The Rooney Family

Rooney Family heraldry

(Crest No. 7. Plate 2.)

THE Rooney family is descended from Milesius, King of Spain, through the line of Heremon, eighth son of that monarch. The founder of the family was Muiredach or Mulrooney Mullethan, King of Connaught, in the seventh century, and of the line of Duach Gallach, first Christian King of Connaught, son of Brian, son of Eocha Moy Veagon, King of Ireland, A. D. 350.

Eocha Moy Veagon was of the line of Fiach the Fifth, surnamed Finola, King of Ireland. A. D. 73, son of Fearadach, King of Ireland, A. D. 56, son of Crimthan Nianair, King of Ireland, A. D. 39, son of Lugha Riadearg, grandson of Eocha Feliogh (the Melancholy) the Ninth, B. C. 14, of the line of Laogare Lorc, son of Ugane More, King of Ireland, B. C. 300, nineteenth in descent from Heremon, first King of all Ireland, and son of Milesius, King of Spain.

Mulrooney Mullethan, King of Connaught, was ancestor of that branch of the Hy-Brune tribe called after him the Clanna Mulrooney, and which became so powerful as to attain the dignity of a separate tribe. The families of the Clanna Mulrooney were the O’Conors Don, O’Conors Sligo, O’Conors Roe and Corcumroe, McCaffertys, McCavertys, McCashines, McDonoghs and Dennisses, McDermots, Magins, O’Connertys, O’Conaghtys, O’Mulrooneys and O’Malones. The ancient name was Maoilruanaidh, which means Ruddy Chief, and was taken from Maoilruanaidh Mullethan, or the Bold Ruddy Chief, King of Connaught in the seventh century. The possessions of this sept were situated in the present County of Galway.

Mulrooney, King of Connaught

King of Connaught.

The O’Mulrooneys or Rooneys were chiefs of Crumthan or Cruffan, a district comprising the barony of Killian and part of Ballymoe, in the County of Galway. O’Dugan refers to their hospitality and generosity as follows: “O’Mulrooneys of the splendid banquets, like trees that shelter the fertile land, are the chiefs of Crumthan of the woody plains.” In the County of Fermanagh they were Lords of Muintir Maolruanaidh, as the descendants of Maolruanaidh were called, and they held possessions also in the Counties of Mayo and Sligo and Roscommon.

The Mulrooneys were among the most prominent and powerful of Irish septs from a very remote period. Many chiefs of this name were noted for their prowess and military leadership. In the celebrated battle of Clontarf, A. D. 1014, where Brian broke the power of the Dane and saved western civilization from destruction at the hands of the barbaric Northmen, the powerful O’Mulrooney tribe bore a conspicuous and important part. On that eventful day the Danish army and its powerful allies were disposed in three divisions, and possessed the advantage both in point of numbers, arms and position. The third division of the foreigners was comprised of the auxiliaries from the Hebrides, the Orkneys and the coasts of the Baltic, under the Earls of Bruadar and Lodar, together with a large force from the coasts and isles of Britain, Wales and Cornwall, under their respective chiefs. The third division of the Irish, opposed to these, was commanded by O’Mulrooney, King of the Hy Fiachra Aidhne. The third division which he commanded numbered over 6,000, and was largely composed of men of his own clan. This division was made the chief object of attack by the Danish Earls Bruadar and Lodar, which it successfully resisted, routing the enemy and slaying their leader, Lodar, who fell in a hand to hand conflict with the commander of the third division. “It would seem,” writes the annalist, “from the number of prime quality that fell on both sides, that the chiefs everywhere attacked each other in single combat.” Among the many chieftains and leaders who fell on the Irish side was O’Mulrooney, who fell in the moment of victory.

Domhnall O’Mulrooney, Lord of Fermanagh, who fell in battle in the year 1057, was a chief of remarkable bravery, and fought many victorious battles. In the year 1071, O’Flathery, King of Ulster, was deposed by his people and by O’Mulrooney, head of the tribe of that name; O’Mulrooney was slain in battle shortly afterward by Donsleve O’Heacha.

Dermid O’Mulrooney, Lord of Moylurg, in the old barony of Boyle, County of Roscommon, who died, A. D. 1159, was known throughout Ireland in his day for his wisdom and nobility of character. He was, say the Four Masters, “head of the council, wisdom and good supplication of the province of Connaught.”

In the year 1189 another Mulrooney, Lord of Fermanagh, united with O’Carroll to oppose a large English army that had marched into the latter’s country, and in the bloody battle that ensued O’Mulrooney was slain.

In the year 1206 Tomaltagh, son of Conor, son of Dermot, son of Feige O’Mulrooney, Lord of Moylurg, Airtech and Aicidheacht, and chief hero of the Clan Mulrooney, died. He it was who built the castle and chief seat of the family on one of the islands of Lough Key, which obtained the name of Dermot’s Rock, a name that it retains to the present day. This territory of Moylurg, Airtech and Aicidheacht, of which the O’Mulrooneys were lords, was all included in the old barony of Boyle.

At the battle of Druimdearg, or the Red Hill, fought in the year 1260 by Brian O’Neill, King of Tara, and Hugh O’Connor, against the English of the North of Ireland, two of the O’Mulrooneys, one of them the Lord of Moylurg, were among the slain. Maurice, son of Donough, son of Tomaltagh O’Mulrooney, who is characterized by the Four Masters “as the most hospitable and valiant of his tribe,” died in 1272, and his body was interred in the Abbey of Boyle. Many of this name were also learned ecclesiastics, notably Florence O’Mulrooney, Bishop of Elphin, who died A. D. 1195.

The O’Mulrooneys retained their extensive possessions until the period of the general confiscations of Ulster, during the reigns of Elizabeth and James the First and the Cromwellian wars. Notwithstanding the loss of their patrimony, many of the members of the sept managed to remain in the original seat of the family, where their descendants are numerous at the present day.

In recent times the O’Mulrooneys, or Rooneys, as the name is now modernized, have been what is called in Ireland “gentlemen farmers,” or engaged in professional pursuits. Many families of this name have given in our own time several members to the ranks of the clergy. Of these are the Very Rev. John Rooney, late parish priest of Enniskean, County of Monaghan, and the Very Rev. Canon Rooney of Dublin, both of whom were regarded as among the ablest theologians of their day in Ireland. The Very Rev. F. P. Rooney, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Toronto, Canada, one of the most distinguished ecclesiastics in the Dominion, is a descendant of this family.

Commander of the Third Division of the Irish Army at Clontarf

Commander of the Third Division of the Irish Army at Clontarf.

This name is also numerous in the United States and the British Colonies, where many of them have achieved distinction in various pursuits of life. Of the many prominent men of the name in the United States may be mentioned Mr. John Jerome Rooney of New York City, a gentleman of distinguished literary attainments, who evidently inherits the poetic genius of many of his forefathers, who were eminent in their day for their learning and literary ability; Dr. Alexander Rooney, Coroner of the City of Brooklyn; Mr. John Joseph Rooney of New York, the electrical engineer and expert, and Mr. James Rooney, the well-known journalist of Brooklyn.