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Report on the Pedigree of Terence Francis MacCarthy,
Styled The MacCarthy Mór, Prince of Desmond
Largely as a result of the impetus generated by the presentation of the following report, and a Sunday Times investigation of 20 June 1999, the long-discussed matter of the MacCarthy Mór title has at last been brought to a head. The current Chief Herald of Ireland, Mr Brendan O Donoghue, has issued a notice dated 19 July 1999 stating that in the matter of the recognition of Mr Terence McCarthy as MacCarthy Mór, he has decided that: "(i) the 1992 decision to grant courtesy recognition to Mr McCarthy as MacCarthy Mór is to be regarded as null and void; (ii) the decision in 1979 to ratify and confirm arms to Mr McCarthy must be regarded as invalid; and (iii) the pedigree registered for Mr McCarthy in 1980 is without genealogical integrity." The Chief Herald adds that Mr Barry Trant McCarthy's claim for recognition as the new MacCarthy Mór is still under consideration.
Though he has refused to reply directly to correspondence requesting clarification of documents subject to question, Terence MacCarthy issued an 'open letter' to the present writer and freely questioned his motives in other Internet postings. A quite alarming development has been a threat from the 'G2 Branch' of Mr MacCarthy's Royal Eóghanacht Galloglas Guard to 'investigate both the backgrounds and motives' of critics of Mr MacCarthy's titular claims (Internet posting now removed). I should state that my efforts to communicate with Mr MacCarthy commenced in January 1999 via an associate of his, but his exact address in Morocco was only released to me in late June 1999. I also declare that I have no association whatever with those endeavouring to have Mr Barry Trant MacCarthy appointed as MacCarthy Mór, and did in fact advise that his case required further investigation.
One cannot be unmoved by the personal distress of those whose dearly held ancestral fantasies are exploded. However, blame must lie squarely with those who promulgate invalid genealogical and historical information, and indeed with those who knew that all was not in order yet took no action. This latest step towards the resolution of the MacCarthy Mór Affair, while welcome, will mean little if it is not followed up by action to tackle the malaise which has afflicted the Genealogical Office for some two decades. There are alas other Chiefs whose recognition must be re-examined, other arms and pedigrees whose validity and integrity need to be verified, and the painful task of communicating with the beneficiaries of possibly flawed decisions cannot be shirked. Indeed the writer has become convinced that there is now an urgent need for a wide-ranging enquiry into all aspects of the administration of the Genealogical Office between the years 1979-95. Finally, although he has clearly demonstrated that lack of expertise is the key underlying problem in the Genealogical Office, the writer remains effectively blacked from consultancy and training work there.
ABDICATION OCTOBER 1999 After a period of denial, most of Terence MacCarthy's supporters have come to accept the truth that his pedigree and titular claims were fabricated. On 8 October 1999 MacCarthy's main power base, the Niadh Nask Order, withdrew its support, and on 9 October 1999 MacCarthy 'abdicated' as MacCarthy Mór. According to his last group of supporters, the Clan MacCarthy Society, MacCarthy took the decision 'as a result of the ongoing controversy over his pedigree and the loss of much of his support from those who formerly supported him' (http://www.montana.com/mccarthy/MacCarthyMor.html). We take no pleasure in Terence MacCarthy's final humiliation, but say again that his actions and those of his closest followers have damaged not only the cause of Irish Chiefs, but also Irish genealogy and heraldry and the standing of the Genealogical Office.
In a letter dated 24 February 2000, Conor MacCarthy, brother to Terence MacCarthy, announced that he had succeeded to the title of MacCarthy Mór (see text at http://www.montana.com/mccarthy/Press20000327.html). Of course the evidence presented in the following report just as surely demolishes the claims of any member of the family of Terence MacCarthy to be The MacCarthy Mór, and elsewere on this site we have published a refutation of the new pretender's claims.
Note that the MacCarthy Mór webpages cited below have since been removed. Realising that the evidence presented was in some cases false or misleading, and in response to the Genealogical Office's revocation of its patent of recognition, the Italian Court at Casale Monferrato has now declared its verdicts in favour of Terence MacCarthy to be null an void.
Among officially recognised Irish Chiefs, The MacCarthy Mór probably has the highest profile, thanks to his own and his followers' voluminous publications and a strong Internet presence. A 42-year old graduate of Queen's University Belfast, Terence Francis MacCarthy and his supporters have marshalled what appears at first sight to be an unassailable array of genealogical, heraldic, historical and juridical data in support of his claims that he is not only Chief of the MacCarthys, but also a Royal Prince of Munster with the power to bestow titles and honours, and all this with the approval of the Irish State. The main purpose of the present report is to examine critically the pedigree and supporting documentation which MacCarthy Mór has presented as the foundation of his status and powers.
Chiefs of the Name
While Ireland never had a clan system like Scotland, but a more disparate arrangement of 'septs', it is true that under the Gaelic order there were duly inaugurated Chiefs of the Name, such as O'Brien, O'Connor, O'Neill, and so on. It is also true that chiefs were generally appointed by 'Tanistry', that is selected by the extended kin group or derbfhine, although the feudal system of primogeniture or succession of the eldest son had made some headway in Gaelic areas. When the Gaelic order collapsed in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, chiefdom as a real political institution ceased to exist, despite the fact that a small number of families continued to claim the titles in the centuries that followed. In an attempt to regularise the situation, the first Chief Herald of Ireland, Edward MacLysaght, introduced in 1944 a system of 'courtesy recognition' of Chiefs, based on their being able to prove primogenitural descent from the last inaugurated Chief. It was not a perfect system, but at least it served to sort out those who had properly documented pedigrees from those who had not. There are currently some 20 recognised Chiefs, including MacCarthy Mór.
Under MacLysaght, entries in the Register of Chiefs (Genealogical Office MS 627) were reasonably detailed, noted reservations and referred to supporting documentation. However, from about 1990 the Register contains only pasted in copies of patents, with bare pedigrees and no indications of reservations or of sources. The copy of the 1992 patent for MacCarthy Mór does not contain either the name or signature of the then Chief Herald. While this may simply have been an oversight, a definite irregularity is that the successful MacCarthy Mór claimant was the son of a living father who had 'abdicated'. MacCarthy Mór justifies this by rejecting MacLysaght's primogenitural requirement and insisting that he acquired the title through 'Tanistry', claiming that his grandfather was appointed Chief by a 'Pact de Famille' in Nantes in 1905 (Commentary to Samuel Trant MacCarthy Mór, The MacCarthys of Munster, Facsimile Edition, Little Rock, Arkansas, 1997, pages 470, 523).
Although his predecessor had registered a pedigree submitted by MacCarthy Mór in 1980, it does not appear that the then Chief Herald was in possession of adequate supporting documentation when he passed the current MacCarthy Mór's claim in 1991-92. Furthermore, this Chief Herald had earlier written two extraordinary letters in 1988 which appear to support MacCarthy Mór's right to grant titles, in apparent contravention of Article 40/2 of the Irish Constitution. The full texts of these letters, which have now been authenticated, are as follows:
Letter 1, Chief Herald to MacCarthy Mór, 16 June 1988
Dear MacCarthy Mór,
This is by way of a reply to your letter of June 7th 1988. First allow me to congratulate you on your new publication 'One Thousand Royal and Noble Ancestors of the House of MacCarthy Mór'. Now to the matter of the Gaelic feudal lordships which, as you say, are cited in the St Leger Tract of 1588. Such incorporeal hereditaments, whatever their precise nature, would, I believe, come under the term 'property' for legal purposes. Accordingly, under our Constitution you have the right to beneficial disposal of such property, irrespective of whatever I might say or think. Although no register of such property exists here we have nonetheless an interest in your proposed course of activities. Having considered the matter we do not propose to stand in the way of your disposal of the aforementioned hereditaments.
Yours sincerely, Donal F Begley, Chief Herald of Ireland
Letter 2, Chief Herald to Publishing Director, Burke's Peerage, 3 November 1988
Dear Mr Brooks-Baker,
My attention has been drawn to your letter of August 24th 1988 to The MacCarthy Mór of Belfast, regarding his intention to dispose of certain hereditaments which may subsist in the Chiefship of the House of MacCarthy Mór. I can confirm that I have written to him (June 16th 1988) to say that the Office here would not stand in the way of the action he proposes to take. For your further information MacCarthy Mór (applicant Terence McCarthy of Belfast) is one of a number of old Gaelic designations which are shortly due for official recognition here.
Sincerely, Donal F Begley, Chief Herald of Ireland
Source: A New Book of Rights, Gryfons Publishers, Little Rock, Arkansas, 1998, pages 78-79; texts verified as being authentic by the current Chief Herald.
After several attempts to view the above mentioned 1980 Registered Pedigree, in the course of which he was fobbed off with excuses by the Genealogical Office, the writer has just now had an opportunity to examine it. The writer was astounded to find that although it is now surrounded by questions of the gravest kind, the 1980 Pedigree has in the past week or so been inserted in an earlier volume of Registered Pedigrees, adjacent to an entry for the MacCarthys of Srugrena (Genealogical Office MS 182, pages 77-78 and insert following). This has the effect of appearing to provide spurious retrospective validation for the claim that the current MacCarthy Mór's ancestors descend from the MacCarthys of Srugrena. Furthermore, as the 1980 Pedigree is not specifically dated or signed, one would have preferred to view it in its original context in order to properly understand its provenance. It is essential that the 1980 Pedigree should be removed forthwith from its new location and annotated appropriately when a final determination has been made in the case. But let us now take a closer look at the ancestry of the current MacCarthy Mór.
The Pedigree of MacCarthy Mór
When MacLysaght was Chief Herald, it was considered that the title of MacCarthy Mór should most likely be held by an heir of Samuel Trant MacCarthy Mór, head of the branch of the family resident in Srugrena, County Kerry. The current MacCarthy Mór disposes of this by alleging that Samuel Trant MacCarthy Mór acknowledged his grandfather's right to the Chiefship at a meeting in Cork in 1923, four years before his death (Commentary to Samuel Trant MacCarthy Mór, The MacCarthys of Munster, Facsimile Edition, Gryfons Publishers, Little Rock, Arkansas, 1997, pages 525-26). However, it now appears that a descendant of the Srugrena line has lodged a counter-claim to the title with the Genealogical Office. Following considerable research into the matter the writer remains unconvinced by the current MacCarthy Mór's claim that the Chiefship was in effect ceded to his line. Although the current Chief Herald declines to provide any access to relevant files on grounds of 'confidentiality', which has greatly hampered research, efforts to assess the rival claim are also in progress. In an effort to simplify what has become a complex, not to say thoroughly obfuscated matter, let us look at two 'takes' of the current MacCarthy Mór's pedigree, one based on his own account, the other prepared from documentation obtained outside the Genealogical Office by the present writer.
Pedigree of the Current MacCarthy Mór, Take #1
(agreed common ancestor of claimants to title of MacCarthy Mór)
m Catherine Mahony
(his brother Daniel is ancestor of Samuel Trant MacCarthy Mór)
m 1788 Ellinor Segerson
2nd son b 1790, educated in Toulouse
m Bella Collins 1825, d ante 1850
b 27 Oct 1827, educated in Toulouse
m Mary Corrigan 1850, d ante 1864
born 1853, educated in Toulouse
m Margaret Early 1876, d 1889
Thomas Donal MacCarthy
b 1880, ward of Nicholas, Comte MacCarthy Reagh de Toulouse,
appointed MacCarthy Mór by 'Pacte de Famille' at Nantes 1905,
m Anne Major 1906, d 1947
Thomas Donal MacCarthy
b 1913, succeeded as MacCarthy Mór 1947, abdicated 1980
m 1954 Hon Harriet Maguire
Terence Francis MacCarthy
b 1957, succeeded as MacCarthy Mór 1980 on abdication of father
other titles include Prince of Desmond, Lord of Kerslawny,
Head of Niadh Nask Order
Sources: Commentary to Samuel Trant MacCarthy Mór, The MacCarthys of Munster,
Facsimile Edition, Gryfons Publishers, Little Rock, Arkansas, 1997, pages 521-24;
Genealogical Office Registered Pedigree 1980, and MS 627, page 52.
Pedigree of the Current MacCarthy Mór, Take #2
b c1853, labourer, dealer
m Mary Anne/Margaret? Early 15 May 1876, Belfast
d 11 June 1889 Belfast
b 29 February 1880 Belfast, labourer
m Anne Major, mill worker, 26 February 1906 Belfast
Thomas Daniel MacCarthy
b 29 May 1913 Belfast, professional dancer
m Harriet Maguire, typist, 20 July 1955 Belfast
styled MacCarthy Mór until 'abdication' 1980
Terence Francis MacCarthy
b 21 January 1957 Belfast, resident in Tangier, Morocco
styled MacCarthy Mór following 'abdication' of father 1980
Sources: Registrations of births and marriages, General Register Office,
Dublin (pre-1922),and General Register Office, Belfast (post-1922);
1876 marriage certificate, St Patrick's Church, Belfast.
It would not be unjust to observe that the two versions of the pedigree give radically different impressions. The first paints a picture of a genteel, probably French-domiciled branch of the MacCarthys, with no hint of any Belfast connection. The second conveys an image of a Belfast-based family of modest means and only recent aristocratic pretensions. In relation to the current MacCarthy Mór's grandfather Thomas Donal or Daniel, there is a particularly wide credibility gap between on the one hand the Toulouse-tutored gentleman and intimate of French aristocrats, and on the other hand the humble Belfast labourer who married a mill worker.
The writer has been unable to locate any primary documentary evidence which would link the ancestors of the current MacCarthy Mór with the MacCarthys of Srugrena. In fact, and this is a crucial point, many if not most Ulster MacCarthys are really MacCartneys in disguise, as MacCarthy was used as a synonym of the latter surname (Robert Bell, The Book of Ulster Surnames, Belfast 1988, page 138). The fact that MacCarthy Mór's grandfather appears to have been registered as a MacCartney at birth (see copy registration below) would tend to confirm that his family were of this stock, and were not connected either with the Munster MacCarthys or the French emigré branches.
The French Connection
Terence Grey, who assisted MacLysaght in validating Chiefships, considered but rejected the claims of the French emigré MacCarthys to the title of MacCarthy Mór, suggesting also that some of the documentation advanced may have been forged (Genealogical Office MS 610, page 35). Grey, writing in 1944, specificially expressed doubts about the authenticity of a 1693 will of Justin MacCarthy, Viscount Mountcashel, and a certificate of recognition of the Duke of Clancarthy allegedly issued by Sir William Betham. MacCarthy Mór cites Grey as validating the latter document, a patent distortion of his meaning (Commentary to Samuel Trant MacCarthy Mór, The MacCarthys of Munster, Facsimile Edition, Gryfons Publishers, Little Rock, Arkansas, 1997, page 503). MacCarthy Mór's publishers, Gryfons Publishers, have also reissued a pamphlet by Professor John A Murphy which cites the suspect 1693 will (Justin MacCarthy, Lord Mountcashel, Cork c1959, page 42), but Professor Murphy has stated to the present writer that he is now unsure of the will's validity.
The 1693 will is a critical element justifying the highly questionable claim that over the centuries the French MacCarthys maintained and passed on by 'Tanistry' the title of MacCarthy Mór. Thus it came to pass that in Nantes in 1905, or so the story goes, a solemn conclave of French MacCarthys headed by Pol, 7th Duc de Clancarthy-Blarney, decided by 'Pacte de Famille' to appoint the current MacCarthy Mór's grandfather as Chief of the MacCarthys and Prince of Desmond. The present writer has applied to MacCarthy Mór for copies of the 1905 'Pacte de Famille' and other material, but has yet to receive a reply. The further one investigates this case, the more unsatisfactory the documentation appears, and to current questionable records is added the further complication of a cache of documents apparently fabricated in France in the early years of this century or shortly before.
It has to be observed that MacCarthy Mór's other titular pretensions do seem to be extraordinarily large, encompassing the Princedom of Desmond and Headship of the Eóghanacht Royal House of Munster, as may be seen from a perusal of his webpages (http://www2.smumn.edu/munster/mccm.html,). Note the regal pose and the favoured quote from the Book of Rights, 'It is prescribed here that the King of Cashel shall be head over all forever', and indeed MacCarthy Mór has also asserted a 'non-territorial sovereignty' over all bearers of the surname MacCarthy. And what are we to make of such a dazzling array of decorations as Grand Officer of the Royal Albanian Order of Scanderberg ('conferred by His Majesty King Leka I of the Albanians'), Knight of Justice of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George of Naples, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Seal of Solomon, and so on.
Of the 'Gaelic Lordships' which MacCarthy Mór claims are 'incorporeal property' in his royal gift, he has bestowed the following on supporters: Ballywoodane, Cappanacushny, Castleshort, Clogphilip, Dromagh, Tiraha. There is also the matter of MacCarthy Mór's 'ancient Gaelic military order' known as the Niadh Nask, or Knights of the Golden Chain, which is claimed to have been passed down over the centuries by MacCarthys in Ireland and France, and to have at least 400 members worldwide today. The earliest concrete evidence of the existence of the Niadh Nask is alleged to be contained in a contemporary picture of King Donal IX MacCarthy Mór, 'AD 1568', where the Order's insignia is shown worn around his neck, but the present writer queries whether this is not in fact a notional portrait of a later era. At least one commentator has questioned if the Niadh Nask is in fact a true nobiliary organisation, and notes that the entrance fee is $850 (James Algrant, The Niadh Nask).
MacCarthy Mór versus Horak
Also requiring comment is the peculiar case of MacCarthy Mór versus Horak, heard in an Italian court in Casale Monferrato in 1997-98, which is claimed to have a direct bearing on the Irish State's treatment of chiefly titles. A civil action was brought by MacCarthy Mór against Dr Marco Horak, alleging that he had denied MacCarthy Mór's right to use royal arms, to bestow titles, and to confer the Order of the Niadh Nask. The Italian court is reported to have found in favour of MacCarthy Mór on all issues, vindicating his royal status and right to confer titles. In the course of the case the above mentioned letters of the Chief Herald of Ireland, written in 1988, were introduced in evidence to support the view that the Irish State approves MacCarthy Mór's right to grant titles.
A scarcely credible and rather contradictory section of the reported Italian judgment states that the Chief Herald's courtesy recognition of chiefly titles is 'questionable if not actually illegal', and that the 'Brehon Laws of Tanistry' are the only valid laws governing the succession of Chiefs. An even more bizarre portion of the judgement states that the Courts of the Irish Republic would be acting ultra vires if they attempted to determine rights of succession to the title of MacCarthy Mór. In an obvious attempt to prejudge another case still to be heard, it is asserted that a rival claimant who appealed to an Irish court would be guilty of 'treason against his own dynasty'! (A New Book of Rights, Gryfons Publishers, Little Rock, Arkansas, 1998, pages 78-9, 127-8 and passim).
It has to be said that it is not clear why an Italian court should be deemed competent to hear a case requiring expert knowledge of Irish genealogy, heraldry, history and law, and how it could with such confidence interpret the Irish Constitution, hold forth on the powers of the Chief Herald of Ireland and set limits on the jurisdiction of the Irish courts. Were the Irish Government and its law officers aware of this case, and did they or the Chief Herald have any kind of watching brief? The writer has been directed to an Internet site which throws some interesting light on the subject of such cases: 'It must be repeated yet again that the value of such a court judgement - all the more so where there is no adversarial process and no hearing of the opinion of serious experts - is rather problematical in establishing the existence or non-existence of historical fact. Unfortunately, . . . Italian courts appear to excel in handing down such verdicts' (quoted in Derk Kinnane Roelofsma, The Emperor of Palm Beach).
In summary, it is clear that the whole affair of the MacCarthy Mór Chiefship raises many questions, both in terms of the unsatisfactorily documented claims made by the current holder of the title, and of the way in which Genealogical Office management dealt with the matter. The MacCarthy Mór affair is in fact the most serious scandal to hit the already fractious and crisis-torn world of Irish genealogy, and points to the urgent need to accelerate and complete the restructuring of the Genealogical Office as a properly functioning department of the National Library of Ireland. (work commenced but alas not completed by now retired Director/Chief Herald Dr Patricia Donlon). Information from America indicates that some former followers of MacCarthy Mór now possess doubts concerning his chiefly status and right to grant titles, and they may be expected to wonder why an office of the Irish State appears to have validated both.
As he has done on other occasions, the writer observes again that the Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland's monopoly of contract work in the Genealogical Office has operated to depress standards and create a severe deficiency of available expertise. For some time the writer has been excluded from such contract work on account of his difficulties both with the Genealogical Office and the Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland, whose symbiotic relationship is shown by the fact that despite being a private organisation, the latter's correspondence address is care of the state-run office. The sad fact is that the writer can find no evidence that a single one of the salaried officials or £85 per day consultants in the Genealogical Office felt obliged to take any decisive action on the scandal outlined in the present report. The writer is determined that the vacuum of genealogical expertise in Ireland must not be colonised by the ignorant and self-interested, and so has felt duty-bound to take on the MacCarthy Mór case on his own initiative and at his own cost (to date over 100 unremunerated hours and the best part of £200 expenses).
In the light of the evidence presented above, the writer feels entitled to censure severely the conduct of those individuals who nodded through insufficiently documented pedigrees, or worse still, knowing that all was not in order, chose to do nothing. We cannot avoid drawing particular attention to the readiness of the then Chief Herald in 1988 to correspond freely with and on behalf of MacCarthy Mór, while the present writer's correspondence of approximately the same period dealing with pseudo-clans and chiefs and a range of other serious issues was being ignored. Although National Library of Ireland staff were helpful as possible in the circumstances, the writer cannot say that he received adequate assistance from the Genealogical Office in the course of the investigations leading to the present report. There was excessive recourse to the cloak of 'confidentiality' on the part of Genealogical Office management, and indeed on one occasion access to a crucial document was obstructed, necessitating requests for assistance to the Ombudsman and Freedom of Information Commissioner.
If it can be shown that we are guilty of error in anything which we have written, then we will apologise unreservedly and promptly circulate a correction. However, we consider the following statements to be well supported by the evidence we have put forward:
(1) The claim of the current holder to the title of The MacCarthy Mór is not proven, and adequate documentation to support his case has not been supplied.
(2) No satisfactory evidence has been produced to show that the Belfast ancestors of the current MacCarthy Mór were related to the MacCarthys of Srugrena, County Kerry, and indeed they may well have been of Ulster MacCartney stock.
(3) The grandfather of the current holder of the MacCarthy Mór title was a labourer, his grandmother was a former mill worker, and stated relationships with aristocratic French MacCarthys have not been documented.
(4) While further investigation is required, it would appear that a descendant of Samuel Trant MacCarthy Mór of the Srugrena line may have a stronger claim to the title of MacCarthy Mór.
(5) The then Chief Herald was wrong to recognise the current MacCarthy Mór in 1991-92, and his supportive letters of 1988 were highly inappropriate.
(6) The recognition of the current MacCarthy Mór should be rescinded forthwith, all relevant pedigrees and copy patents should be annotated to that effect, and the recently inserted 1980 Registered Pedigree should be removed from Genealogical Office MS 182.
(7) The pedigrees of all Chiefs of the Name recognised since 1990 should be re-examined by competent genealogists, and the whole system of 'courtesy' recognition by the State of Chiefs of the Name should be reviewed.
(8) Contracts for genealogical services and training within the National Library of Ireland and Genealogical Office should be put out to tender, and allocated on a fair basis to competent individuals.
Sean Murphy MA
Centre for Irish Genealogical and Local Studies
16 June 1999, amended and posted
on the Internet 30 June