Origin of the O'Donnell Clan Name

Derived from forename Domhnall, an ancient and powerful family, and kings, princes and lords of Tyrconnell in Co. Donegal, they were allies and rivals of the O’Neills. Tir Connall was founded by a son of Niall of the Nine Hostages, Conall in the 5th century. His descendants ruled this land until the Flight of the Earls in 1607.

Mael Sechnaill mac Domnaill ruled from 1241 to 1247, Manus O’Donnell till 1564, Iníon Dubh was queen till 1608. Hugh Roe O’Donnell died in 1602. He was known as Red Hugh O’Donnell (1572-1602) and was king of Donegal. Aged 15 he was captured and imprisoned in Dublin Castle. He escaped with the help of his ally Hugh O’Neill. Red Hugh led the O’Donnell clan in the Nine Years War during the Tudor conquest of Ireland which was at its height at this time and pitting clan against clan. 

O'Donnell Clan name

O’Neill and O’Donnell eventually defeated the English at the Battle of Clontibret in 1596, and again at the Battle of the Yellow Ford 2 years later.  He had difficulty in gaining support of other lords due to their policy of ravaging lands in Connacht to displace the English and their supporters.

A cousin of his Niall Garve O’Donnell defected to the enemy side also, who were arriving in alarmingly increasing numbers. Their only hope was the Spanish who arrived in 1601 in Kinsale, far from O’Donnell. They Irish and Spanish forces were roundly defeated by lord Mountjoy.

O’Donnell fled to Spain were he plotted to return but died after being poisoned by the agent and spy with powerful connections in Galway, James Blake. He was succeeded by his brother Rory O’Donnell was the 1st Earl of Tyrconnell and died in 1608.

They also had land in Sligo, Leitrim, Fermanagh and Derry. Their main seat was the magnificent Donegal Castle, now restored by the OPW, and one of seven in their possession. Their neighbours were their rivals the O’Neills. Tyrconnell was recognised by Henry II as an independent kingdom when he arrived in 1171, clearly a measure of their power.

The crest is the shield of Conall, a son of Niall of the Nine Hostages, the founder of the O'Donnell and O'Connell clans. According to legend this shield was struck by St Patrick, thereby inscribing a cross on it, and is also associated with Constantine, a famous ruler and convert to Christianity in the 4th century. Yellow represents generosity; red war or martyrdom; a cross clearly devotion to Christianity.