The MacNamara - Origins, history and distribution on the Name MacNamara - 23 June 2013 at Cliffs of Moher

I am delighted to be giving a talk on The MacNamara - Origins, history and distribution on the Name MacNamara - 23 June 2013 at Cliffs of Moher in 'The Gathering' Surname lectures. MacNamara Name in County Clare “We shall find that the members of our Sept, from the early part of the fifth to the middle of the seventeenth century, dwelt in a well defined district of Clare, a county which until comparatively recent times was isolated from the rest of Ireland; its southern and eastern boundary being formed by the river Shannon, which throughout this part of its course was only fordable at one place situated below the town of Killaloe... The geographical position of the county was such as to preserve its inhabitants from successful invasion, or from being occupied by foreigners until late in the sixteenth century; thus not only did the people of Clare retain their independence but also their old Brehon laws and customs for two if not three centuries after much of the rest of Ireland had passed into the hands of Englishmen..."(N.C MacNamara History of the MacNamaras publishe by Martin Breen,The Story of an Irish Sept(Ballantyne Press, Ennis, 1996). The Seventeenth century witnessed dramatic changes where land tenure was concerned in parts of Gaelic Ireland. This paper examines some of those rapid transformations in East Clare and focuses primarily on MacNamara territory, a region twenty miles long and eighteen miles wide, east of the River Fergus in County Clare. It produces quantitative evaluations derived from the 1659 Census and the survey book of distribution, with other primary sources. This leads to an evaluation of the known rapid disintegration of the residential stability of the MacNamara Clans in Ireland. While some of the changes experienced by the MacNamaras’ had their origins in earlier centuries, the latter half of the seventeenth century resulted in only two percent of this once powerful clan holding onto to any land in east Clare. The next part of the paper scrutinizes the newcomer to these territorial lands in East Clare in 1660. It examines the influences of the influx of new surnames to this part of east Clare and charts their origin. The results are assessed and some important findings are established. While local studies like this tend to be regionally specific, they are still of great value in assessing historical veracity and contrary to some widely held beliefs, many of these newcomers were not the new English but were part of an established corporate class in Limerick and other urban strongholds. This is interestingly displayed in this part of the paper. The final part of the paper looks at what happened to the MacNamara Clan. It discusses the changes in patterns of property ownership. It traces some of the clans’ path into slavery, some into their adoption of a militaristic mode and others into obscurity. It looks at the architectural effect of their final decline coming up to the Williamite conquest and finally demonstrates how the alternating landscape proved to be too rapid for this Gaelic Clans political survival. It looks at where the MacNamaras are today, and examines their name distribution worldwide. ALL ARE WELCOME


  1. As I reside in US, I will not be able to hear your presentation, but would like to obtain a copy. I visited the East Clare Heritage Center in 2007, and spent some time talking with a staff person, and viewing the McNamara graves. I am particularly interested in the period of about 1820 to 1860 in the Parish of Ogonnelloe, as I believe my great grandparents lived there. Regards, Patrick

  2. Hi Lorna,
    I would really love to attend your lecture on the MacNamara Clan, but unfortunately I will not be on Clare that day. Great to see you quoting part of my reprint of the Sept book ! If your paper is available on line or elsewhere I would be interested in reading it as my MacNamara research is ongoing. Regards,
    Martin Breen

  3. Sorry Martin, will amend to reference you properly,

  4. Absolutely no problem there Lorna, delighted to see the book back in everyday use.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Irish Surnames in Texas: Origins and Influences

Galway Surnames and Ancestral Legacies

The Irish DNA Atlas Project