The O’Farrell or Ferral Family

O'Farrell or Ferral crest

(Crest No. 273. Plate 42.)

THE O’Farrell family is descended from Milesius, King of Spain, through the line of his son Ir. The founders of the family were Fergus, King of Connaught, and his consort, Maude, Queen of Connaught, in the first century. The original name was Ferrell, and signifies “Man of Science.” The title of the heads of the sept was Prince of Annally, and their possessions were located in the Counties of Tyrone and Longford. The O’Farrells were a very celebrated clan, and were for centuries the ruling sept in Annally, which territory they continued to hold down to the reign of Elizabeth. Fergal, King of Conmacne, embracing the present County of Longford, and ancestor of the O’Farrells, was slain fighting on the side of Brian Boru at the battle of Clontarf, A. D. 1014.

The chief residence of the O’Farrells was the town of Longford, anciently called Longphort-Ui-Fhearghail, or the Fortress of O’Farrell. This territory was divided into Upper and Lower Annally; the former comprising that part of Longford south of Granard and a part of the County of Westmeath was possessed by O’Farrell Buidhe, or O’Farrell the Yellow; the latter, or that portion north of Granard, was possessed by O’Farrell Ban, or O’Farrell the Fair. The O’Farrells were dispossessed of the eastern portion of this territory by the English settlers, the Tuites and the Delameres, who came over with Hugh de Lacy in the twelfth century. The O’Farrells stoutly resisted the encroachments of the invaders, and for a long time carried on a harassing war against them.

O'Farrell clan

“MacGeoghegan’s flag is on the hills! O’Reilly’s up at Fore!
And all the chiefs have flown to arms, from Allen to Donore,
And as I rode by Granard’s moat, right plainly might I see,
O Farrell’s clans were sweeping down from distant Annalee.”

Colonel Richard O’Farrell was one of the favorite lieutenants of the celebrated Owen Roe O’Neil, and contributed to the great victory of his chief over the English and Scots at Benburb. This brave officer also helped in the successful defense of Waterford against Cromwell in l649.

The O’Farrells suffered grievously in the plantation and confiscation period following the accession of James the First. Several members of this family sat in the Dublin Parliament of King James the Second in l689, while many others of them served as officers in James’ army. After the triumph of the Williamites the O’Farrells were outlawed and deprived of their estates. Many of them went to France after the downfall of James, where they contributed several brave officers to the regiments of Fitz-James, Lally, Dillon, Berwick and Walsh of the Irish Brigade.

The celebrated Thurot—the Paul Jones of his day—the most enterprising and successful seaman of his time in France, was a grandson of Captain O’Farrell of King James’ army in Ireland, and afterward of the Irish Brigade. Thurot was his maternal name, which he adopted. In one year he captured over sixty English vessels with his ship “Bellisle.” He was the only commander who effected a landing on the occasion of the attempted liberation of Ireland by the French in 1759. He was killed in his thirty-third year, and it has been said of him that had he not been cut off so early, he would have surpassed the Barts and Gue-Tronins and other great naval commanders of France.

The O’Farrell family intermarried with that of the famous Roger, or Rory O’More, and the only portrait in existence of that redoubtable chieftain is in the possession of the family of the late Right Hon. Richard More O’Farrell, Governor of Malta. Many of this name were eminent ecclesiastics and men of learning from the twelfth to the sixteenth century, and the name has been well and widely represented among the episcopacy and the clergy of the present day. Among these may be mentioned the late Right Rev. M. J. O’Farrell. Bishop of Trenton, N. J., and the Rev. M. C. O’Farrell of New York City, and Rev. Herbert J. Farrell of Brooklyn, N. Y.