Nolan Motto

The Nolan Motto  “Cor Unum Via Una”. was established in the late 1500’s or early 1600’s by Thomas Nolan of Ballinrobe.

The motto used by Thomas Nolan of Ballinrobe “Cor unum via una” is the Cecil motto.  It is probable that Thomas changed the given old O’Nolan motto “Semper Fidelis” given to them for their known fidelity to the Kings of Leicester for the Cecil motto. If Thomas was by any chance a Carlow Nolan the fact of his taking office with Elizabeth would make him anxious to forget his old connection for many reasons and to cement his friendship with his new allies.  Thomas Nolan  was in direct communication with the Cecils through Sir Richard Bingham and perhaps in more direct correspondence.   Sir Thomas Cecil (second Lord Burleigh) visited Connaught and was a great friend of the Bingham with whom Thomas Nolan was much allied.  A kinsman of Cecil, Barnaby Goore held an office in Connaught either with Thomas Nolan or only a few months before Thomas Nolan was appointed Clerk of the County of Mayo.

Has anyone ever heard of the motto Semper Fidelis” or can anyone supply a reference to this motto as we are researching for a newsletter article and would like some help.

Thanks Wayne Nolan

2 thoughts on “Nolan Motto”

  1. Roger,
    Below is the reference to the Nolan Motto from Henry Cecil M Nolan’s manuscripts.
    1590-1600: The motto used by Thomas Nolan (1) of Ballinrobe “Cor unum via una” is the Cecil motto. It is probable that Thomas changed the old O’Nolan motto “Semper Fidelis” given to them for their known fidelity to the Kings of Leinster for the Cecil motto. If Thomas (1) was by any chance a Carlow Nolan the fact of his taking office with Elizabeth would make him anxious to forget his old connection for many reasons and to cement his friendship with his new allies. Thomas Nolan (1) was in direct communication with the Cecil’s through Sir Richard Bingham and perhaps in more direct correspondence. Sir Thomas Cecil (second Lord Burleigh) visited Connaught and was a great friend of the Bingham with whom Thomas Nolan was much allied. A kinsman of Cecil, Barnaby Goore held an office in Connaught either with Thomas Nolan or only a few months before Thomas Nolan was appointed Clerk of the County of Mayo. (H.C.M. Nolan manuscripts)

  2. Wayne,

    I now see what you wanted to point out about the fact that the Nolan motto confirmed to the Nolans of Ballinderry (in the 1800s) may have originated with the Cecil family going back to the time when Thomas Nolan of Ballinrobe was appointed Clerk for Co. Mayo in the 1580s.

    After some digging around and analysis I uncovered the fact that “semper fidelis”, aside from being used as a motto by the Lynch family of Clydagh (aka Claddagh, now part of Galway city) was also used by a Stewart family line in Scotland, supposedly descended, through an illegitimate son of James II of Scotland (1430-1460).

    In the 1580s when Thomas Nolan of Ballinrobe’s land grant was confirmed, Elizabeth I of England and Ireland being in power, it would have been very unpopular for Thomas to have as a family motto the same one as that used by a branch of the royal dynasty of Scotland, the Stewart/Stuarts, which was in direct competition for the kingship of England with the royal Tudor line (with Welsh origins, like the Cecil family by the way).

    As far as I can determine from available sources the Carlow Nolans (O Nuallains) never had a motto granted to them as part of an Arms grant but the Nolans of Ballinderry (O hUllachains) did that being “Cor unum, via una”.

    However, what really complicates the issue is the fact that when the Nolans of Ballinderry had their Arms granted they believed that they were descended from Eochaidh Fionn Fothart, i.e. the ancestor of the O Nuallains, and subsequently they also adopted, albeit unofficially, the same motto.

    In the end, I believe that this situation is truly a case in point of what has been termed the “mists of time”. However, not all is lost and I believe that I can shed light on the matter and show how the misconception of being related to the O Nuallains may have originated. If we go back to the second century, the ancestor of the Nuallains, Eochaidh Fionn Fothart, son of Feidlimidh Reachtmar, king of Ireland, and that of the O hUllachains, Cathair Mor, king of Leinster, were contemporaries with ties to county Carlow.

    Prior to his father’s death, Eochaidh Fionn had been granted the lands around Ballon (Barony of Forth) by one of Cathair Mor’s predecessors and when Eochaidh’s father died Cathair Mor had been chosen by the chiefs as the new ruler of Ireland. Eochaidh’s brother, “Conn of the Hundred Battles”, disputed this decision which pitted brother against brother. Cathair Mor was slain in battle and Conn became the new ruler of Ireland. Eochaidh was banned from Tara and settled in the Ballon area where, according to tradition, Cathair Mor, the deposed king of Ireland and ancestor of the O hUllachains, was buried on Ballon Hill in the heart of O Nuallain territory, the modern-day barony of Forth.

    In the centuries following the O hUllachains positioned themselves to counter ongoing attacks from the Munstermen thereby explaining how they ended up in Offaly. When Normans lords settled in Connaught in the 13th century on lands granted to them for services rendered they brought with them native Irish like the O hUllachains as tenants.

    I hope that the foregoing helps to de-“mistify” the nearly 2000 years of history when the O Nuallains and the O hUllachains worked and fought side-by-side in the Carlow area and when the sense of belonging to a sept was something much more nebulous (or “misty”; excuse the pun), causing modern-day descendants versed in the scientific method to wonder how such a misconception could ever have occurred.

    Didn’t they realize their mistake? In my mind the answer is simple. They just didn’t think like we do today! In my mind, acceptance as part of a group, recognition/belief that you belonged to a group was more important than a “proof” of belonging. For the Nolans of Connaught, I believe that a “genealogy” showing descent from Eochaidh Fionn may actually have been prepared (manufactured?) but I will leave exploration of this point for another day.

    I invite your comments and encourage you to bring forward any new pieces of information which might shed further light on this topic of discussion.

    Bye for now and a Happy New Year to all,

    Roger Nowlan
    Ottawa area, Canada

    P.S. I will make a separate Post, entitled “Nolan Motto – References”, with links to the references I used to come up with this synopsis

Leave a Reply