MacEgan, Owen (DNB00)

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MACEGAN, MACEGGAN, MACEOGAN, or MACKEGAN, OWEN or EUGENIUS (d. 1603), bishop-designate of Ross, co. Cork, and apostolic vicar, a native of Ireland, was possibly educated at one of the Irish Roman catholic seminaries in Spain, and obtained the degrees of master of arts and bachelor of divinity from a Spanish university. In 1600 he was in Ireland actively encouraging rebellion. Carew (MSS. 1589-1600, p. 314) says that Florence MacCarthy Reagh [q. v.] then 'wrote another letter to Donnaught McCartie and his brother (being rebels) persuading to rebellion, in which letter there joined with him Owen McKegen [McEggan in the margin] usurping the name of bishop of Rosse.' In the same year Tyrone and Florence MacCarthy jointly sent MacEgan to Rome 'for an excommunication to all that did not rebel, which excommunication was divulged after' (ib. p. 315). Subsequently MacEgan gained access to the Spanish court, and secured considerable influence with Philip III. It was largely owing to his suggestion that Philip resolved to send men and money to Kinsale in 1601 to support the rebellion which Tyrone had fomented in the south of Ireland. Pope Clement VIII approved the plan, and to increase its efficiency summoned MacEgan to Rome, appointed him apostolic vicar, created him D.D., and conferred on him livings in Munster estimated at 3,000l. a year (O'Sullevan, Histories Catholics Ibernicæ Compendium, ed. Kelly, 1743 ; Stafford, Pacata Hibernia). The vicariate secured for him unlimited ecclesiastical authority, and placed in his hands all the patronage in Munster (Bagwell, Ireland under the Tudors, iii. 429). MacEgan arrived at Kilmakilloge in Kenmare Bay in June 1602, in a ship bringing troops and 12,000l. from Spain. The insurgents were beginning to despair. Lord-deputy Mountjoy [see Blount, Charles, Earl of Devonshire and eighth Lord Mountjoy] had nearly crushed Tyrone's rebellion, and Kinsale was closely invested. 'Nevertheless, by reason of the arrival of Owen MacEgan with treasure and large promises from Spain, the Irish were for a while more sturdy after the siege of Dunboy than they were before' (Cox, i. 451). 'Many relapsed into rebellion, and particularly Donough and Finin, sons of Sir Owen Maccarty Reagh, received 300l. of the apostolical vicar, MacEgan, and upon 10 July joined the rebels' (ib.) About the same time Cormac MacCarthy was arrested on the charge of conspiring with MacEgan to assist the Spaniards, and Sir Cormac Macdermott, chief of Muskerry, was found to have received eight hundred ducats from him. MacEgan exercised his powers with unremitting energy. He confirmed children in crowds. All who had served the queen, even if they were Irish and Roman catholics, he is said to have had confessed and absolved, and then immediately executed in his sight. But MacEgan's career was soon ended. He personally engaged in an encounter with some English soldiers under Captain (afterwards Sir William) Taaffe [q. v.] at Cladach on 5 Jan. 1602-3, and was slain there. Sir George Carew [see Carew, George, Baron Carew of Clopton], writing to the privy council on 22 Jan. 1602-1603, says that MacEgan, perceiving the advantage that the English had obtained, 'with a drawn sword in one hand, and his portius and beads in the other, with one hundred men led by himself, came up to the sword, where he was slain, whose death so amazed the rest brake and fled.' According to O'Sullevan, he was killed 'dum vestibus ecclesiasticis indutus, arma spiritualia manibus gerit altera breviarium, altera rosariam,' All Carberry was thereupon reduced to submission; 'a principall means of this suddaine and universalle reduction was the death of that traitorly priest, Owen MacEggan, which doubtlesse was more beneficialle to the state than to have gotten the head of the most capitall rebell in Munster' (Stafford, p. 367). He was buried in the convent of Timoleague, diocese of Ross, and a small cross was placed above his tomb.

He must not be confused with Boethius MacEgan (d. 1650), a Franciscan Minorite, who was appointed bishop of Ross on 11 March 1647, taken prisoner by a troop of Ludlow's soldiery in May 1650, and executed at Bandon Bridge (Brady, Episcopal Succession, ii. 112).

[Carew MSS. 1589–1600 pp. 314, 315, 1601–1603; Stafford's Pacata Hibernia, pp. 366–9; O'Sullevan's Hist. Cath. Ibern. Compendium, ed. Kelly, pp. 240, 243, 244, &c.; Cox's Hist. of Ireland, i. 451, 453; Thomas's Historical Notes, p. 1220; Myles O'Reilly's Sufferers for the Catholic Faith in Ireland; Brady's Episcopal Succession; MacGeoghegan's Hist. of Ireland (translated by Kelly), ii. 316, 317, 328; Bagwell's Ireland under the Tudors.]

A. F. P.