wHAT’S IN A NAME


The Coughlan Crest

MacCoughlan


Having dropped the Mac, they are now mostly called Coughlan.


Two original Irish versions of Coughlan (and its variants (O')Coghlan, Coglin and Cohalan) exist, Ó Cochlain and Mac Cochlain, both derived from cochal, meaning "cloak" or "hood".


The Mac Cochláin were part of the great tribal grouping of the Dál gCais, claiming descent from the semi-mythical Cas, which also produced the O'Briens and the McNamaras.   The MacCoughlan sept ruled over an area in modern West Offaly called Delvin Eathra, now the Barony of Garrycastle, excluding Lusmagh parish, around Banagher and Clonmacnois.  This was annexed to King’s County in 1570.


The head of the sept, which was by origin Dalcassian, was known as Chief of Delvil MacCoughlan.  Sir John MacCoughlan, so styled, died in 1590.  MacCoughlans were prominent in the Annals from the twelfth century; and even after the destruction of the Gaelic order, the family remained influential in their native territory for nearly two centuries.


MacCoughlans were known as “MacCoughlan of the Fair Castles” obviously because of the number of castles in their territory, including Garrycastle, Clononey, Lemanaghan and Kilcolgan.  Ten of these castles are mentioned in the sixteenth century by the Four Masters. “Four Masters” is a chronicle of medieval Irish history.  Some authorities claim that a Colgan sept were once established at Kilcolgan.   The name still survives in numbers in the area.  


Members of the Coughlan clan were prominent in political life, two being members of the Irish Parliament for the borough of Banagher.  One was Thomas Coughlan, called the “Maw” who died in 1790 and was the last to hold the title of head of the family.  At the present time the name is still fairly common, particularly in west and sough Offaly.


The above is a compilation of information from various sources on the internet.  It is all I can write on the Irish history of the Coughlan family.  There is more to be unearthed about our Irish origins, I am sure.  However, Brother Simon Coughlan related, after his visit to Ireland, that such research is difficult because the records were kept in the churches and over the years several of these churches have burned.   Since I began my quest, I have been told that if we can go back as far as 1800, that is about as far as we are going to go.


We know that John Coughlan, Bridget Brown’s first husband, was born in Birr, County Offaly (once Kings County) in the year 1812.


Mary Coughlan, who was the child of Julia Barrett came from Tralee, County Kerry and  hereditary line will also be investigated in the future.


Since beginning this Coughlan project, I have observed some characteristics associated with naming conventions.  One of the most important clues I have followed and found to be very useful is the inclusion of the mother’s maiden name behind the Christian name and before the surname.  I wish I had done this when we named my own children.  This convention enabled me to trace the Sheen family back.


Secondly, in the time of the Coughlan family, the use of nicknames was prevalent.  Almost all of Simon and Mary Coughlan’s children had nicknames.  My own mother’s name was Helena but I am sure that not one person in the 1900’s knew her as Helena.  Not even the nuns at school called her Helena; her school leaving certificate was assigned to “Lena” which is what everyone called her, including her parents.   Simon and Mary Coughlan called their son Simon “Sam.”


A third observation is related to the journalism of the times.  And it may also be a sign of the times as far as the place of women in society in the early 1900’s.   Mostly a female was referred to as Miss or Mrs and the surname.  Almost never do you see a Christian name associated when a female.     One last note, whenever a birth notice appears, the baby is always associated with the father and almost never the mother.