The O’Driscoll Family

O'Driscoll family crest

(Crest No. 130. Plate 30.)

THE O’Driscoll family is descended from the line of Ith, who was the son of Breoghan, King of Spain, and uncle of Milesius. His descendants for the most part settled in Munster. They belong to the Dairine, or Corcolugadth tribe. The founder of the family was Lugaidhe Melthy. Their lands were in the present County of Cork, and the title of the chief was Lord of Baltimore. The O’Driscolls were Lords of Beara, before that territory came into the possession of the O’Sullivans.

The name Edirsgel or Eidirsgeol, taken from a chief of Beara of that name, signifies “Interpreter.” Of the families of the line of Ith none have been more distinguished than the O’Driscolls. The name was very frequent among the tribe in ancient times, and it may have been originally in commemoration of Ith’s having acted as an interpreter between his kinsmen and the native Irish.

The territory of the O’Driscolls originally occupied the entire diocese of Ross. But when the Eoganacht clans of O’Mahony, O’Donovan, O’Cullane, or Collins and O’Sullivan were driven into this territory in consequence of the English invasion, it was confined to the present parishes in the territory of Carbery, viz., Myross, Glanbarahane, Tullagh, Creagh, Kilcoe, Aghadown and Clear Island.

On the southwest of Cape Clear, the most southern point of Ireland, overlooking the stormy Atlantic, the O’Driscolls built Dunamore Castle, or the Golden Fort, of which only the ruins now remain. It is picturesquely placed, and near by are the prostrate ruins of St. Keevan’s Church. Sherkin, or Innisherkin Island, is situated between Cape Clear and the main land, and at a short distance is another ruined castle of the O’Driscolls that originally defended the harbor.

Near Skibbereen is the remarkable lake, Lough Ine, a beautiful body of salt water, and on an island in the center stand the remains of a castle of the O’Driscolls. Baltimore, from which the O’Driscoll chiefs took their title, and after which the American city of that name was called, is a small and picturesque seaport town. It grew up around O’Driscoll’s Castle, and was after his ruin colonized by the English.

On June 20, 1631, two Algerine pirate galleys sailed into the harbor during the night, sacked the town and murdered the inhabitants. They bore off into slavery all “who were not too old or too young or too fierce for their purpose.” A Dungarvan fisherman, named Hackett, whom the pirates had captured at sea, steered the galleys up the dangerous and intricate channel. He was hanged for the crime two years afterward. It is only within our own day that Baltimore has recovered from this destructive raid. In short, there is no part of Ireland more rich in natural beauty and famous historical associations than the domain of the ancient O’Driscoll chieftains.

The O’Driscolls adhered to the Stuart cause, and during the Cromwellian and Williamite wars suffered severely, besides losing their possessions. Colonel O’Driscoll, Governor of the Old Fort of Kinsale, was killed at its defense, October, 1690, against the Williamites under Marlborough. Lieutenant-Colonel Cornelius O’Driscoll and many other officers of this name were prominent on the side of King James during the war. Another Cornelius O’Driscoll, an officer in O’Mahony’s Regiment in the French service, was noted for his military skill and daring. Many other members of the O’Driscoll family served in the Irish Brigade in France, and won civil and military honors. The name is numerous in the United States, many of them being prominent in business circles and the learned professions.