National Clan Gatherings

Sligo 2015

The National Clan Gathering was celebrated with two day-trips to historic sites in County Sligo, on the first weekend of August. We enjoyed the company of members from all four provinces of Ireland, with a particularly strong turn-out from Cork (Monkstown) and England (Leeds), as well as U.S.A. Special thanks are due to the persuasive powers of Thérèse Flannery and Julie Bastow for marshalling such great support!

The festive weekend kicked off on Friday evening at Murphy’s Hotel with the customary ice-breaker where old friends were reunited and new friends were made.

On Saturday morning, we embarked on our first day-trip which commenced with a visit to the oldest graveyard in Ireland: Carrowmore. We were treated to a guided tour of the megalithic monument which is older than the Pyramids, Stonehenge and Newgrange. The monument included a wide range of dolmen tombs and stone circles, as well as a huge solar box aligned with the peaks of the surrounding hills for use as an agricultural calendar.


After Carrowmore, we headed to scenic Aughris Head where some of the earliest Flannellys in the county continue to farm the land. The original programme had envisaged a visit to the historic ruined church and graveyard in Templeboy: final resting place of some of the Flannelly stonemasons. However, the programme was revised a week earlier after an advance scouting trip found that it was guarded by several dodgy-looking bulls!

For future reference for the fleet of foot, the graveyard is known as Corcoran’s Acres and is located 1 km SSE of Aughris Pier (GPS: 54º 15.802’N, 8º 45.193’W; and OSI Discovery map #25, church, grid 50.8, 35.3), but don’t forget to practice in Pamplona first! I used stealth but watch out for boggy ground. There is an indexed plan of the graveyard which identifies 11 plots for Flannellys. However, I found the headstones very difficult to read.

Lunch was taken at Aughris Head in a 17th century traditional thatched pub with scenic views of the ocean and Benbulben. As ever, we are very grateful to our Clan Photographer, Pádraig Ó Flannabhra, who patiently gathered us for a group photograph.

After lunch, we made our way to scenic Lough Easkey, and stretched our legs along the lakeshore. The lake is nestled in a valley flanked by the Ox Mountains. The Yellow Book of Lecan was written in 1418 and contains manuscripts written by the bard Giolla Íosa Mór Mac Firbis who described the local Flannellys. The work was translated into English by John O’Donovan in 1844, and the relevant extract reads:-

“The O’Flannghailes, who reported no fault,
A people of most universal bravery,
well around Lough Glinne of hospitable men,
Youths with whom valour is a hostage.”

However, there is no lake now known as Lough Glinne so the homeland was not possible to locate. Fortunately, there is a clue to the identity of the lake in the work of local historian William Gregory Wood-Martin (1847-1917). He wrote the book “History of Sligo” in 1882, in which he states:-

“O’Feinneadha (O’Feeny), of Finod, a townland in the parish of Easky, lying westward of the river Finned. The Feenys were driven from their district by the O’Flannellys, who poured down on the lowlands when compelled to leave the shores of Lough Easky by the advance of the Anglo-Normans.”

Later manuscripts written by Dubhaltach Mór Mac Firbis in 1666 agree with this account, and the translation states:

“O'Fenneadha was proprietor of Finnghid until the family of O'Flannghaile took it from him, after they had been driven from their own estate from the lake downwards by the English.”

On that basis, it would appear that the area around Lough Easkey was the earliest recorded home of the Flannellys prior to the Norman Invasion of Connaught which commenced in 1235.

Lough Easkey

The scenic lakeshore and valley are home to many species of birds as well as otters, badgers, foxes and mountain hares. For future reference, the lake is accessed by local road L2672 which runs south from Dromore West towards Tubbercurry. Fáilte Ireland have set out a 6km looped walk around the lake, and provided a small car park with information signs (GPS: 54º 9.581’N, 8º 50.649; and OSI Discovery map #24, Easky Lough, grid 44.9, 23.6). Hiking boots and raingear are recommended. The L2672 road is narrow but the scenery is well worth the trip.

We staged a Heritage Exhibition in the function room of the hotel before dinner. The James Flannelly Chalice (1647) and the Peter Flannery Chalice (1715) were on loan and took pride of place in the room, which included numerous updated exhibits based on recent research such as the Bishop Michael Flannery Crozier (1861). As ever, we are very grateful to their custodians, Bishop John Fleming and Monsignor Cathal Geraghty, for their kind generosity and trust.

Heritage Exhibition Clan Banquet

As in previous years, we were privileged to display the two secular coats of arms (1904 & 1991) as part of the exhibition. The masterpieces were handcrafted in tooled leather and carved oak in 2004 by our Heraldic Craftsman, the late Marlin Read of Idaho who sadly passed away earlier this year. We are proud to display his fine craftsmanship at our Gatherings.

We were delighted to welcome Oliver Flannery to visit the exhibition. He is the patriarch of the Tubbercurry Flannerys, and the brother of the late Dr Seán Flannery who supported our Y-DNA Project when it was in its infancy.

Oliver (L) and Lorcán (R)

The exhibition was cleared away after an hour, and the tables were laid for the evening banquet. Great credit was due to the patient assistance and limitless flexibility of our host, Paul Murphy, as additional numbers piled in at the last minute. It was a case of “The More, The Merrier”. We were delighted with the turn-out, and the evening flew by in the best of company. Compliments to the chef, not to mention the brewery and distillery!

The banquet concluded with a Raffle, and great thanks are due to our members for supporting this important fund-raising event which helps to fund the weekend. The prizes included bottles, books, CDs, DVDs, chocolates and other treats.

Catherine with prize Bridie with prize Brian with prize Colleen with prize Denise with prize

After the raffle, we held our A.G.M, and then a brief powerpoint presentation on our ongoing Y-DNA Project, followed by an open question & answer session where everyone had the opportunity to pose questions. Alternatively, members were free to engage with the celebrations of Tubbercurry Old Fair Day which formed a lively backdrop to our activities.

On Sunday morning, we embarked on our second day-trip, which commenced with a drive to Carraroe where we celebrated our Clan Mass at the hauntingly beautiful Tobernault Holy Well. This tranquil shrine has been a focal point for open air Mass for centuries. We would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to our Clan Chaplain, Fr. John D. Flannery, brother of the late Fr. Michael, for his thoughtful care. It was the highlight of the entire weekend for many of us. The Clan Mass was celebrated on the ancient mass rock using the two historic silver chalices to hold the host and wine respectively. Thanks are also due to Fr. John’s brother, Pádraig, for his kind assistance with transport.

Clan Mass Fr. John D.

After the Clan Mass, we headed off to the picturesque graveyard in Drumcliffe which was marking the 150th anniversary of the birth of the poet W. B. Yeats (1865-1939) who is buried there. The graveyard provided a backdrop of high crosses, a round tower, as well as some specimens of the craftsmanship of the local Flannelly stonemasons.

craftsmanship by Manus Flannelly 1801 distant cousins: Jane meets Patrick of Ardogelly

The link with W. B. Yeats continued with a short trip to historic Lissadell House where we enjoyed a guided tour of the historic property, and some refreshments. Members will recall that one of the world’s foremost authorities on Yeats is our very own Prof. James W. Flannery in Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, who has studied, taught, and published his insights on the poet’s work.

There were fond farewells when we returned to the hotel in Tubbercurry. Once again, we would like to thank everyone who played their part in the success of this event, and we look forward to welcoming you back together in 2020.

group photo at Aughris Head

[Clan Gathering, Sligo 2015]

Large photo courtesy of Pádraig Ó Flannabhra F.I.P.P.A. Q.E.P.; small photos courtesy of Lorcán J. O'Flannery and his son Daniel O'Flannery.