Ireland's History - Early Irish Tribes, Septs and Clans (page 2)
Old Irish Kingdoms and Clans
A supplement to Ireland's History in Maps
Also see People, Place and Province

Page Index: Ulster | Dal Fiatach | Dal nAraide | Dal Riata | Fir Manach | Cineal Fógartaígh | Airgialla (Oriel) | Ui Cremthainne | Erainn | Decies | Deise | Ciannachta | Eile | Desmond | Corca Luighe | Eoghanacht | Corca Duibhne | Thomond | Dal gCais | Ui Neill | Cenel nEoghain | Cenel Conaill | Cineal Chonaill | Mide (Meath) | Brega | Southern Ui Neill | Four Tribes of Tara | Back to Page One

Ulster was an ancient province of northeast Ireland, named after one of it's chief inhabitants, the Ulaid (Voluntii). Other early peoples included the Pictish tribe of the Robogdii, the Cruithin and the Darini. Later there were the Dal Riata, Dal nAraide and the Dal Fiatach. Ulster had its ancient capital at Emain Macha, near the modern city of Armagh.
Attacks from the midland kingdom of Mide led to Ulster's disintegration in the 4th and 5th centuries. The province subsequently split into the three kingdoms of Airgialla (in central Ulster), Aileach, (in western Ulster), and the kingdom of Ulaid (in eastern Ulster). By the 8th century the island's clans had grouped themselves into five provinces, of which Ulster under the Uí Néill dynasty was the leading one until the 11th century.
Norman adventurers from England, South Wales, and the European continent succeeded in establishing themselves in Ireland by the late-12th century, and in 1205 the English king, John Plantagenet, took control and created an earldom of Ulster.
Meanwhile, the O'Neills (of County Tyrone) and the O'Donnells (of County Tyrconnell) had become virtually supreme in much of Ulster. These two Roman Catholic clans were involved in a serious rebellion against Queen Elizabeth I from 1594 to 1601, caused in part by attempts to impose the English Reformation on the Irish. The failure of negotiations with James I led to the flight of the northern earls of Tyrone, Tyrconnell, and many others in 1607.
Source: various

Dal Fiatach and Dal nAraide
The Dal Fiatach who were also known as the Ulaid, and the Dal nAraide also known as the Cruithne. Cruithne is also the name applied to the ancient Picts of Scotland. The Dal Fiatach and the Dal nAraide were constantly warring with one another over the rulership of their territory (in Ulster) with the Kingship falling into the hands of which ever one was the most powerful at the time. The portion of Dal Riata that remained in Ireland (County Antrim) allied themselves to the Dal nAraide, helping to make them more powerful, while Cairpre Riata led the rest of his people across the water to the land of the Picts.

Dal Riata
The earliest knowledge we have of them comes from when they were still in Ireland. At that time there were four septs or main families of the Erainn stock, who were considered to be a section of the original inhabitants of Eire. These four septs were named the Muscraige, Corco Duibne, Corco Baiscind and Dal Riata, who came from three sons of Conaire Mor called Cairpre Musc, Cairpre Baschain and Cairpre Riata. These four septs of the Erainn migrated from Breg in the north of Ireland to Munster in the south. No reason is given as to why they travelled south, although it is probable that their own family lands could no longer contain them.

Fir Manach
In Co Fermanagh, where the name Monaghan is numerous, the family are thought to be part of the original inhabitants of the area, the Fir Manach, from whom the county gets its name. Their base was in the district of Lurg. From here the Monaghan name migrated into the adjoining counties of Monaghan and Derry.

Cineal Fógartaígh - (Kinelarty)
Kinelarty is from the Gaelic 'Cineál Fogartaígh', which translates 'followers of Fogartaígh'. Fogartaígh was, according to the annals, grandfather to Ártan and was alive in the year 950. The surname McCartan owes its origin to the gaelic Mac Ártan which translates ‘son of Ártan’. The annals record that Ártan died in 1004. An early Irish pedigree deposited in the National Library of Ireland traces this line further back in time to Rudricus Magnus, the 10th King of Ulster at Emáin Mácha (Navan Fort). Before the middle-ages McCartan Country included the Baronies of Kinelarty, Dufferin and about one quarter of Castlereagh - all in the County of Down. Parts of another adjoining barony, that of Iveagh, also came under their control for short periods.

Airgialla (Oriel)
The ancient kingdom of Airgialla was formed around AD 330. At one time, it included the southern parts of the modern counties of Tyrone and Derry, as well as much of Armagh, Monaghan and Fermanagh. With its royal site at Clogher, it included the Ui Thuitre, Ui Cremthainn, Ui Meith, Airthir, Mugdorna, Dairtre and Fir Rois tribes. Later the septs of the MacMahony, O'Hanlon, and O'Neill of the Fews were prominent in this area.
The Anglo-Norman advance in the 13th century broke up Oriel, but Monaghan remained dominated by the MacMahons and lay outside the main area of Anglo-Norman influence. In 1589 a large area came under the English crown; in 1591 Monaghan was divided into estates between seven MacMahons and a McKenna and was not included in the later plantation of Ulster.
Source: various

Ui Cremthainne
The Ui Cremthainn, a branch of the Airgialla, named from a fifth-century ancestor was a sept held rule in two petty kingdoms, Fir Manach and Fernmag, corresponding very roughly to the counties of Fermanagh and Monaghan. In the 13th century, the Monaghan line, in the family of MacMathghamhna (MacMahon), held the superior authority with the title king of Oirghialla.
In the begining of the 14th century, the headship of Fermanagh passes from other branches of their kin to the family of Mag Uidhir (Maguire). The numerous pedigrees which this family branched included MacMaghnusa (MacManus), MacGafraidh (MacCaffrey), MacGothraidh (Corry?), MacAmhlaimh (MacAuley) of Clanawley barony.
Collateral families of the Cremthainne sept are MacDomhnaill (MacDonnell) of Clann Cheallaigh (Clankelly barony), distinct from the Hebridean Mac Domhnaill family, Mac aacute; Mhaighistir (MacMaster,Masterson) of the sept of Fergus Cennfhota (Tirkennedy barony), MacAodha (Magee, Mac Hugh Hughes), Mac Giolla Fhinnéin (Mac a Linnéin) chiefs of Muinntir Pheodachain and for a time holding the kingship of Fir Manach.

The Belgic tribe of the Erainn lived in Munster prior to the arrival of the Milesian Gaels. Approximately 200 A.D. the Eoganachta under Mug Muadat, aka Eogan, began to colonize Munster arriving from Northern Iberia (or Southern Gaul?). The Erainn tribes then submitted to Eoganachta rule.

Native Gaelic peoples called the Deisi, who were very early driven from Tara, conquered and settled in the area now known as Co. Waterford. Originally referred to as Deise Muman, the area between the River Blackwater and the River Suir is still today called "The Decies".
Waterford city, of Norse foundation and an important port and centre of trade, was a bridgehead for the Anglo-Normans in the 12th century. The eastern part of the county came under the control of the Le Poers, or Powers, family, and the western part, called the Decies, came under a branch of the Fitzgeralds. The native Irish character of the population was never wholly obliterated; and in the west, near Dungarvan, Gaelic continued to be spoken into the 20th century.
Source: various

It is recorded that about the 3rd century A.D., a tribe called the Deise settled on the site where Dungarvan, County Wateford now stands. The area is still known as the Desies (Decies).

descendants of Cian, son of Ailill Olomm.
The septs included the Ciannachta, Gailenga, Luigni, Eile, ... Taig, son of Ciann, supported Cormac in his fight against Fergus for the high Kingship of Ireland. Fergus was overthrown at the battle of Crionna (on the Boyne) where Fergus and his two brothers were slain. For his aid, Taig was granted a large territory between Damlaig (Duleek) and the River Liffi, since then called the Ciannachta. He became the ancestor of the O’Hara’s, O’Gara’s, O’Carroll’s, and other now Northern families.

The Éile, the Iron Age tribal group from which the Ui Chearbhaill (O'Carroll) emerged, are immortalised in the ancient place name Bri Éile, now Croghan Hill in north County Offaly, and Moin Éile, the 'Notorious Red Bog of Ely' as Sir William Petty and his wary surveyors described it in 1657. Éile was a territory between Lough Derg on the river Shannon and the Slieve Bloom mountains. The territory consisted of Lower Ormond and the Ikerrin in north Tipperary together with Clanrisk and Ballybritt in south Offaly.
The Fiachach Eile (in north-east of Tipperary - Thurles and Roscrea) were descended from Deachluath, grandson of Eoghan Mor (ancestor of the Eoghanacta). Source:

Desmond was an ancient territorial division of Ireland approximating the modern counties of Kerry and Cork. Gaelic Desmond extended over the modern County Kerry south of the River Maine and over the modern County Cork west and north of the city of Cork. Early peoples of the area included the Erainn, Corca Duibhne, Corca Loigde, Ui Fidgente, Obraigne, Ciarraige Luachra, and septs of the Eoganachta.
Anglo-Norman Desmond extended over north Kerry from the River Maine, over most of the modern county of Limerick, southwest Tipperary, east and south County Cork, and east Waterford.
Desmond was MacCarthy territory from as early as A.D. 150. In 1329 Maurice Fitzgerald was created earl of Desmond, and his descendants became almost independent rulers during the 15th century.
Source: various

Corca Luighe (aka Corca Laoidhe or Loigde)
The Corca Luighe were a pre-Milesian race and the name Luighe was common among their early chiefs. One of those, Lughaidh Mac Con was Monarch of Ireland. According to the Book of Ballymote, Corca Luighe extended from Beann Finn westward to Tragumina and Lough Ine and from Beal Atha Buidhe to Tragh Claen at the rock.
Each tuath of Corca Luighe was governed by a taoiseach and beneath him were the hereditary leaders. Tuatha O Fitcheallaigh and O Dunghalaigh merged in Clonakilty. O'Fehilly and O'Dunlea were the taoiseacha. Oglaigh or Leaders are represented by names which still survive, i.e. Duggan, Keady, Eady, Anglin, Kennedy, Cagney, Hennessy, Leary, Dineen, Cronin, Hayes or O'Hea, Murray, Dulea, Coffey, Cowhig, Cullinane, Downey, Lahiffe, Shinnick, Deady and Muintir Oh Illigh or Hill. The O'Driscolls were the ruling race.
These races had been gradually pushed south of the Bandon river by the Eoghanachta of which the ruling families were the O'Mahony's and the O'Donoghues.

The descendants of Eoghan Mór, son of Aillil Olumm (Oilill Olum).
The Eóghanacht Dynasties include the septs of the Eóghanacht Locha Lein, Eóghanacht Maige, Eóghanacht Raithlind, Eóghanacht Airthir Chliach, Eóghanacht Glendamnach, Eóghanacht Chaisil, Eóghanacht Aine, Ui Fidgeinti, Ui Liathain, Ui Maic, Ui Echach Muman, Ui Corpri
Oilill Olum became King of Munster and, as head of both the Eberian and Ithian tribes he became the first true King of the whole province. Thereafter the Kingship of Munster was handed down in Oilill Olum's family. Oilill willed, and his will was observed for many centuries, that the crown of Munster should henceforth alternate between the descendants of his two eldest sons, Eogan Mor and Cormac Cas. The MacCarthys are descended from Eogan Mor and the O'Briens are descended from Cormac Cas. The O'Carrolls are descended from Oilill Olum's youngest son Ciann and his son Taig.
The MacCarthys, the O'Sullivans and the O'Callaghans, all of Eoghanacht Caisil stock, migrated southwards into Counties Cork and Kerry in pre-Norman times, ousted from their original lands in Counties Tipperary and Limerick by the aggression of the Dál Cais. From longer established tribal groupings in County Cork, such as the Corca Laidhe, the Muscraighe and the Eoghanachts of the Cork region, emerged such family names as O'Driscoll, O'Leary, Cronin; Murphy; O'Mahony and O'Keeffe, respectively.
The Eoghanachta ruling families were the O'Mahony's and the O'Donoghues. Other names have descended in the form of Spillane, O'Neill, Long, Flynn, Keating, Ring, Canty, Mehigan, Dillon, Healy, Slattery, Coghlan, Cahalane, Canniffe, Heenigan, Flahive, Hurley, Wholey, Kearney, etc.

Corcu Duibhne
The name comes from Corc, a son of Cairbre Musc and his sister Dubinn.
As early as the 6th century, the Corcu Duibne, a kin group which was to later branch into the O'Shea, O'Falvey, and O'Connell families, had become well established on the Dingle and Iveragh peninsulas in the west of what is now County Kerry. The Uí Séaghdha, Uí Failbhe, and the Uí Conaill septs branched out from the Corcu Duibne in the 10th century.

Early people of Thomond included the Corca Baiscind, Uaithne, Corca Mruad and the Dal gCais. The Norse, who sacked the early settlement of Limerick in 812, made it the principal town of their kingdom; they were expelled at the end of the 10th century by the Irish hero Brian Boru. From 1106 to 1174 it was the seat of the kings of Thomond, or North Munster.
County Clare was part of Thomond, or North Munster, of which the O'Briens remained lords until the 16th century, despite the Anglo-Norman colonization in the 12th century. Clare was made a shire in the reign of Elizabeth I. In 1828 Daniel O'Connell won the election in Clare that led to the emancipation of Catholics in Ireland.
County Kerry was divided in 1127 between the O'Brien kingdom of Thomond, or North Munster, and the MacCarthy kingdom of Desmond, or South Munster.
Source: various

Dal gCais
(Dalcassion) the race of Cas, the sixth in descent from Cormac Cas, son of Oilioll Olum, King of Munster in the 3rd century. Through this line they are connected to Cashel and the other great families of the province of Munster. This great clan of Thomond (North Munster), holds several distinguished families including the chief family of the name, the O'Briens. The clan of the noted high king, Brian Boru.
Clann Chuileainn - the race of Cuilean, another branch of the Dal gCais. One of several clan names which apply to the MacNamaras and their co-relatives in Thomand.
Ui Caisin - descendants of Caisin, son of Cas, the name of a branch of the Dal gCais of which MacNamara was chief.
Cineal Cuallachta - the race of Cuallachta or Collachtach; a branch of the Dal gCais or Dalcassions. These families are descended from Aonghus Ceannathrach, son of Cas, and centered in the barony of Inchiquin, Co. Clare. O'gRiobta was the chief family of this tribe.
Muintear Ifearnain - The family of Ifearnan, a branch of the Dal gCais. This was the clan name of the O'Quinns of Thomand who descend from Ifearnan, son of Corc, the 15th in descent from Cormac Cas, the ancestor of the Dal gCas or Dalcassions.
Ui Bloid - descendants of Blod, son of Cas, a branch of the Dal gCais. This clan includes the O'Kennedy, O'Shanahan, O'Durack and O'Ahern families of eastern Co. Clare. The name is still preserved in the place name of the deanery of Omulled.
Ui Cearnaigh - descendants of Cearnach, the branch of the Dal gCais of which the Ahernes were chiefs.
Ui Ronghaile - descendants of Ronghal, a branch of the Dal gCais of which the O'Shanahans were chiefs.
Ui Toirdealbhaigh - descendants of Toirdealbach (Father of St. Flannan), King of Thomand. The clan name of the O'Briens and their co-relatives in the east of Co. Clare.
Ui Cormaic - descendants of Cormac, the clan name of the O'Hehirs in Thomond.
Corca Bhaiscinn - the race of Cairbre Baschaoin, centered in the south-west of Co. Clare. [Not Dalcassian].
Corca Modhruadh - the race of Modruadh, son of Fergus MacRoigh. This is the name of a 'great clan' in the north-west of Co. Clare. Their territory was co-extensive with the Diocese of Kilfenora. The chief families of this clan were the O'Loughlins and the O'Connors. They were not a Dalcassion clan.

Uí Néill
Niall Noigiallach (of the Nine Hostages) established himself as King of Midhe (Meath) at Tara around 400 A.D. This kingship was followed by many of his descendants, thereafter referred to as the Ui Neill. The Ui Neill dynasty divided into two in the 400’s, the Northern Ui Neill (Cenel nEoghain and Cenel Conaill) remained in the north while the Southern Ui Neill moved to Meath and the eastern midlands - they took it in turns to be Kings of Tara and, later, High-Kings of Ireland.
Source: various

Cenel nEoghain
Son of Niall of the Nine Hostages, Eogan, King of Ailech (later referred to as Tir Eoghain, later Tyrone) took part with three of his brothers (Conall Gulban, Enda and Cairbre) in the overthrow of Ulidian power and the conquest of north-western Ireland, capturing the great pre-historic dry-stone stronghold at Aileech (whose keep can still be seen surrounded by three remaining rings of ramparts) circa 425; established his own kingdom in the peninsula still called after him Innishowen (Innis Eoghain or Eogan's Isle) between Lough Swilly and Lough Foyle; was converted to Christianity by St. Patrick himself, who called him "the lion Eogan mac Neill" circa 442; and died 465, being buried at Eskaheen. His descendants, known as the Cenel Eoghain, became the principal branch of the Northern Ui Neill.
In the fourteenth century a branch of the Tyrone O'Neills migrated to Antrim where they became known as Clann Aodha Bhuidhe (Clannaboy).

Cenel Conaill
Son of Niall of the Nine Hostages, Conall Gulban, King of Tir Conaill or the Land of Conall (Tyrconnell, later Donegal), which was his share of the family's conquests in north-western Ulster after 425. His descendants, known as the Cenel Conaill, formed one of the principle branches of the Northern Ui Neill, and until the 12th century their kings were inaugurated at the sacrifice of a white mare, going down on all fours like a stallion and lapping its broth. As the kindred of St. Columbia, members of this branch were also Abbots of Iona 563-891 or later, Abbots of Dunkeld from the 9th to 12th centuries, and Kings of Scots from Duncan I (slain by MacBeth 1040) to Alexander III (died of a fall from his horse 1285/86).

Cineal Chonaill
Conall Gulban and his brothers Enda and Eoghan, sons of the High King of Ireland, conquered and partitioned the north-west of Ulster in about the year 460 AD. This area is now known as County Donegal. Conall's descendants, Cineal Chonaill, spread eastward, first conquering Tir Enda and then, in the 11th century, Inish Eoghain was incorporated into Tir Chonaill. Connell's descendants had divided into a number of septs, the more important of which gave their names to tuatha. These were; Tir Aedha, Tir Boghaine, Tir Ainmireach and Tir Lughdach. For 600 years, except during the time of Dalach and his son, the Cineal Ainmireach were supreme in Tir Chonaill and provided Ireland with eight High Kings. Among the descendants of Ainmireach in the 11th century were numbered the O'Cannons, O'Muldoreys and O'Gallaghers. The descendants of Lughdach were the O'Boyles, the O'Dohertys and the O'Donnells.

Mide (Meath)
Mide (Midhe), "the middle kingdom," consisted of the present Counties of Meath and Westmeath, with parts of Cavan and Longford. It was one of the five early provinces of Ireland, and by 400-500 A.D. it comprised much of the territory of the Southern Ui Neill with its capital at the royal site of Tara, Ireland's first captial.
In 1172 Henry II bestowed Meath as an earldom to Hugh de Lacy, creating an English territorial nobility that lasted into the 17th century. The county of Meath came into existence in the 13th century. By the 14th century the territory of Meath was split down the middle by as a territory known as Trim.
As the English hold in Ireland deteriorated in the 13th and 14th centuries, only part of Meath remained inside the English Pale (territory) and under direct rule from Dublin. Following the 16th-century reconquest of Ireland, Westmeath was separated from Meath in 1541 and ultimately passed into the hands of English landlords. Meath's northern boundary, west of Drogheda, was the scene of the Battle of the Boyne (1690), in which William III defeated James II and asserted English Protestant rule over Ireland.
Source: various

Brega (Breaga)
The eastern part of Meath is also known as the kingdom of Brega. The name derives from the plain where Tara (Temuir), the ancient capital of Ireland, stood. For over 500 years, beginning with Niall of the Nine Hostages in 445 A.D., the Southern Ui Neill held the kingship at Tara, giving the title-holder the Kingship of Ireland as well. The Southern Ui Neill alternated as Sovereigns of Ireland during this period with the Northern Ui Neill of Aileach (Co. Donegal), and later of Tullahogue (Co. Tyrone). The ancient home to the kings of the sub-kingdom of Brega was at Knowth.
Source: various

Southern Ui Neill
The descendants of Fiacha, son of Niall of the Nine Hostages, were collectively known as Cenel Fhiachaigh (Fiachach). Fiacha and two of his brothers are said to be the descendants of the Southern Ui Neill septs, which included the O'Melaghlins (MacLoughlins), O'Molloys, MacGeoghegans, Foxes, among others.
Around 700 A.D. the territory of the Southern Ui Neill included the Cenel Fiachach, Tethba, Loegaire, Gailenga, Luigne, Ciannachta, Saithne, Fir Tulach and two septs of the Cairbre. The ancient sub-kingdom of Brega as well as the royal sites of Tara, Knowth, and Lagore were also within its boundaries, which stretched through the modern counties of Meath, Westmeath, Longford, southern Louth and Cavan, and northern Dublin, Kildare and Offaly.

Four Tribes of Tara
The O'Harts, the O'Regans, Connollys, and the O'Kellys formed the "Four Tribes of Tara".

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Further Reference:
Ireland's History in Maps - Home Page.
Before there were Counties - an Irish Territorial History.
Early Irish History - People, Place and Province.
The Tuath and Barony of Ireland - the baronies of Ireland and the clans associated with them.
Old Irish Gaelic Surnames - 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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