Magrath Name History:
The name Magrath or MacGrath comes from the Irish MacCraith. From at least around 1000 AD, the MacGraths have been famous as bards (an hereditary role). In pre-Christian Ireland, the bards ranked second only to the nobility. Their role was the keeper of knowledge – they recorded events for history, often as poetry but also as prose or song, and used that knowledge to advise to the nobility and arbitrate in disputes. In battle, they took no part in the actual fighting but advised their lord and recorded events for posterity. They were so respected that if a lord killed an opposing bard his own men would probably turn against him. As late as the 16th century, the MacCraiths established a bardic school in Cahir, County Tipperary.
Until 1640, the MacGraths had substantial land holdings in Counties Tipperary and Waterford including at least fifteen castles*. But they were mostly dispossessed when Oliver Cromwell’s armies crushed the Rebellion of 1641. Many of the MacGraths who had lost land around Cashel settled in the nearby town of Clonoulty.
* Magrath castles included:
- Islandmagrath, on the west bank of the Fergus River south of Ennis, in Co. Clare
- McGrath Castle in Co. Donegal, near Pettigo
- Abbeyside McGrath Castle, built by Donal McGrath, before 1210 AD
- Ballynaquilkee McGrath Castle,
- Castlereigh (or Castlereagh) near Pigeon Hill,
- Fernane Castle near Mountain Castle but demolished,
- Castlecoscoran Castle
- Kilmanehan McGrath Castle, originally seized in 1565 by Rory McGrath,. This castle still survives alongside the River Suir
- Mountain Castle, the small central tower of which still survives on Mountain Castle Farm,
- Waterford Magrath’s Castle in Waterford City
Connection to Clonoulty
In 1641, Edmond Magrath owned 800 acres at Ballymore, parish of Clonoulty. His land was taken from him and he was transplanted to Clare during the Cromwellian transplantations. Edmond appealed his transplantation to Cromwell himself and received his 800 acres back but he remained in Clare, dying there in 1683.
Ballymore is separated from the parish of Moyaliffe to the north by the intervening parish of Clogher – the total distance between being only about 6 miles. In 1851 the Griffith’s Valuation there were 9 McGraths in the parish of Clogher and 12 Magraths in the adjoining parish of Moyaliff. (The difference in the spelling of the surname is probably due to the survey taker and doesn’t
reflect the true spelling of the surname)
Edmond Magrath was the grandson of Miler Magrath who was infamous for being both a Catholic Bishop and Protestant Bishop at the same time. When Henry V111 confiscated Catholic Church property, Miler, who was a Catholic Bishop, accepted an appointment as a Bishop, and then Archbishop, in the Church of Ireland. He remained a prelate in both Churches for nine years. Miler amassed large land holdings which were inherited by his sons and grandsons who were living at the time of his death (aged 100).