'When my father eventually married a policeman's daughter there was some surprise, though people would not have known all of the story'

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'When my father eventually married a policeman's daughter there was some surprise, though people would not have known all of the story'


Mary describes her family history and in particular her geneology. She reflects upon her parents' story of how they met and married.


Mary Dynan


Trinity College Dublin




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Mary Dynan

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Life Story

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Co. Antrim

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My family name is McGuckian. That is not one of the names which figure in the early history of North Antrim but they have been there a long time. John McGuckin, a Harvard scholar, who has done a lot of work on this says that the family originated in Co Tyrone. He gives 160 variants of the name and that only covers the Mac's. He did not even consider the O's. The O - h - Eochagains were mentioned by John O Dugan, the chief poet of the O Kelly who died in 1372. He wrote a topographical poem about the Red Branch Knights in which he listed the principal tribes of Meath, Ulster and Connaught at the time of the English invasion and the O - h - Eochagains were included. We have not yet found out when they came to North Antrim, but my great - great grandfather, William Patrick, with his name spelt differently, (McGoogan) is mentioned in the tithe roll for Mounthamilton in 1832. He had married a local girl Mary McKay in 1800. (By the way, they say that all the variants of Irish names were due to illiteracy. I'm not illiterate nor is the Australian society in which I live, but despite the fact that I automatically spell my name, in as many days I've encountered 6 variations of Dynan - Daynan, Dynon, Diman, Dimond, Diamond, Deighnan. So it is little wonder that a more complicated name like Mac Eochagain has so many.) My paternal grandmother was Rose Laverty - She came from Culbane in Loughguile parish. When the vicar of Armoy, where the townland of Carrowlaverty is, was making his return to the privy council in 1766 on the protestant and papist inhabitants of the area, there were 19 families of Lavertys in Loughguile .... they had obviously been pushed a little further up the mountain side. My mother's family brought a different all - Ireland dimension to our background. Her father was in the RIC (Royal Irish Constabulary) - His name was John McKenna. He was the younger son of a farming family in Monaghan. They were known as the McKennas of Truagh and claim descent from Niall of the Nine Hostages. He met his wife Kate Byrne in Galway, where her father, who was from Wicklow and also an RIC man was then living. His wife, Sarah Mellon, who was born in Westport though her family came from Co Tyrone originally. She claims they were exiled there in 1798. She was a teacher. one the first Catholics to be trained at Marlborough St College. When my father eventually married a policeman's daughter there was some surprise, though people would not have known all of the story. He had been quartermaster of the Third Northern Brigade of the IRA and had spent some time in the hills keeping out of the way of that force. My uncle had spent two years on the Argenta which was the prison ship in Larne Harbour. All of the family (they were 6 brothers) was involved with the Gaelic League, particularly my uncle, An t - Athair Donal MacEochagan, who was a great enthusiast for all things Irish and left a trail of committed Irish speakers wherever he went - in the parishes of Toomebridge, Moneyglass and Randalstown, in Cushendun and in St Paul's in Belfast. I would say that there is no doubt that some of his influence is still there in the Irish speaking community - Glor na Gael - in Andersonstown to - day. These men had fought for Ireland. They were mightily disappointed with the Treaty, but given the fait accomplit, they decided to work for Ireland in the best way they could. They set about developing employment opportunities in the village and started a shirt factory which employed the women. They started a pig farm that eventually grew to be the largest in Europe, and drew visitors from as far away as the Soviet Union to see the innovative things that were going on there. And while never denying their nationalism, they worked as far as they could with all and sundry. One characteristic of Moran in John McGahern's novel Amongst Women that my father had, was his silence about all that experience, but we imbibed his attitudes by osmosis, and knew who his friends were. I think he had two heroes. One was (at least at the time I am speaking about. A certain disillusion may have set in later) de Valera - I remember the excitment when he came to Murlough to unveil the Casement memorial - long since blown up by a bomb. The other was Armour of Ballymoney. The Rev Armour was a Presbyterian minister who died in 1928 at the age of 87. In his long life he had remained true to the old tradition of liberty that had bred the United Irishmen, founded in Belfast. Aodh de Blacam says 'he championed the tenants in the land struggle, the Catholic side of the University question, nationalism in the Home Rule movement. He revived the independence of the old - time Ulster Presbyterianism, as it was before Dr Cooke and others crushed it into politics. He refused to sign the Ulster Covenant in 1913; denounced in the general assembly the new identification of Protestantism with Unionism and he did this without making one enemy. ....He was not an Nationalist in any formal sense, but he demanded that the will of the majority should prevail for justice sake. He denounced the Unionist appeal to physical force and inveighed like an impassioned patriot against the division of Ireland'. At Masses in Ballymoney when he lay dead in the manse the priests paid tribute to him 'His memory will not die; his good work will continue to bear fruit. Let us hope and pray that a new generation will see his ideals realised, and that Ireland his beloved country, will be once more united, prosperous and free'. The sad thing is that those very people, the children of the Rev Armour's congregation, are the ones who are now in thrall to the Member for Bannside, the Rev Ian Paisley.


Irish Research Council for Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences (IRCHSS)

Research Coordinator/P.I.

Dr Kathleen McTiernan (Trinity College Dublin)

Senior Research Associate

Dr Deirdre O'Donnell (Trinity College Dublin)


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