The Chief Irish Families of Munster

The Chief Irish[1] Families of Munster.

THE following is a brief summary of the Irish families in Munster, beginning with the three branches of the race of Heber: namely, the Dalcassians, the Eugenians, and the Clan Cian.

I. The Dalcassians: According to Connellan, the chief families of this sept were Lysacht, MacArthur, MacBruodin, MacClancy, MacConry, MacCurtin, MacDonnell, MacEniry, MacGrath, MacMahon, MacNamara, O'Ahern, O'Brien, O'Brody, O'Casey, O'Cashin, O'Considine, O'Davoran, O'Dea, O'Duhig, O'Grady, O'Hanraghan, O'Hartigan, O'Hea, O'Healy (modernized Haley and Hayley), O'Heap, O'Heffernan, O'Hehir, O'Hickey, O'Hogan, O'Hurly (modernized Hurley), O'Kearney, O'Kennedy, O'Liddy, O'Lonergan, O'Meara, O'Molony, O'Noonan (or O'Nunan), O'Quinn, O'Shanahan (or O'Shannon), O'Sheehan, O'Slattery, O'Spillane, O'Twomey, etc.

The following were also of the Dalcassian race: the families of MacCoghlan, chiefs in the King's County; O'Finnelan (or O'Fenelon), and O'Skully, chiefs in Teffia, or Westmeath.

II. The Eugenians: Of these the chief families were—MacAuliffe, MacCarthy, MacDonagh, MacElligot, MacFinneen, MacGillicuddy, O'Callaghan, O'Cullen, O'Donohoe, O'Finnegan, O'Flannery, O'Fogarty, O'Keeffe, O'Kerwick (anglicised “Berwick” and “Kirby”), O'Lechan (or Lyons), O'Mahony, O'Meehan, O'Moriarty, O'Sullivan, O'Treacy, etc.

III. The Clan Cian were, as already stated, located in Ormond or the present county of Tipperary; and the heads of the Clan were O'Carroll, princes of Ely. The other families were—MacKeogh (or Kehoe), O'Corcoran, O'Dulhunty (anglicised O'Delahunty), O'Meagher. O'Connor, chiefs of Cianaght (now Keenaght) in the county Londonderry; and O'Gara and O'Hara, lords of Lieny and Coolavin in the county Sligo, were also branches of the Clan Cian of Munster.

IV. The Ithians, who were also called Darinians, were descended from Ithe, or Ithius, uncle of Milesius.

V. The Clan-na-Deagha were also called Degadians and Ernans, from two of their distinguished ancestors; they were celebrated chiefs in Munster, but were, originally descended, as already shown, from the Heremonians of Ulster. Of this Clan the principal families in Munster were—O'Falvey, hereditary admirals of Desmond; O'Connell, of Kerry, Limerick, and Clare; O'Donegan, O'Fihilly, O'Flynn, O'Shee or O'Shea, O'Baisan or O'Basken, and O'Donnell of the county Clare, etc.

VI. The Irians (or “Clan-na-Rory”) of Ulster also settled several families of note in Munster, as early as the first and second centuries; of whom were the following: O'Connor, lords or princes of Kerry; O'Connor, lords of Corcomroe in Clare; and O'Loghlin, lords of Burren, also in Clare. Of this race were also O'Farrell, lords or princes of Annaly; MacRannal (anglicised “Reynolds”), lords of Muintir Eoluis, in the county Leitrim, etc.

VII. Of the Leinster Milesians of the race of Heremon, were some chiefs and clans of note in Munster, as O'Felan, princes of Desies in Waterford; and O'Bric, chiefs in Waterford; O'Dwyer and O'Ryan, chiefs in Tipperary; and O'Gorman, chiefs in Clare.

King Henry the Second, A.D. 1180, granted part of the kingdom of Thomond to Herbert Fitzherbert; but he having resigned his claims, it was granted by King John to William and Philip de Braosa.

In the thirteenth century, King Henry the Third gave to Thomas de Clare, son of the earl of Gloucester, a grant of the whole kingdom of Thomond or “O'Brien's Country,” as it was called; but the O'Briens and other chiefs in Thomond maintained for centuries fierce contests with the Anglo-Norman and English settlers, in defence of their national independence.


[1] Irish: According to Connellan, many penal Acts of Parliament were in the reigns of the Henrys and Edwards, Kings of England, passed, compelling the ancient Irish to adopt English “surnames,” and the English language, dress, manners, and customs; and, no doubt, many of the Milesian Irish did take English surnames in those times, to protect their lives and properties, as, otherwise, they forfeited their goods and were liable to be punished as Irish enemies.

Hence, many of the ancient Irish families did so twist and anglicise their names, that it is often difficult to determine whether those families are of Irish or English extraction; and hence, many of them of Irish origin are considered of English or French descent.

In modern times, too, many of the Irish families omitted the O' and Mac in their surnames; but such names lose much of their euphonious sound by the omission, and, besides, are neither English nor Irish.

Some of the Danish families who settled in Ireland were those of Dowdall, Dromgoole, Sweetman and Palmer, in Dublin, Meath, and Louth; Gould, Coppinger, Skiddy, and Trant, in Cork; and Haroid (modernized Harold), of Limerick and Clare. Of those Danish families, some took Irish sirnames, and more of them prefixed “Mac” to their names, as did many of the Anglo-Norman and English families in early times.

The following families adopted Irish surnames:—

De Burgo, of Connaught, took the name of MacWilliam, and some of them that of MacPhilip; De Angulo or Nangle, of Meath and Mayo, changed the name to MacCostello; De Exeter of Mayo, to MacJordan; Barrett, of Mayo, to MacWattin; Staunton of Mayo, to MacAveely (mileadh: Irish, a hero), signifying “The son of a hero;” De Bermingham of Connaught and other places, to MacFeorais or MacPeorais (signifying “The son of Pearse” or Percy, and a quo Pearse, Pearce, Peirs, Piers, Pearson, Pierson, Peterson), from one of their chiefs; Fitzsimon of the King's County, to MacRuddery (ridire: Irish, a knight), signifying “The son of the knight;” Le Poer (anglicised “Power”) of Kilkenny and Waterford, to MacShere; Butler, to MacPierce; Fitzgerald to MacThomas and MacMaurice; De Courcy of Cork, to MacPatrick; Barry of Cork, to MacAdam, etc.

But it does not appear that any of those families adopted the prefix “O,” which, according to the Four Masters, was confined chiefly to the Milesian families of the highest rank.—CONNELLAN.