Céad míle fáilte

Above: Coat of Arms in the name of "His Excellency the Chevalier Francis Martin O'Donnell" (etc.), as recorded in the Register of Grants and Confirmations of the Chief Herald of Ireland (copyright, 2015. All rights reserved.)



INTRODUCTION

This website presents material relating to the wider historical community of the Clan O'Donnell of Tyrconnell, gradually bringing previously unpublished or inherited material into the public domain for educational, heritage, and cultural preservation purposes. The focus here is on hitherto little-known facets of O'Donnell history, and not the recounting of well-known story-lines, such as the life of Red Hugh O'Donnell, the Flight of the Earls, or the historically-prominent branches of the clan in Austria, Spain, or elsewhere. My late mother claimed O'Donnell descent on her side, from a female ancestor, and my late father participated in the first Clan reunion in three centuries that took place under the auspices of An Tóstal in Donegal around Easter in 1954.

The statements throughout the following pages result from deep research over many decades by my late father and myself, as well as published sources. These sources are now being made available in a comprehensive account being published internationally and after extensive peer review by historians, genealogists, and other knowledgeable persons. Responsibility for errors remains uniquely mine, and corrections of fact are welcomed. 

My series of occasional lectures/talks on O'Donnell history and heritage continues.  The first was delivered at the O'Donnell Clan Gathering in Donegal, on 8 August 2013.  The second, in honour of our Clan patron Saint Colmcille/Columba, whose feast day is Monday, 9 June, was held on the following day.  A pre-Schism saint, he is honoured by Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestants (Anglican, Presbyterian, Lutheran).  I subsequently gave a lecture to the Genealogical Society of Ireland (GSI) on Tuesday 10 June 2014, at the Dún Laoghaire Further Education Institute (formerly Dún Laoghaire College of Further Education), Cumberland St., Dun Laoghaire, Ireland.

The topic on which I spoke was: “Clans of Ireland – A Case Study of the O’Donnell Clan”.  The talk covered a broad outline of the revival of Irish clans and historical families, current challenges. It also took the example of the Clan O’Donnell of Tyrconnell (Ó Domhnaill Tír Chonaill also known as Clan Dálaigh)  touching on the more notable branches of the Clan, in Flanders, Spain, and Austria, and including the “lost” French branch of Counts O’Donnell, extinct since 1879. I also spoke on the challenges of adjusting clan mythologies/histories to the fruits of new research, interpretive issues/historical quandaries, and implications for clan governance in the 21st century. The lecture was open to the public, and well attended. 

In 2015, the Military History Society of Ireland, in its journal, The Irish Sword, Volume XXX, no. 119 of Summer 2015, published my article "The Chevalier Michel O'Donnell (1730-1803) - A Wild Goose from Mullet", who served in the Irish Brigade in France, and hailed from Termoncarragh in County Mayo.

 The Kerry Archaeological and Historical Society also published an article of mine on "The Kerry Days of the Knights Hospitaller" in its Journal, Series 2, Volume 12, in 2015. The article covers the Knights' historic presence in Ardfert, Rattoo, and Tralee, as well as the influence of St. Aubin on the town land of Ballintobeenig.

Most recently, I was invited to participate in the 2
nd International Colloquium on Nobility, held in Madrid on 20-21 October 2017, and hosted by the Real Asociación de Hidalgos de España (Royal Association of Nobles of Spain), and to present the gist of my synoptic paper on the subject of Irish Nobility and Armigerous Families, which will be published in due course. I also drew attention to the UNESCO 2003 International Convention on the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage as an instrument that can prove beneficial for the global recognition and national preservation of elements of our ancient heritage, such as heraldry, or as the Irish Government already recognized, the ancient Gaelic sport of Hurling and the Celtic music of the Uileann pipes.

This year, I was invited to present a seminar in French on 17 October 2018 to Master's Degree students at the Sorbonne University in Paris. Under the general rubric of social anthropology and culture, the seminar dealt with the contribution of genealogical research to cultural history, in a series directed by Professor Eric Mension-Rigau. An introduction on the Wild Geese (Les Oies Sauvages) was given by Patrick Clarke de Dromantin, a direct descendant and France's most published authority on the subject. My subject dealt with
The O'Donnell Counts in France and their transition from ancient chivalry and military service to the highest echelons of the civil service, the Conseil d'EtatI will give a talk on the same subject at 8pm on 9 November 2018 at Griffith College in Dublin for the 2018 Lecture Programme of the Military History Society of Ireland, open to the public.

On 15 November this year, my forthcoming book, The O'Donnells of Tyrconnell - A Hidden Legacy, will be published in hardback by Academica Press LLC, Washington DC. The book extends to 750 pages, with 33 pages of coloured illustrations, an appendix on heraldry and genealogy providing 50 pages of genealogical tables/family trees and source notes and commentary for the main dynastic lines, a rich and structured bibliography on a further 50 pages, and a detailed index on 55 pages. Over 1,700 footnotes provide detailed commentaries and references, and over 900 sources are cited. The book has taken over 14 years to prepare and is based on 30 years of research. 
Further details can be had on the publisher's website, and orders made online: http://www.academicapress.com/node/330. See below for more details on the substance of this book.

Francis M. O'Donnell,
Ambassador (ret.)



Contact: on social networks or by email:    framarodo [at] aol [dot ] com



The Book:  
The O'Donnells of Tyrconnell - A Hidden Legacy

The Foreword has been provided by Dom Henry O’Shea, OSB, Glenstal Abbey, heraldic and genealogical advisor to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, and its principal chaplain in Ireland.

The book is the product of over 30 years intermittent personal research by the author in many countries but principally, Ireland, Austria, Belgium, England, France, Italy, and Spain, and 14 years of incremental writing, and has benefitted from consultations and advice from principal family members, lineage descendants, clan kinsfolk, academic historians, archivists, conservators and curators, clerics, diplomats, heraldic experts, librarians, professional genealogists, and scholars, who, along with many others, are appreciated in the extensive six-page acknowledgements.

The book suggests the descent of the Ardfert (County Kerry) line from the historic ruling dynasty of O’Donnells of Tyrconnell (County Donegal), with a close connection to the now extinct O’Donnell counts in France, who are hitherto-unknown in Irish history. Although passing references are made, the book does not delve into the better-known histories of Red Hugh O’Donnell, the Battle of Kinsale, nor the Flight of the Earls, nor for that matter the better-documented aristocratic O’Donnells of Austria (Counts) and Spain (Dukes, etc.). Instead, the book aims to add value to the corpus of texts on O’Donnell history, with new research. 

The internecine rivalries of the O’Donnell dynasty as its realm crumbled are laid bare. The ironies of factors leading to exile and becoming later choices abroad are brought out.  The most likely origins of the famous love-lament “Donal Oge”, and what it implies about the Flight of the Earls, and for the mysteries of lineage, are suggested.

The missing first family of the last regnant dynasty is revealed.  The discovery of the actual contemporary portraits of the 1st and 2nd Earls of Tyrconnell, Rory and his son, Hugh Albert, and the probable production of the almost-unknown portrait of the latter in the workshop and under the supervision of Peter Paul Rubens are made known.

The extraordinary adventure of his cross-dressing pseudo-cavalier sister, Lady Mary Stuart O’Donnell, and her romantic disillusions, choices, and ultimate distress are once again described, but this time with an accounting of the deep political ramifications of her options and eventual choices.

The discovery of a forgotten dynasty of O’Donnell counts in France is revealed, along with their transition from military chivalry to distinguished civil service at the highest levels, and their modest but real influence on France. Their Jacobite influences and roles, right up to the exile from France and deathbed in Rome of Bonnie Prince Charlie, the last Stuart Pretender, are a new discovery. The modesty of their lives and repose, and their decaying tomb in Paris, require sympathetic recognition, and for the latter, preservation.

A link is drawn with their Kerry relatives and their roles as Jacobite officers, rapparee rebels, and local stewards, and the hedge-school master and his descendants, surviving through the Famine, and the mark they left on Country Kerry from their now-protected listed homestead. Few Irish tales would be complete without a ghost story, and indeed we have one in the ghost of Ballyheigue Castle, re-interpreted in light of deeper discoveries, and hopefully now laid to rest.

Elements of the research have already been published by the Military History Society of Ireland (2015), the Kerry Archaeological and Historical Society (2015), and on websites academia.edu and odomhnaill.com, as well in the O’Donnell Clan Association Newsletter (2004), and on the Clan Facebook page. Oral presentations of research findings have also been given to the O’Donnell Clan Association in Donegal in August 2013, and to the Genealogical Society of Ireland in June 2014, as well as to the 2nd International Colloquium on Nobility in Madrid in October 2017. Invited by Professor Eric Mension-Rigau, a post-graduate seminar was given at the Sorbonne in Paris on 17 October 2018, on the value of genealogical research to cultural history under the theme “the transition from military to civil service” using the book’s case study of the French O’Donnell counts.  A similar lecture will be given to the Military History Society of Ireland in Dublin on 9 November 2018 (open to public).

As per the Foreword by Dom Henry O’Shea, OSB of Glenstal Abbey:

“This is a totally compelling book, combining as it does in its over seven hundred pages, meticulous research, detective intuition and acuity, political, social and religious history along with family and personal good fortune and misfortune.  Such a work can be the envy of any Gaelic clan or family, trying in happier times to re-capture its past beyond the barriers presented by the dearth of documentary evidence…. This is not a book for the faint-hearted, but one worth every heart-beat.”

The book will be published by Academica Press, LLC, Washington D.C. on 15 November 2018, under its Maunsel Irish Research Series, in hardcopy. 


Challenges in tracing the genealogy of diverse O’Donnell septs

Historically, indigenous nobility in Ireland was derived by dint of an ancient family tradition of particular dominance in a locality, recognised by recounted and recorded genealogy, and not the product of the exercise of any royal prerogative. The reliability of the early genealogies is today generally assumed to be credible from about 650 AD.

Beyond that, it has more the character of myth, although it must be said that recent archaeological discoveries have borne out the veracity of some catastrophic seismic or climatic events that occurred as far back as 500 BC, and were later recorded in ancient annals, either based originally on oral lore or on the legendary rods of the Filí written once in Ogham on wands of aspen or hazel by the poets or more probably by the brehons or druids. Some plausibility may therefore be attached to certain aspects of more ancient genealogies, for example the probable existence of a named character attributed the primary responsibility for such events such as the clearance of an oak forest and the construction of an ancient bog road, e.g. over two thousand years ago at Corlea.

Both the ancient annals and modern genealogy attest that over time, several distinct O’Donnell septs have arisen independently in Ireland, from different ancestors called Donal (Domhnall) and therefore originally unrelated to the clan of the O’Donnells of Tyrconnell.

The Tyrconnell O’Donnells were originally of the Cinel Luighdheach centered around Kilmacrenan in County Donegal, and various records of them appear in the Annals of the Four Masters, e.g. in 1100, Gillacholuim O’Donnell, Lord of Cinel Luighdheach, was reported killed.  In due course they became the principle clan of the Cenel Chonaill.

Elsewhere in Ulster itself there was another O’Donnell sept of the Cenel Eoghan, known as Cenel Binnigh. In addition, offshoots of the O’Hart clan were O’Donnells, Lords of Clonkelly in County Fermanagh. Other O’Donnells were of the Uí Eathach, and were a sept of the Oirghealla in County Armagh. 

In Munster, the O’Donnells of Limerick and of County Tipperary have claimed origins from Shane or Seán á Luirg, son of Turlough “of the Wine” O’Donnell who ruled Tyrconnell in the early 15th century. This origin has been disputed, but a strong tradition surrounds it, honoured by the O’Donnells of Trough Castle and later of Baltimore (USA). Several of the other different O’Donnell lineages are identified in the most ancient annals, sometimes in detail, sometimes just in recording a singular event or death.

However, a distinct sept comprises the O’Donnells of Corcavaskin in south-western County Clare. Their progenitor, Domhnall, son of Diarmuid, of the Clan Ua Deagha of Ulster descent, fought and was killed at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. A later chieftain of these O’Donnells, also Lord of Corca Bhaiscinn, was slain in 1158.  This sept is sometimes called MacDonnell, descendants of the O’Briens of the posterity of Brian Boru, but different from the MacDonnells of Kilkee also in County Clare, and certainly different from the MacDonnells of Antrim. These O’Donnells/MacDonnells were dispossessed by the MacMahons (another branch of the O’Briens) in the early 14th century. 

There were also other O’Donnells in Munster, such as the O’Donnells of Fermoy, said to hail from Sliocht Aodha mic Domhnaill mic Raighne, descended from whom was one Domhnall Óg, mac Domhnaill, mic Domhnaill, mic Aodha, mic Domhnaill mic Raighne. This clan was said to be an offshoot of the O’Briens, of Dál gCais. They were also said to have ruled as Chiefs of the Muighe in Tuath Muighe Finne, near Fermoy. Another O’Donnell clan, related to O’Donoghue, held sway as Chiefs of Clan Sealbuidhe (Shalvey), in Iveleary and the Muskerry area of County Cork.  These O’Donoghues (O Donnchadha) were a Desmond sept eventually driven from Cork to Kerry.  A record also exists in British archives, covering 1467-1472 for an O’Donnell as Lord of Leskerry and which involves a dispute over the delivery of seven pipes of salmon. Cuchaill O’Donnell, Prince of Durlass (Thurles) was recorded as slain in 993 (recté 1000), by Hugh O’Neill, Prince of Tyrone. 

In Leinster, in 956, Neaidheannan O’Donnell, was killed at Feighcullen in Kildare.  In 1087, another O’Donnell of Leinster, the son of Murchadh O’Donnell, Lord of Uí Drona, in County Carlow was slain.  In 1090, Maelmórdha, son of O’Donnell, King of Uí Chinsealigh, was recorded in the annals as slain. In 1161, an O’Donnell of south Leinster was recorded as slain in Wexford.  There was also Mac Dalbaig Ua Domnaill, King of Uí Felmeda, one of the Leinster kings who submitted to King Henry II in 1171-2.

In Connaught, other O’Donnells were of the Uí Maine, in County Galway. One such was Sitric O’Donnell, son of Gilla-Enain, Chief of Clann-Flaitheamhail, one of the seven septs of Uí Maine (Hy-Many) recorded in 1158 as slain.

There may also have been O’Donnells indigenous to other parts of Ireland. Whether indigenous or of migrant origin, several appear in the Dublin area by the late 1500s. Surviving records of court proceedings of the archiepiscopal jurisdiction of the Liberty of Saint Sepulchre (south central Dublin city today) for the mid-1580s include cases of O’Donnells as plaintiffs and defendants in commercial dealings. This was a few years before the Nine Years War.

But no O’Donnells were found in north-west Kerry until much later, in fact just a few centuries ago when they appeared in the Barony of Clanmaurice, and the question must be asked: as they were not indigenous, where did they come from? If records prove elusive for now, family lore and tradition can give some indications, and form an important element of intangible cultural heritage.

The O’Donnells of Ardfert have continuously held that they came originally from Donegal, and have long believed that they are descended from an O’Donnell of Tyrconnell, who came there in the early 1600s, around the time of the Battle of Kinsale. A similar claim is recognized in family lore and local tradition in Castlegregory in the Barony of Corcaguiney.

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