Hugh MacMahon

1660-1737; b. Cavany, Scotshouse, Co. Monaghan, son of Colla Dubh Mac Mahon and Eibhlin [nee] O'Reilly, dg. of Col. Philip O'Reilly, Cavan leader in 1641 Rebellion; entered Irish College, Rome, 1683; ord. Oct. 1688; grad D.D., c.1689; passed seven years in Flanders; nominated for presidency of Irish College, Lovain; canon of collegiate church of St. Peter’s, Cassel where an uncle [Arthur Augustus MacMahon] was praepositus; appt. Vicar General of Clogher, remaining in Cassell; appt. Bishop of Clogher 1707–15, being anointed in St Omar;

travelled to Ireland while retaining benefits of his canonry by Vatican licence; involved in resolution of clerical disputes in dioceses of Ferns and Kilmore leading to his appt. as Apostolic Administrator for Kilmore, 1711 which he retained until 1728, and resigned pleading advanced years; became target of the priest-hunter Edward Tyrrell c.1712, his father’s house being search; travelled to Cassel to execute his uncle’s will and arrested en route in English, but escaped; wrote report for Office of Propaganda Fide at the Vatican about conditions of Catholics under Penal Laws, 1714;

appt. Archbishop of Armagh 1715–37, with some delaying pending grudging approval of James III; involved in quarrel of Rivers and Archb. Byrne of Dublin See; sought Vatican stamp for primacy of Armagh, writing Jus primatiale Armacanum (1724) and Prosecutio ejusdem argumenti pro Primatu Armacano contra anonymum (1728) in its support; fnd. Dominican Covent in Drogheda and donated head of Oliver Plunkett; carried out investigations in cases of clerical malpractice - e.g., Bishop Flynn of Ardagh; d. 7 August 1737 in Armagh;bur. ST. Peter’s Church, Drogheda, being succeeded in Armagh see by his nephew Bernard MacMahon. WIKI DIB/RIA [No ODNB]

[ See entry on MacMahon by Patrick A. Walsh and John Cronin in the Dictionary of Irish Biography (RIA 2009) - online. ]


Maureen Wall, Catholic Ireland in the Eighteenth Century: Collected Essays, ed. Gerard O’Brien (Dublin: Geography Press 1989) - writes: ‘Archbishop of Armagh, 1715; active in reorganising the church in Ulster as bishop of Clogher, since 1707; tracked by Edward Tyrrell, and escaped to Flanders for two years, the local magistrates refusing to assist, c.1712; wrote an account there of the state of the church, addressed to the Pope, detailing deprivations of the clergy and the poverty of the people; returned to Ireland 1714; went into hiding in 1720 when a hunt was made for him ensuing on accusations from some apostate priests; established Dominican convent in Drogheda [extant today], 1722. About 1719 the old dispute Primacy broke out between Dublin and Armagh about[?] bishop Byrne ignoring his summons to Armagh; the Pope supported MacMahon in this case; MacMahon applied himself for many years to writing his famous book, Jus Primatiale Armacanum, setting out in detail the arguments for the primatial dignity and jurisdiction of Armagh; died in Drogheda, 1737 at 77 years of age.’[O’Brien/Wall, p.36].

Further: Hugh MacMahon, appointed Bishop of Clogher in 1707, reported to the pope on the state of religion on the island in 1714. In striking contrast to his remarks on Ulster in general [vide supra], he wrote, “it is regarded by all as little short of a prodigy how this pilgrimage, though prohibited by name, in the foremost place, and under the most severe penalties by Act of Parliament, suffered little or no interruption from the bitter Scots Calvinists living in the neighbourhood and elsewhere. When I myself visited the place, under the guise of a Dublin merchant, for under the disguise of a trader or tradesman the prelates and non-registered priests of this country generally find it necessary to conceal themselves, the minister of that district received me very kindly. Though everywhere else throughout the kingdom the ecclesiastical functions have ceased, on account of the prevailing persecution; in this island, as if it was placed in another orb, the exercise of religion is free and public, which is ascribed to a special favour of Divine providence, and to the merits of St. Patrick.” [Wall adds:] 5,000 persons from all parts of the country made the pilgrimage each year.’ [idem, 53.]

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