, I have indeed, but they have been granted, in many cases, not out of consideration of any hereditary rank I assert, but in recognition of merit or charitable works.
The article further alleged that there is no evidence that I have any connection with 'the MacCarthys of County Kerry.' No evidence that is but family papers, including many eighteenth-century letters relating to our cousins, the O'Mahonys of Dunloe, from Colonel William MacCarthy of Srugrena (died 1831), and documents concerning the MacCarthys of Ardcanaght.
I am also 'accused' of granting feudal titles, a right which the present Chief Herald has decided, without informing me, or my solicitor, to repudiate. The article does not make it clear that I was first approached by Burke's Peerage in 1988, at the suggestion of the then Chief Herald, with a request to sell them feudal titles. To ensure the propriety of my actions I sought and obtained the written permission of the then Chief Herald before making any decision to grant any titles (letter dated June 16th, 1988). Furthermore the Chief Herald confirmed, again in writing, that I enjoyed such a right, under the Irish Constitution, to Mr. Harold Brooks-Baker, the publishing editor of Burke's Peerage (letter dated November 3rd, 1988). And so I am accused of the unforgivable crime of acting on the written advice of the Chief Herald of Ireland who furthermore recorded one such grant, made to an Irish citizen, in the Official Records of his Office under his hand and seal.
One of the most distressing aspects of the article was the assertion that my late brother, Anthony, was murdered in an I.N.L.A. (Irish National Liberation Army) feud and that he had been a member of the I.R.A. in the 1970s. Whilst it is true that my elder brother was a republican and a nationalist (and had many friends of a similar outlook), for which reasons he declined to succeed my father as MacCarthy Mór in 1980, I do not believe that he was ever a member of any illegal organisation. Furthermore, the journalist was well aware of the fact, because I brought it to his attention, that the R.U.C. (Royal Ulster Constabulary) denied that there was any evidence to substantiate such an assertion. This was confirmed by the Coroner at my brother's inquest:
"The Coroner, Mr. John Lecky, said that all the evidence indicated that Anthony McCarthy had no connection with any terrorist organisation and, as an innocent victim it is a terrible tragedy for his family and widow." (The Irish Times, October 10th, 1987, p. 9)
"As the detective police inspector gave evidence Mr. Thomas McCarthy stood up and complained to the deputy coroner. He said that he resented the implication that his brother was killed as part of the feud. The inspector later said Mr. Anthony McCarthy was known to be Steenson's friend, but he had no criminal record and was not known to be associated with any terrorist organisation. . . (The Belfast Telegraph, October 10th, 1987, p. 5)
Despite the fact that I drew these reports to the attention of the journalist, and despite the published statement of an R.U.C. Detective Police Inspector that my brother was not a member of any illegal organisation, Mr. John Burns asserted the contrary in his Sunday Times article. In doing so he has placed the lives of my late brother's widow, and four children, the youngest of whom is only eleven years old (he was born posthumously, on the day of his father's inquest, the same day my mother died of a brain hemorrhage) at risk, as they still live in Northern Ireland.
But, having vindicated my brother's reputation, I should make it clear that I would not be in the least embarrassed if he had been a member of a militant Republican organisation. Since the advent of the Anglo-Normans in Munster in 1171, until the collapse of the kingdom on the death of King Donal IX MacCarthy Mór in 1596, all of my ancestors were deemed 'terrorists' by the English. The present Republic of Ireland was founded by such 'terrorists', as indeed were both of its main political parties. Mr. Gerry Adams, M.P., is widely believed to have been a prominent member of the I.R.A. over many years. He will shortly become a Minister in the new Northern Ireland Assembly. That I loved my brother, and was in no way ashamed of him, is demonstrated by the fact that I dedicated my work entitled One Thousand Royal and Noble Ancestors of the House of MacCarthy Mór to his memory in 1988. It carried forewords by John P.B. Brooke Little, then Norroy and Ulster King of Arms, and by Donal F. Begley, the then Chief Herald.
If I am not my brother's keeper, nor am I my kinsman's. To unravel an incident wherein he, a former R.U.C. Reservist, who received the Service Medal, appalled by the force's sectarianism, left it at the same time as he refused to join the Masonic Order, came to be charged with 'blackmail' would occupy more space than a simple letter would allow. But I should like to point out that he pleaded guilty to the charges brought against him, he was not found guilty by a jury which had examined and sifted evidence! If he were truly guilty, he would have been punished by imprisonment. He should not be held up to public odium just as a convenient means of attacking me. I will let those who know him judge his character, and whether it is consistent with the charges which were brought against him. But I, having known him since childhood, did not believe them and I was honoured to have his mother come to live under my protection during that terrible time. Now he, an insulin dependant diabetic, and his aged mother, are forced to witness a thirteen year old scandal exhumed to their mortification simply so that my character can be attacked "by association."
The journalist makes much of the fact that my grandfather and predecessor as MacCarthy Mór was described as a 'labourer' in his marriage certificate. My grandfather, Thomas Donal, was an extremely eccentric gentleman who throughout his life followed many occupations in many different countries. His father, James, who had been a Marine Broker (a dealer in maritime supplies), died when Thomas Donal was nine years old. The boy was sent to France where he was educated by his relatives. At the age of sixteen he ran away from Toulouse, returned to England, and joined the 8th Hussars! At eighteen he was posted to South Africa where he fought in the Boer War, between 1900 - 1903, receiving the King's and Queen's South Africa Medals with 'clasps': 'Cape Colony', 'Orange Free State', and 'Transval' (details provided by the Ministry of Defence, OS9A, under ref: 78/36250/OS9A1/1). In 1905 he returned to France where he was recognised by his French kinsmen as MacCarthy Mór, his pedigree having been proved to their full satisfaction by Sir Arthur Vicars, Ulster King of Arms on October 30th, 1905. In 1914 he enlisted again, and served throughout the First World War receiving the Trio of Campaign medals, and a mention in despatches.
The fact that my grandfather was a 'common soldier' and a 'labourer' (one might well add fireman, and seaman, which he was, at various times - at others, being in receipt of money from France, he simply traveled for pleasure) is held up as 'proof' that he could not have been MacCarthy Mór and that his French relatives would never have accepted him as such. How does one address such essentially English middle class views of Gaelic values? Perhaps by citing apposite examples from the published histories of other Gaelic Chiefly Houses!
It is impossible, my critics maintain, that a person of 'mean occupation' could be an Irish Chief, and preserve, in so far as he could, a sense of that Chiefship or heirlooms vested in it. In reply I should cite the evidence of Sir Bernard Burke, Ulster King of Arms and the founder of the world famous 'Burke's Peerage.' In his work Vicissitudes of Families and Other Essays (London, 1860), he devotes an entire chapter to the 'House of MacCarthy More' (pages 162-170) and writes of one claimant:
"One MacCarthy, a poor farmer in the County of Cork, who deemed himself, and perhaps correctly, the rightful heir of the Kings of Desmond, kept up in his humble homestead, all the semblance of Royal State that his lowly condition would permit. His simple meals were supplied at a table apart from the rest of his family, a custom invariably followed in olden time, when The MacCarthy More held regal sway." (p. 168)
Other examples may be cited of Gaelic Princes, ruined by the Penal Laws, forced into 'mean employments.' In the same work, Burke refers to the heir of the Princes of Clanaboy in the following passage:
"Sir Francis O'Neill, sixth baronet, the descendant of a race of Kings . ..rents a small cabin of four rooms, and keeps in it a small huckster's shop and dairy, the produce of two cows, while his two horses and carts, the last remnant of his stock, attended by his second son John, cart flour from the mills of Slane to Dublin. . . Sir Francis grew up in poverty, but fortunately received a fair mercantile education. He enlisted [as a common soldier], when about eighteen years in the Lough Militia . . .He now resides with his eldest son, Francis O'Neill, a coffin maker." (Op. Cit., Burke, pages 158-160).
In an essay on the Maguires, Princes of Fermanagh, Burke traces the family to Charles Maguire: "a common sailor" (Op.cit., p. 185) and so on. As to aristocratic kinsmen abandoning such claimants, again we may cite Burke's account of the support, moral and financial, given to the above mentioned Sir Francis O'Neill by his distant Protestant kinsman John, 1st Viscount O'Neill:
"In that humble cottage the aged and poverty stricken baronet was visited in May, 1798 by John, the first Viscount O'Neill, and his two sons, Charles and John, the late Earl and the last Viscount . . .for John, the first Lord O'Neill, princely in mind and he was exalted in station, never turned his face from a poor relation." (Op.cit., Burke, p. 158)
And as for the tenacity with which impoverished Gaelic families guarded their heirlooms one need only cite the catalogue of the National Museum of Ireland which again and again lists the fact that such-and-such a treasure was purchased in the nineteenth or twentieth century for the collection from its 'Hereditary Keeper,' more often than not a poor peasant. A further well known example concerns the gold Crown of Leinster. Burke writes:
"Through all of their vicissitudes [the MacMorrough Kavanaghs] clung to and preserved one cherished emblem of their Royal Ancestry, the ancient gold crown which had in earlier times been a symbol of their kingly state. Bit by bit their broad lands passed from them; confiscation worked its way and in due course the senior line was denuded of every acre. The gold crown alone remained and this no bribe, no inducement, could tempt them to part with, and although obliged to sell piecemeal the remnants of their land. . ..the crown was still retained and treasured by them." (Sir Bernard Burke, Vicissitudes of Families, Reminiscences Ancestral, Anecdotal and Historic, pp. 329 - 330)
If the MacMorrough Kavanaghs, reduced to penury, would not sell their golden crown, why would my grandfather have sold off a worthless (i.e., not a precious metal) copper gilt diadem or ring? All of these examples I have cited merely to establish that although deliberately and systematically degraded by the penal laws (a Roman Catholic couldn't even attend University until 1848) the heirs to the Gaelic Chiefs continued to regard themselves as true Princes and to preserve their culture and heirlooms irrespective of the 'mean occupations' they were forced into. It is equally true that some Irish Chiefs lived in luxury and held high offices throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. But they purchased these privileges by abandoning their Clans, betraying their God, their Country, and themselves. Whatever posts they held, they were in very truth 'mean occupations.'
Continuing his attack, the journalist, Mr. Burns, referred to my father as a 'professional dancer.' He was indeed a Fellow of the Imperial, and a Fellow of the National Societies of Teachers of Dancing, and was widely acclaimed as the leading exponent of Ballroom and Latin American dancing in Ireland. He frequently judged International Competitions, and his pupils repeatedly won the 'All Ireland Professional Trophy.' He also owned two night clubs, the 'Tudor Hall' and the 'Club Cordova,' but both were bombed and closed in the early 1970s. That he was also MacCarthy Mór, from his father's death until his abdication in 1980 in my favor is supported by many sworn affidavits.
In his article Mr. Burns appears to imply that I have only recently, for convenience sake, preached the doctrine of Tanistry. That this is not so is proven not merely by my many lectures and published works over many years, but also by the fact that on September 26th, 1989 (two and one half years prior to my formal recognition), in a letter to the then Chief Herald, Mr. Donal F. Begley, I openly stated:
"You are well aware that, in International Law, you have absolutely no jurisdiction over Gaelic titles since you are the Officer of a Successor State, a Republic, which makes no provision for the creation of titles. The 'List of Chiefs' was compiled by MacLysaght without any precedent in the annals of Ulster Office. It was an innovation based on an absolute ignorance of the Gaelic system of Chiefship since it made the various recognitions on the basis of male line primogeniture descent from the last inaugurated Chief of the Name. What utter rubbish! You well know that this was at total variance with the Gaelic system of succession and that MacLysaght had no right to pervert the law of succession in this case any more than he could have drawn up a list of Irish Peers descended by Tanistry. . . I personally believe that the whole concept of a 'List of Recognised Chiefs' is unconstitutional . . . [However] the fact is that this list exists and as much as I deplore it I must seek to be included, unless, better still, it is abolished! . . .For my part I inform you that I will not accept:
1. A 'Probationary recognition'
2. A recognition tied to primogeniture
In Gaelic Law, which determines the matter, I can truthfully claim to be the only possible MacCarthy Mór since (1) I am of 'the blood'; (2) I was appointed by Tanistry; (3) my family has exercised the Chiefship through 3 generations which thereby excludes any other branch, even if one existed. The matter cannot be judged by primogeniture because that would be unlawful, unnatural and totally inappropriate."
If the present Chief Herald claims that I was recognized by Primogeniture then he is either ignorant of the facts, or a fool. The Collins Concise Dictionary of the English Language (London, 1983) defines primogeniture as "In Law: the right of an eldest son to succeed to the estate of his ancestor to the exclusion of all others." But at the time of my recognition in January 1992 I was sixth in line of primogeniture in my branch of the MacCarthy family, for my father and four nephews, the children of my deceased elder brother, were all still living, and known to the Office. Furthermore it must be evident that the Office knowing that my father was living, would have been obliged to recognise him as MacCarthy Mór unless they accepted both the fact of his abdication and appointment of me as his heir by tanistry to the exclusion of his elder son and grandchildren!
But now I must turn once again to address Mr. Burns' article. In it he asserts that a Mr. Barry Trant McCarthy, and Englishman living in Wiltshire, is the senior heir of Samuel Trant McCarthy, the last "recognised MacCarthy Mór." It is true that Mr. Barry Trant McCarthy is the great nephew of the latter individual, but it is absolutely untrue that Samuel Trant McCarthy was either MacCarthy Mór by primogeniture or 'recognised' by the Ulster King of Arms or any other heraldic office. Quite simply, he adopted the surname 'MacCarthy Mór' by Deed Poll in 1921. He died without surviving male issue in 1927. No evidence has been produced, despite the request of my solicitor, that any member of that family subsequently assumed the 'surname' in question. Indeed in the article Mr. Barry Trant McCarthy rather disingenuously states that he doesn't know what he would do with the title if he is given it! This has not prevented his supporters from assisting him by tarnishing my good name and reputation, by mud raking, the circulation of anonymous letters, and by attempting to prejudice public opinion via the press.
Mr. Barry Trant McCarthy claims that he is 'MacCarthy Mór' by primogeniture. He is not! Any claim advanced on such a basis is not only nonsense, but exposes him to public ridicule as being ignorant of the very laws of succession of the MacCarthy Mór Dynasty, and his own descent therefrom.
In order to facilitate the appearance of being MacCarthy Mór by primogeniture, Mr. Barry Trant McCarthy's great uncle did not hesitate to corrupt genealogical evidence, simply 'leaving out' any one with a 'superior' claim from the pedigrees he published in The MacCarthys of Munster (Dundalk Press, 1922). The first to fall victim to his pruning knife were Kings Donal II (reg. 1247-52), Finghin V (reg. 1252-61), Cormac V (1261-62), Donnchad IV (reg. 1306-10), and Dermod III (reg. 1320-26) of Desmond, for to include them would have exposed the lie that the title descended by primogeniture. But he went further still. He suppressed evidence of the existence of branches of the dynasty with better 'primogeniture' claims than his own. Thus, in the last paragraph of page 300 of his family history he refers to his ancestor Cormac as having three sons, Donal, Callaghan, and Cormac, and then proceeds to trace his descent from the second implying, by his silence, that the first died without issue. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Donal in question had issue, at least three sons, Donagh, Teige and Donal Oge (all included in the pedigree of the family prepared by Sir Neville Wilkinson, Ulster King of Arms, and on record in the College of Arms, London, and the Chief Herald's Office, Dublin), all of whom left descendants.
Nor is it the case that all of these various branches of the Dunguile/Kerslawny family died out in the seventeenth century, or that they disappeared without trace. In The Houses of Kerry (Ballinakella Press, 1994, page 81), Mrs. Valerie Bary traces the descendants of these elder lines to Florence MacCarthy, the Chief of the Sept, living in 1839 at Cloonmore Cottage, Castlemaine, Co. Kerry. She writes:
"The family was always referred to, locally, as the MacCarthy Mór, being closest in blood to the MacCarthys of Pallis at the extinction of that line. Florence of Cloonmore married Mary O'Mahony. . ..[They] had six boys and one girl. . . The six boys were all said to have been over six feet in height and great sportsmen. They entered the British Army, or emigrated to America..."
These six sons, born in the 1840s, were all contemporaries of Mr. Samuel Trant McCarthy (b. 1843) and yet very strangely he never referred to them in his book. Nor were they the only representatives of the senior line of Dunguile. Mrs. Bary also cites the fact that Florence had several younger brothers, Jeremiah, who was living at Clougherbrien House in 1839 (p. 82) and Daniel, who resided at Dunguile House (p. 177). Again Samuel Trant McCarthy simply ignored their inconvenient existence because they totally disproved and discredited his 'primogeniture' pretensions to the title 'MacCarthy Mór.' Nor does this exhaust his pruning of the family tree!
At pages 300-301 of his book Mr. Samuel Trant McCarthy refers to his ancestor, Callaghan (died 1613) as being the father of two sons, Donal, the elder, and Cormac, the younger and then traces his descent from the latter. Again the implication is that Donal died without issue. Again the implication is untrue for many of the MacCarthys of Cahersiveen, County Kerry, claim to descend from him.
Mr. Samuel Trant McCarthy also claimed (page 301) that his grandfather, Samuel McCarthy, Senior, was the only son of Daniel MacCarthy and Frances Blennerhasset. This too appears to be untrue for there is evidence to suggest that Samuel Trant McCarthy, Senior, was in fact a younger son. In The Houses of Kerry, already cited, Mrs. Bary, discussing the totally baseless assumption of the title of MacCarthy Mór in 1921 by the late Samuel Trant McCarthy states:
"In 1921, during the upheaval of the [Irish] Civil War, Samuel Trant McCarthy strangely claimed by deed poll, the title of MacCarthy Mór. This could have been disputed by two more senior lines . . .In fact there had been a bitter correspondence in a Kerry newspaper, from members of the Srugrena Sept, who contested the seniority of Samuel Trant's grandfather. This was never resolved. It is probable that heirs exist for the senior Dunguile line, and perhaps even a junior line of MacCarthy Mór."
If Mr. Samuel Trant McCarthy, Senior, was the only son of Daniel McCarthy and Frances Blenerhasset, how are we to explain the fact that when his grandson assumed the title by deed poll in 1921 other claimants disputed his entitlement on the basis of the purported seniority of the former? The only conclusion is that Samuel Senior was not only not the sole son of that marriage, but a junior one!
It is evident from all these references that the pedigree published by Mr. Samuel Trant McCarthy in 1922 is utterly worthless, grossly inaccurate, and was willfully distorted by him, for is how self interest. He was not the heir by primogeniture, nor ever claimed to be by Tanistry. His claim was therefore based on nothing but genealogical deceit and ambition. Nor did he prove to be a 'good steward' of the family's only remaining property, the Srugrena Abbey estate. This he sold off in the same year he adopted the surname!
In The MacCarthys of Munster, Mr. Samuel Trant McCarthy, on pages 61-97, traces the descent of the title of MacCarthy Mór, following the death of King Donal IX in 1596, through his son in law, Florence MacCarthy, the husband of the Lady Elena MacCarthy (Mór). He refers to Florence and his descendants as legitimate MacCarthy Mórs, raising no objection to their claims to legally enjoy that title. But this line of the dynasty is not extinct, as is widely assumed. And, what is more, Samuel Trant McCarthy was well aware of that fact. On page 91 he states that Charles MacCarthy, "the last MacCarthy Mór. . .died unmarried at Putney on 13th March 1770." The use of the phrase "the last MacCarthy Mór" and the reference to Charles being unmarried should not deceive the unwary into assuming that the descendants of Florence and the Lady Elena MacCarthy expired in 1770, although that was clearly the impression Samuel Trant wished to convey. But at page 92 he refers to Justin MacCarthy, the younger brother of Charles 'MacCarthy Mór' to whom the title would have passed by primogeniture despite which, on page 93, Samuel Trant states "From the death of Charles MacCarthy, the title of MacCarthy Mór was in abeyance for 151 years until July 1921, when it was revived by the writer of this history."! Three pages later (p. 96) he admits that Justin left issue, a son Randal whose line "is still extant [in 1922], and we are informed that a lineal descendant of his exists at the present day in the person of Mr. Samuel MacCarthy, Builder & Contractor, of Cahirciveen" (not to be confused with Mr. Barry Trant McCarthy's great uncle, Samuel Trant McCarthy). On page 97 he refers to another branch of this same family stating that one John MacCarthy, "was, in 1887, living in Cincinnati, with six surviving children."
That the line of descent from Florence MacCarthy [Mór] and his wife Lady Elena MacCarthy, daughter of King Donal IX (died 1596) is extant, and that this fact was known to Mr. Samuel Trant McCarthy in 1921 is beyond dispute. That he was not the senior representative of the Srugrena Sept, let alone of Dunguile, is also beyond dispute. Therefore he was not MacCarthy Mór by primogeniture - the very basis upon which Mr. Barry Trant McCarthy now asserts his claim!
Having held my title for twenty years, during which I have published and lectured widely, and attended numerous Clan Gatherings, I have met many individuals who claimed to be MacCarthy Mór by 'primogeniture.' Many had a better entitlement than this would-be rival. That the Genealogical Office has long been aware of such claims is not in question. In Irish Families, Their Names, Arms and Origins (1972), Dr. Edward MacLysaght, the first Chief Herald of Ireland, wrote:
"A search for nearly 120 years for the descendants of an earlier MacCarthy Mór has, in 1957, at last been successful and one junior branch has been traced to Montreal."
This branch was represented in 1976 by a Mr. Ivan McCarthy of Montreal. In a letter addressed to Captain Mingo Sweeney of Bolgers Park, on March 26th of that year, Mr. Ivan McCarthy confirmed that he was descended from:
"a younger son of Randal McCarthy who had to sell his property over 200 years ago - now the Lake Hotel at Killarney."
This letter was copied in March 1976 by Captain Sweeney of Bolgers Park to the then Chief Herald, Mr. Gerard Slevin. It was Mr. Slevin who, three years earlier registered my pedigree, and at the same time identified me to several persons as the true MacCarthy Mór by tanistry. This fact is supported by sworn affidavits. Nor, very curiously, was my pedigree challenged during the lifetime of the only competent Chief Herald Ireland has ever had, the notoriously cautious Gerard Slevin (who died in 1997).
It is a well known fact that I have constantly opposed the pretensions of the Chief Herald of Ireland to have any lawful jurisdiction over Gaelic titles. At the inaugural meeting of the Standing Council of Irish Chiefs and Chieftains, in October 1991, I repudiated the Chief Herald's claim. My statement was minuted. This was three months before I was 'officially recognised' by the Office! Subsequently I continued my attacks on the Chief Herald variously in lectures, articles, memorials to the Standing Council, and finally in my book, Ulster's Office 1552-1800: An Administrative History of the Office of Arms from the Tudor Plantations to the Act of Union (see pages 232-240). As a result of this book, and my expressed intention of writing a follow-up on the Chief Herald's Office, many people contacted me with complaints concerning that Office. In two cases allegations of serious financial mismanagement, or possibly fraud, were made. I drew these to the attention of the Chief Herald in October 1997. In February of 1998 I was notified of Mr. Barry Trant McCarthy's 'claim.'
Regarding Mr. Barry Trant McCarthy's claim, it is evident that it is patent nonsense to say that he is, by primogeniture rights, 'MacCarthy Mór,' not only because the dynasty never followed that law, but also because his great uncle, Samuel Trant McCarthy, clearly wasn't entitled to assume the surname 'MacCarthy Mór' on that basis. A number of features concerning the prosecution of the 'claim' are curious. Mr. Barry Trant McCarthy, a retired accountant living in Wiltshire, is represented by Mr. Douglas Way of Plean, an Edinburgh solicitor. Might it not strike some people as somewhat odd that a gentleman living in Southern England should retain a solicitor living in Scotland, to prosecute his claim to an Irish title? It may be entirely coincidental that Mr. Way of Plean is a close associate of an American gentleman, resident in Ireland, called Major Scott MacMillan, or, as often as not, His Excellency The Baron of Rathdown, who is, or was until lately, the Chancellor to The O'Conor Don, Prince of Connacht, and of 'The Companionage of the Royal House of Connacht,' a recently invented 'dynastic honour' of that family. The same Major MacMillan is, I am informed, a Herald-Consultant in the Chief Herald's Office. He lives in County Wicklow, not far from Mr. Sean Murphy, the genealogist whose opinions were cited by the Sunday Times article. It is of course a small world and such a coincidence of friendships and locations do not necessarily indicate an active conspiracy, even if supported by sworn affidavits of continuous leaks from the Office of Arms, etc.
At the time of my recognition in January 1992 I was assured by way of verbal contract by the then Chief Herald that if no counter-claim were made against my title within three years that none would be entertained during my lifetime. That 'probationary period' ended in January 1995. Mr. Barry Trant McCarthy's claim was not notified to me until February 1998. This same condition and contract was imposed on the present O'Ruairc of Breifne, Maguire of Fermanagh, O'Long of Garranelongy and McDonnell of the Glens. In even entertaining the claim of Mr. Barry Trant McCarthy, the Office demonstrates its bad faith. Nor have the constant leaks made by it over the past two years, attested in sworn affidavits, enhanced its reputation.
I will never abdicate or renounce my title in favour of a 'primogeniture claimant,' not because I am anxious to cling to something which has never brought me any pleasure, indeed, on the contrary it has rather destroyed my life, but because it is simply wrong to do so. It is wrong to admit that the Chief Herald, a mere civil servant of a Republic, has any right to alter the successional laws of Gaelic Ireland any more than he could those governing the Irish Peerages created by the English Crown. It is wrong to disenfranchise the members of the Derbhfine. It is wrong to deprive the Clan itself of some say in who should be their recognised Chief.
Furthermore it is an accepted principle of Law, in every jurisdiction, that Judges must disqualify themselves in their own causes. Given my years of opposing the Office's pretensions it is clearly an interested party. Nor will I stoop to prove again a pedigree proven on many different occasions to the satisfaction of two former Chief Heralds, Italian Courts, and several other Kings of Arms. This would be particularly absurd and repugnant given the fact that Mr. Barry Trant McCarthy's 'primogeniture claim' rests on the tissue of genealogical evasions, distortions, and downright lies published by his great uncle, Samuel Trant McCarthy in 1922.
No one who deems themselves an expert in nobiliary law would maintain that the holder of any hereditary title can alter the form of succession of that honour at will. This very principle was recently upheld in my own case by two Italian court verdicts. The title 'MacCarthy Mór' has always descended by tanistry. Any examination of the successional lists of the Kings of Desmond who reigned between 1118 and 1596, or their Eóghanacht ancestors and predecessors the Kings of Munster who reigned between A.D. 150 and 1118, will confirm this fact. Three of the leading Gaelic historians, having examined the MacCarthy Mór pedigrees, concluded:
"In practice it often happened that if a Chief was long lived and survived all of his younger brothers, his son would qualify [for the succession] thus introducing a form of pseudo primogeniture which has led some writers to the mistaken conclusion as to the existence of true primogeniture among such families as, for example, MacCarthy Mór. . ." (Drs. K. Nicholl, K. Lyden and M. MacCurtain, Gaelic and Gaelicised Ireland in the Middle Ages, Dublin, 1972, p. 27)
That my family never accepted primogeniture is also clearly demonstrated by the fact that almost a full century after the death of the last King of Desmond, Donal IX MacCarthy Mór in 1596, the rival branches of the dynasty still disputed who was his heir invoking the laws of tanistry. The Annals of the Four Masters (ed. de Burca Books, Dublin, 1991, pp. 1194-1195) reproduce in full a document known as Carbriae Notitia, composed in 1686 and discussing at length the disputed MacCarthy Mór succession, it concluded by saying:
"That an Irish title and name must be governed by the Irish Law of Tanistry."
It is a matter of some regret to me, and surprise to many others, that at no time did Mr. Barry Trant McCarthy or his solicitor contact me directly, or any member of my family, nor, so far as I am aware, any officer of the several MacCarthy Clan Societies to notify me, or them, of his 'primogeniture claim.' Rather he has pursued a title, with which, by his own admission, he does not know what he would do if he were recognised, with a mindless obsession, disregarding the insurmountable historical facts that our family never observed primogeniture, and that his late great uncle's claim to the title is unsustainable on that basis from evidence cited in his own book! His supporters planted a highly defamatory article in a leading Irish newspaper in a well orchestrated attempt to destroy my personal reputation, and without regard for the personal safety of four children wherein whose father, my elder brother, is labeled as a terrorist. Whether Mr. Barry Trant McCarthy was privy to this attack I cannot say, but it most ultimately tarnish him for more than it does me. Already the President of the MacCarthy Clan Society of North America has informed me that neither he, nor that Society, will ever recognise him as Chief, irrespective of his pedigree, so utterly appalled are they by the manner in which he has pursued his 'claim.'
Oscar Wilde remarked "In olden days men had the rack, now we have the press." And indeed trial by tabloid journalism is a fact of life, as is the easy distribution of libel through those twin evils of Inter-Libel and Evil-Mail, to which so many devotees of computers give over their lives. One can only feel sad for people who have nothing better to do than to read libels or invent them.
Having replied at length to the Sunday Times article, I shall not comment again on this affair. I shall not answer any correspondence arising from this public statement, nor stoop to defend myself, or any member of my family, from any further defamatory attacks by self-interested troublemakers, self-acclaimed experts, scandalmongers or title hunters.
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