The Tyrrell Family

Tyrrell family crest

(Crest No. 3. Plate 67.)

THE Tyrrell family is of English origin, and came to Ireland in the year 1171. King Henry the Second having granted the whole of the ancient Kingdom of Meath to Hugh de Lacy, the latter divided the territory among his chiefs, who were commonly designated De Lacy’s barons. Their possessions were called baronies, which have since been known as great divisions of counties. Hugh Tyrrell obtained in turn Castleknock, in the present County of Dublin, and the barony of Fertullagh, in the southeast of the present County of Westmeath.

Tyrrell family crest

(Crest No. 22. Plate 68.)

This was Tyrrell’s country from the period of the Anglo-Norman invasion until the forfeiture of the possessions in 1641, but previously to their arrival it was the patrimonial inheritance of the O’Dooleys. O’Melaughlin, the dispossessed King of Meath, and his chieftains and their descendants kept up a continual warfare for the recovery of their possessions, and we find the Tyrrells prominent among the foreigners who contended against the supplanted chieftains during this period. The first military castle erected by Hugh de Lacy, in 1173, was fired by his deputy, Tyrrell, who was unable to hold it against King Roderic O’Conor’s force, led by the O’Kellys, O’Dowds, O’Shaughnessys, O’Flahertys, and other chieftains.

Many of the Tyrrells became in time thoroughly Irish, and were among the most resolute opponents of the English power in Ireland. One of these, Captain Richard Tyrrell, was a famous officer in the wars of O’Neill. A thousand of the Knights of the Pale, under the command of Baron Trimblestone, assembled at Mullingar, and prepared to follow in support of the lord deputy, who was marching against O’Neill. Tyrrell, who was noted for his rapidity of movement, capability of sustaining fatigue, and readiness in action, was despatched by O’Neill with a force of four hundred men to act in Meath or Leinster, as he might deem best, in order to effect a diversion.

The Battle of Tyrrell’s Pass


After a long and rapid march Tyrrell encamped near Fertullagh to rest his command. Baron Trimblestone was apprised of his approach and the small number of his force, and determined to surprise and crush him. He was so certain of victory that he turned over the enterprise to his son, young Lord Barnwall, thinking it an excellent opportunity for the young man to signalize himself, and win the favor of the lord deputy. Tyrrell kept himself informed through his spies of the enemy’s movements. He made a feint of flying before the opposing force until he reached a wooded defile, when he detached half of his little force under O’Connor, one of his trusty lieutenants, and placed them in ambuscade in a hollow by the road.

While the English were passing this spot O’Connor bade the drums beat Tyrrell’s March, the signal agreed on for the simultaneous attack. The English taken between two fires in the defile were annihilated, only one man of the thousand, who escaped across a bog, having survived the slaughter. O’Connor’s hand had become so swollen from plying his sword that after the engagement was over the handle of the weapon had to be filed through to remove it.