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:
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.
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).
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).
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.