There be more than 60 countries, called
regions, in Ireland, --- some regions as big as a shire, some more, some lesse; where
reygneith more than 60 Chyef Capytaynes, whereof some callyth themselves Kings, some Kings
Peers, in their language, some Princes, some Dukes, some Archedukes --- and every of the
said Capytaynes make yth war and peace for himself, and holdeith by sword, and hath
imperial jurisdiction within his rome, and obeyeth to no other person.
A Tudor official in 1515
This book is dedicated to the heroic spirit
of those "Chyef Capytaynes" of old, who reigned in wild but magnificent style in
the numerous tribal kingdoms which once graced the Emerald Isle and the North of Britain.
Part One of Clans and Families provides the reader with an historical overview of the lost
tribal culture of Ireland and Scotland. In Part Two, the reader is provided with
information on the origins of specific Irish and Scottish families/surnames as they
developed from clan and tribal names/groups.
The idea for a book on the tribes and clans
of Ireland and Scotland has been with me for a long time. There has certainly been a need
for an authoritative, comprehensive yet relatively concise treatment of the subject, one
faithful to the Gaelic reality as it was lived by the tribesmen of the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries. As a student of anthropology, I have long been interested in the
tribal character and racio-ethnic origins of the Gaelic-speaking peoples of historical
times. My personal interest in the rich lore and cultural heritage of the Irish and
Highland Scottish people, including the history of the great kin groups and families, led
me to the task of providing for general readership a guide to the subject less affected by
Anglicized characterization and romance.
This book combines genealogical, historical
and anthropological information on Irish and Scottish clan-families in one volume.
Excellent work has been done on the origins and character of the early tribal populations
by British and Irish scholars. Clans and Families bridges the gap between these early
tribes and the great clan-families of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, showing
their relationships and connection to each other through branches, subtribes, and clans.
Herein I have brought together much diverse and specialized material from various fields
in order to apply the best modern information in a unified way. Such information has been
heretofore unavailable to the general public.
The purpose of this book is to provide in one
volume an authoritative and comprehensive account of the Gaelic tribes and clans. Any
serious treatment of Gaelic history, politics, sociology, anthropology or related fields
should take this Gaelic tribalism into central account when dealing with the period
preceding 1607 in Ireland and 1746 in Scotland. The reason for this is that throughout the
historical period and even into the eighteenth century, Gaelic polity was built upon a
framework of tribal groups with their intra- and inter-tribal political relationships.
Similarly, studies of traditional Gaelic
literature which aim to examine its social context should strive to view it in light of
its tribal background. Much folklore in the Gaelic oral tradition, inasmuch as it is an
expression of cultural realities past and present, is also profitably viewed in this way.
It is not my purpose here to glorify a
particular place or race by calling attention to some mystical quality. The men of the
tribes were just men, and the places where they dwelt were just places. If anything must
be glorified, let it be the human spirit; the spirit of men and women who would build a
hearth and defend a family against ever-present dangers in a wild land. Think of the
Gaelic tribes as an aspect of our Western heritage, for they have left us above all with a
legacy of pride in the face of adversity, of family unity in the face of potential
annihilation. This is the legacy of the tribes and clans, that men could unite with bonds
of blood and friendship, to uphold their freedom, their chief and their way of life; that
men could stand together with honor, and face their fears with dignity. Though often
enough the Gael fell short of his best, yet more often he did not, and at the very least
the scions of an heroic aristocracy could gather around a fire at night, and listen to
their ancient tales, reaffirming the morals and values of their people.
In many ways Gaelic society stood in bold
contrast to the rest of Europe. To correctly interpret a society so strikingly different
from its neighbors in the rest of Europe requires knowledge of the nature of its separate
identity. This book should greatly aid that task.
C. Thomas Cairney October 1988