The Great Oilean Uí Mhaothagáin Mystery.



In our Lough Allua, which lies between Inchigeelagh and Ballingeary, we have the only Crannóg, or man made island, in County Cork.  These defensive features were usually built by chieftains as an additional defence close to their ring fort.  Sure enough there is a ring fort close to the Crannóg and in the townland of Tirnaspideoga.


On the maps our Crannóg is called Oilean Uí Mhaothagáin or Inismheaghain.  The island of O’Mehigan.  Who then was this O’Mehigan?  There are other theories about this name but the simplest answer would be that a chieftain named O’Mehigan lived in Tirnaspideoga ring fort, and built the Crannóg, probably some time between 500 and 1000 AD.


We only have a few clues to go by.  There definitely was a clan with this name, and todays 021 telephone book shows us that we still have 36 families of that name (Mehigan or Mehegan) in Co. Cork.  It was probably a small clan.


A further clue is a ruined tower house lying high above Crookhaven harbour and called Castle Mehigan.


In the period between 500 and 1000 AD this area formed part of the territory of the chieftain O’Donoghue, whose land stretched from Bantry almost to Macroom.  It was mainly located in Carbery and his principle residence was at Kinneigh.  This family were related to the O’Mahoneys, who occupied a huge territory westwards from Carbery to Cork City.  The O’Mehigans are believed to have been followers of the O’Donoghues and became their hereditary bards.  It is quite possible that they were the occupants of Tirnaspideoga at this time, whilst it will be remembered the O’Learys were still in Rosscarbery.


Relatives they might have been, but sadly the O’Donoghues and the O’Mahoneys came to blows in about 1000 AD and the O’Donoghues were defeated.  As a result, they moved away, some to Killarney (O’Donoghue mór) and some to the valley of the River Flesk  (O’Donoghue Glan).


This part is known history.  But what happened to the small clan of O’Mehigan.


We don’t know for certain, but believe that they transferred their allegiance to the conquerors of the O’Donoghues ie., the O’Mahoneys.  They then became hereditary bards to the Western branch of that family (O’Mahoney of Iveagh) and were rewarded for this with the land on which they later built Castle Mehigan.