McSweeney Family Genealogy Forum
Hi Damian, the Scots, in particular, seem to suffer from 'collective amnesia' when it comes to their early medieval history, even more so when it concerns the Hebrides and West Highlands. For the Scots it seems, their history only begins with the Battle of Bannockburn and the Declaration of Arbroath. This may have something to do with the fact that the MacSween opposed Robert The Bruce, who they like to forget, was an Anglo-Norman. Having laid waste to Buchan, Bruce cowed our main allies, the MacDougals into submission. It was this clan who turned on our ancestors and helped the Anglo-Normans remove our clan from their territories of Knapdale. In addition to this, one of the grandsons of Somerled (MacDonald) chose to support King Robert, while the other one opposed him and ended up, like MacSweens, losing his title and territory. John MacSween led a celebrated expedition to retake Castle Sween in 1310, with a Letter Patent from King Edward II, promising to bestow on him the land and titles his ancestors had held, providing he could take them back by force (without English help). This attempt was ultimately unsuccessful and the clan was scattered, with many ending up on the Isle of Scalpay. The chiefly line of the MacSween departed Scotland for Ireland and ended up conquering territory in Tyr Connail (Donegal) c.1290. They had long held sanguinary connections in Ireland (Maolmuire an Sparrain had been married to a daughter of the King of Connaught). It should also be remembered that the MacQueens are actually MacSweens (the aspirated 'S' after the prefix Mac being the normal pronounciation in parts of the Hebrides). Many other clans, such as the MacEwans, MacTavish, MacSporran and even Clan Campbell claim descent or relations with the MacSween. Once in Ireland, the clan became protectors and fosterers of the O'Donnells (rulers of Tyr Connail). Unlike the other so-called 'Galloglas families' the MacSweeneys (as they became known) ruled their own territories and chose their battles. During the following centuries members of the junior septs moved south into Connaught and Munster, where they became Constables and commanders in the pay of Anglo-Irish lords, such as the Ormonds. The English (Elizabethans) had a healthy respect for the McSweeneys and quickly gave up trying to fight us, choosing instead to offer land and title in England in return for our alliance. The McSweeneys in the south of Ireland mostly became gentrified, or were hung as rebels! However, in the north many became dispossessed during the Plantation of Ulster under the despicable Stuarts. MacSweeneys fought in the English civil war as they have done in almost every battle of importance in Britain and Ireland since the Battle of Largs. It is no exaggeration to say that the MacSween/McSweeneys are perhaps the most illustrious dynastic warrior aristocracy our islands (or, for that matter, Europe) have ever produced. Best wishes Julian.
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