Origin of the O'Neill Clan Name

The history of the O’Neill family can be traced back to the 5th century and from here until 1608, with the death of Red Hugh O’Neill, this dominant family were rulers of all Ireland, kings of Ulster, earls and princes of Tyrone, statesmen and soldiers. They are therefore one of the oldest families in Europe with an unbroken descent in the male line of the Tyrone branch.

O,Neill clan, dynasty

This branch is more commonly known as the Clandeboy O’Neill’s. It takes its name from Clann Aodha Bhuidhe (Clan of Yellow Hugh), grandson of Aodh Dubh (Black Hugh) who was King of Ulster and brother to Niall Ruadh (Red Niall), who was in turn the Prince of Tyrone.

They came to Antrim in the 14th century, where their main seat was at Edenduffcarrig, later known as Shane’s Castle. They were renowned for successfully winning land from the Anglo-Norman invaders.

Since 1740, the O’Neills of Clanaboy have been living in Portugal, where they proudly continue their ancient Gaelic designation O'Neill, Chieftain. 

There are also O’Neills of the Fews in Antirm, O’Neills of Thomond in Clare and Limerick, in the barony of Bunratty, as well as in Waterford and Cavan. Nihills and Creaghs are also descended from these O’Neills, who can also be traced to Co. Carlow, Tipperary and Waterford. 

Typically of a clan of the O'Neills, their crest bears the Red Hand of Ulster, two red lions and the Salmon of Knowledge. Above the three stars or mullets imply divine quality or third son. This crest is also born by the Donnellys but does not have the 3 stars or mullets.