Castles and Coats of Arms ?


Many members of the Mhuintir Lúinígh clan have asked me about the family "coat of arms" and "castle".  Yes, I have seen a purported coat of arms (which is, in fact, a commercial fraud), and yes, there are "castles" and archeological ruins associated with our ancestors.


Heraldry was not originally an Irish custom, but a Norman and English one.  Coats of arms were originally granted only to those noble persons who held English titles. In later years, anyone could purchase a coat of arms from the Royal Heralds for a fee; so there is not necessarily any "noble" significance to most coats of arms.  In fact, some of the 17th and 18th century members of our clan earned their livings by drawing up "noble" pedigrees and coats of arms for pretentious English and Scottish  "planters" in Northern Ireland during the Plantation Era.  Today, anyone who can prove they are of Irish ancestry can purchase a coat of arms from the Herald of Ireland at the National Library in Dublin.  It will cost you around $4000.  Coats of arms are granted only to individuals, not to families or clans, and are considered to be personal property. 


In keeping with the old occupation of some of our ancestors, I have created a Mhuintir Lúinígh clan coat of arms for you to use for FREE. 




A full-sized copy of it is posted in the Photos section of this website. It’s probably as valid as any "official" coat of arms.  The red hand and shield is the heraldic symbol of our Tir Eoghain ancestors; the raised spears represent the "The Lúin", the enchanted spear of Irish mythology, and "Lúineach", from which and from whom our clan’s name derives; the white jagged field represents the River Foyle separating County Donegal from County Tyrone; the Celtic crosses therein represent the many members of our clan who perished in tribal wars along the Foyle, and also our clan’s long association with the Church; and finally, the spelling of our Clan name is in the correct old Gaeilge script.


The Hill of Tara in County Meath was the royal seat of our ancestors, the early High Kings of Ireland, but there was never a stone castle on this ancient religious and royal site. 




The "royal palaces" of the High Kings were constructed of wood, wicker and thatch, and have long since disappeared.   The Grianan Aileach, locate west of modern day Londonderry, the royal seat of our ancestors, the early Ui Neill kings of Aileach, is a large stone ring fortress built over 2000 years ago and restored in the late 1800’s, but the associated residential buildings were constructed of wood, wicker and thatch, and have disappeared. 




The parish church at Kinawley, County Fermanagh was the family church of one line of our clan, who were the parish priests and stewards of church lands in that area for several centuries.  The cemetery there contains the ruins of the original medieval church and several graves and headstones of clan members.  There are also many archeological sites in County Donegal, County Tyrone and County Fermanagh that are associated with our ancestors.


Irish noble families did not live in "castles" until long after the Norman conquest, and very few Gaelic Irish families were ever granted the lands and titles to support a castle.  Stone castles were a Norman innovation, and did not appear in Ireland until the end of the 12th century. Turlough Luinech, who was crowned The O’Neill Mor (the Gaelic king of Tir Eoghain and Ulster) in 1567 AD, did rule from a stone castle in the Mhuintir Luinigh, until he was deposed and the castle destroyed in 1593 AD.  Some remains of Turlough’s castle still exist at Newtownstewart.



Our ancient ancestors usually lived in large, circular enclosures called "raths", typically comprised of three concentric rings formed by ditches, mounds and wooden ramparts.  In the center ring would usually be one or more large, round, woven, double-walled houses with conical thatched roofs. These homes were comfortable, well-insulated, finely made and very flammable.  They typically had wooden floors, comfortable furniture and exquisite pieces of weaving, fine pottery and metalwork.  The next ring housed the slaves and other staff.  Ancient Irish noble families kept large numbers of slaves and peasants.  St. Patrick was a wealthy Roman Briton, who was supposedly kidnapped into slavery by one of our ancestors and brought to Ireland.  In addition to slavery, the ancient pagan Irish may have practiced human sacrifice and ritual cannibalism.  The outer ring housed the livestock. The ancient Irish kept large herds of cattle and horses, and liked to steal more from other clans. 


The ancient Irish nobility usually ate very well. Their diet consisted of beef, dairy products, grains, vegetables and fruit, and of course, the legendary honey beer.  Evening entertainment typically consisted of eating and drinking to excess, storytelling, singing and mock battles. Wealthy households even employed full-time professional genealogists, praise poets and singers.  There would also have been the clan’s druids for legal, medical and spiritual matters.  Hospitality for the noble Irish was considered a sacred obligation.


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