From MacConcobair to Noctor

Foreword                                                                                                                              [Introduction]

The following essay was put together by my uncle, Gerard Noctor, some years back. It is my pleasure to be able to reproduce it here on my home page. Ger wrote the text by hand and drew two of the illustrations, the "Eponymous Ancestor" and "Cian of Cashel". The essay was put together in booklet form and photocopied so that each of his children, nieces and nephews could have a copy. Unfortunately my copy is a little ragged at this stage, and even with the help of a scanner, I cannot do the original artwork justice. I have typed up the text for easier reading and scanned the illustrations. The illustrations were originally interspersed with the text, here I have left them separate.
Ger comments in his introduction are that the  work is never going to be complete as there is always some element to add. This is somewhat true also of the representation here of his essay, which I will probably re-arrange using frames and what not - sometime in the future.
Unfortunately at this time I don't have access to Gaelic true types, but this will be updated in the future - so no sheimhu's and no fada's ! 
If you have any comments/questions - please submit them.

Maeve Noctor.

Introduction                                                                                                                              [Contents]

Mr. Deasy, late headmaster of the Model School in Limerick, and a dedicated educator through the medium of Irish, first introduced me to the Irish version of Noctor. It is still recorded there in the roll-book as Mac Conchubhair. His source, I think, was probably Woulfe’s Sloinnte Gael ‘s Gall. Later, as a civil servant, I used this as my “official” name. Over the years I have collected quite an amount of information on the history of the name and indeed the family also. However, by it’s nature, such a work is never complete, and although a finished product has been forthcoming on many occasions, it has always been withheld on the basis of having to wait for some essential element to be included. The work continues, but recently it occurred to me that a voluminous edition on the name history would only be favourably received by those connected with family, and least of all by publishers, whereas a short account of the background of the name might serve the mildly interested or simply curious reader. For this reason , but also to bring an obscure name into historical perspective, as there is no small element of pride involved, I have prepared the following brief essay and embellished it with some genealogical tables, maps and a little artwork for the readers amusement. Reference sources are included for anyone who may be interested in further reading.



G.R. Mac Conchubhair
(Gerard Noctor)


  1. Introduction
  2. Name History
  3. Family Name in historical Records
  4. The Cianachta
  5. Notes on Charioteer Drawing
  6. Charts and Illustrations
    1. The Eponymous Ancestor
    2. Locations of Surnames
    3. The Cianacht as a barony
    4. Early Genealogy
    5. Ancestral Lands
    6. Cian of Cashel
    7. Noctor Genealogy
    8. Name Variations
    9. Sources of Information

The Eponymous Ancestor                                                                                                                              [Contents]

As mentioned in the foreword, this essay was originally in booklet form. The cover is shown here.

eponymous.gif (12392 bytes)

Locations of Surnames                                                                                                                              [Contents]

Geographical Location of  some of the Surnames  mentioned in the text.

location.gif (9691 bytes)

Name History                                                                                                                                          [Contents]

The surname Naughter, often spelled Noctor, is one of the many anglicised versions of the old Irish family name Mac Concobair, which has a conspicuous association with the ancient history of Ulster.

Concobar, the source name, was a frequently used Gaelic personal name, said by some to have been derived from an old Celtic word meaning wise. However the con prefix is a common one in Irish surnames, and a more popularly held theory suggests it’s meaning to have been hound. It is likely that con as in Mac Con Mara or Mac Con Ulaid was common usage for warrior and used in much the same context as scourge when applied to the infamous Atila. The second part of the source name - cobar - presents little difficulty, translating from the Irish as help. Concobar, therefore, on the basis of these assumptions, can clearly be interpreted to mean Hound of Help or Warrior of Help.

Whatever the meaning, Kings of Connaught and Ulster frequently bore the name, and it is mentioned in early Irish mythology as well as the earliest documented sources of history. Concobar, King of the Ulaid, is one of the central figures of the famous folk saga known as the Tain, the events of which are generally acknowledged to relate to a period in the first or second century BC. Its antiquity as a personal name is undisputed, but it was not until the tenth and eleventh centuries that surnames were adopted, the practice before this being to quote several generations as a litany of identification. Surnames immediately derived from Concobar were Mac Concobair and O’Concobair ( from Ua Concobair) which meant Son of Concobar and One of Concobar respectively. The latter became O’Conchobhair and finally O’Connor and represents numerous independent and unrelated families and septs whose illustrious histories are well documented.

The primary concern here however is with the name Mac Concobair. The name implies, according to Irish genealogical tradition, direct lineage to a person of the name Concobar - a fact which was considered of sufficient import to warrant the use of a distinctive surname by direct descendants, even though the surname O’Concobair may also have been used in the same clan and may also have been derived from the same eponymous ancestor.

Since there are several separate clans bearing the name O’Connor, it follows that there existed also several distinct families of the name Mac Concobair, and associated derived surnames. This was indeed the case, but most are now extinct and those that have survived are not only rare, but have evolved in distinctly separate patterns. Mac Connagher or simply Connagher - of Galway origin - is one such example. The only other surviving family known which bears the name originated in Ulster.

Mac Concobair was the name of the ruling family of the Cianachta people in Central County Derry in ancient times. According to the annals, the family held sway over the area - known as the Cianacht - from the fifth to the twelfth century, at which time, following a protracted struggle, they were finally deposed. The surname was adopted from Concobar, a King of the Cianachta people in the eleventh century, whose ancestry is traced back to Cian, son of Ailill Ollum, the renowned king of Munster who is said to have died in or around 250 ad. The family name has survived in the area’s surrounding the ancestral territory - the Cianacht Gleanna Geimhin - and indeed also in the neighbouring counties. In the sixteenth century it is recorded as “Mac Conoher”. This very quickly evolved to Mac Naugher, which had much the same pronunciation, but the “Con” had diminished phonetically in regular usage and eventually was dropped entirely. The English historian - Campion - records the name in 1571 as Mac Connor, when he refers to a member of the family who was secretary to Shane O’Neill at the time of his death in 1566.

In the following century, Acts of Parliament designed to suppress the Gaelic way of life, militated against the characteristic “Mac” and “O” of Irish surnames. This further reduced the name to Naugher, but both versions of the name still exist to this day. During the seventeenth century the name is recorded variously as McKonor, McCnoghr and McKnogher, to mention just a few.

Irish surnames, generally speaking, tend to be found in the geographical area of their origin and as already mentioned, this is also the case here, but as also with many such surnames, some migration took place, and with it some further name distortion. During the 1798 period, a considerable migration occurred when county militia from northern - and some southern - counties were drafted to trouble spots such as Wicklow and Wexford for police duties after the rebellion. Several of these regiments are recorded in the Wicklow Parish Register during this period and it is very probably that members of the northern family, possibly the Naugher version, settled in that region at this particular time. The name was new here and within a decade had picked up the letter “t”, probably partly due to some confusion with the southern synonym Naughten but also possibly due to the guttural treatment in this region of the “gh” in the name. At any rate, the name had now evolved to Naughter, and eight different varieties of spelling are to be found on the same parish register from this period onwards, all having the same pronunciation.

At least seven of the original Wicklow family served in the first world war, mostly in the regiment of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, and some were conspicuous in the troubles at home during the same period. One of these, John Noctor, is recorded as being a prisoner of war in Frongoch in Wales for his active part in the Easter Rising.

Many variations of the name still exist, Mac Naugher in Derry being phonetically closest to the original name, but also Naugher in Antrim and Monaghan and Naughter in Wexford. In Wicklow and Dublin the form Noctor is favoured.

Early Genealogy                                                                                                                 [Contents]

earlygen.gif (9188 bytes)

Family Name in Historical Records                                                                                                          [Contents]

Donnchad, 1104 ad  -  Last King of Cianachta Gleanna Geimhin. He bore the title "Ua Conchobair".
Una Ni Conchuir 1397ad  - One of the old ruling family in Derry, married to Manas O'Cathain.
Michael Mac Conchubhair  - Scribe of "Caithreim Thoirdealbhaigh"
Dermond Mac Connor   - Correspondent to King of Spain and claimant to title "Lord Cormac"
Brene MacConnoher, 1543  - Listed in the army of the Earl of Tyrone engaged against the Scots.
Neale MacConnor    - Secretary and Advisor to the Earl of Tyrone - Shane O'Neill and killed by the Scots in 1566
James McKnogher 1615    - Involved in rebellious activities after Plantation of Ulster
Brian Mac Conchuir 1615  - Appointed Rector of Bo da Fhiach in Derry
Teig Mac Cnogher 1656  -   Lands confiscated in Co. Kerry - not related to Derry Family
Derby McCnoghr  1665  -  Co. Tipperary, Hearth Money Rolls
Padraig Mac Concubhair -  Commissioned Mich Og O'Longain to write "Eachtra Conaill Gulbain"
James Naughter - Killed in Action  in France 1916 RDF ( Royal Dublin Fusiliers) Co. Monaghan
Aiden Naughter - Killed in Action  in France 1917 RIR ( Royal Irish Rifles)
James Noctor -  Killed in Action in France 1918 RDF Gorey, Wexford
Miles Noctor  - Died from gas poising 1916 RDF
Patrick Noctor - Killed in Action in France 1916 RDF Wicklow
John  Noctor - of Deansgrange Terrace, Blackrock. P.O.W Camp in Frongoch in Wales 1916 - Released 27.07.1916

The Cianacht as a Barony                                                                                                                              [Contents]

cianbarony.gif (21332 bytes)

The Cianachta                                                                                                                                                    [Contents]

Bordered on all sides by natural boundaries of water, mountains and dense forest, the Cianacht Gleanna Geimhin survived unscathed as an independent kingdom under the Ui Concobair for seven hundred years. The family are mentioned frequently in most of the annals, while the Books of Leinster, Ballymote and Lecan are among the many manuscripts which trace their lineage through Findchan, the Glen Geimhin founder in the fifth century right back to Cian who gave his name to the clan. An early manuscript (lebor na gCeart) records the clan as “One of the six free and noble races of the Gael in Leth Chuinn” free of tribute to other kingdoms.

Their history is one of intermittent alliances and conflicts with the various Cinel Eogain clans and similarly with their pictish neighbours, the Fir na croimhe, Fir Li and Dal nAraide when occasion demanded, while no alliance is recorded at all with the Ulaid , but occasional conflict.

Leadership passed to the Ui hAinndiariadh (O’Henery) Sept of Glenconkeine only when the internal problems arose within the Cianachta and then, it is suspected with some measure of co-operation from within. This was in the wake of the plague in 1095, which decimated the population, and left a mere boy as heir to the kingship. The “O’Henery’s” reign spanned a total of twenty six years, punctuated occasionally by other contenders, one of these being the last Ui Concobair king, Donnchad, the boy who had by 1100, come of age and successfully held kingship for four years.

With the passing of the last “O’Henery” in 1121, power passed to the O’Cathain line, partially through intermarriage with the O’Henery’s - and later the Ui Concobair’s - but also through suspected complicity in O’Henery’s death, - he was killed by his own kinsmen at Beannchar.

Ancestral Lands                                                                                                                              [Contents]

ancestland.gif (9076 bytes)

Cian of Cashel                                                                                                                               [Contents]

Illustration drawn by Gerard Noctor. Notes on the drawing are included further down.

ger_cian.gif (7537 bytes)

Notes on Charioteer Drawing                                                                                                                            [Contents]

The idea of the illustration here - one of several associated with the theme - is to give a face or a tangible image to those ancestors who vague forms tend to loom from the misty past when one delves into the pages of history and mythology. This one, which is unabashedly heroic in style is intended to reflect the character of the Celt in the form of Cian, son of Ailill Ollum of Cashel in the third century ad , and ancestor of the Mac Concobair family.

The particular stance portrayed occurs on many early roman coins depicting Celts, but the drawing is in fact modelled on a figurine from Italy - also Celtic - and illustrated, in photographic form, in T.G.E Powell’s book, “The Celts”. Placing this figure in a chariot, in an attempt to reconstruct what may have been the original model, I took the liberty of placing on his head that exquisite helmet of gold and bronze from Amfreville in France, which is illustrated elsewhere in the same work. The torc is modified to represent the one found in the Broighter Hoard in the Cianacht in the last century, and is one of National Museum’s finest treasures. It is of the insular La Tene style and is dated to the first century BC.

The sword is of the urnfield type and the cloak is fastened by an Irish brooch, while the shield is contrived and possibly - in retrospect - inspired by Fitzpatrick’s grandiose style . The spearhead represents a bronze-age piece with half-moon cut-outs of a type found near Killaloe, whereas the spear itself is based on the formidable Gae Bolga of Cuchulainn. In fact the entire concept is influenced by the graphic descriptions in the Tain, and finally, the chariot is taken from the chariot-grave of La Gorge Meillet at Marne in France.

Noctor Genealogy                                                                            [ Other "Noctor's" of Wicklow | Contents ]

                                                                             Patrick Nockter
                                                                           Bridgid Cavanagh
                                      |                |                 |               |               |              |             |               |
                                 William       Anne      Anne          James         Mary       Denis     ----?      Michael
                                  b1831                b1813          b1828             b1836          b1811              b1815        b1821           b1824
                                                 m                                                                m                                       m

                               Catherine                                       Mary                         Bridget
                                 Doyle                                        Kearnes                      Byrne
                                     |                                                1856                                    1839
                                     |                                                  |
                                Patrick                                             |
                                                           |                 |                           |                  |
                                                        Mary          James                 Denis          Rebecca
                                                         1857                1861                            1858                  1860
                                                                  |                  |                  |                  |                  |
                                                            Robert          Denis          James          Daniel          Mary

                                                               |                                          |                             |
                                                           Gerard                          Margaret                      Denis
                                                                                  b1941                                                                                      b1939
                                                                                     m                                                                                             m
                                                             Jean                                                             Catherine
                                                            Ryan                                                                Hayes
                                                               1965                                                                                        1966
                                                                |                                                                        |
                                                --------------------------                   ------------------------------------------
                                                |                  |                  |                    |              |               |             |                 |
                                            Fiona          Eoin          Daragh            Maeve     Denis      Aoife     Cathleen      James
                                                            b1968              b1978              b1969                     b1967          b1972           b1979          b1973             b1969

  Other "Noctor's"  of Wicklow                                                                                                              [Contents]

Miles Noughter
Mary Crawford
|              |               |
Michael    James      Thomas
b1818          b1820             b1813

Mary Naughtor
John Clancy

John Noughter

Daniel Naughtor
Judith Stanley

Mathew Naughter
Ester Healy

Matthew Naughter
Mary McGrath

Patrick Noctor
Winifred Kelly

Daniel Noctor
Elizabeth Cavanagh

Denis Noughter
Mary Collins

John Canna
|               |                |                |
Mary         John            Ellen         Esther
b1852                b1855                b1860             b1849

Name Variations of Mac Concobair                                                                                                        [Contents]

Mac Concobair
Mac Concubair

Mac Connagher
Mac Connor
Mac Conoher
Mac Naugher
Mac Naughter
Mac Nocher
Mac Noger
Mac Nogger
Mac Nogher
Mac Noher


Sources of Information                                                                                                                                    [Contents]

Limerick City Reference Library

National Library - Dublin

State Paper Office, Dublin Castle

Other Sources

This information is reproduced from the Essay "From MacConcobair to Noctor" written by Gerard Noctor (c)