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16 October 2014
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An Ómaigh or Omagh.

Sé do bheatha agus fáilte, is mise Céara Ni Choinn and for those of you who have been avidly tuned into Blas na bhfoghlaimeoiri each week you’ll know that I’ve been giving you the low down on Ulster’s major towns and how exactly they derived their names.

Now this week we’ll have a look at Omagh, the capital of Tir Eoghain also known as the Seat of the Chiefs. Omagh in the Irish language is an Ómaigh and translates as ‘The Virgin or fertile plain’.

The town of Omagh grew around the point where the rivers Camowen and Drumragh which converge to form the River Strule. A fortress was established there by the O'Neill clan who ruled the ancient province of Ulster until the 17th century. As I’ve already told you, the town is sometimes referred to as the Seat of the Chiefs, these Chiefs being the formidable O’Néill clan, Earls of Ulster who ruled over County Tyrone. Their ancestry can be chronicled back to Niall of the Nine hostages nó Niall Noigiallach who raided Britain in the 9th century. Shane O’Neill, son of Conn continued to fight the subjugation to England but was eventually captured and murdered by the rivalling clan Ui Dhomhnaill. Hugh Ó Neill nephew of the infamous Shane was at the was at the forefront of the Gaelic Order movement at the decisive battle of the nine years war in 1601 at Kinsale.

This battle essentially culminated in the end of Gaelic Ireland, Hugh O’Neill signed the Mellifont treaty against his will which effectively permitted O'Neill to keep his land while adopting English law and shedding his Irish title, this was a dark day in Gaelic Ulster and in essence saw the end of Gaelic Ireland. O'Neill retreated into Tir Eoghain but did not surrender his seat there . Rather than invading Ulster to finish off O'Neill, the English strengthened their forts and started launching commando-raids into Ulster to destroy crops. They hoped to starve O'Neill into submission or into launching an unprepared attack. O'Neill did attack again, but was finally defeated by Lord Mountjoy Omagh in 1602. Even today a townland near Omagh is called Mountjoy.

Sin agaibh giota beag staire faoin Omaigh the virgin plain nó the seat of the chiefs , I hope that whetted your palete for another week, I’ll be back with you next week when we’ll be having a look at Enniskillen Inis Ceithleann.

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