Early Beginnings



Many people have asked to which clan do the Lomasneys belong.  This has prompted new research into the most ancient origins of the family.

Presently it has not been possible to tie the family to any particular clan with certainty, although there are range of strong possibilities.  Further research may discover this information at some later date.  While this paper will not identify the family’s direct clan associations, it will try to place the earliest known origins of the family into an historical context.

Please note that there may be several ways to spell Irish words and names.  Spelling in Irish can be considered as more of a code system than spelling as such.  Spelling variations exist between Old Irish and Modern Irish.  Anglicising names has created further variations, as did the literacy of scribes and officials.  Spelling variations in this document reflect the alternative spellings encountered in source materials.


Mr Pat Lemasney of Ballinlogh, County Cork, advised Mr Laurie Lemasonry of England that in 1946 he enquired about the origin of the Lomasney family.  The advice which he received from Dr Edward MacLysaght, then Chief Herald & Genealogical Officer at Dublin Castle, was as follows:


“LOMASNEY is a purely Gaelic name having no English, Norman or other foreign associations.  It is the Anglicised form of ÓLomasna and was formerly written O’Lomasny.  It originated in south Tipperary, and a townland, of Baile Uí Lomasna (anglicised Ballynomasna), in the Parish of Tubrid in that County, indicates the place.  It is now a rare surname in Ireland, found chiefly in Counties Cork and Limerick.”

In the Irish language ‘tubrid’ means ‘well’, and would often refer to a ‘holy’ well, (ie: a well which held claim to curative properties and to which annual pilgrimages were made, referred to as ‘patterns’).

The above information was rediscovered during the 1980s, from the same source.


Once, Mr Pat Lemasney was given a verbal explanation regarding the location in southern County Tipperary where Dr MacLysaght placed the Lomasney surname, and for the ‘scattering’ of the family.  Quoting from memory, he has related the following:

“Before the Norman invasion of Ireland in the 12th century, the Lomasneys, the Dunworths, the O’Merrys and the O’Trehys (Troys) held sway in that part of County Tipperary.  After the invasion, the O’Merrys moved south into County Waterford, and there are still some there, but scarce like the Lomasneys.  The Dunworths moved across to County Limerick, as did the O’Trehys, also known as Troy.  They can still be found there but in small numbers.  The Lomasneys moved south, mainly ending up along the Blackwater River, often near larger estates.  Others moved to an area between Counties Cork and Tipperary, ‘hungry’ hillside land near the village of Araglin, some distance from the market town of Mitchelstown.  There would be still a concentration of Lemasneys/Lomasneys in that area.”


The above information is fascinating indeed.  It confirms that the Lomasney surname is very ancient, perhaps even as much as one thousand years old.

When the Prendergasts, a Norman family, acquired their Irish lands in the 1100s, it seems their new estates included ‘Ballylomasna’.  Arguably, it is unlikely that they would have named their newly acquired estates after the former local owner-occupants.  A more compelling proposition is that the placename ‘Ballylomasna’ (and its associated family surname) predated the Norman Invasion as suggested by the Chief Herald.

Such antiquity of the Lomasney surname is quite plausible.  Ireland was one of the first countries to evolve a system of hereditary surnames.  A few surnames were formed before the year 1000.  However, these were ephemeral (short-lived) and not hereditary.  In Ireland, hereditary surnames generally came into being in the 11th century.

The ÓLomasna surname appears to conform to the norm.  It is a name denoting a personal characteristic of a particular ancestor.  It would have likely been adopted as a surname at the very latest in the early11th century, but more probably during the 10th century.  The name might even have existed prior to the 10th century as a nickname or as an ephemeral patronymic (name inherited from a paternal ancestor).

The early timing of the adoption of the surname is very fortuitous indeed.  Happily, it occurred sufficiently early for the townland of Baile Uí Lomasna to be named after the family.  Sometime thereafter, perhaps even within only a few generations, the family departed their ancestral home.  The cause, the Norman Invasion, began in 1169 and was completed by 1200.  The new local land-holders, the Prendergasts, were among the very first of the Norman invaders.


Originally land measures were based upon what draft animals (oxen) could cultivate.  The size of such units was dependent on the quality of the land.  An ox is an adult castrated male of any domesticated species of cattle.  In Danelaw, the area which could be ‘ganged over’ (cultivated) in one year by a farmer with a single ox was an ‘oxgang’, or a ‘bovate’, perhaps about 15 acres at best.  A team of eight oxen could plough a ‘carucate’ or ‘hide’, reckoned to be between 60 and 180 acres.

The townland is the most ancient and smallest territorial division still in use, (the smaller ploughland and gneeve divisions are no longer used administratively).  The townland (also known as a ballybetagh) probably represents the area which could be farmed by the traditional family unit.

In the 12th century, the English began the first of many invasions of Ireland.  They governed Ireland using the same structure as they used for themselves.  In the late 12th and early 13th centuries they divided Ireland into shires or counties.  Irish counties were granted to Norman noblemen in cantreds, later known as baronies, which corresponded with the honors or baronies which made up the English shires.  As in England, baronies were further sub-divided, into manors or townlands.

When land measures became standardised, 120 acres comprised a ploughland, and 4 ploughlands (or 480 acres) comprised a townland (or a ballybetagh).  Comprised of 30 ballybetaghs, a trioca cead or barony, was a now-obsolete administrative unit which survived from feudal times to the 19th century.

Ireland has 32 counties, 331 baronies and, recorded in the 1851 Townlands Index, more than 65,000 townlands (the latter varying from a few to several thousand acres).  In some cases, the spelling of townland names varied.

‘Ballylomasna’ is comprised of 383 acres.  ‘Ballynamuddagh’ in County Cork (from whence came the ancestor of most Australian Lomasneys) is 933 acres in extent.


Ballylomasna is located in the south of Tipperary and is approximately 45 miles (70 kilometers) equidistant from the towns  of Cork, Kilkenny, Limerick and Waterford.

Southern Tipperary appears to have once been part of a region previously called Magh Femin.  ‘Magh’ was spelt ‘Mag’ in Old Irish and means a ‘plain’.  ‘Femin’ is spelt ‘Femhin’ in the Book of Munster.  The area is also simply referred to elsewhere as ‘Femen’.  The Book of Leinster contains a legend about the derivation of the placename.  It says a female character, named Dil, owned two cattle of which she was very fond.  They were called Fe and Men, and they appeared on a plain which was subsequently named after them.  However, this is not necessarily as securely founded as might appear, and the meaning and significance of the placename is somewhat uncertain.

The borders of Magh Femin are also difficult to determine exactly.  In ancient texts its centre was stated to be about Knockgraffon which is in modern County Tipperary.  It seems to have included much of the present barony of Middlethird (there being two baronies by this name incidentally, one in Tipperary and another in Waterford).  It also appears to particularly be closely associated with the area now comprising the present Barony of Iffa and Offa East, and perhaps may also have taken in the Barony of Iffa and Offa West.

In the 5th century Magh Femhin became part of a territory called the Decies (pronounced dee-sees in English, or day-sha in Irish) which largely comprised modern County Waterford.  From that time Magh Femhin was known as Desie Thuasgeart (also seen spelt as Desi Tuaiskert) or North Decies, to distinguish from rest of Deisi which became known as Déisi Mumhan ( also spelt Deissi Muman) or South Decies.  The Decies remained a semi-autonomous part of the Kingdom of Munster right up to the Norman Invasion.

Later Ballylomasna and surrounding territory became part of the Barony of Iffa and Offa West in the extreme south of present County Tipperary.


The Irish clan system, with the exception of a few brief periods, was never completely centralised and stable as the Scottish clans eventually came to be.  Irish clan history is full of inter-clan differences, political realignments, changing territories and areas of influence.  Research into early clan histories becomes complicated and absorbing.

By the 6th century, Ireland was divided into five kingdoms or ‘Fifths’.  The four current Provinces of Ireland are named after four of them, Uladhm (to the north), Laighean (east), Connacht (west) and Mumha (south).  Another Kingdom called Meath also existed in the centre.  Tradition holds there was war in the north, wealth in the east, learning in the west, music or art in the south, and kinship in the centre.

Ireland’s political geography can be traced with some accuracy from the 7th century.  Ireland then consisted of about 150 (or up to 200) government units, called a ‘túath’ (plural ‘túatha’), an autonomous, independent political jurisdiction ruled by a chief.

Society was intensely aristocratic.  In classical law tracts there were three distinct grades of kings.  The local tribal kingdom (túath) was ruled by a Rí or Rí Túaithe.  Some local kings, in addition to ruling their own túath, also were overlord of a number of other tribal kings.  They were called Ruiri or ‘great king’.  The ruler of a province was Rí Ruirech or ‘king of over-kings’.

It is estimated that pre-Norman Ireland had a population of less than half a million.  The exact number probably fluctuated considerably as a result of plagues and famines.  The population was supported in the main by an agricultural and pastoral economy.  Wealth and status was calculated in cattle.  Primary dietary staples were milk (and its products) and corn.  Also important were sheep, pigs, vegetables, cereals and apples.  These were supplemented by nuts, wild fruit, berries, fish and game.

Just prior to the Norman Invasion in the 12th century, Ireland was still an agrarian and pastoral land.  It was also still divided into its ancient kingdoms and clan territories.  The counties did not then exist in Ireland, they were formed later in Ireland’s history.

The Irish clan system went into some decline following the Anglo-Norman (or more correctly, the Cumbro-Norman) Invasion.  However, it was not destroyed by it.


What eventually would become Munster was originally inhabited and ruled by the Erainn, and later their descendants, the Corca Loigde.  Other ancient peoples also inhabited southern and southwestern Ireland.

Ptolemy, the Roman geographer who lived about the year 140, designated the earliest inhabitants of southwestern Munster the Uterni or Uterini.  Other writers also called these peoples the Iberni, Iberi, and Juerni.  They are considered to have been of Spanish Iberian origin, hence the designation of ancient Ireland as Ibernia or Hibernia.

Ptolomy designated the earliest inhabitants of Tipperary the Coriondi.  The earliest inhabitants of adjacent Waterford he designated Menapii, who also occupied the present county of Wexford.

County Cork was the ancient home of the tribes of Erainn, Maritine, Corca Loigde, Muscraige, Uí Liathain, and the Éoganacht septs of the Raithlenn and Glendamnacht regions.  The Viking settlement of Cork was started around the 9th and 10th centuries.  In the 12th century, County Cork included the territories of Ivelaugh, Beara, Dubh Alla, Insovenagh, Muskerry and Fearmuigh.

County Tipperary was the ancient home of the Eile, Deisi Thuasgeart, Muscraige Tire, Dal Cairpri Araide, and Éoganacht Caissil.  Territorial names there in the 12th century included Ely and Hy Fogarta (Ormond), Muscraige Cuirc, Aradh Cliach, Hy Kerrin, Uaithni Tire and North Decies.

County Waterford was the ancient home of the Deisi Mumhan, Magh Femin, Uí Liathain and Coscraidh.  The Viking settlement of Waterford city was founded in the 9th and 10th centuries.  By the 13th century territorial names included the Decies, Gal-tir, Hy Fodhladha, and Uactar Tire.


The later history of Munster is largely the story of two ancient peoples, the Eóganachta or Eóganacht (pronounced owen-ought) and the Dál gCais (or Dal Cais), and these two tribes’ leading families, respectively the MacCarthys and the O’Briens.

In the 3rd century Oilioll Olum was a King of Caisil (Cashel).  Later, his descendants formed a significant federation of dynasties known as the Eóghanachta.  From the Eóghanacht confederation would eventually come the MacCarthys.

Also, in the middle of the 3rd century, an event which later had far-reaching effects was the migration of a tribe called the Deisi Brega (or Deisi Mide) into what became County Waterford.  They apparently were exiles from a power struggle with the (high) Kings of Tara.  By the 8th century they had also settled in County Clare where they gave rise to the Dál gCais (the first recorded instance of the name being its use by the annalists in 934).  From them would eventually come the O’Briens.

In the 4th century the major provinces in Ireland were Uladh in the north, Cruachain in the west, Breagh (or Brega) in the east, Laigin in the southeast, and Caisil in the southwest.  Another province, Mide or Midhe, in the centre of Ireland, is also referred to in Irish folklore.  Mide (or Meath) eventually included Breagh within its borders.  The Kingdom of Caiseal, centred on its royal site at Caiseal (Cashel), would eventually become Munster, the largest of the former Irish Kingdoms.

Prior to the 5th century, southern Tipperary was called Magh Femin.  One source states that according to Vallancey (the 18th century antiquarian, Charles Vallancey), the chiefs of Magh Femin, whose principal residence was on the very rock of Cashel itself, obtained the name name ‘Hy dun na mio’ (‘the chiefs of the hill of the plain’).  This was rendered by corruption as ‘O’Donnohue’, and from them descended the MacCarthys.

Vallancey’s explanation is questioned by some.  Normally the name O’Donoghue is taken to be from the Irish ‘Ua Donnchadha’, meaning ‘grandson or descendent of Donnchadha’.  Dr Edward MacLysaght says that they are a sept of the MacCarthy clan.  However, MacLysaght also says that according to Dr John Ryan there was another O’Donoghue sept in County Tipperary, of Eóganacht descent.  It seems likely that they are talking about the O’Donnoghues of Magh Femin, and that the Eóghanacht referred to are the Eóganacht Caisel.

The O’Donnohues of Magh Femin ruled several native tribes who had been there for centuries.  The Eóganacht Caisel eventually dominated Munster.

In the 5th century, Aengus McNafrach, the then King of Munster, made Magh Femin part of the Decies.  The Decies, was so named after the powerful tribe of Decii ( or Deisi Brega) who had settled in present county Waterford in the 3rd century.  Magh Femhin was then renamed Desie Thuasgeart (or North Decies) to distinguish it from the more southern lands of the same sept.  The borders of the Decies are almost conterminous with the present Roman Catholic Diocese of Lismore and Waterford.  The Diocese comprises Co. Waterford (except five townlands), a considerable portion of Co Tipperary (two baronies and part of two others), as well as a small area of Co Cork (12,000 acres).

In the 6th century the Eóghanacht were beginning to show their dominance in southwest Ireland.  By the 7th century they eclipsed the Erainn peoples in Munster.  Subsequently the Kings of Munster came from the Eóganacht.  They ruled a kingdom comprised of many diverse subject peoples.  The MacCarthy family became the leading Eugenian (Eóganacht) rulers of Munster.

However, in the mid-10th century the Eugenian dynasties were overthrown by one of their subject peoples, the Dál gCais.  The O’Brien family (related to Brian Boru, King of Munster from 976 to 1014) became Munster’s Dalcassian (Dál gCais) rulers.

Munster’s power waned after the death of Brian Boru at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014.  However, for a time, between 1086 and 1114, the then king of Munster (Muirchertach O'Brien) was still the most powerful in Ireland.  But between 1115 and 1127 the King of Connacht (Turlough O'Connor) destroyed Munster’s power.  He was assisted in this by the old rivalry between the MacCarthys and the O’Briens.  Other kingdoms (including the Eóganacht Caiseal) used the opportunity to further their own interests.  Munster split into the Kingdom of Desmond (or South Munster) under the Eugenian MacCarthys, and the Kingdom of Thomond (or North Munster) under the Dalcassian O’Briens.  Ormond (East Munster) had largely gone its own way for some time.  The Decies, though ‘part’ of Thormond, was also largely independent.

In 1127 the O’Briens and the MacCarthys settled their differences and recognised Cormac MacCarthy as King of Munster.  However, Cormac MacCarthy was assassinated in 1138, and Diarmait O’Brien, whom history records as the instigator, became King of Munster.

But in 1151 the power of the O’Briens was shattered at the Battle of Móim Mór near Fermoy.  It was one of the bloodiest battles of the 12th century.  The whole affair had started as a struggle for the throne of Munster between its King, Turlough O’Brien, and his brother, Tadc.  It (once again) drew the King of Connacht into Munster’s affairs and gave the MacCarthys another chance to rebel against the O’Briens.  Munster again split into the Kingdom of Thormond and the Kingdom of Desmond.

The King of Connacht (Turlough O’Connor) died in 1156.  Supreme power in Ireland passed to the King of the Uí Neill (Muirchertach Mac Lochlainn) who held the upper hand in Ireland until his death in 1166.  He allied himself with the King of Leinster Dermot MacMurrough (Diarmait Murchadha) against their main opponent, the new King of Connacht (Rory O’Connor).

The King of Connacht (Rory O’Connor) along with his allies, particularly the King of Breifne (Tiernan O’Rourke), as well as the Dubliners, then drove the King of Leinster from Ireland.  The King of Leinster appealed for help to a group of Norman barons and ultimately to King Henry II of England.  This led to the Norman Invasion of Ireland which began in 1169.

By this time, Munster was still split into Thomond under the O’Briens, and Desmond under the MacCarthys.  Ormond was still largely going its own way.  The Desii still maintained a separate sovereignty until overpowered by the first English invaders, against whom, however, they carried on a sanguinary and protracted struggle.

Southern Tipperary, was still part of the Decies, of which O’Brick and O’Phelan were leading septs.  The Annals for 1168 record “Ua f-Faeláin tighearna na n-Deisi Mumhan”.  That is:  Ua f-Faeláin (O’Phelan) became ‘Tighearna’ (Lord) of Deisi Mumhan (the Decies).  The Decies, once part of a united Munster, appears to have been a ‘part’ of Thormond.  However, the semi-independent nature of the Decies, and its Lords, the O’Phelans, made such links tenuous and unpredictable.

This is the complex situation in which southern Tipperary found itself just prior to the arrival of the Norman invaders.


For his prominent part in the invasion of Ireland, a Maurice de Prendergast was granted land in Waterford, Wexford, Tipperary, Mayo and Wicklow.

His family seated themselves at Newcastle Prendergast on the River Suir.  Their territory stretched from Cahir to Cappoquin and from Fethard to Clogheen.  They had several castles including: New Castle (Eskertenan), the main seat at mouth of the Nier Valley; Ardfinnan Castle (5 miles north-west of Newcastle); Curraghcloney Castle (3.5 miles south-east of Newcastle); and Frehan Castle (north of Clonmel).  They also owned Enniscorthy Castle (in County Wexford).

Ultimately the Prendergasts themselves were also dispossessed of much of their lands during the days of Oliver Cromwell.  Several of their castles were destroyed by the army sent to put down the Irish Rebellion of 1641.

After the Norman Invasion the only trace to connect the Lomasneys with their ancient home is the placename, ‘Ballylomasna’, which survives to the present day.


The Lomasneys appear to have been a small but distinct Sept in southern Tipperary prior to the Norman Invasion.  It is not known how long they had been at Ballylomasna, whether they were a native people who had stayed put, or if they had come from elsewhere.

Most certainly, just prior to the Norman Invasion, their home, Ballylomasna, was in North Decies, of which the O’Brics and O’Phelans were leading Septs.  Indeed, the year just prior to the Norman Invasion an O’Phelan became ‘Lord’ of the Decies.

If the Lomasneys were in the locale of Ballylomasna sufficiently early, they may have been associated with the Dál gCais, and the O’Briens when the O’Briens were Kings of Munster.

If the Lomasneys were at Ballynomasna earlier still, they arguably could be associated with the Eugenian MacCarthys and/or the chiefs who supposedly once ruled Mag Femen, the O’Donnohues of the Eóganacht Caisel.

However, the Lomasney surname is not readily identifiable as being either Dalcassian or Eugenian.  It is possible, that the Lomasneys may have been one of the original indigenous people who were in southern Tipperary from very ancient times.  If this is so, they could even be from one a number of ancient peoples.  In addition to the Decii, these could include the Osraige (from which the territory of Ossory got its name), the Eile (Clan Cian), or the Muscraige, to name a few.

It is appropriate, and should suffice, for the Lomasneys to simply regard themselves as an ancient Irish Sept whose roots are deep within the very heart of Ireland itself.

Written in 2000 by

Stephen James Lomasney

Canberra, ACT, Aus

©John Lomasney 2015