MacDonagh, Terence (1640–1713), soldier, poet, Jacobite, and lawyer, also known as ‘Turlough Óg’ or ‘Tirlough Caoch’ (one-eyed), was second son of Terence (Turlough) MacDonagh, of Creevagh, Kilmactranny, Co. Sligo, and his wife Mary, daughter of the poet Tadhg Dall Ó hUiginn (qv). The MacDonaghs had managed to hold on to their lands through all the upheavals of the first half of the seventeenth century. Very little is known of MacDonagh's early years, but he appears to have served as lieutenant overseas in Charles II's interest during the 1650s, before returning to Ireland after the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. On his return he was granted lands in the barony of Gallen, Co. Mayo, both as a reward for his own services and to compensate the losses his family suffered under the Cromwellian regime, which included the loss of their ancestral lands at Creevagh, although MacDonagh was able to purchase these from the Cromwellian grantee after the restoration.
After his return to Ireland in the 1660s he took up the legal profession, entering the Middle Temple (1683), under the name ‘Terence Donno’ of Creevagh. He enjoyed a reputation for excellence at the bar, where he earned the sobriquet ‘one-eyed’ for his conduct in a case over the accidental blinding in one eye of a boy who was being rescued from drowning. The boy was fished out of a river by another who hooked him in the eye, and MacDonagh, acting for the defence when the injured boy's family sued, is said to have suggested that the case could be determined by putting the injured boy back in the river and seeing if he could swim across it. This Solomonian suggestion caused the collapse of the case. His success at the bar was recognised during the reign of James II (qv), when he was one of several catholic barristers appointed KC. He was also elected a burgess of Sligo town (1687), following the reform of the boroughs by the earl of Tyrconnell (qv).
In 1688 he joined James II's army, and commanded a small detachment of Dillon's regiment at Ballymote castle for two years. Later he led a band of Connacht men into Ulster against Gustavus Hamilton (qv) and his Enniskilleners, where they were taken prisoner at Fish Island in Lough Erne, near Enniskillen. They were later exchanged for some prisoners who had been captured by Patrick Sarsfield (qv). After his release he travelled to Dublin to represent Sligo in the Jacobite parliament, where (according to J. C. MacDonagh) he attempted to oppose the greatest excesses of the Tyrconnell regime and unsheathed his sword in the lord deputy's presence, with a promise to protect the privileges of the Irish parliament. Following the end of the parliamentary session, he returned to his garrison at Sligo, having been promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel. He saw some action at the siege of Derry before returning to Sligo, where he was present at the town's capitulation (September 1691). He then joined the remainder of the Irish army at Limerick, where as an Irish officer and a native of Sligo MacDonagh was protected by two clauses of the treaty of Limerick. Nevertheless his impeccable Jacobite credentials ensured that he remained a focus for government suspicion and was interned during the Franco–Jacobite invasion scares of 1692 and 1708. The priest-catcher Edward Tyrrell (qv), among others, also accused him of harbouring catholic priests, including his brother-in-law, Thaddeus O'Rourke (qv), bishop of Killala, but he was never formally charged under the bishops banishment act.
He continued to practise law after the end of the war, having petitioned for permission to do so under the terms of the treaty of Limerick. He also managed to ensure the survival of his own family estates, as well as, famously, the O'Conor estates at Belangare, Co. Roscommon, where he acted on behalf of Donnchadh Liath O'Conor of Belanagare, father of the historian and writer Charles O'Conor (qv). Most of his clients were, like O'Conor, members of the old catholic gentry.
Outside the legal sphere, he was known as an accomplished poet. Among his compositions were withering attacks on his brothers and neighbours for conforming to the established church. He comforted and showed great friendship and affection towards the poverty-stricken Roderick O'Flaherty (qv) while a marbhna composed on MacDonagh's death in 1713, attributed to the poet John O'Gara, survives among the songs and poems of Turlough Carolan (qv).
He married (c.1670) Mary O'Rorke, grand-niece of Brían na Murta – considered to be one of the proudest men in the Europe of his time (MacDonagh (1947), 307). They had no children. His widow built a tomb for him (1737) in the ruined church of Ballindoon abbey, which was later replaced by a tall upright slab. His niece Mary O'Rourke, daughter of Tiernan O'Rourke who had left Ireland with James II and was killed at the battle of Luzzara (1702), was the mother of Isobella, mother of Charles O'Conor of Belanagare. Better known at ‘the Countess’, she served as a lady-in-waiting to Mary of Modena in Saint-Germain and lived with the O'Conors in Belanagare after her husband's death.