Keegans of Ui Fiachrach
The commonly accepted history of our name is that it originated in Ireland in C1000 when a member of the Ui Maine (Hy Mainey) tribe called Flann took the name of his father Aedhagain, making the family surname MacAedhagain or MacAodhagain. Over the next few hundred years, the difficult Gaelic spelling was variously Anglicised to Mac Egan in the west, McKeegan in the north and Keegan in the West.
In the Milesian Genealogies, the "Keegan" clan is listed twofold:
1) As a member of the Ui Maine tribe (ie part of Clan MacEgan)
2) As a member of the Ui Fiachrach tribe
So why are the Keegans classed as Ui Fiachrach but not the Egans? Could one of the early Keegans have been related to this prominent tribe through perhaps a maternal line?
Mrs Ann Keegan of Van Buren in the US State of Maine sent me her late husband Dan Keegan's genealogy notes which state:
"King Olliol Molt had a son called Earca who organized a group... and changed the name of his new founded group to O'Keegans (meaning Philosopher in Irish) in approximately 482 A.D."
Olliol Molt was a founder of the Ui Fiachrach so it is a theory worth examining...
About Olliol (Ailill) Molt and the Ui Fiachrach
The Uí Fiachrach were a dynasty who originated in, and whose descendants later ruled, the coicead or fifth of Connacht (a western province of Ireland) at different times from the mid-first millennium onwards. They claimed descent from Fiachrae, an older half-brother of Niall of the Nine Hostages. Fiachrae and his two full brothers, Brion and Ailill, were the collective ancestors of the Connachta dynasty that eventually became the new name of the province.
The other two dynasties within the Connachta were the Uí Briúin - descendants of Brion - and the Uí nAilello - descendants of Ailill. The latter sank into obscurity at an early stage but both the Uí Fiachrach and Ui Briuin and their many sub-septs featured prominently in the history of Connacht for one thousand years. In the 12th century, an Ui Briuin descendant, Ruaidri mac Tairrdelbach Ua Conchobair, became High King of Ireland.
The Uí Fiachrach separated into two distinct branches, situated widely apart from each other. The Ui Fiachrach Aidhne settled in the kingdom of Aidhne and established themselves as its new ruling dynasty. The Uí Fiachrach Muaidhe were based along the River Moy in what is now part of County Mayo and County Sligo. It appears that they once constituted a single overkingdom, and ruled or took tribute from the older tribes and nations situated between Aidhne and Muaide, but lost their grip on power by the early 8th century leaving them confined to their own strict territory.
Uí Fiachrach Aidhne was bounded on the north and east by the powerful independent kingdom of Hy-Many or Ui Maine - so they were certainly in close proximity to the Mac Aodhagain ancestors.
Uí Fiachrach Muaidhe covered all of what is now county Sligo and much of north and central County Mayo. In 982 Aedh ua Dubhda (Aedh grandson of Dubhda), King of Uí Fiachrach Muaidhe, died "an untroubled death". He was the first of his dynasty to use the surname O Dubhda (anglicised to O'Dowd, Dowd).
A later Tadgh O Dubhda, Tadhg Buí, became Taoiseach (Irish president) in 1595. In 1601 he led the men of Uí Fiachrach south to Kinsale, never to return. A tradition states that he survived the battle and settled in Co. Kerry.
Could a son of Tadgh (Mac Tadgh or Mac Taidhgin) have become a Keegan?
There is a posibility, as seen in the Isle of Man where KEIGEEN, or KEGEEN was contracted from Mac Taidhgin. The name TAIDHGIN, little Tadhg's son, being a diminutive of TADHG, meaning poet or philosopher. (See http://www.isle-of-man.com).
The first Keegan?
I have theorised elswhere on this website that the first MacAodhagain to use the name "Kegaine" was Owen, bishop of Ross in 1602. Actually though there was another Keegan much, much earlier in history.... Unfortunately she was a mythical goddess!
In Irish mythology, three Tuatha Druidessess, — Bodhbh, Macha, and Mor Kegan — brought down darkness and showers of blood and fire upon Firbolgs at Tara for three days, until the spell was broken by the Firbolg magic bearers — Cesara, Gnathach, and Ingnathach.
While it's fairly safe to say that Keegan originated from MacAodhagain, it is certainly possible - even probable - that an early Keegan settled on that particular rendering of the surname because of its similarity to the word Taidhgin (poet/philosopher) or Kegan, the famous Irish druidess.