McCraith is the maiden name of one of our paternal great-grandmothers, Margaret McCraith (1861-1943) who married William Dwyer in 1885. The sequence of surnames in the three generations between us goes McCraith-Dwyer-Dwyer-Dwyer.

The McCraiths1 are descended from Cennétig, King of Thomond (d.951) who was the father of Brian Boru (c.941-1014) High King of Ireland from 976-1014. The first Macraith was a grandson of Brian’s brother Eichtigern. This Macraith was probably born around 970, and may have been with Brian at the Battle of Clontarf, near Dublin, in 1014.

In 1086 a Magrath was mentioned in Irish annals as the Chief Poet of the Province of Munster, and the Magraths served the O’Brians as poets through the 12th Century. Their lands were initially around the Killaloe area in eastern County Clare, where they were running a bardic school by the 14th century. Poets were extremely important to early Irish society, preserving the history, genealogy and myths and legends of Ireland and their sept. Poets enjoyed high social status and training took many years, involving memorising thousands of lines of verse.2

By the mid-16th century the McCraiths had quit County Clare and established septs in Donegal, Tipperary, Waterford, Fermanagh and Kerry. In County Tipperary there were three distinct families of McCraiths: infamous Protestant Archbishop Miler Magrath’s descendants in the centre of the County, a family in the northwest and a third in the Cahir area of South Tipperary. The last of these is likely to have been our branch of the McCraiths.
The McCraiths of the Cahir area operated a bardic school near the town of Cahir in the latter half of the 16th century. Records from 1641 have McCraiths living in Ballylomasna, about 11 kilometers from Ballyporeen, where our first known McCraith ancestors lived in the early 19th century.

Samuel Lewis described Ballyporeen in his A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (1837):

a village, in the parish of TEMPLETENNY, barony of IFFA and OFFA WEST, county of TIPPERARY, and province of MUNSTER, 4 miles (W.S.W.) from Clogheen, on the road from Cork to Dublin; containing 113 houses and 513 inhabitants. It is the residence of M. Burke, Esq.; and Ballywilliam is the residence of the agent of Caesar Sutton, Esq. Fairs are held on May 12th, Aug. 21st, and Dec. l7th. It is a constabulary police station; and a court is held for the manor, which is the property of the Earl of Kingston, since whose accession the village has been much improved. The parish church, recently erected; the R. C. chapel; and a dispensary, are situated here. There is a mineral spring of some repute.3


1 Variants for this name include Mac Craith, Macraith, McGrath and McGraw. The source used for this overview of the McCraiths is McGraw, Michael F. (2005) The Possibility of a Common McGrath Origin.

2 Hackney, Ryan. & Hackney Blackwell, Amy. (2007). 101 things you thought you didn’t know about Irish history. Avon, MA : Adams Media. Pp.20-21



Next page >>