Ó Néill

Rev Patrick Woulfe

Ó NÉILL—I—O'Neill, O'Neal, Neill, Neale, &c.; 'descendant of Niall' (champion); the name of several distinct families in different parts of Ireland, of which the following are the chief:—(1) Ó Néill of Ulster. This family, which is one of the most illustrious in Ireland, derives its name and descent from Niall Glúndubh, King of Ireland, who fell fighting against the Danes, near Dublin, in 919. His grandson, Domhnall Ó Néill, who is mentioned in the Annals at the year 943, was the first person to bear the surname of Ó Néill. The O'Neills were the head family of the Cinel Eoghain, the most celebrated of all the Irish clans, whose territory, known as Tir Eoghain, from Eoghan, son of Niall of the Nine Hostages, ancestor of the clan, comprised the present counties of Tyrone and Derry, together with a large portion of Donegal. As chiefs of Tir Eoghain and Kings of Ulster, they make a most distinguished figure in Irish history from the 11th to the 17th century. In the reign of Henry VIII, Conn Ó Néill, the then head of the clan, was created Earl of Tyrone. Shane the Proud and Hugh, Earl of Tyrone, in the reign of Elizabeth, and Sir Phelim and Owen Roe, at the period of the Confederation, were the last celebrated bearers of the name. Several of the O'Neills have been distinguished in the service of continental powers. A powerful branch of this family, known as Clann Aodha Bhuidhe, settled in the 14th century in Antrim and Down. (2) Ó Néill of Thomond. The head of this family, which is of Dalcassian origin and descended, according to Keating, from Aodh Caomh, King of Cashel (A.D. 571-601), was chief of Clann Dealbhaoith, in the present barony of Bunratty, in the south of Co. Clare. The O'Nihills and Creaghs are, according to local tradition, branches of this family. (3) Ó Néill of Leinster, an ancient family in Carlow and Wicklow. The patrimony of this family was Magh-dá-chon, now anglicised Moyacomb, a parish in the barony of Rathvilly, Co. Carlow, and extending into the barony of Shillelagh, in Co. Wicklow, also called Farren O'Neill. Ó Néill of Magh-dá-chon is mentioned in the Annals of the Four Masters, A D 1088, as having fallen in a battle fought near Dublin, between the men of Munster and Leinster. (4) Ó Néill of Deisi. This family was seated in the south of the present Co. Tipperary.

Alphabetical Index to Irish Surnames