History of O'Neill Clan

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The O'Neills of Ulster


This is the history that was passed down through the Ó Néill clan, the Irish being great story tellers it is probably full of myth and truth, we hope it gives people a taste for our history and they go on to learn more about the great Ó Néill clan. 


The history of the royal house of O'Neill may well be said to be the history of Ireland itself, seeing how many High-Kings it gave to the throne up to the English invasion; and what an important part it subsequently played in the history of the country.

The old historians trace the pedigree of the O'Neills to a very remote period. Penetrating into the mists of time, as Sir Bernard Burke observes, far beyond the period generally assigned for authentic history, they point out in the dim vista, the prince-schoolmaster, Nial of Scythia, fountain of the race.

Niall, we are assured, was the son of Fenius, the Antiquarian, king of Scythia; and fifth in decent from Japhet; for like other men of old, his ancestors reckoned their ages in centuries.

Having been invited into Egypt by Pharao Cingris, on account of his great learning, he was there given the land of Campus Cyrunt, near the Red Sea, to inhabit, and his duaghter, Scota, in marriage. Like Joseph, as Minister of Pharao, he ruled Egypt for many years; and introduced many and great improvements in regulating the flow" of the great river, called after him the Niall, or Nile. Niall, by the Princess Scota, who rescued the infant Moses from drowning, had a son Gaedhal, or Gad, who gave name to his descendants the Gaels, whose wanderings and adventures given at length in Keating's History would fill a fair- sized volume.

Driven from Egypt because they had taken part with Moses, they went to Crete, where they lived for a long time, thence back again to Scythia and after wandering through Europe for many generations, they at length arrived in Galicia, in Spain, where Breogan, the seventeenth in descent from Niall, built the city of Brigantia or Braganza. Milesius, grandson of Breogan reigned in Galicia for thirty-six years; married another Princess Scota, daughter of Pharao Nectonibus, King of Egypt, and was father of Heber and Heremon, under whom the Milesians, as a modern bard puts it:

"Set sail in there good ships gallantly From the sunny land of Spain. Oh, where,s the Isle we've seen in dreams, Our destin'd home or grave?' Thus sang they, as by the morning's beams They swept the Atlantic wave .

" At length they descried the island, its tall blue hills lit up by the last expiring rays of the setting sun, when " from the galleys there arose a shout of joy; Innisfail, the Isle of Destiny was found. Heber landed in Munster, and Heremon in Leinster.

The former, on his way through Kerry, encountered and defeated a party of Tuatha De Danann, at Slieve Mis, after a stiff battle, in which fell Queen Scota. In the adjoining glen called from her Glen Scothin, near Killarney, her grave is still shown, covered by a large white stone.

At Drogheda Heber joined Heremon, whence they marched to Tailtin, Co Meath, to give battle to the De Danann chiefs, whom they defeated and slew in a decisive engagement, after which they divided the island.

Heremon took Leinster and Connaught; Heber took Munster; and the sons of Ir, another brother, took Ulster. Such a great people were the De Danann, and so uncommonly skilled in the few arts of the time, that they dazzled even their conquerors and successors, the Milesians, into regarding them mighty magicians.


Most conquerors come to despise the conquered, but here they came to honor, almost worship those whom they had subdued. Which proves not only greatness in the conquered, but also bigness of mind and distinctiveness of character in the conquerors. The sixteenth century scholar, O' Flaherty, fixes the Milesian invasion of Ireland at about 1000 B.C the time of Solomon. Some modern writers, including MacNeill, say that they even came at a much later date.

There are, however, Philologists and other scientific inquirers, who to some extent corroborate O' Flaherty's estimate. It is proven that the Celts whence soever they came, had before the dawn of history, subjugated the German people and established themselves in Central Europe. At about the date we have mentioned, a great Celtic wave, breaking westward over the Rhine, penetrated into England, Scotland and Ireland. Subsequently a wave swept over the Pyrenees into the Spanish Peninsula.

Other waves came westwards still later. The studies of European scholars have shown that these Celts were an eminently warlike people, rich in the arts of civilized life, who subdued and dominated the ruder races, wherever they went on the Continent. They were possessed of "a high degree of political unity, had a single King, and a wise and consistent external policy. Mostly, however, they seem to have been a federation of patrician republics.


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