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McMahon, also spelled MacMahon (UK: /məkˈmɑːn/,[1] US: /məkˈmæn, -ˈmən, -ˈmɑːn/; older Irish orthography: Mac Mathghamhna; reformed Irish orthography: Mac Mathúna) is an Irish surname. The surname arose separately in two areas: in County Clare in western Ireland and in County Monaghan in north east Ireland. The Thomond MacMahons of County Clare are not related to the Oriel MacMahons of County Monaghan.

Thomond MacMahons (County Clare)[edit]

The Thomond MacMahons were part of the great tribal grouping, the Dál gCais, and claimed descent from Mahon O'Brien, son of Muirchertach Ua Briain, High King of Ireland.[2] Corcu Baiscin was held by the descendants of Carbry Bascain until the 11th Century, when the descendants of Mahon O’Brien conquered them.[3]

According to Frost, Mahone 'a quo MacMahon' died in 1129, leaving two sons Murtagh and Dermot,[4] with Murtagh being the ancestor of the main line of McMahons in Clare. The McMahons seized the Corcabaskin territory in the south of what is now County Clare in the 12th century about the same time as they adopted the fixed surname.

Quoting the "Annals of the Four Masters", Frost says that Donogh MacMahon, Lord of Corcabaskin, died in 1488 and two MacMahons, Brian and Teige Roe, were established in his place - Brian in West Corcabaskin (known as Moyarta) and Teige Roe in the East (known as Clonderalaw). The two ruling branches of the clan became firmly established in Corcabaskin, West Clare, where their once strongholds, Carrigaholt Castle and Clonderlaw Castle, are prominent landmarks and a source of local interest today.[5]

In August 1585, the Irish leaders of Thomond were forced to sign an Indenture with Sir John Perrott, the English Lord Deputy of Ireland. Frost says that "some of the signatories of the Deed of Composition seem to have been bribed into conformity by Perrott ... [including Teige MacMahon ... of Clonderalaw [and] Turlough MacMahon ... of Moyarta". They were allowed to retain their castles and lands free of crown rent. The two MacMahons would have received the English titles of Baronet, replacing their traditional Irish titles, about this time. The two sons who succeeded them as heads of their families certainly each carried the English title.

The last chief of the West Corcabaskin MacMahons, Sir Teige Caech MacMahon, was killed at or shortly after the battle of Kinsale in 1602, and his title became extinct.

Sir Turlough Roe MacMahon, Baronet of East Corcabaskin, received the honour of becoming High Sheriff of County Clare in 1609. He died in 1629. According to an Inquisition held at Ennis in 1630 (reported in Frost's "History ... of Clare"), Turlough's title was inherited by his eldest son, Sir Teige MacMahon. Sir Teige (or Teague) represented the Earl of Thomond in negotiations with Sir William Penn in 1646, but in 1651 General Ireton seized Clonderlaw Castle from Sir Teige. Frost's "History" records 31 Townlands in County Clare being seized from Sir Teague. James Barry's "The Cromwellian Settlement of the County of Limerick" mentions Sir Teague MacMahon as the holder of other lands in that County.

There is evidence that Sir Teague had a son called Turlough (or Terlagh). Honour, Lady Dowager of Kerry and Lixnaw, was granted the "guardianship and tuition of Torlogh MacMahon, son and heir to Teague MacMahon" on 27 June 1673 (recorded in MS Carte 38, fol(s) 742v (Carte Caleb=ndar Vol 52, 1673-1674, Bodleian Library, Uni of Oxford). Ainsworth's edited Inchiquin Manuscripts, MS No 1845, at p. 625, contains a note made following the death of Mary Rua O'Brien in 1686 which refers to "her nephew Sir Terlagh McMahon". The title appears to have died out with him.

After the defeats of the native Irish in 17th century, many of the Clare MacMahons emigrated to serve in the Irish Brigade of the French Army.

Patrice de MacMahon (1808–1893), was created Duke of Magenta, became a field marshal and later the French president. The MacMahon family are still prominent in France; the family home is the Château de Sully outside Dijon.[6]

Oriel MacMahons (County Monaghan)[edit]

Map of Gaelic Ireland circa 900 A.D.

The Oriel (Anglicisation of Airgíalla) MacMahons were based in the barony of Truagh in the north of County Monaghan and ruled the kingdom of Oriel between the thirteenth and the sixteenth centuries. Their last chief, Hugh Oge MacMahon, who had become a lieutenant-colonel in the Spanish army, was beheaded by the English in 1641. A separate McMahon family in County Fermanagh is descended from Mahon Maguire, a grandson of Donn Carrach Maguire. Today, although widespread throughout Ireland, MacMahon remains most common in the two ancestral homelands of Counties Clare and Monaghan.[7]

John O'Hart notes that the MacMahons (sometimes there O'Mahons) were earlier chiefs of the over-kingdom of Ulaid, which then bordered Airgíalla.[8]


  • Niall McMahon (Ladrannaibh, or the bandit), (early 12th century)
  • Ross Bui McMahon (late 16th century)
  • Brian Mac Hugh Og of the Dartrey MacMahons (late 16th century)
  • Raymond McMahon of the Killyleen Mc Mahons (late 17th century)
  • Nicholas McMahon of the Cluaincoinin Mc Mahons (early 19th century)
  • Patrick McMahon of the Cluaincoinin Mc Mahons (late 19th century)
  • Martin McMahon [Motto] of the Cluaincoinin Mc Mahons (early 20th century)
  • John McMahon [Jack Martin] of the Cluaincoinin Mc Mahons (late 20th century)


The motto of the Thomond sept of McMahons is "Sic Nos Sic Sacra Tuemur", which means "Thus We Defend Our Sacred Rights".


"McMahon" is the family name of the following people:




  • Brian MacMahon (1923-2007), British-American epidemiologist
  • James McMahon (1856–1922), Irish mathematician
  • James McMahon, contemporary American amateur astronomer
  • Jennifer McMahon, New Zealand nurse and nutritionist and the president of the New Zealand Red Cross Society
  • Lee E. McMahon (1931-1989), American computer scientist known for his work on the early Unix operating system and on the McMahon system tournament
  • Percy Alexander MacMahon (1854–1929), British soldier and mathematician
  • Thomas A. McMahon (1943-1999), American professor of applied mechanics and biology at Harvard, accredited novelist



The McMahon wrestling family of WWE fame:

  • Jess McMahon (1882–1954), boxing and wrestling promoter; father of Vince McMahon Sr., grandfather of current chairman Vince McMahon, founder of Capitol Wrestling Corporation
  • Vince McMahon Sr. (1914–1984), wrestling promoter and founder of WWE's immediate predecessor company, the World Wide Wrestling Federation
  • Vince McMahon (born 1945), chairman of the board, CEO and majority shareholder of World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. (dba WWE, Inc.)
  • Linda McMahon (born 1948), wife of Vince Jr., former CEO of WWE and current Administrator of the Small Business Administration.
  • Shane McMahon (born 1970), son of Vince Jr. and former Executive President of WWE Global Media
  • Stephanie McMahon Levesque (born 1976), daughter of Vince Jr. and Chief Brand Officer of WWE

Ships of the surname[edit]

MV Empire MacMahon was an oil tanker converted by the British for WWII service as a merchant aircraft carrier or MAC ship, that is an escort carrier for anti-submarine warfare, an anti-submarine warfare carrier.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jones, Daniel; Roach, Peter, James Hartman and Jane Setter, eds. Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary. 17th edition. Cambridge UP, 2006.
  2. ^ Brian Boru and The Battle of Clontarf, Seán Duffy, page 100
  3. ^ Ordnance Survey Letters by John O'Donovan and Eugene Curry, 1839,Part II. Letters and Extracts relative to Ancient Territories of Thomond, 1841,IV. & V. Corca Bhaiscin East and West,
  4. ^ Frost, J "History and Topography of Clare" 1893, at p. 74.
  5. ^ MacMahon, MacMathúna, Clare County Library,
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ John O'Hart, Irish Pedigrees; or, The Origin and Stem of the Irish Nation, 5th edition, in two volumes, originally published in Dublin in 1892, reprinted, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1976, Vol. 1, p 819