Old Irish Kingdoms and Clans
A supplement to Ireland's History in Maps
Also see People, Place and Province
Tuatha De Danann
Seven Septs of Laois
Tribes of Galway
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"The tribe of the Fomorians was on the scene long before any other races
came to Ireland. However, the Fomors lived mainly in the sea. The first
outside race to invade Ireland was the race of the Partholon; very little is
known of them. After 300 years of struggle against the Fomors, the
Partholons died of an epidemic.
Next came the race of Nemed who also suffered from an epidemic. This
time, though, some of them survived, only to be oppressed by the
Later came colonizers from Spain or Greece called the Fir Bolgs. They
were actually three tribes; men of Domnu, men of Gaillion, and men of
Bolg. They inter-married with the Fomors and held the country until the
arrival of the "Tuatha De Danann".
Source: (from Ancient and Shining Ones - by DJ Conway)
Fomhóire means 'from the sea' and is the name of the gods of night and death
and cold. According to myth, the Fomhóire (or Fomorians) were mis-shapen and
had now the heads of goats and bulls, and now but one leg, and one arm that
came out from the middle of their breasts. They were the ancestors of the
evil faeries and, according to one gaelic writer, of all misshapen persons.
The giants and leprecauns are expressely mentioned as of the Fomhóire.
The Partholonians were said to have landed in Ireland at Beltaine, where they
lived for three hundred years. According to myth, they battled with the
Fomhóire, a race of mis-shapen beings, probably representing the aboriginal
gods of the land as there is no mention of when the Fomhóire arrived. The
whole race of the Partholonians were mysteriously wiped out by a plague.
The Nemedians were the next race of people to arrive in Ireland after
the Partholonians were mysteriously wiped out by a plague, according to the
Lebor Gabála, the Book of Invasion. 2,000 Nemedians were said to have died
from plague and the rest were forced to leave after the Fomhóire had
inflicted a great defeat on them.
Fir Bholg, the 'Men of the Bags', were also known as the men of the Goddess
Domnu. Their gods were the Fomhóire and they were defeated by the Tuatha
Dé Danann in the first battle of Magh Tuireadh or Moytura.
- Ui Failge, Ui Bairrche, Ui Enachglais, etc. -
and later called Erainn
(also known as
Menapii, Bolgi, Belgae and Firbolgs) by annalists and historians, arrived
after ???? BC. They called their new home Eueriio, which would later evolve
through the old Irish Eriu to Eire, and from Eire to Ireland.
The early annalists tell us that Firbolg
people survived as distinct
tribes well into early historical times. In Leinster, they were the Ui
, Ui Bairrche
and Ui Enechglaiss
to mention but a
Tuatha De Danann
The De Danann people arrived after the Firbolgs, and were to force the
Firbolgs into partial serfdom. The Tuatha De Danann established Tara on the
Boyne Valley, the ritual inaugaration and burial place for the ancient
Kings of Ireland.
In a famed battle at Southern Moytura (on the Mayo-Galway border) it
was that the Tuatha De Danann met and overthrew the Firbolgs. The Firbolgs
noted King, Eochaid was slain in this great battle, but the De Danann
King, Nuada, had his hand cut off by a great warrior of the Firbolgs named
Sreng. The battle raged for four days. So bravely had the Firbolgs fought,
and so sorely exhausted the De Dannann, that the latter, to end the battle,
gladly left to the Firbolgs, that quarter of the Island wherein they
fought, the province now called Connaught. And the bloody contest was over.
colonization is believed to have taken place sometime about 300 B.C., and are believed to have come from the northwestern
region of Gaul, later Normandy. They are mythologically referred to
as the Tuatha De Danann
. Their name association with Laighi
the ancient name for Leinster, suggests that this was where they first
settled. Eventually, they extended their power to Connacht, and in the
process forced the Firbolg tribes into the remoter parts of the province.
The remains of many great stone forts built by the Firbolgs in their
defense against the Laigain tribes can still be seen in remote areas of
western Ireland. Within a few generations the Laigain tribes had
established themselves in Connacht, where in County Sligo their
descendants include the O'Haras, O'Garas, and others.
The ancient Laigin or Dumnonii group moved from the western region of
Normandy as the Roman built up pressure on Gaul about 100 B.C. The Laigin
settled first in southern Britain and then in Ireland. The Ui Neachtain
(Naughton) are said to belong to the Laigain group, later living in the
territory of the Ui Maine.
King Milesius' sons, Eremon and Eber, are said to have come from either
Spain or France to the island of Ireland, and were ancestors of the Gaels.
Of the Milesians, who invaded the Tuatha De Danann lands, Eber and Eremon
divided the land between them - Eremon getting the Northern half of the
Island, and Eber the Southern. The Northeastern corner was accorded to the
children of their lost brother, Ir, and the Southwestern corner to their
cousin Lughaid, the son of Ith.
The descendants of Milesius are said to be the monarchs and leading
families of early Ireland.
The tribes of Celtic speech came to the British Isles in two distinct waves.
The earlier invasion of the Goidels arrived in England with a culture of
bronze about 800 B.C., and in Ireland two centuries later, and was part of
the same movement which brought the Gauls into France. The later conquest
was by the Cymric-speaking Belgae who were equipped with iron weapons. It
began in the third century B.C., and was still going on in Caesar's time.
These Cymric Brythons reached Ireland in small numbers only in the
second century B.C.
The Romans called this pre-Celtic people Pictii, or "Painted," who (as
claimed by many historians), actually tattooed their bodies with designs.
To the non-Roman Celtic world of Scots and Irish and the many tribes of
Belgic England and Wales they were known as "Cruithni" and for many
centuries they represented the unbridled fury of a people who refused to
be brought under the yoke of Rome or any foreign invader.
Ballymachugh is one of the three parishes of the diocese situated in
County Cavan. It lies along Lough Sheelin and in it the Diocese (Ardagh
and Clonmacnoise) reaches its most easterly point about half a mile
from Mountnugent. After the definite establishment of the Diocese of the
Ui Briuin, or Kilmore, this parish remained attached to Ardagh because it
was part of the old principality of Cairbre Gabhra centred at Granard. This
ancient authorities generally speak of Lough Sheelin as in Cairbre; so the
book of Lecan, Leobor Gabhala, Book of Leinster. Earlier than the time of
Cairbre, son of Niall, these lands bordering Lough Sheelin on the north
were inhabited by the pre-Celtic Glasraighe
, who were subdued by him; and
for whom long afterwards, the genealogists traced a royal descent from
The ancient province of Laigin
derives its name from the Laigain people
who were among the earlier inhabitants of the area. Included among the
early peoples were the Cauci, Manapii, Coriondi, Brigantes, Domninii
and Usdiae. By the 5th century the Southern Ui Naill encroached on the
Northern borders of the province decreasing its area. The Ui Chennselaig and
Ui Dunlainge tribes were the dominent septs during this period. Others
included the Ui Faelain, Cuala, Ui Garrchon, Ui Drona, Ui Biarrche and
Ui Enachglais, with the sacred capital at Naas.
As its borders expanded in later centuries the territories of the Fine Gall
(Dublin), Ui Dunchada, Ui Failge, Loiges, Osraige, Eile, Fothairt, Ui Mail
and Ui Muiredaig were included. Later the more prominent clans included the
MacMurroughs, O'Tooles, Phelans, O'Connors, Kilpatricks, O'Byrnes, O'Moores
The arrival of the Anglo-Normans occured in Leinster in 1169/70, at the
invitation of the ousted King of Leinster, Dermat MacMurrough. Earldoms
were established in Kildare (Fitzgeralds) and Ormond (Butlers). The area of
English control around Dublin, referred to as the Pale, expanded into the
province of Leinster next with settlements and fortifications by the
new Anglo-Normans lords. By the 17th century, the Cromwellian campaigns
supplanted these with English rule and land ownership.
The ancient Kingdom of the Osraige
an early Erainn tribe whose first
king was Aengus Osrithe, flourished in the second century of the Christian
era. In the fifth century the neighbouring tribe of the Deisi, aided by the
Corca Laighde, conquered South Ossory, and for over a century, the
Corca Laighde chiefs ruled in place of the dispossessed Ossory chiefs.
Early in the seventh century the ancient chiefs recovered much of their
lost possessions, the foreigners were overcome, and the descendants of
Aengus ruled once more. One of the greatest was Carroll, prominent in the
ninth century and distinguished in the Danish wars.
Kilkenny County forms much of what was known as the kingdom of Ossory.
Kilkenny became one of the counties of Leinster in 1210, and also became
the residence of Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, Strongbow's heir and
descendent, by whom Kilkenny Castle was built. Before the fourteenth
century Marshall's inheritance passed to the Butlers.
The Ui Bairrche
(Hy Bairrche) was the generic name for the O'Gormans and related families. The Ui Bairrche
ruled the tuath or territory of now known
as the barony of Slievmargy in Southeast Queens County (Southeast County
Leix) adjoining Carlow. An early king of Leinster (Laigin) was
Móenach macMuiredach Sníthe O'Bairrche, King of Leinster.
, Ui Dunlainge, Ui Garrchon,
Ui Mail, Ui Faelain
Early kings of Laigin
(Leinster) from these tribes included:
Year bef. 400 - Chennselaig, Crimthann macÉndae, King of Leinster.
The Chennselaig clans became MacMurroughs, Kavanaghs and Kinsellas.
Year bef. 460 - O'Dúnlainge, Coirpre macCormac, King of Leinster.
Year bef. 485 - MacGarrchon, Findchad, King of Leinster.
Year 624 A.D. - O'Máil, Aed Díbchíne macSenaig Díbig, King of Leinster.
Year 808 A.D. - O'Fáeláin, Muiredach macRuaidrí, King of Leinster.
The O'Fáeláin clans became Phelans or Whelans.
(Hy Maile) and Cualu (Cualan)
According to MacFirbis, Main Mal, a younger brother of Cathal Mor,
Monarch of Ireland in the second century, was ancestor of
O'Ceallaigh of Cualan
These Kellys were also referred to as Chiefs of Hy Maile.
Their territory was believed to occupy north west Wicklow
lying south of Tallagh along the northern slopes of the hills and
stretching across the northern slopes of Glenasmole. It included
Killininny, Ballycullen and Kilmacheth. They were neighbours of the
O'Byrnes and the O'Tooles. This territory was wrenched from their
control early in the Anglo-Norman invasion.
In ancient times the O'Moore tribe-name of Ui Laoighis was applied to their
territory, this name being derived from a famous Ulster ancestor named Lughaidh
Laoigheseach, descendant of the renowned Conall Cearnach, Chief of the Red
Branch Knights of Ulster. The territory consisted of the present Baronies of East
and West Maryborough, Stradbally and Cullenagh, to which in after years were
annexed the Baronies of Ballyadams and Slievemargy.
After the arrival of the Anglo-Normas, the territory
of the County of Laois divided among seven Septs or Clans:- O'Moore,
O'Kelly, O'Deevy, O'Doran, O'Lalor, O'Dowling and McEvoy.
Daingean was the chief stronghold of a tuath, whose territory was more or
less co-terminous with the modern barony of Lower Philipstown. The dynastic
family of this tuath was O'Connor, surnamed Failghe (anglicised Failey or
Faly) to distinguish it from other O'Connor families in different parts of
Ireland. At an early stage six of the neighbouring tuatha formed a
federation with that of the O'Connors ; and as the head of the federation
was nearly always an O'Connor, the territory of the federation or big tuath
came to be known as Ua bhfailghe -- a name which English-speaking writers
tried to reproduce phonetically by writing Ofaily or Offaley. Ua bhFailghe
was a sub-kingdom of the provincial kingdom of Leinster. Only about a
third of the county of Offaly was part of the Irish Offaley.
Hy-Regan was the tribe name, of the O'Dunnes of Offaly. Their country,
which was formed into the barony of Tinahinch, and made a part of the
Queen's County in the reign of Philip and Mary, is still popularly called
Dooregan, (in Irish tuath Riagain).
The O'Nuallains were princes of the Fotharta (Foherta), now the Barony of
Forth in County Carlow, Ireland. In pre-Norman days their chiefs held high
office under the Kings of Leinster. In Irish the name O'Nuallain means
descendant of Nuallan; the word Nuallan means a shout or cry. The name was
anglicised O'Nowlan, Nowlan, and Nolan.
Seven Septs of Laois
After the arrival of the Anglo-Normans, the Leix (Laois) County was
divided among seven Septs or Clans: O'Moore, O'Kelly, O'Deevy, O'Doran,
O'Lalor, O'Dowling and McEvoy.
This confederation began after the 3rd century CE, when the family
group that would become the O'Mores came from Ulster to Leinster under
the leadership of Laoighseach Cean More, son of Connall Cearnach of the Red
Branch, and helped to defend Leinster under the kingship of Cuchorb, and
expelled the Munster forces from the region. They continued to hold
principality over what became Leix (Laois), so named after Laoighseach,
and this confederation continued through the Elizabethian wars of the 1500's,
when the military and political power of the families were broken and the
clans dispossessed and relocated. Of these seven clans, the O'Mores were the
leading family, holding the position and title of Kings, and then Princes of Leix,
as well as the Marshell's and treasurers of Leinster since the 3rd century.
In the 4th century AD the ancient line of Connacht kings was displaced
by the midland rulers, whose centre was at Tara. Two members of this
Tara dynasty, Brion and Fiachra, founded septs, or clans, the Uí Briúin
and the Uí Fiachrach, to which all the rulers of Connaught from the 5th to
the 12th century belonged. Turloch (Toirdelbach) O'Connor (d. 1156)
and his son Rory (Ruadri; d. 1198) were strong enough to be recognized
as kings of Ireland, but the Anglo-Norman settlement of the mid-12th
century disrupted their power. Rory's brother, Cathal Crovderg, was
king of Connaught until his death in 1224, but in 1227 the English king
Henry III granted Connaught to the Norman baron Richard de Burgh (or
de Burgo). His descendants held the lordship of Connaught with the
earldom of Ulster until the titles fell to the crown in 1461. The land of
Connaught was thereafter controlled by two junior branches of the de
Burghs, who ultimately became the Clanricarde and Mayo Burkes.
Gailenga and Luigne
Among the pre-Milesian tribes of Connacht
were the Gregraige
, a Firbolg tribe, that inhabited much of the
western part of present day County Sligo between Loch
Gara and the Ox mountains. Other tribes sharing the same
area were the Gailenga
and the Luigne
tribes of the Tuatha de Danann
Celts from which O'Hara and O'Gara
are descended. The Ciarrage
tribes or "black people" populated
much of northwestern County Roscommon and are believed
to have been the early lords of Airtech, an area
corresponding to the present-day barony of Frenchpark.
Their seat was believed to be at Baslic near Castlerea. The
, another important tribe, had lands in Sligo and
Mayo and north Roscommon. They may have been the
rulers of Moylurg who were in later centuries absorbed by
the expanding Sil Murray (later the MacDermots).
Ui Maine (Hy Many)
Another powerful federation of tribes was
the Ui Maine
(O'Kelly) whose extensive territory embraced large
areas of what is now south Roscommon, Galway and north Clare.
According to O'Rahilly, the Ui Maine were pre-Milesian
Celts who were later given a fictitious Milesian pedigree
showing them descended from Maine Mor, son of Eochu,
etc. Notwithstanding their importance, O'Rahilly points out
that they were vassals who paid tribute to the Milesian kings
of Connacht. Among the Ui Maine dwelt the Sogain
Cruthin (Pict) tribe, and the Dal naDruithne
believed to be
Tuatha De Danann Celts.
The Ui Maine was reportedly founded by the brother of Fiacha Straivetine,
King of Ireland, A.D. 285, whose original territory comprised parts of what
are now the counties of Galway, Roscommon, Clare, and Offaly. Irish annals
tell us that the Ui Maine kingdom gained its name when its 4th century
leader, Maine Mor, conquered a territory of southeastern Connaught from
the Firbolgs and settled there in 357 A.D.
Ui Briuin and Ui Fiachrach
Eochaidh Mugmedon was king of Connacht at the end of the fourth century.
In early historical times his offspring: Brioin, Fiachra and Ailill
separated into three dynasties -- the Ui Briuin
ancestors to the Sil Murray (O Conors and MacDermots);
the Ui Fiachra
, ancestors to the O Dowds and O Heynes; and the
, whose descendants left little mark in history, except
their name is perpetuated in the barony of Tir-Errill in
County Sligo. In the seventh century the Ui Briuin began separating
into three branches -- Ui Briuin Seola
Ui Briuin Breffney
(O Rourkes and O Reillys) and
Ui Briuin Ai
(O Conors, MacDermots and others). The Ui Fiachrach formed a Northern
sept, known as the
Ui Fiachrach Muaide
in County Sligo, and a
southern sept known as the
Ui Fiachrach Aidne
in south Galway.
Siol Muireadhaigh (Siol Murray), a branch of the Ui Briuin Ai, so called
after progenitor, Indrechtaigh MacMuireadhaigh, occupied lands in North
Roscommon. They comprised O'Conors, MacDermots, O'Beirnes, O'Flanagans,
MacManuses, O'Brenans, O'Monahans, MacGeraghtys, O'Flynns and others.
Counties Leitrim and Cavan formed part of the
kingdom of Bréifne
, also known
as Ui Briuin Breifne, whose septs were descendants of the great Ui Briun
clans of Connacht. Following the overthrow of the Conmaicne (Rein) and other
ancient tribes about the 8th century, the Ui Ruairc and the Ui Ragallaig
were dominant in this region. In later times County Leitrim, or West
Bréifne, became known as Bréifne O'Rourke, and Cavan, or East Bréifne,
became distinctively Bréifne O'Reilly.
Bréifne long resisted colonization by the Anglo-Normans, and the
O'Reilly's of Cavan were not brought under permanent English rule until
the late 16th century. Cavan, previously part of Connacht, was designated
a part of Ulster in the early 17th century and included in the Ulster
plantation from 1608 onward, when it was settled by Scots and English
The territory of the Conmaicne Rein was located in the southern section of
County Leitrim centered in the modern barony of Mohill. The territory
included parts of the baronies of Leitrim, Mohill and Carrigallen in Co.
Leitrim and well as a section of northern Co. Longford. The Mag Raghnaill
(MacRannall) clan were chiefs in this territory which later became known
as Muintir Eolais. The O'Ruairc (O'Rourke) clan were kings and lords over
the Conmaicne tribes in early medieval times.
The name Connemara comes from the tribe of Conmac, or Conmaicne
a warrior tribe which was sent to the area by the ancient Gaelic Kings of
Connacht to ensure their hegemony. The branch of the tribe which went to
the coastal area became known as Conmaicnemara, or 'the tribe of Cormac by
In medieval times Connemara was ruled by the O'Cadhlas and later by
the 'ferocious' O'Flaherty's who built a series of castles along the coast.
Conmaicne Mara is bordered on the west by Lough Corrib (Loch Oirbsen).
The ancient territories along the Loch were Iar-Chonnacht
Gnó Mor and Gnó Beag -- with
, now Conamara, on the west,
and Uí Briúin Seóla
on the east border, and towards the north-west,
, the Joyce Country, between it and Loch Measca; and
more to the north-east, Conmaicne Cúile Tola
, the barony of Kilmaine,
where the first great battle of Moytura was fought.
Tribes of Galway
an expression, first invented by Cromwell's forces, as a term of reproach
against the natives of the town of Galway. These families were thirteen
in number, i.e. Athy, Blake, Bodkin, Browne, D'Arcy, Ffont (or De Fuente),
Ffrench, Joyes (or Joyce), Kirwan, Lynch, Martin, Morris and Skerrett.
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Take a geographic stroll through Irish History --
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Before there were Counties
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- a supplement to the maps above.
Norman Surnames of Ireland
- including Cambro-Norman, Welsh and Flemish.
Castles of Ireland
- A compilation of What, Where, Who and When
Cambro-Norman Invasion of Ireland
- A summary of events and people.
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