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COAT OF ARMS

The Mag Fhionnghaile clan Coat of Arms, like other Irish Coat of Arms, were originally displayed on banners and not shields. They were known as the clan Bratach or in English, their Flag/Banner/Standard. The actual design or emblem is called in Irish Suaitheantas (pronounced Soohantuss). The Irish typically went into battle carrying their banners or flags as their only sign of recognition. The Irish shield for that matter NEVER incorporated symbols or signs, but instead were round shaped, covered with leather and studded with nails in a loose decorative form.

The Irish have been carrying distinctive banners into battle well before the Norman period. In fact, there are some indications that it went back into pre-Roman times. The practice of identification during warfare by way of banners etc. is nothing new and most cultures indulged in such practices, in one way or another. With the Irish, the typical banner or standard was usually a square shaped piece of stiffened linen material with an additional stiffened border (possibly fringed) of alternate colours around three sides. The idea of a symbol put onto a shield was a Norman idea which passed on to the English and then to the Irish. Some old symbols belonging to Irish clans can be found during the 1500's and 1600's depicted on a typical Norman/English shaped shield. This is no evidence of the use of such shields among the native Irish however. These 'depictions' of Irish designs on shields were simply a way of gaining English 'acceptance' and to appear 'civilised' by showing them in the English fashion.

Medieval Irish heraldry derives from the ancient battle signs. Many signs found on Irish 'Coat of Arms' are distinctively Irish harking back to ancient times. Symbols such as the Boar, the Stag, the Red Hand etc. are very old. An account of the Battle of Magh Rath (in Co. Down) from the year 637 AD (Annals of Tighearnach) make mention of the battle standards of the Gaelic chieftains. Translated according to Keating, we have the following..."For it is there read, that the whole host/army was wont to be placed under the command of one captain-in-chief, and that, under him, each division of his force obeyed its own captain; and besides, that every captain of these bore upon his standard his peculiar device or enzign". The Irish word for device or enzign is Suaitheantas and is known as such among the Gaels of Scotland who followed the Irish manner by using banners/flags instead of the foreign shield.

The McGinley Coat of Arms is similar to that of the O'Donnells, which dates back to at least 1567 when it is shown depicted on John Goghe's Map of Ireland. Both clans show a red cross crosslet with a point at the bottom. While the O'Donnell version is shown being held by an arm, the McGinley version does not. The three black dots represent the three saints most associated with the McGinleys.

The red cross crosslet may be a developement of the Scottish McDonald symbol, a clan who had strong links with the leadership in Donegal. However, Medieval folklore accounts tells us that it was St Patrick who gave the red cross symbol to Conall Gulban and therefore the symbol to his descendants. The McGinleys also have their own war-cry... Clann Mhig Fhionnghaile Abú... which means 'Clan McGinley forever'. It has been known within the clan for at least two hundred years and possibly much older as it follows the traditional Irish motif found in the medieval period.

 

 

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