The Ui Maine and probably the Tuohy's, were descended of the Laigin (Sometimes referred to as the Dumnonii) who were the third ethno-tribal group to come to Ireland, coming from Gaul shortly before the Gaels themselves, sometime during the first century B.C. Several different branches of the Dumnonii settled first in the Devon-Cornwall area before others moved on to Ireland. The Laigin became overlords in the southeastern and central regions, and in Connacht. From there they later spread to other parts of Ireland. (The name Leinster derives from Laigin. “Ter” at the end of the word Leinster means “The land of”)
'Hy-Maine' means 'Maine's territory'; 'Hy' or 'I' being the plural of 'Ua' or 'O', a grandson, and is frequently prefixed to the name of any remarkable progenitor Uí Maine, or Hy Many, was centered in eastern Co. Galway and southern Roscommon.
Uí Maine was one of the oldest and largest kingdoms located in Connacht, Ireland. Its territory encompassed all of what is now north, east and south County Galway, south and central County Roscommon, and at one stage apparently subjugated land on the east bank of the Shannon. At one point in the 8th century its kings briefly seized land on the east shores of Galway Bay, causing the kingdom to stretch from central Ireland to the Atlantic.
The Uí-Maine descended from the Colla da Chrioch. The Colla da Crioch was one of “The Three Collas” “who sought to restore the monarchy to their line.” At one point The Three Collas were exiled from Ireland and made to live in Scotland, however “through the influence of the King of Alba, and the intervention of the Druids, the Collas were pardoned by the Irish King, and were invited back to Ireland."
The Uí Maine did not originate from the area of Connacht. They once “flourished” in Oirghialla, their kingdom there was founded in the early parts of the fourth century. Eventually their kingdom became extremely overpopulated and food and land became scarce.
The Uí Maine was not only one of the oldest but one of the largest kingdoms located in Connacht, Ireland. Its territory of approximately 1,000 square miles encompassed all of what is now north, east and south County Galway, south and central County Roscommon, an area near County Clare, and at one stage had apparently subjugated land on the east bank of the Shannon, together with the parish of Lusmag in Offaly.
A Hy Maine settlement was made in the South-east corner of Connacht by Prince Maine Mor of Oriel who was the fourth generation removed from Colla da Chrioch who had founded the Kingdom of Oriel in 331 AD. This settlement was made after the arrival of Saint Patrick in 432 AD and estimated at 457 AD. This Maine Mor seemingly was the last pagan prince.
Roughly speaking, Hy-Maine included at its greatest extent the land from Clontuskert (the meadow of Tuascirt) near Lanesborough on the Shannon in county Roscommon southward to the boundary of county Clare and from Athlone (the ford of Luan) on the east to Seefin (Finn Mac Cool's seat) and Athenry (the ford of the kings) in Galway on the west. Situated within it were the towns of Aughrim, Ballinasloe, Lochrea, etc.
Aughrim was a power center for the Hy Maine.
The descendants of Maine Mor were otherwise known as Hi-Manions or merely as Manions. This territory originally contained seven cantreds, seven tuaths, seven townlands and seven half-townlands. A cantred contained one hundred villages, a tuath (thoo-a) was a district of varying size, a townland was a collection of houses larger than a village and it had a weekly market. This land was considerably enlarged by the posterity of Maine Mor, and eventually included one-third of all of the Kingdom of Connacht. About another third on the west of this province was occupied by the O'Dowds and co-relatives, while the other third or remainder on the north-east belonged to O'Connors and co-relatives.
The Ui Miane were dominated by the O'Kelly's, whose extensive territory embraced large areas of what is now south Roscommon, Galway and north Clare. (The O’Maddens and the Keoghs, whose ancestors were O’Kellys up to the end of the sixteenth century, were also principle ruling families within the Ui Maine)
About the 5th century (357AD), a northern tribe moved into East Galway; descended from Colla da Crïch (one of the Three Collas ), and occupied an area around Ballinasloe and Creagh (Which takes its name from them) One of their chieftains was called Maine Mor and, from then on, the collection of people who lived under the rule of O'Kelly, became known as Ui Maine. Aside from the O'Kelly, descendant clans of the dynasty include Ó Madadhan (Madden), O'Mudaigh (Moody), Ó Neachtáin (Naughton), Ó Domhnalláin (Donnellan), Ó Mullally (Lally) and Ó Fallamháin (Fallon) families.
“The Prince Máine Mór set out for the province of Connaught." “Maine Mor was accompanied by his father Eochaidh, and his two sons Breasal and Amlaff." Mor’s tribe descended on the territory and tribe living there, the Firbolg. “St. Grellan prayed to god, who caused the Firbolgs to be swallowed into the earth at the bog of Magh Liach. The Hy-Mainians prevailed against the Firbolg in battle." Eventually, St. Grellan granted the territory to Maine Mor and his tribe. The area became known as Hy-Many. In return, the Hy-Mainians honored St. Grellan and he became the patron saint of the families who descended from Máine Mór and his people.
Once settled onto their new territory, the Uí Maine tribe prospered greatly. The tribe eventually became one of the most powerful tribes of the area as they defended their land and tribes against the Eoganacht and the Uí Briuin. The Uí Maine was also to known to have defeated the Delba Nuadat, who were located all over the Connacht area and very densely in Southern Co. Roscommon. (Lyndon, MacCurtain 1972) According to Lyndon and MacCurtain in their book, Ireland Before the Normans, the Delba Nuadat tribe lost their independence and by the 9th and 10th century, ‘few of them had survived’.
According to O'Rahilly, the Ui Maine were pre-Milesian Celts who were later given a Milesian pedigree who were descended from the Celtic High Chief of the Ui Maine, Maine Mor, son of Eochu, etc. Not withstanding the Ui Maine importance, O'Rahilly points out that they were "vassals" who paid tribute to the Milesian kings of Connacht. Among the Ui Maine dwelt the Sogain, a Cruthin (Pict) tribe, and the Dal naDruithne believed to be Tuatha De Danann Celts.
The Ui Maine was reportedly founded by the brother of Fiacha Straivetine, King of Ireland, A.D. 285, whose original territory comprised parts of what are now the counties of Galway, Roscommon, Clare, and Offaly. Irish annals tell us that the Ui Maine kingdom gained its name when its 4th century leader, Maine Mor, conquered a territory of southeastern Connaught from the Firbolgs and settled there in 357 A.D.
According to tradition, Maine Mór was granted the territory by Saint Grellan. Its sub-kingdoms, also known as lordships, included - among others - Tír Sogháin, Corco Mogha, Delbhna Nuadat, Síol Anmchada, and Hy Fiachrach Fionn. These kingdoms were made up of offshoots of the Uí Maine dynasty, or subject peoples of different races.
It wasn't until the rise of Southern Uí Néill that the kingdom of Uí Maine divided into several smaller kingdoms, whose name derived from the dynasty that ruled it, the Uí Maine. There were two different parts of the Ui Maine, the Ui Maine of Teathbha and the Uí Maine of Connacht; these tribes were separated by the Shannon River.
John O'Donovan in his work the Tribes and Customs of Hy Maine states the ancient territory of Úi Maini comprised; in county Roscommon the baronies of Ballymoe, Ballintober South, Athlone and Moycarn; and in county Galway the baronies of Ballymoe, Tiaquin, Killian, Kilconnell, Clonmacnowen, Longford, Leitrim, Loughrea, and parts of Dunkellin and Athenry; and in county Clare, part of Tulla Upper.; and in King's Co. (co. Offaly) the parish of Lusmagh. The Annals of Ireland describes Ath na ríogh, Athenry in co. Galway, as the ford where the territories of Aidne, Ui Maine, and Ui Briúin Seola meet.
Following the coming of the Normans in the 13th century, a portion of ancient Ui Maine later became known as the district of Clanricarde, named for a branch of the Burke family.(The Burke's were Normans) This included much of the baronies of Loughrea, Kiltartan, Clare, Dunkellin, Athenry and Leitrim, in co. Galway, according to O'Donovan. The O’Kellys found their demise in the 17th century with the steady decline of their fortunes in Ireland. The last tragedy to hit the O’Kellys “was the great famine of 1845-47.