McLaughlin Clan

Image of the McLaughlin coat of arms, a lion between two swords, over 3 upturned crescents

The medieval genealogies of Ireland tell us that the Mac Lochlainn, anglicized McLaughlins of Donegal are descendants of a mysterious figure from the 11th century called Lochlainn.  Apart from his name (interestingly a Norse personal name and at the time a word heavily associated with the Vikings), very little is known of the man.  We can trace his fathers ancestry ten generations back to Eoghan, son of the infamous Niall of the Nine Hostages.  Eoghan gave his name to the Inishowen peninsula and County Tyrone, and was the founder of a powerful dynasty which also included families such as O’Neill and Sweeney.

Historically, the family’s territory was centred in the medieval kingdom of Aileach in Donegal, where their ancestor Eoghan originally established his power base.  Throughout the 12th and 13th century the Mac Lochlainns battled with the O’Neill family of Tyrone for control of the Grianan of Aileach, the centre of power in the kingdom.  The conflict escalated so much that it began to affect and disrupt other political situations in the country as far south as Dublin and Meath.  Finally, after enlisting the help of the O’Donnells, the O’Neills almost completely destroyed the family at the battle of Caim Eirge in 1241, going on to expand in power and territory in Ulster, leaving the Mac Lochlainns to dissolve into relative obscurity.  The name however, lived on.

Along with numerous Kings of Aileach, the Mac Lochlainn sept spurned two high kings of Ireland, Domhnall Mac Lochlainn and his grandson Muirchertach Mac Lochlainn, both of whom have an important place in the complex medieval history of Ireland.  Domhnall was the grandson of the original Lochlainn and, according to the Annals of Ulster, was known as a generous and brave man.  He commissioned the construction of the Bell Shrine of St. Patrick, now in the National Museum of Ireland.  Muirchertach however, was a vicious and unruly warmonger.

McLaughlins today are found all over the world but are highest concentrated still at their home roots in Co. Donegal.