Recorded in several forms including McGonigle, McGonigal, McConigal, and the dialectal variant McConville or Conwell, this is an illustrious Irish surname. It is believed to have provided more members of the clergy per head of numbers, than any other Irish clan, and yet at the sametime to have had many members who have followed a warlike tradition. Until the 20th century, the nameholders were constant in their close association with County Donegal, and until then, the name was rarely recorded elsewhere. The clan were originally what is known as an 'erenagh' family. That is to say that they were the hereditary holders of church lands, and responsible for the operation and maintenance of the properties. This gave them considerable local powers and particularly in the parish of Raphoe. It is said that some of the clan followed the O'Donnells in their various attempts to overthrow the English power. Whether as belief or cover, the surname is most famous for its bishops, no less than three coming from Raphoe in the 16th century, of which possibly the most famous was Bishop Donat Magonail, who died in 1589. The clan were attainted for their support of King James 11nd (1685 - 1690) in his attempt to retain the throne of Ireland. After his failure at the battle of the Boyne, it is said that they had some of their lands sequestrated, and various members exiled to France.
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