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The Irish surname Mac Dhonnchadha, Mac Donnchadha or Mac Donnchaidh is the original form of McDonagh, McDonough, Donogh, and Donaghy.
Dhonnchadha, literally translated from the Irish language, means "brown warrior". The prefix mac means "son of".
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Tomaltach na Cairge mac Diarmata (Tomaltach of the rock) was the King of Moylurg from 1197 until his death in 1207. One of Tomaltach's sons, Donnchadh, was the progenitor of the MacDonagh sept. The family later became Kings or Lords of the túath of Tír Olliol and Corran now the barony of Tirreril in Co. Sligo.
The first to be known as Mac Donnchadha was Tomaltach Mac Donnchadh, Donnchadh MacDermot's grandson, alive in 1309. Tomaltach Mac Donnchadh and his men fought with Aedh Breifneeh O'Conchobhair (Hugh the Breifnian) defeating in battle Aedh Ó Conchobair, King of Connacht for control of the Three Tuathas.
Following Robert the Bruce's victory at the Battle of Bannockburn over the Kingdom of England in 1314, his brother, Edward Bruce, lead a three year military campaign in Ireland against the English controlled Lordship of Ireland (Norman Ireland) beginning in 1315. A large scale dynastic war broke out in Connacht as a result of this intervention into Ireland as Fedlim saw opportunity in the chaos. This proved to be just as momentous on a national level. In 1316, Tomaltach Mac Donnchadha and his clan joined Maelruanaidh mac Diarmata, Domhnall Ó Conchobair, Fedlim Ó Conchobair and an assortment of Norman-Irish families and defeated the army of Ruaidri Ó Conchobair, Diarmait Gall Mac Diarmata (King of Moylurg) at the Battle of Tochar Mona Conneda. Fedlim became king of Connacht. He installed Ualgharg Ua Ruairc as King of Breifne and started a campaign to “to banish the [Norman colonists] of West Connacht". This resulted in the killings of Stephen de Exeter, his brother Philip, Miles de Cogan, Lord de Prendergast, William Lawless, Nicholas de Staunton, William and Phillip Barrett, Maurice de Rochefort and many more. With one stroke, vast swathes of the principal Anglo-Irish of Connacht were gone. With another, Fedlim installed Donnchad Ó Brian as kingship of Tuadmuma, uniting the Dal gCais under him. The Lordship of Ireland, under William Liath de Burgh (de Burke), assembled a large Anglo-Norman army and defeated Fedlim Ó Conchobair at the Second Battle of Athenry. Five of the Clann Donnchadha fell there; Tomaltach son of Gilla Crist Mac Donnchadha, Murchad Mac Donnchadha, Conchobar son of Tadc, Muirchertach and Maelsechlainn Mac Donnchadha. Eoin Mac Aedacain, brehon to Ó Conchobair, Gilla na Naem son of Dail re Docair Ó Dobailein, the standardbearer, and Tomas Ó Conallain fell around their lord.
In 1318, Maelruanaid mac Diarmata assembles a large army, against Cathal O Conchobair. The chief men in it being Toirrdelbach O Conchobair, king of Connacht, Ualgharg Ua Ruairc, king of Brefne, Conchobar O Cellaig, king of Ui Maine and Tomaltach Mac Donnchadha, Lord of Tirerrill. Skirmishes are fought and in 1320, Tomaltach Mac Donnchadha is captured.
The name also arose in Co. Cork where it was located in the Barony of Dunhallow, as a branch of the McCarthys. They were known as the "Lords of Dunhallow" but their stronghold was actually in Kanturk.
The clans titles and lands, being Catholics and followers of the Stuarts, were looted under Oliver Cromwell for taking part in the 1641 uprising of Gaelic leaders against the Parliament of London. At this point the family started to scatter and spread from Sligo.
Deprived of their lands, the McDonaghs found scope for their abilities in Europe. Like thousands of their compatriots, they committed themselves to the service of Louis XIV of France, in the Irish Brigade. This period was known in Ireland as the Flight of the Wild Geese and resulted in many members of prominent families and Irish nobility leaving the island. Between 1690 and 1770, no fewer than forty-two McDonaghs served as officers in the Dillion regiment of the Irish Brigade.
The family's presence was widely noted at the decisive French victory at The Battle of Fontenoy. On this day, a charge by six Irish battalions of the French Army turned the favour of the battle against the combined forces of the British, Holy Roman Empire, Dutch Republic and Hanoverian allies. Captain Anthony McDonagh defeated in single-handed combat, in presence of the opposing armies, a British officer who had challenged the best officer his opponents could produce. He later advanced the charge ahead of his company and was the first of the Brigade to engage the enemy, receiving distinctions.
Another acclaimed member of the clan was Colonel Andrew McDonagh, recipient of the Order of Saint Louis. McDonagh along with General Lazare Hoche and Theobald Wolfe Tone, was involved in the Bantry Bay expedition. Under McDonaghs command was 400 men. His life was the subject of writings by Camille Desmoulins and James Rutledge due to his false imprisonment and eventual release during the French Revolution.
In the United States, Thomas MacDonough, born in Ireland, served as a Major in the American militia during the Revolutionary War against Britain, receiving praise for gallantry by George Washington. His son, Commodore Thomas MacDonough, of the United States Navy, served with distinction in the First Barbary War and lead campaigns in the War of 1812. Here, MacDonough achieved fame, commanding the American naval forces that defeated the British navy at the Battle of Lake Champlain, part of the larger Battle of Plattsburgh, which helped lead to an end to that war. MacDonough's victory forced the British forces to retire to Canada, the actions of which left no grounds for any claims by the British for any territory when the Ghent peace conference convened on December 24. For his success in forcing the retreat, MacDonough was duly promoted to the rank of Captain and received a Congressional Gold Medal. He was also awarded, by the State of New York, a thousand acres of land in Cayuga county, with another hundred acres awarded to him from the State of Vermont, making the once modest commodore a wealthy man.
In modern times, descendants include Thomas McDonagh, Commandant of the 2nd Battalion Dublin Brigade of the Irish Volunteers during the Easter Rising in 1916. Thomas was a signatory of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic and was executed aged 38. Martin McDonagh is an Oscar nominated playwright and film director brought up in London but originally from Sligo and Galway.