The Finnerty Family

Finnerty family crest

(Crest No. 11. Plate 3.)

THE Finnerty family is descended from Milesius, King of Spain, through the line of his son Heremon. The founder of the family was Brian, son of Eocha Moy Veagon, King of Ireland, A. D. 350, and father of Nial of the Nine Hostages, King of Ireland, A. D. 379. The ancient name was Feineachta and means “Genealogist.” The title of the heads of the sept was Lord of Ofihiley, and their possessions were located in the present Counties of Kerry and Roscommon.

The O’Finnertys were Chiefs of Clan Conmaigh and of Clan Murchada, districts in the two half baronies of Ballymoe, in the Counties of Galway and Roscommon, in the O’Kelly’s principality of Hy Maine. The O’Finnertys here mentioned were of the Clan Colla, and two distinct chiefs of them are given by O’Dugan—one of them, Finnerty of Clan Murrough of the Champions and the other, Finnerty of the Clan Conway. The O’Finnertys, Chiefs of Clan Conway, had their castle at Dunamon, near the River Suck, in the County of Roscommon.

According to McFirbis and the tradition of the country, the O’Finnertys were seated on both sides of the River Suck and their territory comprised, before the English invasion, forty-eight ballys or large Irish townlands. Some think that the sept of them called Clann Murrough were on the east side of the River Suck, in the present County of Roscommon, and that called Clannconow, or Clanconway, on the west of the same river, in the present County of Galway, and that each sept had twenty-four ballys or ninety-six quarters of land. Both septs were dispossessed soon after the English invasion by that family of Burkes called MacDavids, who descended from a furious heroine named Nuala na Meadoige, the daughter of O’Finnerty, who was the mother of David Burke, the ancestor of MacDavid, Lord of Clanconway, and by whose treachery the O’Finnertys, her own tribe, were dispossessed.

It is stated in some old authorities that the O’Finnertys had the privilege of drinking the first cup at every royal feast.

The name of O’Finnerty, or O’Finaghty, is conspicuous in Irish annals, both in Church and State. Bishop O’Finaghty, known as John of Roscommon, who lived in the early part of the fourteenth century, was one of the most learned men of his time. Feargal O’Finnerty, who died in 1155, is mentioned by the Four Masters as “a noble priest of Roscommon” and “a man of distinction,” and Suibhne O’Finnerty, Bishop of Cill-dara, who died A. D. 878, was noted for his learning and piety. Many of this name are mentioned among the bards and learned men of Ireland.

Peter Finnerty, one of the ablest journalists of his day, was born at Loughrea in 1766. In 1797 he was editor and proprietor of the “Press,” the organ of the United Irishmen, and which numbered at that time among its contributors Curran and Moore. He was tried by the Government for libel and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, the payment of a fine, and to stand in the pillory in Green Street, Dublin. Arthur O’Connor, Lord Edward Fitzgerald, and other distinguished members of his party attended him while in the pillory. In 1809 he accompanied the Walcheren expedition as an army reporter, being, perhaps, the first of war correspondents. He was afterward imprisoned for eighteen months for libeling Castlereagh by telling the truth about him.

A prominent member of this family is the Hon. John F. Finerty of Chicago, editor of the “Citizen” and former member of Congress for that city. Mr. Finerty is a man of great force of character, an eloquent orator, and a vigorous and versatile writer.

Another member of this family is the Hon. Owen Francis Finnerty, an able young lawyer of New York City and a present Justice of the Peace in Brooklyn, N. Y.