The O'Sullivans of West Cork

In 1192 the O’Sullivans were driven from their ancestral seat near Cnoc-Raffon and Clonmel in Tipperary by the Anglo-Normans. They went south and wrested from the O’Driscolls the baronies of Beare and Bantry. In about the 14th century the family was divided into two branches; the elder branch was represented by the O’Sullivan Mor, whose seat was at Dunkerron, near Kenmare, and the other branch by the O’Sullivan Beare, who dwelt at Dunboy.

The O’Sullivans paid tribute and were under the feudal sovereignty of McCarthy Mor. They were bound to attend him in the field, and O’Sullivan Mor was the marshal of his army. He was obliged to pay for every arable ploughland five galloglasses or kern, or six shillings and eightpence, or a beef for each, at the option of McCarthy.

McCarthy was to receive half-a-crown for every ship that came to fish or trade in O’Sullivan’s harbours, and he was to give McCarthy merchandise at the rate he purchased it.

O’Sullivan Beare was bound to entertain McCarthy and his train two nights at Dunboy every year, and whenever they travelled that way.

O’Sullivan was to send horse meat to Palace for McCarthy’s saddle-horses, and pay the groom three shillings and fourpence out of every arable ploughland. He was to find hounds, grey-hounds, and spaniels, when he came, and one shilling and eight-pence annually to his huntsman out of every ploughland.

Their territory extended from Bantry Bay to Castlemain. In a Parliament held at Dublin in 1585 there sat Donall O’Sullivan Mor, also Eogan O’Sullivan Beare. They were concerned in the wars of Desmond and Tyrone. A general pardon was granted by James I., in the first year of his reign, to Owen O’Sullivan Mor of Dunkerron. The 9th James I.—the king granted to Owen O’Sullivan of Berehaven the castle, town, and lands of Dunboy; 57 carucates of other lands; and the chief rents out of Dunboy, Glengariff, Bonane, etc., to hold to him and his heirs for ever. The subsequent wars were fatal to the fortunes of these houses.

Several of the old Irish castles are still in a good state of preservation, but those of the O’Sullivans are nearly altogether demolished. Of this race the old legend says: Nulla manus, tam liberalis atque generalis, atque universalis, quam Sullivanus.

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Early Irish History and Antiquities, and the History of West Cork

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