History of Lough Gara

History of Lough Gara

Lough Gara is 10km from Ballaghaderreen. From Ballaghaderreen follow the signposts for Monasteraden. Once you reach Monasteraden turn right and you will arrive at Lough Gara.

The name O’ Gara from which Lough Gara and Moygara derive their place names is one of the oldest in North Connaught. The first documented reference of the O’Gara name is in 964 AD in the Annals of the Four Masters.  The O’ Garas used to rule along with the O’ Hara Clan with whom they shared a common ancestry but in the 10th century they established separate chieftainships. The O’ Garas first controlled the Barony of Leyney in Co. Sligo before moving to the Sliabh Luagh district in Co. Mayo. This territory included the southern part of the diocese of Achonry, taking in the Parishes of Kikelly, Kilmovee, Kilbea, Kilcolman and Castlemore. The O’Gara Clan lost this territory to the Anglo-Norman familiesof the Nangles later known as the Costellos and the Jordans during the invasion of Ireland by Henry II. The O’ Garas then moved to the Coolavin Barony which became their principal seat. Lough Gara which was now part of the O’ Gara territory was referred to in ancient times as Loch Technet. The first documented reference to it as Lough Gara is in 1285 AD suggesting they ruled the lands around Lough Gara from at least this time. The areas around the lake were referred to as the O’ Gara heartland. The O’ Gara family built three castles on their territory. Their main castle was at Moygara on the northwest corner of the lake. They also constructed two smaller castles, one at Cuppanagh and the other on Derrymore Island. Moygara castle is thought to date to around 1500 AD and was possibly built on the site of an earlier fortification. Moygara is the only one of the three castles that lies in a reasonable state and can be visited today. The O’ Gara’s were one of the principal families in Co. Sligo before the Cromwellian invasion, a time when Irish lands were confiscated by the English Crown. The chief of the O’ Gara Clan was Oilill O’ Gara who died in 1614, his successor was his grandson Fergal who was only a minor when he became heir of the family estate. Fergal became the largest of the Gaelic landowners in Co. Sligo with him owning 29 townlands in the half Barony of Coolavin. Fergal O’ Gara earned a place in Irish history due to his patronage of the Annals of the Four Masters which was compiled between 1632 and 1636 by Brother Michael O’ Cleary. The Annals consisted of manuscripts that were collected from all around Ireland, many of these were later lost during the Cromwellian invasion. The Annals of the Four Masters is dedicated to Fergal O’ Gara for the part he played in its compilation. Fergal O’ Gara lost all his land in 1650 to the Cromwellian invasion when it was confiscated by the English Crown. It is thought that Fergal played no part in the war that took place on the Irish landowners in Sligo at this time. He died in the year of 1660, the exact date is unknown.