TERENCE FRANCIS MACCARTHY
PRINCE OF DESMOND


by John J. Kennedy

Associate member of the Académie internationale d'héraldique
On 19 July 1999, the present Chief Herald of Ireland, Mr. Brendan O'Donoghue, issued a notice with three major points: 1. the 1992 decision to grant courtesy recognition to Terence Francis MacCarthy as the MacCarthy Mor, "is to be regarded as null and void"; 2. the decision in 1979 to ratify and confirm arms to Terence Francis MacCarthy "must be regarded as invalid"; and 3. the pedigree registered for Terence Francis MacCarthy in 1980, "is without genealogical integrity".

Chief Herald O'Donoghue took these measures based on a 20 June 1999 report in the Sunday Times and on the genealogical spadework of Sean Murphy, a Wicklow professional genealogist. It appears that the 3rd Chief Herald, Donal Begley, had not only recognized Mr.T.F. MacCarthy on insufficient (alleged family agreements and pacts) and unreliable genealogical grounds (Tanistry), and granted him the Chiefly arms, but had also acquiesced in the unprecedented recognition of the MacCarthy's alleged "princely" rights to grant certain hereditary titles, a direct violation of the Irish Constitution!

If Chief Herald Begley's criteria for recognizing Chiefs were skewed, the present Chief Herald has to pick up the pieces and restore a set of criteria for the recognition of Chiefs based on descent by primogeniture from the last recognized Chief of the Name. This perhaps explains the rationale for the recent re-organization of the Genealogical Office.

What is also clear is that the now exploded pretensions of Terence Francis MacCarthy (or is it MacCartney?) of Belfast, have made many American and Canadian gentlemen look astonishingly gullible and naive. Whether the titles granted by the alleged MacCarthy Mor be those of historic Gaelic lordships (with a rough equivalence to the Lords of the Manor titles that are for sale regularly in Britain) with their make-believe coronets, or the decorations of the Niadh Nask nobiliary fraternity, whose antiquity (never actually supported with any historic evidence) was very likely a figment of T.S. MacCarthy's inventive imagination, such pretensions are extremely foolish when contrasted with the reliable canons of Irish historical scholarship.

So, while I do not envy Mr. T.F. MacCarthy of Belfast and his devotees the embarrassment or ridicule to which they are now open, nonetheless, I cannot suppress a smile that at least one Wicklow genealogist and one Chief Herald of Ireland are honest enough to call his enormous bluff at some cost to themselves.


(Reference: Heraldry in Canada/L'héraldique au Canada, Vol. XXXIV, March 2000)


HeraldicAmerica Forum