Irish Historical Mysteries: The MacCarthy Mór Hoax:

Last Update 2012-05-08 05:47:25 | Posted On 2012-05-08 05:15:36 | Read 3660 times | 0 Comments


Irish Historical Mysteries: The MacCarthy Mór Hoax:

On January 28, 1992, the Irish Genealogical Office conferred courtesy Chief of the Name recognition to Terence MacCarthy as the MacCarthy Mór, the title of the chief of the MacCarthy sept or clan. The title literally means "the great MacCarthy." The MacCarthys had been princes of Desmond, and earlier, through the Eoghanacht of Cashel, the kings of Munster. Terence MacCarthy claimed the title based on tanistry rather than primogeniture, and stated that his father renounced the title in his favor in 1980. He then led a very successful affiliation of MacCarthy clan associations in Ireland, Canada, and the United States. These associations throve, because of good organisation and the strong appeal of heritage tourism at the time. MacCarthy instituted a quasi-chivalric order, the Niadh Nask, and conferred titles of nobility on his supporters.


On June 20, 1999, the Sunday Times in Dublin published an article questioning both the facts of MacCarthy's particular application of tanistry, and the verity of his descent from former chiefs of the MacCarthy clan. Various public statements on both sides were released over the next few months. MacCarthy's critics alleged that he was an impostor who misused his genealogical skills to fraudulently claim the title, then exploited it for personal financial gain and aggrandisement. His supporters countered that he was an excellent organiser who delivered on every promise made to clan associations. They argued that a culturally inappropriate and impossibly stringent standard was applied to MacCarthy's pedigree. They also claimed that MacCarthy was being singled out because of jealousy of his success, and possibly due to his political and religious views. Investigation of the case was rendered more difficult due to the refusal of the Genealogical Office to release all documents relating to the 1992 courtesy recognition. The Irish Freedom of Information Act of 1997 does not apply retroactively, but documents relating to the case from April 1998 onwards were released. Sean Murphy, a County Wicklow genealogist, has published online accounts of the MacCarthy Mór case and a full-length book also. It is now clear that Terence MacCarthy's claim to be the MacCarthy Mór was based on fabricated documentation, and rather than being aristocrats of Munster origin, his ancestors were ordinary Belfast working people.

On a practical level, the issue was settled by two events. In August 1999, the Irish Genealogical Office nullified its previous recognition of Terence MacCarthy as the MacCarthy Mór. On October 9, 1999, after losing the support of the Niadh Nask, Terence MacCarthy abdicated the title, which his younger brother, Conor, then claimed. Barry Trant MacCarthy, a resident of England, applied for recognition the title, but the Genealogical Office never made a decision on the matter. In 2003 the government discontinued the practice of granting courtesy recognition to Chiefs of the Name.


Log in or Register to Write A Comment

Your Name

Your Email Address

Your Comment Note: HTML is not translated!

Enter the code in the box below: