|Nicknames:||"Maureen Rhue", "Moll Roo", "Maire Rua MacMahon"|
|Birthplace:||Clonderlaw, County Clare, Ireland|
|Death:||Died in Dromoland Castle, near Newmarket-on-Fergus, County Clare, Ireland|
|Cause of death:||her red headed ghost is said to haunt 'the druids rock'|
|Occupation:||Chatelaine of Lemeneagh|
|Managed by:||Erica Isabel Howton, Volunteer Curator|
About Máire ní Mahon
Maire Rua Red Mary (1615 - 1686) was the Chatelaine of Lemeneagh. She was born in 1615/1616 in Clonderlaw County Clare, Ireland; probably died at Dromoland Castle, near Newmarket-on-Fergus, County Clare [fn1]; and may be buried at Coad church in Kilnaboy parish, County Clare, Ireland.
Parents: Torlach Rua MacMahon, Lord of Clonderlaw and Mary O'Brien, daughter of the third Earl of Thomond.
- Daniel Neylon of Dysert O'Dea in north Clare; 4 children
- Around Oct 1639 to Conor O'Brien of Leamaneh (1617-1651) son of Donogh O'Brien & Honora Wingfield; 8 children [fn2][fn3]
- in 1653 to Cornet John Cooper, a Cromwellian soldier [fn4][fn5][fn6]; 1 or two children.
Children of Daniel Neylon and Maire MacMahon:
- unknown son died in infancy
Children of Conor O'Brien and Maire Neylon:
- Donough (or Donat) O'Brien, 1st. Baronet Leamaneh+ d. 1676 m. Lucia Hamilton
- unknown daughter # 1 - may have died of the plague ca 1651
- unknown daughter # 2 - may have died of the plague ca 1651
Children of John Cooper and Maire O'Brien:
- Harry (or Henry)
Maire Rua "Red Mary"
Conor O'Brien's wife was red haired Maire Rua. (Maire ni Mahon - daughter of Turlough MacMahon). She is said to have gone with her husband on raids against English settlers. Conor O'Brien was killed in 1651 while fighting against Cromwell's loyalists. Maire then married a Cromwellian soldier to preserve her son's inheritance. She was indicted for murdering this husband, John Cooper, but was acquitted.
There are many tales about the formidable Maire Rua. It is said that she hung her disobedient men servants by the necks and her maids by the hair from the castle's corbels and used to accompany her husband on raids upon English settlers. When Conor was mortally wounded in a skirmish with Ludlow's army in 1651, she is said to have refused to open the gates to receive her stricken husband, declaring "We need no dead men here", but having found that he was still alive nursed him until his death a few hours later.
It was her son, Sir Donat O'Brien, who improved the property. In addition to work on the gardens, a canal was added and the carriage drive lined with trees. In 1705 Sir Donat left Lemaneagh Castle for Dromoland, ancient stronghold of the O'Breins. He took with him a fine stone fireplace and the impressive gate which now rests in the garden of Dromoland. After he left Lemaneagh Castle fell into ruins.
Of the many stories that surround the property, one is of a particular area near the fish pond. Inset into an entrance to a walled garden are 2 niches. Legend has it that they were built for a blind stallion belonging to Maire Rua. He was supposed to be so wild that when let free in the yard, his grooms had to jump up into the niches to keep from being trampled.
It was told that Maureen Rhue was taken by her enemies, after killing the last of her 25 husbands, and was fastened up in a hollow tree, of which the site and, I think, the alleged roots were still shown. Her red-haired ghost was reputed to haunt the long front avenue, near the 'Druids' altar' when I was a child.
- Robert Starkey, son of William, was in residence at Dromoland when the rebellion of 1641 began. It seems that he either fled the area or sublet the property because in 1642 Col. Conor O'Brien of Leamaneh, son of Donough and husband of Maire Rua, seized the castle, thereby continuing his fathers claim to Dromoland. Conor was killed in battle in 1651. His eldest son Donough , born to Conor and Maire Rua in 1642, was now heir to Leamaneh Castle and to the family claim on Dromoland.
- Conor was killed in 1651 at the Pass of Inchicronan while leading his men against the Cromwellians. General Ireton was attacked by Conor O'Brien, who fell mortally wounded but would not surrender. His servants brought him back, nearly dead, to his wife at Lemaneagh. 'She neither spoke nor wept,' but shouted to them from the top of the tower,- 'What do I want with dead men here?' Hearing that he was still alive she nursed him tenderly till he died. Then she put on a magnificent dress, called her coach, and set off at once to Limerick, which was besieged by Ireton. At the outposts she was stopped by a sentinel, and roared, and shouted, and cursed at him until Ireton and his officers, who were at dinner, heard the noise and came out. On their asking who was the woman, she replied,- 'I was Conor O'Brien's wife yesterday, and his widow to-day.' 'He fought us yesterday. How can you prove he is dead?' 'I'll marry any of your officers that asks me.' Captain Cooper, a brave man, at once took her at her word, and they were married, so that she saved the O'Brien property for her son, Sir Donat.
- Lady Chatterton's account in 1839 tallies with that above. She says that Ireton sent five of his best men, disguised as sportsmen, to shoot Conor O'Brien, and one of them succeeded in wounding him. Mary captured and hanged the man, called her sons and advised them to surrender to the Parliament, and set off in her coach and six as described above.
- Through this marriage of expediency Maire Rua succeeded in keeping her estates intact for her children. John Cooper left the army and became wealthy through land and property speculation, though he later ran into financial difficulty resulting in the mortgaging of Leamaneh. She was indicted for murdering this husband, John Cooper, but was acquitted.
- At Lemaneagh it is added that one morning, after her marriage to Cooper, they quarrelled while he was shaving, and he spoke slightingly of Conor O'Brien. The affectionate relict, unable to bear any slur on the one husband she had loved, jumped out of bed and gave Cooper a kick in the stomach from which he died.
- There is no evidence to support the story of her throwing her third husband out of the window of Leamaneh, or of her forcing him to ride his horse over the Cliffs of Moher. In fact, it seems that financially and legally the marriage of convenience lasted for many years although they perhaps lived separate lives later on.
- Thomas J. Westropp, 'Folklore of Clare'. Ennis, Clasp Press, 2000.
- MacNeill, Máire, and Maureen Murphy. Máire Rua: Lady of Leamaneh. Whitegate, County Clare, Ireland: Ballinakella Press, 1990.
- "Historical Memoir of the O'Briens",first published in 1860, by John O'Donoghue, A.M. Barrister-at-Law. republished by Martin Breen in limited edition, 2004.