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Apart from the McGinleys, other clans lived in the greater north Donegal area. When we look at all the various records and ancient Annals, we see no account of conflicts arising between the McGinleys and any of their neighbouring clans. While all looks peaceful, some small conflicts may well have occurred. Apart from the Battle of Derrylahan, which was an 'in house' battle over the leadership of the O'Donnell clan (in which we took part), the McGinleys only went to war against the English and their settler allies. During the great 'Gaelic Period' or 'Brehon Period', each clan had its own territory in which nearly everyone living there had the same surname. These clan territories were often fluid, changing boundaries frequently, especially during times of conflict or war. This ancient way of life changed dramatically with the coming of the foreigners in the early 1600's. Life for the native Irish would never be the same again. The McGinleys had the Roarty clan to the west of them (over the Glenna River), the Begleys most likely to the south or south west of them occupying higher ground, and the Friel clan to the east of them. To the north was the natural boundary of the wild north Atlantic. It is also clear to see that most of the north Donegal clans were steeped in religion and this may have helped to stem any possible violence between them. Neighbouring clans to the McGinleys included the following:

Mac Giolla Bhríde/McBride

McBride can sometimes be a Scottish Gaelic name, but in Donegal it represents a native surname found around the Bloody Foreland area (and north Gweedore) in the extreme north west of the county. The older Irish Gaelic spelling was Mac Giolla Bhrighde meaning 'son of the follower of St Bridget'. They are known to have been a prominent ecclesiastical family for centuries. They are a branch of the Doughertys, descending from Giolla Bríde Ó Dochartaigh an important member of that clan. They were erenaghs and administrators of church lands in Raymunterdoney (an area which includes Tory). Many of the name were bishops in Donegal including Bishop John MacGilbride who died in the year 1440. Varient spellings in English include McIlbreedy, McGilbride, Kilbride and even Mucklebreed. They controlled land west of the Glenna River. By the early 1600's they were centred a little further south in Gweedore. A branch also went to Co. Down sometime in the same century.

John, or rather Eoin, was a very common first name among them for centuries, probably in honour of Eoin Baiste/John the Baptist. Major John McBride (1865-1916) was born in Westport in Co. Mayo. He fought against the British in the Boer War and took part in the Easter Rising of 1916. For being part of the Irish Rebellion, he was executed in the same year by the British. He had previously married Maud Gonne, one of Irelands leading women in her day. Also of note is author David McBride (1726-1778) as well as the doctor and inventor John David McBride (1778-1852).

Mac Giolla Chomhaill/McCool, Coyle, Cole

A once important clan belonging anciently to the parish of Mevagh in the north of Donegal. They are still largely represented in that area. The name was earlier spelt Mac Giolla Chomhghaill in Irish and means ‘son of the follower of St Comhghal’. They are known today by a variety of English spellings such as McCool, McCole, Cole and Coyle and are still represented in their ancient homeland as well as in other parts of Donegal. They are well represented just south of the town of Raphoe. Some have suggested that they are of different origins but it is not clear at present. The most common spelling in English is Coyle with the much older form McIlhoyle almost obselete now. In other parts of Ireland Cole may be of English origin. Although they originate in Mevagh, they at one point held territory closer to Letterkenny as we find the place name Ballymacool there (Baile Mhic Giolla Chomhaill).

By the mid 1600's, the name is found spread out across the north coast of Ireland, in north Co. Derry and north Co. Antrim (especially around Ballymoney). Coyle is perhaps the most common spelling of the name to be found in Ireland today. Antoine Mac Giolla Chomhghaill/Anthony Coyle, was a noted Bishop of Raphoe between 1782 and 1801. He was renowned for his religious writings and poetry. In the 1800's, James Coyle was an important and prolific compiler of Irish genealogies as well as a noted composer of Ossianic verse.

Mac Riada/MacCready

This old family were the erenaghs of the Tullaghobegly area during the sixteenth century. While the Mcginleys have been notable as churchmen since well before the sixteenth century, the MacCreadys (sometimes spelt McReady), a clan of which little is known, are recorded as the erenaghs here according to the Inquisition at Lifford, 1609. It said, “there was a quarter of land enjoyed by clannikready (Clann Mhic Riada), erenachs, who paid for it yearly to the bishop". They would seem to have come from east Ulster originally, to look after the churchlands in the Tullaghobegly area. Of this sept was Donnchadh Mac Riada/Donough MacReidy, of Coleraine who was the Dean of Derry. He was martyred for his faith in 1608 by being pulled apart by four horses (The Book of Ulster Surnames by Robert Bell).

The surname is rarely found in Co. Donegal today and they may have fled the area during the anti-Catholic church campaigns of the 1600's. It is significant that they are most common now in their original homeland in Co. Down as well as in neighbouring parts of Co. Antrim and Co. Derry. The name has been found in south western parts of Scotland for centuries, and here they are believed to be anciently of Irish origin.

Ó Frighil/Friel

Meaning ‘descendant of Fearghal’, an ancient Irish Gaelic personal name meaning ‘man of valour’, similar in meaning to the distinct surnames Farrell and Farrelly. The leading branch of this clan are descended from a brother of St Colm Cille called Eoghan. Such an important pedigree entitled the Friel chiefs to the hereditary right of inaugurating the Ó Domhnaill/O’Donnell chiefs as the Lord of Tír Chonaill/Donegal. They were also co-arbs, or hereditary holders of the office of abbot in north Donegal and produced many distinguished ecclesiastics. They were also erenaghs of part of Conwall parish. Flaithrí Ó Frighil/Florance O'Friel was Bishop of Raphoe and died in 1299. Amhlaidh Ó Frighil/Awley O'Friel was Abbot of Iona in 1203, and Cú Chonnacht Ó Frighil was Abbot of Derry in 1539. This family are still found in their ancient homeland around Creeslough but can to a much lesser degree be found in the neighbouring county of Derry.

The most noted of the name in the 20th century is Brian Friel, the famous playright who was born in Omagh, Co. Tyrone in 1929. He was one of the founders of the Derry Theatre Company and the publishing house called Field Day. His most successful play is Philadelphia Here I Come.

Ó Beaglaoich/Begley

This surname means ‘descendant of the little hero’. It is not known for sure who the 'little hero' was, but may have been St Beigile/Begly. The place name of Tullaghobegly in the Barony of Kilmacrennan is said by some to be named after them. The name is common also in Co. Cork when some of them travelled down to take part in the Battle of Kinsale in the year 1601. They joined the McGinleys there under the leadership of the Sweeney clan. Today, the surname is mostly found in Co. Cork but is still found in north Donegal. However, they as well as the Sweeneys were known in that area a century before when the Sweeney clan went to the area. They are sometimes described as a Gallowglass family. The name is occasionally found as Bagley. Conchobhar Ó Beaglaoich/Conor Begley collaborated in the production of Hugh MacCurtins English-Irish Dictionary, printed in Paris in 1732.

The Begleys lost out heavily in the upheavals of the 1600's. Many of them seemingly went to settle in France. Henry Begley from Limerick was a well respected landscape painter who died in 1895. In much more recent times we should take note of John Canon Begley who wrote the valuable three volume History of the Diocese of Limerick. Dónal Begley was for many years the Chief Herald of the Irish Genealogical Office in Dublin.

Ó Dufaigh/Duffy

Meaning ‘descendant of Dubhthach’, an old Irish Gaelic personal name. The older Irish Gaelic spelling was Ó Dubhthaigh. There are a few different clans so called in Ireland. This clan belong to the north west of Donegal, found chiefly along the coast near to Dungloe town. They belong to the parish of Lower Templecrone. The patron saint of the area was a St Dubhthach who lived in the seventh century. His kinsmen, the Ó Dufaigh were erenaghs and co-arbs in the area for eight hundred years. Today, the surname of Duffy is fairly common still in north west Donegal. They are part of Clann Conchúir Magh Ithe, a junior branch of the Cineál Eoghain, and unusually so, are found very deep inside Cineál Chonaill territory. Varient spellings include Doohey and much rarer as Dowey. Less well known is the fact that they were also erenaghs of Culdaff in the barony of Inishowen.

Most of the famous Duffy's usually are linked to the Duffy's of Monaghan, a diferent clan. The Donegal Duffy's were most noted within religious circles. The number of priests of the name in Donegal, who held high office within the church is very high. Today, the surname is still very common in the west of Donegal, especially around the Dungloe area. The usual spelling is Duffy and it is extremely rare to find other forms now associated with this Donegal clan.

Ó Laifeartaigh/Lafferty

This is an ancient clan deriving their name from the word flaithbheartach meaning ‘bright ruler/lord’. They were anciently recorded as ‘Lords of Elagh’ and can still be found in this area which is just south west of the Breslin clan territory and south west of Inch Island. The name has, in modern times spread out into neighbouring Co. Derry. The first of the name would seem to have been Murchadh Ua Flaithbheartaigh, also known as Murchadh Glúin Iolair 'of the eagle knee'. He was a king of Tyrone who died in 972. MacRaith Ó Fhlaithbheartaigh was described by the Annals of the Four Masters as 'Tanist of Tyrone' and he died in 1197.

The Lafferty's were largely driven out of Co. Donegal in the 1200's and settled in the Ardstraw area of Co. Tyrone, where their new base was called Lislafferty. Even so, the name can still be found around its ancient Donegal homeland and the stretch of land heading towards Derry.

Ó Robhartaigh/Roarty

This name derives from the old Irish Gaelic word robharta meaning ‘full tide’. They were located on Tory Island and the adjacent mainland around Magheroarty, an area that is named after them. They were the hereditary protectors/keepers of the relic An Cathach, the talisman of the Donegal clans, as well as being the hereditary co-arbs of Tory Island for centuries. This gave them a special place in the history of Co. Donegal. Roartys are still very much associated with the north Donegal area.

Folklore tells us that they once had a castle on Tory Island. The noted Irish historian John O'Donovan agreed with this. The Roarty surname has for many centuries now been chiefly associated with religion.

Ó Sruitheáin/Strahan

The name means ‘descendant of the stream’. This surname represents an old erenagh family who were anciently located in the north of Donegal. Varient spellings in English are Strain and Shryhane. They were erenaghs of the Conwall area in the barony of Kilmacrennan towards the town of Letterkenny, just south of the Muckish Gap but may have controlled the area around the south of the gap. This surname, in all its English forms, is rare today in Donegal. It is more common now in neighbouring Co. Derry and even Co. Tyrone.

Mac Suibhne/Sweeney

The Clan Sweeney, divided into the two northern branches of Doe and Fanad, were the 'overlords' of the whole north Donegal area. They are also the clan that we had most affiliations with. Another branch, the Sweeney Boghuine settled in the south west of Donegal. The starter of the three branches in Ireland was Murchadh Óg who was married to a McGinley in the early 1300's. There are no records of any conflicts between the Sweeneys and the other clans of the area. The McGinley allegiance was mainly to the Sweeney Doe branch. The Sweeneys have often been labeled as Scottish but in reality they are of the ancient Uí Néill line. Those who doubt this should check the relevant DNA evidence available!

The great clan Sweeney were the major force in the north of Donegal. They were the dominant clan and the clan which the others naturally backed in warfare. For this reason we hear of Begleys, McBrides, Friels and ofcource McGinleys following them into war.




Meaning of the Name

Clan Origins

Clan Territory

Surname Distribution

St Colm Cille

Native Clothing


Clan Leadership


McGinleys in America


Special Places

Neighbouring Clans

McGinley Placenames

Coat of Arms

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