An Ancient History of the O’Loughlins

The Ancient History of the Distinguished Surname.

* * * * O’Loughlin. * * * *

World history has seldom been influenced more by any other race than by that of the Irish people. Not only does Ireland have the world’s oldest standing structure, and was home to the earliest missionaries to Scotland and England, and was possessed of a refined culture, but there is also reasonable claim to the statement that the Irish were the first settlers in North America.

Entwined amongst the romantic chronicles of this great land is the distinguished history of the Irish sept O’Loughlin. The works of O’Hart, McLysaght and O’Brien, the Four Masters and Woulfe, supplemented by church baptismal, parish records, and ancient land grants, have been used to reconstruct the family name history.

We found that the family name O’Loughlin was first recorded in county Clare in Munster where they had been seated from very ancient times.

Several spelling variations of the name were found in the archives and mainly these variations were the result of families translating the name from the Gaelic into English. Recorded versions of the name O’Loughlin included Loughlin, Loughnane, and many more. Frequently a name was spelt several different ways during the lifetime of the same person, when he or she was born, married and died.

The legendary Kings of Ireland, some 1500 years B.C., were descended from King Milesius of Spain, the grandson of breoghan (Brian), King of Galicia, Andalusia, Murcia, Castile and Portugal. Milesius turned his attention to Ireland to fulfil an ancient Druidic prophesy. He sent an army to explore this fertile island. On finding that his son had been murdered by the three resident Irish Kings (the Danans), Milesius vengefully gathered another army. He died before he embarked on the voyage but his surviving eight sons conquered Ireland.

Hereman, eldest son of Milesius, regained in Ireland for fourteen years, along with his brothers Heber, Ir, and Ithe. They named the land Scota or Scotia, their mother’s name, the land of the Scots. This name would later be taken by the Irish King Colla in 357 A.D., when he was exiled to Scotland, leaving the name “Ir-land”, land of Ir, the youngest of the four sons of Milesius, to the Emerald Isle.

The great Gaelic family of O’loughlin emerged in later years in county of Clare in Munster. The O’Loughlins were the most powerful sept on the shores of the Atlantic and Galway Bay. Lord Concomroe was their chief in early times but later they were restricted to the present barony of Burren. Seventy years ago the chief of the O’Loughlins was still known as “The King of the Burren”, and the Lord of Corcomroe was usually called O’Loughlin Burren. The Chief of the O’Loughlins was seated at Craggans, in county Clare, and Kilfenora and Ballyvaughan are still centered in O’Loughlin country. Conghalach O’Loughlin was Bishop of Corcomroe from 1281 – 1300. From 1789 – 1842, Sir Michael O’loghlen was Master of the Rolls, and his two sons, Sir Colman O’loghlen, was an M.P. for county Clare in 1819, and Sir Bryan O’Loghlen, was Prime Minister of Victoria, Australia from 1828 to 1905. Notable amongst the family at this time was Conghlach O’Loughlin, Bishop of Corcomroe.

In 1172 A.D., Dermott McMurrough, King of Lienster, requested King Henry 11 of England for assistance in achieving the Kingship of all Ireland. Through treachery, many proud native Irish families lost their chiefships, territories and the spoils were divided amongst the Norman knights and nobles. This was followed by Cromwell’s invasion in 1640 and later, Ulster in the north was seeded with Protestant Scottish and English.

In 1845, the great potato famine caused widespread poverty, and the exodus from Ireland began. Many Irish joined the armada of sailing ships which sailed from Belfast, Dublin, Cork, Holyhead, Liverpool, and Glasgow, bound for the New World or to Australia. Some romantics called these ships the White Sails, others, more realistically, called these vessels the “Coffin Ships”, when 30% to 40% of the passengers died of disease and the elements.

In North America some of the first migrants which could be considered kinsmen of the sept O’Loughlin and of that same family were David W., Dennis, Eugene, Isaac, James, John, Joseph, Michael, Patrick, and William Loughlin, all landed in Pennsylvania between 1773 and 1864; James Loughlin Landed in new York State in 1823. In Newfoundland, William was the holder of an inn in St. John’s around 1730; Mary was married in St. John’s in 1818; Thomas settled in Harbour Grace in 1828: James was a farmer in Red Cove in 1871. There is a place named Loughlins Hill in Newfoundland.

In the New World the Irish played an important part in building the nation, the railways, coal mines, bridges and canals. They lent their culture to the arts, sciences, commerce, religion and the professions.

The Irish moved westwards with the wagon trains, and settled in the mid west, some trekking over the Rockies to the distant west coast. During the American War of Independence some were loyal to the cause, joining the Irish Brigades. Others were loyal to the Crown, and moved north into Canada, becoming known as the United Empire Loyalists and being granted lands on the banks of the St. Lawrence and the Niagara Peninsula.

Meantime, the family name O’loughlin produced many prominent people Dame Anne Loughlin, DBE; Charles William Loughlin, Trade Union Official; Sir Colman O’loghlen, 6th Bart., Judge of the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea.

The most ancient grant of a Coat of Arms found was:

On a red background a man in complete armour facing left, shooting an arrow from a bow.

The Crest was:
An anchor entwined with a cable.

The ancient family Motto for this distinguished name was:
“ Anchora salutis”.

The Belleek O’Loughlins.

1780 – – – – – -2005.

In compiling a family history it is necessary to give details of the background to the Clan concerned. The above account gives much information along these lines. Some historians tell that the name is of Viking origin, to support this theory they say that the name O’Loughlin means in the Gaelic, ‘The dark sea faring stranger’.

I can trace the Belleek branch of the family back to about 1780, due to the lack of written records, what I have comes from recording the memories of older family members who were reasonably accurate in their recollections. Family tradition has it that the Belleek branch of the O’Loughlin’s originated with a Clan member coming here from Co. Clare about 200 years ago. It is thought that he was a Hedge School Master, during that period the Penal Laws were still being enforced in many parts of Ireland. These teachers were forced to live an itinerant life, having to move from place to place to keep a step ahead of the authorities.

Some students of history are of the opinion that the O’Loughlin Clan had their origins in Ulster. The name in the Gaelic language means the ‘Dark Seafaring Stranger’ a reference to the Vikings who first came to Ireland about 850 AD. There is an early recording of the name in the book, ‘The Parish of Carn’ by the late Fr. Paddy Gallagher a noted historian. He states that an O’Lochlainn carried out a raid on the lands of the O’Neill and the O’Gormley clans making off with a sizeable herd of cattle. This could have been a good reason for O’Lochlainn to depart from Ulster and seek refuge in Co. Clare. Over 100 years later we find a Conghalagh O’Loughlin who was Bishop of Corcomroe in the Burren from 1281 to 1300. This See was subsequently called Kilfenora. Even in that period it could have been possible for the descendant of an ambitious cattle raider to have made the transition to the safer profession as a Prince of the Church. Over fifty years ago a scribe using the name ‘Roddy the Rover’ contributed articles to ‘The Irish Press’. He had this to say about the O’Loughlins. The chief family named O’Loughlin, O’Loghlen, Loghlin, etc., is that which formerly ruled over East Corcomroe, the Lords of Burren. This clan had four castles on the sea – Gleninagh, Ballyvaughan, Shanmuckinish and Muckinishroe.

The third of these was the scene or theme of a most lovely poem, which will be found in Dr.T. O’Rahilly’s Measgra Danta, when a poet came to the empty castle and heard a dove cooing in the desolation.

That O’Lochlainn’s spacious court
Now has you for a master
Is it this that moves your mirth?
Is your music laughter:
Or in lamentation, Dove,
Are your notes complaining?
Seeing not the gentle palm
That would feed you daily…


The Fermanagh weekly newspaper ‘The Impartial Reporter’ of 1St June 1989 caries a story, ‘Talk on Origins of Fermanagh names’. At a meeting of the Belcoo Historical Society, Sean Leonard in his address told of a hedge school set up around 1800 by a Thomas O’Loughlin, the son of Stephan O’Loughlin, a man who came from the West of Ireland. In Mullaghdun cemetery; which is in the Belcoo parish there is a headstone bearing the name Thomas O’Loughlin who died in 1986, of greater significance is the headstone of a Colman O’Loughlin who died 14th September 1958. Colman is a rather unusual Christian name in Fermanagh but is quite common in Co. Clare, this gives further support to the theory that a clan member did indeed come to here from that county.


The first positive evidence of the name in this district was that of Barney Loughlin. Note that at this stage the prefix ‘O’ was not used. Barney was my great-great- grandfather. He lived on a ten acres farm in the town land of Druminillar, the farm was bounded on the south by the River Erne and the Great Northern Railway line passed through the land. Barney was born in or about 1820/25. Therefore his father must have been born about 1780/90. There is no record of a name for Barney’s father but he was thought to have been a hedge school master. He may have been the Thomas O’Loughlin who was in Belcoo and have come to Belleek from there. The name Thomas has featured in each generation of the family, Barney had a son of the name and it has passed right down to the present time. (2005).

Barney married Lisa Coyle from Garvery in the Mulleek area; the Coyle family still reside in Garvery. Another family named McCabe moved to this area from Belcoo in the early 1800’s. Some of their descendants still live near Belleek. My uncle William John told me that the original house in Druminillar was what was known as a mud cabin, a common type of building in Ireland. At a later stage a traditional farm house was built, it had the usual kitchen and two bedrooms. Although now in ruins it is obvious that it was a well constructed thatched roofed stone building with chimneys built with red brick. Bricks were manufactured in the district during that period.

Barney and Lisa Coyle were married about 1860, they had seven children and Barney died about 1900. The children were- John, Michael, William, Thomas, Lisa, Mary and Bridget, not necessary in that order. Michael known as Mick was likely the youngest; he died in 1943 at the age of 74. William and Thomas emigrated to America in the early 1870’s, Thomas founded a shoe makers business in Boston. Bridget also went to America and there married John Freeburn whose family farmed in Druminillar. The Freeburn homestead is still owned by the family. Mick married Ellen Doogan from Corry about 1915, Lisa married Dan O’Shea a neighbouring farmer in Druminillar, Mary married Frank Fox of Legaltion, Ballyshannon. There is no record of Thomas or William having married in America.

John married Catherine Kerrigan of the Acres, Commons, Belleek, where he acquired a small twelve acre farm that had been occupied by a man the name of McGonnigle. When this man died, his wife Kate who was an Aunt of Hugh Kelly’s of Corlea returned to her family home. John Loughlin was a shoemaker, having along with his brothers learned the trade from a man named McLaughlin who lived on the south shore of the River Erne, possibly across the river from the Druminillar farm. John extended his small farm by purchasing in 1900 for the sum of £45-0-0 a neighbouring four acre farm in Derrykillew, Corlea that had been owned by Rosie Slevin. This purchase gave him direct access to the Bonahill road. A few years later he purchased the a-joining two acre Murray holding and house for the sum of £100-0-0. This purchase gave him direct access to the Acres lane and to the main road. He had planned to convert the old house into a shoe factory but died before he could do this. The combined farm now totalled 18 acres, 6 being in Fermanagh and 12 in Donegal. After the establishment of the border in 1926 this became an unusual situation but William John who inherited the farm managed it without any problems. With the farm there were turbary rights, meaning that the owner has the right to cut turf in the bog. The turf bank attached to the O’Loughlin farm was situated in the ‘Altars’ which was on the road that runs to near to Breesy Hill.