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Termonmagrath (An Tearmann Mac Craith)

A Termon (in Irish Tearmann), meaning place of sanctuary, are lands often associated with the Church.  In the case of Termonmagrath or the sanctuary of McGrath, the lands covered a huge area of the modern counties of south east Donegal, west Tyrone and north west Fermanagh.  Incorporating the neighbouring Termonamongan, the entire area was commonly known as Termondavog, after the local saint. This area under McGrath control, included the location of the later town of Pettigo, the townland of Aghnahoo Glebe where the McGrath Castle is located and much of medieval Barony of Tirhugh.

Chiefs and Guardians

The lands were held by the Clan McGrath since at least the early 13th Century, when they Annals first mention the death of the Corab of Lough Derg, the Mac Craith of the Termon in 1290. The Termon created a buffer between the lands of the Gaelic Lords O’Donnell of Donegal (Tyrconnell) to the west, O’Neill of Tyrone to the east and Maguire of Fermanagh to the south. The Termon was protected under Irish Brehon law and fell under the physical protection of the Clan McGrath, as did the monastery located on Saint’s Island within the Lough. 

Queen Elizabeth I and the Irish Earls, 16th Century

As Elizabeth I waged war in Ireland in a an attempt to pacify the Gaelic clans, Ulster became the hotbed of open rebellion under the united leadership of O’Donnell, Earl of Tyrconnell and O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone. The ensuing war lasted a devastating nine years.  

Following their defeat at the Battle of Kinsale in 1601, the rule of the Gaelic aristocracy was at an end. O’Neill and O’Donnell returned to their lands but new oppressive laws made their position impossible and they eventually took flight from Ireland in what is now known as the Flight of the Earls.   The Earls made an attempt to raise an army in Europe to come to the aid of the Irish, however this too ultimately ended in failure. Following Queen Elizabeth’s death in 1603 she was succeeded by King James VI of Scotland, I of England. 

A new King 17th Century

King James wished to settle things in Ireland and like Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, offered the Gaelic clans an opportunity to retain their hereditary rights and titles by surrendering their lands to the crown and having them re-granted with full title. However, James also pursued a vigorous policy of plantation. For those that refused to accept the new order or who refused to accept surrender and re-grant, confiscation followed. The McGraths of Termonmagrath had taken the option of surrender and re-grant under Elizabeth I and had originally offered their lands up in 1596.  In 1610 they went through the process again with King James I and uniquely we still have the text of the Grant of Title from King James to James McGrath (son of Archbishop Miler McGrath), now Chief of Termonmagrath.

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