Wednesday, July 25, 2007


The Anglo Norman arrival in Ireland has been well documented, what’s less known is the feuding, and power struggle that took place amongst certain septs i.e the De Burgos of Modern day Mayo and Galway. This paper examines the contribution to the record of the De Burgos and their followers the Stauntons taking the spatial unit of the Barony of Carra. The secondary aim is to present a picture of the proceedings before and after the death of Edmond De Burgh of Mayo (k.1338) and the implications of his death for Ireland.
The de Burgo Family 1206-1479

The historical evidence suggests that Mayo was settled by the Anglo Norman families of the De Burghs, De Sdondons and Prendergasts et al. c.13th C. A Norman army led by the De Burgos went as far west as Westport in 1235 which included these families. 11 This foray in to the interior of Ireland, was regarded as an act of treachery at the time as the Gaelic Kings of Connaught (the O’ Connors) had proven themselves willing and loyal subjects of Henry III.11226-1235 saw the conquest of Connaught, when the Anglo-French invaded and took over most of the province after a protracted war. Stauntons from the pale joined forces with Richard Mor de Burgh and participated heavily in the invasion and conquest of Connaught in the 1230s.3

(fig 1)

Ulick or Ulick Ná Fina (Ulick of the wine) so named because of his influence on the Emerging Galway wine trade). 4 He was a great grandson of Richard de Burgh, the illegitimate son of William de Burgh. He was the head of the Burkes based in Upper Connacht, in what is modern day Co. Galway.

Edmond Albanach was the son of Sir William de Burgh, also know as William Liath Burke, who was the grandson of Richard Mor via his son, William Og, who was killed at the battle of Athanchip in 1270. He was the leader of the Bourkes based in mid and Lower Connacht, in what is now County Mayo. 6

Elizabeth de Burgh (1332 – 1363), succeeded as Countess of Ulster and legal heir to the de Burgh estate as an infant.3 Edward IV of England was a descendant of her union with Lionel of Clarence.5

Edmond of Clanwilliam was the fifth son of Richard III. He was Married to the daughter of Slany Ni Turlough O'Brian King of Thomond, he was based at Castleconnell in Limerick, who’s death was an indirect result of the civil war as I will show later.

The de Burgo Civil War
This was the name given to a conflict in Ireland, sparked by the death of William Donn de Burgh, 3rd Earl of Ulster in 1333. His only child, Elizabeth, lived in England, and eventually married into the English Royal family but she was Countess in name only.

Various factions of the de Burghs fought with each other for control of the Earldom (the name by now had been Gaelisized to Burke depending whether they were under the lordship of Ulick in County Galway, or spelled Bourke if in County Mayo)5 The factions were headed by Sir Ulick Burke (d.1343), Sir Edmond Albanach Bourke (d.1375), and Sir Edmond de Burgh of Castleconnell (k.1338 – Sir Edmond of Castleconnell is the ancestor of the Bourkes of Clanwilliam in Munster).3
(fig 2)

The eventual outcome of the war was the fragmentation of the de Burgh family into two distinct clans, all of which had several sub-septs. Ulick became the head of what was known as the Clanricarde Burkes of Galway, their title stressing their descent from William's son Richard. Their alternative title was Mac William Uachtar, i.e. the Upper Mac William. The title became the Earldom of Clanricarde in 1543, a title held in the family till the death of the 15th Earl in 1916.
The Bourkes of Mayo fell under the leadership of Edmond Albanach, known as the Mac William Iochtar, i.e., the Lower Mac Williams. This title would be held by successive descendants of Edmond Albanach up to the 1590s.

After the Burke factions formed, their loyal following served them without interruption in what seems like an almost never ending series of conflicts until Tudor/protestant intervention at the end of the 16th century. The Stauntons make the record a few times winning a battle here, losing one there, but always on the side of the Mayo Burkes and usually fighting the Galway Burkes and their vassals though the shifting alliances were more complicated than this. 5

Followers of the de Burgos

Family Motto
"En Dieu Est Ma Foy" "In God is My Faith"

Colors on coat of Arms
      (Silver or White) Sincerity, Peace (Black) Constancy, Grief

Shield on coat of Arms
                     The chevron represents the roof of a house and signifies Protection, faithful service
Other Heraldic Charges
Helmet: Wise Defence

The name Staunton is one of the earliest British names in Ireland, the most important branch settled in Mayo and are still numerous in Connacht. At the beginning of the 14th century under the famous "Red Earl" (Richard de Burgo) acquired territory in the baronies of Claremorris and Carra, and henceforth were always known as “the followers of the Bourkes”.11 The ancestor of the Stauntons and McEvillys (Mac an Mhílidh - sons of the knight) was Sir Bernard Staunton, or de Sdondon as it was formerly spelled, whose son, Philip Mór de Sdondon was among the first invaders.7

In Straffords Inquisition of Mayo c.1625, he lists 24 Stantons as land owners in the Barony of Carra in Central Mayo.8 Further evidence of the lands acquired by Stauntons can still be seen on the O. S of 1929. The townland of Cartron Stanton is located in the centre of the Barony of Carra, just south of Belcarra Village. Cartron is a corruption of the Irish word “Carthrun”, meaning Quarter in English. Quarters being divisions of land granted to Families of Anglo Norman descent all over Ireland, other examples including Carra, Carrow, Carraun e.t.c.

(fig 3)

The following gives an indication of the powerbase built up by various Staunton families c.12th -14th Centuries in the Barony of Carra. The name Staunton/Mc Evilly is common to the Belcarra area and throughout the locality and in the vicinity of Lough Carra. Staunton Castles existed at the following locations.

CastlecarraThe castle was built some time between 1238 and 1300 by Adam Staunton. The family later took on the name McEvilly. The McEvillys were major chiefs in the area and had another castle at Kinturk near Ballinrobe. In the late 16th century it was acquired by a Captain Bowen and it remained in his family until 1641. The present ruins consist of a tower building surrounded by an impressive moat pleasantly overlooking Lough Carra.

Burriscarra Abbey

Adam Staunton also founded the Abbey at Burriscarra c.1298 for the Carmelites. In 1412 it was transferred by papal decree to the Augustinians who already had a friary in Ballinrobe. The remains of the present abbey are largely early 14th Century. 9

By the time the agents of the Tudor crown began subduing Ireland's west, the Staunton/MacEvily property in Mayo was listed as follows. They had Castle Carra on the northeast shores of the lake and a castle at Cloynlaghen on the southwest shores of the lake which is the present site of Partry House in Ballyovey parish. They also owned Kinturk castle to the north and a castle at Manulla to the northeast of the lake. Finally, they at one point owned Kilvonell castle on the northern shore of Carra which is now called Castlebourke.

All of these castles are fairly small and no more than 6-8 miles from each other. A "Sdondon" is mentioned as building a tower/castle near the river Suck at "Donamon" in the 1230s but it was quickly destroyed by the O'Connors, (leaders of the Gaelic forces in Connaught). After a series of battles and campaigns, this Adam de Staunton started building castle Carra sometime in the 1230s-1240s. After this, the Stauntons owned land in the barony of Carra until around 1600. In some of the records they were called "clann Adam" after Adam de Staunton and begin to make the Annals of Ireland. In 1247, for example, "clann Adam" drove a combined O'Connor force in 1247 out of Carra with the help of Jordan de Exeter. Also, various Stauntons are listed as witnesses in various legal disputes. They always carry the title "sir" so they were considered to be knights or at least gentry at this time. 3

The 1300s are where the Stauntons are most prominent on the historical record. They are mentioned in the Annals, for example, as having fought alongside Richard Og de Burgh, the Red Earl, in the Bruce wars in Ireland. Two Stauntons were captured in battle by the Bruce's brother, Edward, and subsequently released. The episode isn't fully explained. After the Bruce's left Ireland in 1315, Felim O'Connor slew a certain "John Staunton" but Felim was shortly crushed at the battle of Baile-Attha-Lethain c.1317, after this battle, the Normans and the native Irish, who had already intermarried heavily and had been living with/fighting with each other for 50-75 years seem to settle down a bit. This is the point where the Normans begin to become Hiberniores ipsis Hibernis "more Irish than the Irish themselves"

Knox's history of Mayo discusses the Stauntons and their role in the barony of Carra for a few pages. He states that the Stauntons acquired a considerable amount of land, lost some of it through marriage to a certain Simon de Flatisbury, but somehow got it back. When the Tudors began to arrive in Ireland, a large proportion of the Stauntons had taken on the name Mc/Mac Evilly/Evily. A surname switch was common back then and seems to be a clear sign that the Stauntons were trying hard to fit in with/adapt to their Irish neighbours, relations, and rivals.3

The Death of Sir Edmond de Burgh

Sir Edmond de Burgh (1298–1338) was the fifth and last surviving son of Richard III, Lord of Connaught and the “Red Earl of Ulster”. Edmond assumed the right of the Lordship of Connaught. Sir Ulick Burke and Edmond Albanach Burke were his cousins and refused Edmond the right to the headship of the Burke clan. Out of this disagreement sprung the Burke Civil War 1333-38, and out of it, the junior branches of the Burkes later arose. Edmond de Burgh was during the Burke Civil War at Castle Connell in Limerick.
Edmond was captured on Sunday 19th of April, 1338, (known since as “low Sunday”) when he and his men were trying to visit the Augustinian Friars house in the town of Ballinrobe. A band of men headed by Edmond Albanach Burke forcibly entered the monastery, and after a brief battle seized Edmond. The Stauntons joined the De Burgos along with Richard De Flet, Seneschal of Connaught and Nicholas Lienot who were slain along with other so-called nobles after a short resistance. Edmond was taken prisoner and carried all the way to the Castle of Adam Stanton on Oilean-an-iarla (the Earls Island) In Lough Mask.
Negotiations for his release took place between the Stauntons snd the Archbishop of Tuam, and are recorded below in O Flahertys Iar Connaught.

“Edmond was joined in commission with Malachias, Arch Bishop of Tuam for the government of Connaught. The Arch bishope came to bring him and his kinsmen to a reconciliation: and as they were on points of agreements, the villains who had the custody of his body, a certain family of the Stantons despairing their own safety if he were set at liberty, miserably turned him in to a bag and cast him out of the island into the lake with stones tyed to the bag; for which fact they were called Clan Ulcin ever since.”

Clann Ulcin and the corruption Hulkeen was derived from the name of Ulcha Dearg O’ Caelligbean who in AD 680 killed the son of Colgan, King of Connaught.9

The Stauntons consigned Edmond to an ignominious death-tied up in a sack and consigned to Lough Mask. (Quinn, J.F 1993) Supposedly his body was recovered and in the shadow of the Moore Hall estate a lonely tumulus under a thorn bush is pointed out on Earls Island as Edmonds grave.
Other members of the Staunton family involved in the murder assumed the name MacEvilly-Mac an Milidh, “son of the knight” this was a pre-existing name which some of them assumed (with a more sinister translation sometimes given as “Sons of Evil”), but it does not appear that the assumption of the name MacEvilly was so closely associated with the Lough Mask incident, as was the taking of the name MacUlchin, represented by the modern day Culkeen. (Quinn J.F. 1993). Its interesting to note that the Staunton and MacEvilly crests are more or less identical to this day.

“There are at present several families of the name Culkin, who may be descended from the Clan Ulcin branch of the Stauntons mentioned above but this is mere conjecture.” (Quinn J.F. 1993)

The Repercussions of Edmonds Death for Ireland

Knox states that the murder of Edmond Burke by the Stauntons, who were serving their lord Edmond Albanach Burke who controlled Mayo, was a pivotal historical moment in Ireland. The fact that this murder went unpunished by the crown and that the following "civil war" in Ireland among the Burke's went on without any intervention from the crown showed that Ireland outside the pale was at a minimum of little concern to England and in practice more or less on its own. Thus Norman and Gael alike were free to do as they pleased and only had to pay nominal homage to England. From 1338 until 1560 no significant crown based intervention occurs in Ireland outside the pale.

Edmonds death Kindled a “living flame” and the net result, and upshot, of this outrage was that “the sovereignty of Ireland was assumed by the Hereditary Gaeidheal” and Turlough O’ Connor assumed the sway of Connaught with lands previously held by the native Gaelic aristocracy reverting back to the ownership of The O’ Connors.

In the birth registrations for 1890 there were 67 Stauntons or Stantons (chiefly in counties Mayo and Galway, but 14 were in Co. Cork) and MacEvilly had less than 5 entries. Even a generation earlier we find but one in 1864 and 5 in 1865. In this context, it may be noted that MacEvilly and Staunton were used indifferently in recent times by the same families in Co. Sligo and the former was prominent in the second half of the 19th century e.g. MacEvilly, Bishop of Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora from 1857-1881 and Archbishop of Tuam from 1881-1902.10

The Decline of the Old English in Mayo

The "Indenture of Composition" forced on Mayo's gentry in 1585 by the Tudors followed a conflict that the Stauntons and other Mayo gentry lost a few years earlier to the English and was the legal deathblow to their power in Mayo. It in essence states that its signatories are voiding their historical/legal claims to gentry/aristocracy status in Mayo and can no longer legally act as lords i.e. they cannot levy rents or duties on any of their tenants. Legally, they become reduced to mere property owners. The argument by the English at this time against Mayo's gentry was that they were essentially illegitimate gentry that preyed on their tenants. The English cast themselves in their documents as liberators of the poor and oppressed in the region. Their destruction of Mayo's gentry was an act of social justice in their view. This document in effect ends feudalism in the region and introduces the landlord system that would become such a crisis for Ireland in the years to come. This portion of the "Indenture of Composition" that deals with the Stauntons/MacEvilys is reproduced below in full as recorded in Knox's history of Mayo.

“the above named MacEvilie, Mac Paddyne, MacPhillipine, and O'Malley, and all others of that sort and calling and every of them, shall have, hold, posses, and enjoy to them their heirs and assignes, not only such castles and lands as belongeth to the name and calling of MacEvilie, MacPaddyne, MacPhillipine, and O'Malley, but also such castles and lands as they or any of them be now justly seized of as their inheritance, the same to descend from each of them to their heirs by course and order of the laws of England”.

The Lesser chiefs who agreed to this composition are bracketed together as “Macpaddynes, MacPhillipines and MacEvillies” nearly all of whom were in uprising 4 years later, and the Stauntons said they were driven to unwilling rebellion by “the murderous greed of the new arrived English officers, who all had itching palms and insatiable land hunger”. (Quinn J.F. 1993)

After the Stauntons/MacEvillys sign this document and ultimately lose the military fight against the English crown, it seems that their castles are stripped from them one by one from the 1580s to the time of Cromwell. (Knox, 1982).


Primary Sources

Hoban, Brian., Local Historian & Tour Guide, Castlebar.

Secondary Sources

(1) Moody, T.W., Martin F.X., The Course of Irish History, Mercier Press, Cork, (2001)

(2) O’ Flaherty, Roderick, Esq., West or H-Iar Connaught, (1684), First published (1846) by The Irish Archaeological Society, Reprint by Kennys Bookshops and Art gallery, Galway (1978)

(3) Knox, H.T., The History of the County of Mayo, Castlebar, De Burca Rare Books, (1982)

(4) Curtis, Edmund., A History of Medieval Ireland, London, Methuen & Co Ltd, (1978)

(5) O’ Dowd, Peadar., A History of County Galway, Dublin, Gill and MacMillan, (2004)

(6) Ruthven, A.J., A History of Medieval Ireland, London, Ernest Benn Ltd, (1968)

(8) O’ Sullivan, William ed. The Stratford Inquisition of County Mayo, R.I.A MS 24 E 15, Dublin Stationary Office for the Irish Manuscripts Commission (1958)

(11) O’ Hara, Bernard ed, Mayo (aspects of its Heritage) The Archaeological, Historical and Folklore society, R.T.C Galway (1982)

Quinn, J.F., The History of Mayo, (5 Volumes) Quinn Press, Ballina, (1993)

Ibid, Volume I

Ibid, Volume II

(7) Ibid, Volume IV


(9) U, [], last updated, (2007)

(10) A Quest For The Past, In Search Of The Staunton Family History, [] last updated, (March, 2004)

Wikipedia, [], last updated (23, July, 2007)

The Anglo-French Invasion,
Summary History of Ireland, [], last updated 12, May, 2006


Fig 1. Knox, H.T in MacFhirbis Genealogies of Ireland

Fig 2. The Lordship of Ireland in the middle ages

Fig 3. Extract from Ordinance survey of 1929, County Mayo, sheet 90, plan 6