The Muintir Eolais of Conmaicne Réin, were nobles of Gaelic Ireland. For seven hundred years from the 8th century, they lived and ruled an area roughly conterminous to present-day south
County Leitrim County Leitrim ( ; gle, Contae Liatroma) is a Counties of Ireland, county in Republic of Ireland, Ireland. It is in the Provinces of Ireland, province of Connacht and is part of the Northern and Western Region. It is named after the village of ...
. Their territory comprised the lands named and , today the baronies of Leitrim and Mohill respectively. The Mag Raghnaill, O'Mulvey, and Mac Shanley rule became increasingly fragmented throughout the 16th century. The tuath of the Muintir Eolais collapsed with Irish defeat in the
Nine Years' War The Nine Years' War (1688–1697), often called the War of the Grand Alliance or the War of the League of Augsburg, was a conflict between France and a European coalition which mainly included the Holy Roman Empire (led by the Habsburg monarch ...
, and became largely forgotten with the English occupation of Ireland.

Rise of Muintir Eolais (c. 900AD)

The dynasty of Muintir Eolais originated with Eolais mac Biobhsach, chieftain of the Conmaicne circa 900AD. Little is known about Eolais. The word 'eolas' itself means 'knowledge' in the
Irish language Irish ( Standard Irish: ), also known as Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Insular Celtic branch of the Celtic language family, which is a part of the Indo-European language family. Irish is indigenous to the island of Ireland and wa ...
. After his death his followers and territory are known as the ''Muintir Eolais'' (people/descendants of Eolas).

Founding families

The principal Muintir Eolais families were Mac Raghnaill's, with castles at
Lough Rynn Rinn Lough (, also ), also known as Lough Rynn, is a freshwater lake in the northwest of Ireland. It is located in south County Leitrim. Geography Rinn Lough measures about long and wide. It is located about south of Mohill. Lough Rynn Ca ...
, Lough Scur, and Leitrim Village, the O'Mulvey sept of Maigh Nissi, O'Moran of AttyRory, Mac Shanley's of Dromod, and the Mac Garry sept. O'Hart states Eolais had at least three sons- "Brocan" was ancestor of Shanley, "Anbeith" was ancestor of Mac Garry, and "Maolmuire" was both lord of Conmaicne Réin and ancestor of Mag Raghnaill ("Reynolds"), and all were related to the ancestors of Quinn and Farrell of Longford. Image:Inscription on the 10th-century tombstone of Ódhrán of Muintir Eolais.jpg, 'Pray for Ódhrán, descendant of Eolas' Image:Mac Raghnaill Castle1.JPG, Castle at Lough Rinn Image:Mac Raghnaill Castle2.JPG, Castle at Lough Rinn Image:Mac Raghnaill Castle 3.JPG, Castle at Lough Rinn


Invasion (1245)

Muintir Eolais was briefly occupied during the
Norman invasion of Ireland The Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland took place during the late 12th century, when Anglo-Normans gradually conquered and acquired large swathes of land from the Irish, over which the kings of Kingdom of England, England then claimed sovereignty ...
. According to the
Irish Annals A number of Irish annals, of which the earliest was the Chronicle of Ireland, were compiled up to and shortly after the end of the 17th century. Annals were originally a means by which monks determined the yearly chronology of feast days. Over ...
-"". Moy-Nissi on the eastern side of the Shannon river, was the Irish name given to the barony of Leitrim. The Anglo-Normans were known as clann Costello ( ga, Mac Goisdealbh).

Expulsion (1247)

In 1247 the Anglo-Normans were defeated by Ó Conchobair and MacRaghnaill forces. The Anglo-Norman Clann Costello were expelled from Muintir Eolais. The entries in the Annals of Lough Ce for 1245 and 1247 suggest a decisive defeat of Mac Costello ("De Angulo" or "Nangle"), and halted Norman claims to the territory of Muintir Eolais (until 1551AD, see below).

Battle of AthanChip (1270)

In 1270AD the Anglo-Normans were again defeated by the Irish forces of Connacht at the Battle of Áth an Chip. MacNamee states "". The battle occurred at Drumhierney townland in Muintir Eolais. roughly meaning the "ridge of the Lord or Master". See also Tierney., name=drumhierney In Irish "Ath-an-cip" means a fording point on a river, and battle-bridge marks a shallow fording point on the Shannon connecting Drumhierney ( Leitrim village) with Battlebridge (county Roscommon) townlands.

Fall of Muintir Eolais (1535-1590)

Events of the 16th century combined with the
Tudor conquest of Ireland The Tudor conquest (or reconquest) of Ireland took place under the Tudor dynasty, which held the Kingdom of England during the 16th century. Following a failed rebellion against the crown by Silken Thomas, the Earl of Kildare, in the 1530s, H ...
brought an eventual downfall of the Muintir Eolais.

Kildare alliance (1530-35)

In the 16th century the Muintir Eolais aligned themselves to the Kildare camp, the most powerful family in Ireland. And their kinsman Charles Reynolds had a close association with the Earl. Specifically, on 5 November 1530, the Muintir Eolais signed an agreement to pay rent to Gerald Fitzgerald, 9th Earl of Kildare, in return for military protection. The arrangement benefited both parties. However, by 1533,
Henry VIII of England Henry VIII (28 June 149128 January 1547) was King of England from 22 April 1509 until his death in 1547. Henry is best known for his six marriages, and for his efforts to have his first marriage (to Catherine of Aragon) annulled. His disag ...
wanted the Englishman, William Skeffington, as replacement Lord of Ireland. Gerald Fitzgerald was imprisoned in the
Tower of London The Tower of London, officially His Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, which is separ ...
in spring 1534, provoking his son "Silken" Thomas into rebellion. The revolt was quickly crushed and the Earldom of Kildare extinguished. The Muintir Eolais lost a critical ally, leaving them politically and militarily vulnerable.

Reynolds treason (1536)

Charles Reynolds (1497-1535) of Muintir Eolais was a central figure in the rebellion. Dispatched as envoy to Scotland, Charles V of Spain, and Rome, he successfully persuaded the Pope to excommunicate Henry VIII of England Reynolds, before his sudden death in Rome. Reynolds was posthumously attainted for treason in 1536. His grave slab exists in Rome.

O'Rourke (1540)

The Annals of the Four Masters states "". The Muintir Eolais, and allies MacDermot from Moylurgh, violently objected to the land grab but failed to oust O'Rourke from Leitrim Village in MoyNissi ("barony of Leitrim"). O'Rourke used this presence in MoyNissi to lobby the English to recognise his claim of Lordship over both Breifny O'Rourke (north Leitrim) and Muintir Eolais (south Leitrim). This claim is an origin of the county of Leitrim ("O'Rourke's country"), but his presence at MoyNissi in "Mag Raghnaill country" was resented, and resisted in a 1556 legal Declaration.

Norman rent (1551)

In 1551, Thomas Nangle the baron of Navan made submissions to the English council of Ireland that Mag Raghnaill was refusing to pay him 100 kine yearly, plus knights fees, due to his ancestors. The Nangle claims were based on a Norman grant dating from 1220-21AD granting a tract comprising all the lands of MoyRein ("barony of Mohill"), and part of county Cavan, to Philip de Angulo, a Norman adventurer. Mag Raghnaill denied the claims arguing no such duty had been paid from the beginning of time. However both sides compromised and consented to the Council decision to awarded 6 pounds annual duty to the Baron.

Declaration (1552)

On 5 December 1552, the Muintir Eolais, with the approval of the monasteries of Conmaiche, signed a legally binding document, written in neat Irish, deeding the to Sean ("Shane") Reynolds of Clonduff in
County Offaly County Offaly (; ga, Contae Uíbh Fhailí) is a county in Ireland. It is part of the Eastern and Midland Region and the province of Leinster. It is named after the ancient Kingdom of Uí Failghe. It was formerly known as King's County, in h ...
, on condition he lobby the English on their behalf and protect their ancestral lands. The document shows Muintir Eolais opposition to "any of the O'Rourkes". This is the earliest documented mention of "county of Leitrim". The following is the only known translation.

Twilight of a nation (1553-1590)

Sean Reynolds of Clonduff was the agreed chieftain of Muintir Eolais between 1553–80. he built a '
Castle A castle is a type of fortified structure built during the Middle Ages predominantly by the nobility or royalty and by military orders. Scholars debate the scope of the word ''castle'', but usually consider it to be the private fortified ...
' at Gowly peninsula ("castle island") at Lough Scur in county Leitrim. Castle John was three stories high and surrounded by good rock land. It was residence to Sean "of the heads" Reynolds (d. 1619), Humphrey his son (d. 1661), and lastly James (d. 1729) who abandoned the castle at some point. In 1580, Lough-Scur was attacked and by McDermot of Moylurg, historically a strong ally of the Muintir Eolais. The Annals of Loch Cé state: "" The disturbances suggest a Muintir Eolais inspired revolt against the rule of Sean Reynolds.

English invasion (1590)

In 1590 "an immense" English army invaded south county Leitrim during the nine years war, which ended in defeat for gaelic Ireland. Thereafter, the tuath ("nation") of Muintir Eolais was extinguished, and the formation of county Leitrim marked the onset of an English occupation lasting over three hundred years.

Lough Scur Reynolds

From the end of the Nine Years' War up until 1729 the Reynolds dynasty of Lough Scur owned large estates in south Leitrim.

Seóin "of the heads" (d. 1629)

The notoriety of "Shane" Reynolds of Lough Scur is now legendary. Tradition says he was called ("Sean of the heads") on account of all the men beheaded (or because he was head chieftain). He maintained an army of "two hundred men", and his reputation for jailing rent defaulters, and beheading people for minor offences, was widely feared. Folklore claims Sean was killed by a soldier from Longford avenging his sister's death on Prison Island. His son Maelsechlainn was killed in 1580. His grandson Sean was captured during by the 1641 Rebellion, held captive by rebels, tortured and probably executed.1640 Depositions, http://1641.tcd.ie/ Tradition recalls this Sean Reynolds of Lough Scur invited the other Muintir Eolais chieftains to his castle for a reconciliation meeting before, in cruel betrayal, beheading them all. This alleged massacre would have occurred sometime late 16th century. The Book of Fenagh has the following poem line: "Then will come a Gall-Gaidhel, By whom thy place (Fenagh) will be destroyed.". A marginal note, added by Tadhg O Rodaighe (fl. 1690), translates as following-

Prison Island (1600-1800s)

On 6 April 1605, Sean and his son Humphrey were appointed gaoler of
county Leitrim County Leitrim ( ; gle, Contae Liatroma) is a Counties of Ireland, county in Republic of Ireland, Ireland. It is in the Provinces of Ireland, province of Connacht and is part of the Northern and Western Region. It is named after the village of ...
. They constructed a '
prison A prison, also known as a jail, gaol (dated, standard English, Australian, and historically in Canada), penitentiary (American English and Canadian English), detention center (or detention centre outside the US), correction center, correct ...
' on 'Jail island' ( ga, Oileán an phriosuiin) in Lough Scur. The jail cells were small with holes about six inches in diameter for air. Tradition recalls many people being hanged on the island. Prison Island was abandoned sometime before Carrick on Shannon gaol was built circa 1815 and 1824. The prison ruins are barely visible today.

Heritage (1908 to present)

The names of families descended from the Muintir Eolais are common today- Reynolds, Mulvey, McGarry, Shanley and Moran. Two proven descendants of Eolais are recorded. Today at
Clonmacnoise Clonmacnoise (Irish: ''Cluain Mhic Nóis'') is a ruined monastery situated in County Offaly in Ireland on the River Shannon south of Athlone, founded in 544 by Saint Ciarán, a young man from Rathcroghan, County Roscommon. Until the 9th ...
monastery a carved headstone is dedicated to Ódhrán Ua hEolais (d.994), scribe of Clonmacnois, the inscription reading 'Pray for Odhrán descendant of Eolas'. Another scribe named Flannchad Ua hEolais (fl. 1101AD) held the Book of Durrow. Parts of Caisleán Seóin at Lough Scur collapsed circa 1908, but repairs were undertaken by a heritage preservation society. Today, ruins of "Mag Raghnaill" Castles exist at both Lough Scur and Lough Rynn; neither are preserved as heritage sites. Castle John c. 1791.png, Castle Sean c. 1791 Castle John and Prision Island c. 1791.png, Castle & Jail view Prison Island c. 1791.png, Jail Island c. 1791 After southern Ireland regained independence in 1922, the English county administrative structure was retained. The Muintir Eolais remained largely forgotten. In 1980 Leitrim County Council approved a design of Arms for County Leitrim that included the lion of O'Rourke (north Leitrim, and Carrigallen baronies), but excluded the Muintir Eolais (Mohill, and Leitrim baronies). The townland of Corryolus (Irish: Coraidh Eolais, "Weir of Eolus"), lying on the junction of the Shannon and Boyle river's, directly north of Carrick on Shannon, obtained its name from " Eolus" from whom the 'Muintir Eolais' are directly descended. In the remote
mountainous A mountain is an elevated portion of the Earth's crust, generally with steep sides that show significant exposed bedrock. Although definitions vary, a mountain may differ from a plateau in having a limited summit area, and is usually higher t ...
Cuilcagh- Anierin uplands, the oligotrophic lake named "Lough Munter Eolas" marks a borderline between west Cavan and south Leitrim. A well established traditional fiddle group, trained by a Fr. Quinn since 1966, adopted the name "Ceolus" preserving his name, and they play music garnered from local manuscripts going back almost two hundred years. The fictional land of "Clan Eolais" populated by "Eolaisans" and Sylphs, appears in the "Solas2"
role playing game A role-playing game (sometimes spelled roleplaying game, RPG) is a game in which players assume the roles of player character, characters in a fictional Setting (narrative), setting. Players take responsibility for acting out these roles within ...

See also

West Breifne The Kingdom of West Breifne (Irish ''Breifne Ua Ruairc'') or Breifne O'Rourke was a historic kingdom of Ireland that existed from 1256 to 1605, located in the area that is now County Leitrim. It took its present boundaries in 1583 when West Breif ...
* Ódhrán Ua hEolais * Flannchad Ua hEolais * Eolais Mac Biobhsach * Charles Reynolds (cleric) * Lough Scur

References and notes



Primary sources


Secondary references

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * {{Ulaid History of County Leitrim Gaelic nobility of Ireland Conmaicne Rein