Murtagh MacKennedy, Keeper of the Isle of Man 1313-1315.

By Iain Kennedy
March 8th, 2008
© Copyright Iain Kennedy 2008

Whilst doing some background reading that might shine some light on what John Kennedy was doing as Abbot of Bangor in the 1390s, or indeed what if any role early Kennedys may have played in support of Robert the Bruce, I came across some references in Colm McNamee's book on the Wars of the Bruces to Murtagh MacKennedy. There are three such references in the book (only two of which appear in the index).

In 1313 Robert Bruce had captured Man and it appears that Murtagh MacKennedy was placed in charge of the garrison. He and his men were later described as being 'Scottish rebels'. However the identification of MacKennedy as a Scot is not entirely clear, since we also learn that amongst his men were those bearing Irish toponymic names. The garrison was recaptured for the English by John of Argyll and his deputy Duncan MacGoffrey in February 1315. The garrison consisting of MacKennedy and 22 men, were taken off to Dublin rather than release them for a ransom.

McNamee first relates briefly the taking of Man:

'English control of the Isle of Man appears to have been weakened by a series of rapid changes of lordship. Gaveston had been given the Isle in 1307; then it had returned to Antony Bek, Bishop of Durham. Bek had died in 1311 and the Isle was granted to Henry Beaumont titular Constable of Dumfries. It may have been at this time that Simon de Montacute attempted to realise his own claim to the Isle, for which he was forgiven in April 1313, on account of his good service to the king. At any rate Robert I was able to take advantage of confusion or revolt on the Isle; on 17 May 1313 he landed at Ramsay 'with a multitude of ships', besiged the castle of Rushen for 5 weeks and eventually received its surrender. Furthermore on the last day of May he sent galleys to Ulster with his pirates to despoil them. The taking of tribute ... may here have had the specific purpose of supplying the Scots besieging Rushen.'

One original reference to the men can be found reproduced in volume 3 of Bain's Calendar of Documents relating to Scotland:

#420 15 Feb 1314-15

The King commands ... in addition to a grant to John of Argyle to make good his losses from the Scots, to give him a further amount for the support of his men keeping the Isle of Man, as he hears that he has lately expelled the Scots rebels from said island recommend it for the King. Westminster [Close Rolls 8 Edw II m17]

#421 18 Feb 1314-15

The King commands the Justiciar and Treasurer of Ireland to cause Moryauch Ma[c]Kenedy and 22 accomplices, Scottish rebels lately captured by John of Ergail's men and mariners on the sea coast of Scotland, at present secured in the Isle of Man for whom the said John says he might have received a large ransom, but wishes them taken to Dublin castle to be brought there from the Island. Westminster [Close Rolls, 8 Edw II m.17]

Since CDS is an excellent collection of mostly English original documents with several other Kennedy references, I have reproduced the other but unrelated Kennedy references in the Appendix of this article.

McNamee lists a series of primary sources for MacKennedy, however his notes are slightly misleading in appearing to suggest that CDS lists the men:

'An essential part of the background to the invasion of Ireland is the presence in lands bordering on the Irish Sea of Scottish exiles who had shifted operations to Ireland after expulsion from western Scotland. The most active of these exiles was of course John of Argyll. An indefatigble enemy of the Bruces, and a cousin of that John Comyn who had been murderd by Robert Bruce at Dumfries in 1306, John first arrived in Ireland with his father on 9 Dec 1309, having been driven out of Argyll. He travelled from Ireland to Berwick to attend the king, and no doubt to press the case for western offensives. Having captured the Isle of Man in Feb 1315, he sent the Bruces' garrison led by Murtagh MacKennedy to Dublin, preferring to see them behind bars in Dublin Castle rather than to release them for ransom [114].

[114] CDS iii no. 421, p. 80. The men of Bruce's garrison are all named. They included Henry le Welbe and John le Masoun of Carlingford, NAI KB2/7 pp31-2'

McNamee's comments about the Irish names at the garrison may be of significance:

'There may have already been many Irish in the pay of the Bruces. MacKennedy's garrison on the Isle of Man includes men with Irish toponymics. In the marches of Uriel at 'Innermallane' the Scots were ambushed by enemies whom Barbour names as 'Makgullane' and 'Makartane' [29].

[29] Barbour The Bruce XIV 101-12; Phillips, Documents, no. 8 pp257-8.'



Calendar of Documents relating to Scotland (ed. Joseph Bain), General Register House Edinburgh (1881-1888), Vol. 3


Colm McNamee, The wars of the Bruces : Scotland, England and Ireland 1306-1328, Tuckwell Press (1997) Michael Brown, The Wars of Scotland 1214-1371, Edinburgh University Press (2004)

Appendix: CDS Volume 3, other Kennedy notes

#731 1 Apr 1321

Pardons to Thomas Broun, Alexander Broun, William Broun and Fergus Kennedy, Scotsmen, for their offences in war and otherwise in the King's dominion, and restoration of their lands. Gloucester. [Patent Rolls 14 Edw II p2 m16]

#1576 13 Jul 1354

Agreement between English and Scottish commissioners for the ransom of Sir David de Bruis for 90,000 merks sterling... 20 hostages to be given, viz. ... the sons and heirs of John Kenedy [Chapter House (Scots Docs) Box 2 no 36]

p434 3 Oct 1357

Memorandum of the delivery of the hostages for King David's ransom.

Sequitur memorandum de obsidibus Scocie in quorum custodia sunt:

Et fait a remembrer ame le ditz hostagiers pour de dit David de Bruys furent delivrez aux signeurs et personnes cy dessoubz escripts a garder corps pour corps. C'est assavoir ... Gilbert fitz at heire Johan Kenedy ... furent delivrez a Aleyn de Strother comme viscounte de Northumbreland.