History of The MacHale Clan

Page 2
Page 3
The Clan MacHale (Clann Céile) has a long, documented history. The MacHales were historically erenaghs, coarbs, bishops and priests of the church, up through the 19th and 20th centuries. According to MacFirbis and O’Donovan, the Clan MacHale descended from the O’Maolfoghmhairs, erenaghs of Killala, County Mayo. The O’Maolfoghmhairs are said to have descended from Laoghaire, son of King Dathi, son of Eochaidh Breac (brother of Niall of the Nine Hostages). From Laoghaire come the Hy-Eachach of the Moy, of Sligo and Mayo. While MacFirbis refers to a MacHale family descended from Welsh Howells, the MacHale DNA project (see attachment) has not found any Welsh MacHales in the admittedly small but random sample to date.

The Clann Céile are also believed to have been local rulers of the Hy-Eachach of the Moy. (Hart, Irish Pedigrees) in Tirawley. This area includes the parish of Addergoole in the Barony of Tirawley, County Mayo. This area was the home of many MacHales as documented below. The Ordnance Survey map of 1838 (attached) shows a ring fort on the property of the MacHales in Cum Lahardaun called Lisaree, an Anglicization of Lios a Rí, Fort of the Kings. Unfortunately that fort was plowed under in the early 1900s by cousins who inherited the farm from Mary “Walts” McHale, daughter of William McHale and granddaughter of Walter McHale of Cum Lahardaun.

References from various books and Annals are included below where O’Maolfoghmhairs, Clann Céile and Mac Céles are mentioned. Also included are references from the Books of Survey and Distribution for land owned by the Clann Céile (called Clan Keale in the English text) that was transferred to a Bourke, as well as Flax Survey records of MacHales (some using the spelling MacKeale) in Mayo, the number of MacHales (and variations) in Mayo according to Griffiths Valuation, and church and census records of the immediate MacHale family of the writer.


FASTI ECCLESAE HIBERNICAE, The Succession of the Prelates and Members of the Cathedral Bodies in Ireland. Volume IV, The Province of Connaught.  Henry Cotton, D.C.L., Archdeacon of Cashel,  Dublin: Hodges and Smith, 1850.

“The See of Killala is believed to be one of those which owes its foundation to St. Patrick. One of his biographers relates, that in his progress through Connaught, he built a church at a pleasant place on the River Moy, and named it Kill-aladh. He appointed Muredach, one of his disciples, its first Bishop. This transaction must have taken place between the years 434 and 441.

In later times the prelates of this See were called by the territorial name, Bishops of “Tir-Amalgaid” (now Tyrawley); and sometimes of “Hy-Amalgaid,” or “Hy-Fiachra-mui”, from the families of the district in which Killala is situate.

Very few traces of its earlier prelates are now to be found.”  (Cotton,p.60)

“Succession of Bishops

A.D. 434-441(?) St. Muredach, a disciple of St. Patrick, and one of his companions, was appointed by him the first Bishop of his Church of Killala; and received consecration accordingly. We do not know the exact time of his appointment, nor how long he sat, nor who succeeded him for the next hundred years. O’Donovan is of opinion, that this Muireadach cannot have been the first Bishop, seeing that his received pedigree would place him nearly two centuries too late. (Hy-Fiachrach, p. 228) Perhaps there were two prelates of the same name.  (Cotton, p. 61)”

“534 to 544? Kellach, the son of a King of Connaught, is said to have been Bishop of Killala, between these years. “He was murdered by his fosterers, near a place called Adergoole, and the murderers were torn in pieces by wild horses.” (Harris.)   (Cotton, p. 61)”

“During this long hiatus in the line of prelates of Killala, we hear (from the poet Giolla Iosa Mor Mac Firbis), of seven Bishops of one noted family, the O’Maolfoghmhairs, descendants of King Laoghgaire, monarch of Ireland, in the fifth century; who according to O’Donovan, were the Herenachs, or hereditary wardens, of the church of Killala. Their names are as follows but we know nothing of the order of their incumbency.

v Mo Cele O’Maolfoghmhair
v Aengus Mac Cele (O’M)
v Muireacach Mac Cele (O’M)
v Aodh Mac Cele (O’M)
v Ainmtheach Mac Cele (O’M)
v Maolan Mac Cele (O’M)
v Flann Mac Cele (O’M)

“O’Donovan remarks that these Mac Celes “of the Clann Cele” were probably the family now called Mac Hale, p. 50.   (Cotton, p. 61-62)”

“1151. O’Maolfoghmhair (probably one of the above-named seven), “called Bishop of Tir Amalgaidh and O’Fiachrach,”, died. (Ware.) This name is now Anglicized into Milford. (O’Donovan.)   (Cotton, p.62)”.

Continue to Page 2