The O’Beirne Family

O'Beirne Family crest

(Crest No. 185. Plate 60.)

THE O’Beirne sept traces its origin to Milesius, King of Spain, through the line of Heremon, his eighth son, and first King of all Ireland. The family was founded by Brian, son of Eocha Moy Veagon, King of Ireland, A. D. 350. The ancient name, Brin, signifies “Dreamer,” and was taken from Beirn of the race of O’Connor Magh Naoi. The chief of the clan had his possessions in the present County of Longford. The O’Beirnes were Chiefs or Lords of Mura O’Mannachain or O’Monaghan, otherwise called Tir Brinin-na-Sionna, or Tir Brinne of the Shannon.

This territory lay along the Shannon, in the barony of Ballintobber, in Roscommon, comprising the parishes of Kilmore of the Shannon, Cloonaff, Aughrim, and Kilumod, extending nearly to Elphin. These O’Beirnes, it should be noted, are of a different race from the O’Byrnes of Wicklow. The O’Beirnes were descendants of Muireadhach Mulleathan O’Mulrooney, King of Connaught, together with the O’Connors, McDermots, McDonoughs, and other leading families.

They occupy a prominent place in Irish history; many of them were ollavs, tanists, and learned men. Gilla-na-naemh, who died in the year 1133, was the royal lawgiver of Ireland, and one of the most eminent personages of his time. He was chief steward to Turlough O’Connor, monarch of Ireland. Tiege O’Beirne, who died in 1561, was known throughout all Ireland for his learning and his skill in civil and canon law.

Many members of this family attained high rank and distinction in other lands after being dispossessed of their estates. Captain O’Beirne, in a regiment of Irish dragoons in the service of King Philip the Fifth of Spain, in the War of the Spanish Succession, 1705, was famous for his bravery and military skill, and a Lieutenant O’Beirne accompanied Colonel Warren of the Irish Brigade, who, with two frigates, was sent to Scotland in 1746 to rescue the Pretender, Prince Charles Stuart, after the disastrous battle of Culloden. Many of this name have been prominent also in the ranks of the Irish clergy.

General James R. O’Beirne of New York is a descendant of these O’Beirnes. He served with distinction in the late Civil War, during which he acted for a time as United States Marshal in the City of Washington. He also filled for some years the important office of United States Commissioner of Immigration at the Port of New York. General O’Beirne is a lawyer of prominence, and an orator of national reputation.