Clans and Families
of Ireland and Scotland IX. The Gaels
them from their northern cousins, and
at the same time forced the Ui Maine of west-central Galway to encroach upon their
territory. The O’Shaughnessys (O Seachnasaigh) were the chief family of Cinel Aodha
in the district of that name (Kinelea), being the territory around Gort in southern
Galway. They alternated the kingship of the southern Ui Fiachrach with the O’Heynes,
and became famous in the wars of the seventeenth century, but lost their lands as a result
of the confiscations following the last Jacobite war towards the end of that century.
The Cineal Guaire included the families of O’Heyne (O hEidlun) and
O’Cleary (O Cleirigh). The O’Heynes descend from Maolruanaidh O hEidhin, lord of
Aidhne, who fell (as co-commander of the Connacht army with The O’Kelly of Ui Maine)
at Clontarf in 1014. He was the first to bear the name of O’Heyne. The
O’Heynes’ illustrious seventh-century ancestor was Guaire Aidhne (hence their
clan-name of Cineal Guaire), last Ui Fiachrach King of Connacht, celebrated for his
hospitality. The O’Heynes shared the lordship of Aidhne and the chiefship of the
Southern Ui Fiachrach with their O’Shaughnessy kinsmen, being themselves chiefs of a
territory in the north of the present barony of Kiltartan, around Kinvara (where the
fortress of Dunguire recalls the name of their illustrious ancestor). The Abbey of
Kilmacduagh is known as O’Heyne’s Abbey. The O’Shaughnessys and
O’Heynes have kept possession of large tracts of their respective original
patrimonies in South Galway.
The O’Clearys descend from Cleireach, who flourished about A.D.
850 and was seventh in descent from the celebrated Guaire the Hospitable, king of Connacht
mentioned above. The O’Clearys were originally the chief family of the Cineal Guaire,
but lost power early in the eleventh century, and by the thirteenth century they were
driven out of Aidhne altogether. After that they are found chiefly in Mayo, Kilkenny, and
Cavan. The Mayo branch was set-tied in Tirawley just west of the Moy estuary. From there
they spread to Donegai, where they succeeded the famous O’Scingins as poets and
chroniclers to the O’Donnells by marriage to the daughter of the last O’Scingin
ollav (professor) towards the end of the fourteenth century. That family of ollavs being..
extinct, the O’Clearys inherited their patrimony and were granted other lands besides
by their O’Donnell patrons, and had their chief seat near Ballyshannon, the castle of
Kiibarron. The O’Clearys won lasting fame as the compiler, of the Annals of the Four
Masters and other invaluable works on Gaelic history, the former being the most
distinguished work of its kind.
The O’Houlihans (O hUallachain) were originally chiefs in County
Clare, where their arms and their proximity to Aidhne suggest a clan affiliation with the
O’Shaughnessys (both the O’Shaughnessys and the O’Heynes had important
medieval branches settled in just over the Clare border in Limerick). The O’Houlihans
were in any case pushed by Cromwell into Connacht, though; some were dispersed southward
to County Cork, where they adopted the form
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