Clans and Families
of Ireland and Scotland VIII. The Laigin
The O’Byrnes originally possessed
what is now the northern half of County Kildare, which was called after the Ui Faelain.
They were driven from this territory by the Normans, soon after the Anglo-Norman invasion,
after which they retired to the fastness of the nearby Wicklow Mountains. Here they became
very powerful, and at the head of the Wicklow clans they terrorized the invaders, first
the Anglo-Normans, and later the English, both of whom they defeated in many a fierce
engagement. Their territory in these times was known as Criochbhranach, and Included the
Barony of Newcastle with parts of the baronies of Ballinacor and Arklow.
The Ui Muireadhaigh or O’Tools (O Tuathail) descend from Ughaire,
King of l.einster (died 956), and were chiefs of what is now the southern half of County
Kildare, which bore the designation of Ui Muireadhaigh after their clan-name. They were
driven from this territory by Walter de Riddlesford soon after the Anglo-Norman invasion,
afterwards retiring to the mountain fastness of Wicklow, like their O’Byrne kinsmen.
Here their new territory comprised first Ui Mail on the western slope of the mountains,
and later Feara Cualann, in the north. Here, in alliance with their kinsmen the
O’Byrnes, they carried on incessant warfare with the invaders, Anglo-Normans and
later English, which continued over more than 400 years. They maintained their
independence as a clan down to the close of the reign of Elizabeth I (ca. 1600), after
which the whole of Fercuolen was confiscated by the English. The O’Tooles however
retained considerable property for a time, and a branch of the family settled as well in
west Connacht, where they became numerous.
The Ui Maine The Ui Maine were the great Laiginian tribe
whose original territory comprised adjoining parts of what are now the counties of Galway,
Roscommon, Clare and OfaIly. The Ui Maine were closely related to the Oirghialla, for
their ancestors were the same as those of the Oirghialla, being the ancient Laiginian
allies of the great tribe of the North Gaels (the names of three of their respective
original sub-tribal groups duplicate each other- the Cann Bhreasail. or Ui Breasail
(Macha); the Ui Fiachrach Finn, or Ui Fiachrach Arda Stratha, and the Clann Chearnaigh.
The Ui Maine separated from the Oirghialla at the same time that the Ui Neill
differentiated from their North-Gaelic kinsmen, the Connachta (see Chapter IX). As the Ui
Neill and their Oirghialla allies moved eastward into the rest of Ulster, the Connachta
moved southwards into the rest of Connacht, and thus did their L.aiginian allies, the Ui
Maine, acquire what would become their tribal patrimony.
The O’KelIys (O CeaIlaigh) were chiefs of the Ui Maine, and as such ruled over a
large area in Galway and Roscommon down to the reign of Elizabeth I, at the end of the
sixteenth century. They came to be regarded as one of the "Three Connachts"
along with the North-Gaelic tribes of Ui Fiachrach and
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