Ancient Ireland and Our O'Neill Ancestors

The following is from the book, entitled "Ancestor Tales, Truth and Mysteries" by Jill O'Neall Ching
Please notify me of any corrections or additions to this manuscript.
Additional information on the O'Neill/O'Neall family can be researched by using the sources available here:

Some of the mystery may be solved by looking to the past, into the O'Neall ancestry and to the beginnings of our name. O'Neall is an Irish name of course, the closest original spelling is Niall and means champion. Other ancestors of our family were known by other, very different Gaelic names. The O represents "son of" and so the meaning of O'Neall is "Son of the Champion". Did the O'Neall's begin in Ireland? The answer is yes and no, the line originated elsewhere and evolved thru the ages, and became the oldest traceable surname in all of recorded history. The O'Neill's of Ireland of Olde were indeed a formidable family.

The following is a very brief history of the name and its people from the earliest times of memory thru stories kept orally and may not be completely factual. That is for the reader to decide.

This story is attributed to the ancestors of our American family thru our immgrant Hugh O’Neall and supported by Wesley O'Neall Dicks in her, "Hugh O'Neall, His Irish Ancestors and American Descendants" and many others, as referenced in the bibliography, which is available under the above References link. This work connects the Ancient O'Neill's to the American O'Neall's who are also known as Neal, O'Neal, O'Neale, the emigrant ancestor is Hugh O'Neill/O'Neall. Not suprisingly, Hugh has many American descendants who are courageous pioneers, valiant soldiers, judges, artists, doctors and medical professionals, lawyers, genealogists, singers, educators, proprietors, devoted family members, and also murderers.

My ancestor Hugh O'Neall is from just one branch of the O'Neill's ~ the Clannaboy or Antrim sept. The Clannaboy or Clanbuidhe are in turn a branch of the old Ulster sept of O'Neill's. Yet another distinct branch of the O'Neills are the O'Neills of Ivowen, which may be related distantly to the O'Neills of Ulster. Then a fourth major branch are not at all related to the Ulster branches, except possibly back in ancient times and are the O'Neills of Leinster. In ancient times the O'Neill chiefs pitted their warring septs one against the other, to near oblivion, many wars and battles were fought thru time and can be studied in endless books about the history of the Hy-Niall and Ard Ri of Eire.

So while the legend of O'Neill presented here dates back before all the various septs of O'Neill originated, my ancestor is from one of many branches of this family tree, the Antrim Clannaboy.

This brief summary is meant to be a jumping off point for the reader to look more closely into their O'Neill background and discover the events in their branches history.

Myths and legends ~ one of the earliest O'Neall ancestors lived at the time of Moses, and this ancestor gave the name "Gael" to the Celtic peoples, who much later founded Ireland and were the backbone of Irish Monarchy for some 2000 years! Some of Hugh O’Neall’s ancestors were in fact, both Irish and Scottish Kings, monarchs, princes, lords and chiefs.

And so now, to begin the detailed story of the ancient history, legends and all of the O'Neall's:

The O'Neall Coat of Arms has come down thru centuries of chiefs, lords and monarchs. Heremon was Ireland's first monarch and he was the one who adopted the shields full design for our Coat of Arms. First there was our legendary ancestor Milesus of Spain, his shield had 3 lions and a standard to symbolize the 3 lions he had slain as a youth one morning in 1725 BC. After this event his shield always bore 3 lions.

Milesus' sons Heber and Heremon also had a lion on their shield and a silver sea with a swimming salmon to denote their journey across the ocean from Spain to Ireland. In 326 AD Ulster was conquered and a red hand was added to the shield along with the Gaelic words "Lamb Dearg Aboo" which means Red Hand Forever - quite a battle cry!

Atop our shield is a ducal crown which symbolizes the Kingdom of Ulster with the right arm and dagger raised and Hugh O'Neill's own words "By the Sword I gained my kingdom and by the Sword I will keep it !!" In O'Neall legendary times there existed a special class of individuals whose sole duty it was to preserve the pedigree of the ruling families. These genealogies were originally kept by legends and oral tradition and began to be recorded after Christ.

In the 5th century AD an Irish triennial parliament made an appointment of a group of genealogists "to review, examine and reduce into order all the monuments of antiquity, genealogies, chronicles and records of the Kingdom." These were then preserved in Irish archives.

Some manuscripts were destroyed during Danish and Norman invasions but some were sent to other countries or kept safely by those in convents and monastaries.

The Milesian legend of oral tradition states that the O'Neill's, of which we supposedly descend, are an ancient people. These people were called Milesians, in honour of their ancestor Milesius of Spain, whose descendants founded Ireland over 1000 years before Christ. The "O'Neill" surname was first used by Domnal O'Neill who was Ireland's 158th monarch.

This story is complex and suspect but it is shared here in the interest of honouring those who have come before and who are indeed claimed as our ancestors by legend. Many generations have been skipped in this lineage because the information has not been shared with many of us who live in out of the way places such as Maui, by the people who have access to the complete genealogy.

For this overview I have relied upon the kindness of other researchers who have given there time and effort in my quest for O'Neill/O'Neall history. Unfortunately some do not share the family information freely or detract from worthwhile research which has been documented because it does not fit their personal agenda. My interest is in sharing what has been shared with me in the interest of knowledge, discussion and in respect to others who have a desire to know. My hope is that soon I will be in possession of the complete O'Neill genealogy and then I will be happy to share it freely with anyone who is interested in their families history.

At a certain point this story becomes provable, but the early legend is just that ~ legend, a mix of shadow and light and myth! Find your way thru the passage ~ to your own personal O'Neill family history.

And so now the.........

~Legend of O'Neill~

King Soythia of Egypt had a son named Niul, and Niul married Scota who was the reigning Pharoah’s daughter. The river Nile was named after Niul and Scota was the woman who found Moses on the rivers edge. Moses grew to manhood and cured their son Goadhal Glas of a bite from a serpent, we received the name Gael or Gaelic from this ancestor. Moses also told Niul and Scota's son Goadhal Glas that he had received a vision about an "Isle of Destiny," Ireland. Several descendancies later Goadhal Glas’ descendants would wander about Europe, eventually landing in Spain. The leader was our ancestor Brath at this time and he was known as Brath of Galacia, in Northern Spain. Brath’s son was Breogan, King of Galacia, Castile and Portugal. Grandson of Brath was Milesius who remembered Moses prophesy of ancient times, had heard about Hibernia or Ireland as it was called and planned an expedition, unfortunately he died in Spain so his wife and two sons embarked, losing many of the passengers in a vicious storm at sea. These journiers became known as "Milesians" in honour of their ancestor.

Son Heber landed at Bantry Bay and son Heremon at Boyne River, after landing they conquered the inhabitants known at Firbolgs and DeDanns and they ruled as the Milesian aristocracy. They named their country Scotia in honour of their ancestor, daughter of Pharoah.

Later other people would take the name to Scotland and the name of Ireland would emerge. It is thus that the O’Neill’s became Kings of the oldest of European nations according to legend. After Heremon’s wife made him battle his brother Heber for the land known as Tara, Heremon bacame the first Irish Monarch and he died 1370 BC, other descendants ruled after Heremon and then the 7th High-King was Tighernmas who was followed by Iriall, this monarch cut down the ancient forest and erected 7 royal palaces.

Incredible structures of passaway tombs were constructed as well such as the one at Brugna Boinne or Newgrange which stills attracts visitors today 3000 years, after erection.

Ugaine Mor or Hugony the Great as he was known followed a succession of descendancies to become the 58th monarch and he was married to Caesair who was the daughter of the King of France. Christ was born it is told during the reign of Fochaidh Feidholioch, the 84th. His grandson was Criomhtham Niadhnar, the 91st monarch. I find it puzzling the way these monarchs are numbered, but I am just writing what has already been written.

Some historians say Christ was born during the 91st reign of O'Neill ancestors.

Fiache Pionnola was his son, and his mother was the daughter of the King of Alba as Scotland was known. He divided Ireland into provinces called Ulster, Munster, Leinster and Connaught and his son was Twathal Teachtmear, who added another province known as Meath which became a religious center, Druidism was the religion of the day.

Twathal's wife was named Baine and she was the daughter of the King of Britian. Feidlime Reachtmhar was the 99th monarch and he died in 183 AD, he was Twathal's son, and known as the law-giver. He married the daughter of the King of Denmark.

Conn Cead Chathach was known as Conn of the Hundred Battles, because he got into so many battles. In fact most of these ancestors were constantly a war and there Kingdom was continuously under attack. He suceeded in overthrowing the sitting monarch to become the 101st, his father was Feidlime Reachtmhar.

Later Conn lost part of Ireland to Mogh, and still later re-won it. His son was Art the Lonely, and he followed Conaire who was his father's brother. He grieved the loss of his brothers in battle and became known as the Lonely.

His son was Cormac McArt, ruling in the 3rd century AD. Chapel at Cashel. The Book of Ballymote states Cormac "a noble, illustrious King now took sovereignty and rule over Kirinn, namely Cormac, the grandson of Conn. The world was replete with all that was good at this time; the food and the fat of the land, and the gifts of the sea were in abundance in this King's reign. There were neither woundings nor robbings in his time, and everyone enjoyed his own in peace."

Would that we were so lucky as the people of this long ago Ireland. Cormac, this most wonderful of monarchs is also credited with believing in a one true God and with being an author and scholar as well. Cormac wrote the "Instructions of a King" and the "Book of Acaill." His realm enjoyed 40 years of peace.

In lineal descent from Cormac was Fochaid Muighmadon, who married Carthann, daughter of the King of Britian and his son was Niall, or Niallus Magnus the last great pagan King of Ireland, it's 116th monarch. During his time Succat was brought into Ireland as one of his 9 hostages and he grew up to become St. Patrick. Eight of Niall's sons founded principalities in Ireland and for 600 years the descendants of Niall ruled Ireland.

This spelling of Niall, indeed, strikes this author as being very close to her own fathers birth surname, O'Neall. Owen was the son of Niall and under him the Royal House of O'Neill of Tir Eoghan came into being. Owen resided at the Grianan of Aileach a castle near Derry.

Owen's son Muireadhach married Earca, daughter of King Loarn of Dal Riada. Their son Mortough who was also known as Muireadhach, and is perhaps the ancestor remembered with this elaborate Celtic Cross. He was the first Christian King of Ireland @ 500 AD. More about Mortough will be treated later in the section about the Stone of Destiny.

Niall Caille was then 8th in descent @ 800 AD and his son was Hugh Finnliath who married Moolmare McAlpine, this Niall was 153rd monarch and through his marriage to Moolmare the O'Neall's became descendants of both Ireland and Scotland's Kings.

Hugh's son Niall Black Knee or Niall Glundubh was next in line and he married the most beautiful woman in all of Ireland named Gormlaith, his residence was Castle of Dunvegan and his chalice was inscribed in his honour, exists still. Following this Niall was Mortaugh of the Leather Cloaks and then came Domnall O'Neill, the first monarch to use the modern name of O'Neill. Domnall O'Neill was Ireland's 158th monarch. He was also the last O'Neill to be High-King, after him the estates of the O'Neill's were restricted to specific lordships and holdings within the country and the "Great O'Neill" came into being.

A poem of the time captures the heart of the people, when the last O'Neill was King:

"Sorrowful this day in sacred Ireland, Without a valiant chief of 'hostage' reign; It is to see the heavens without a sun, To view Magh Neill without Niall"

Magh Neill means the land or country of Neill, no author is given for this poem.

At the Battle of Clontarff Brian Boru displaced the monarchy, which was retaken briefly but never regained its former regality. Brian Boru was the progenitor of the O'Brien family.

While we are on legendery Irish hereos we would like to mention another, Finn MacCool who was a warrior. Because Ireland now lacked a central monarchy she became easy prey for other people';s to attack and conquer. Our O'Neill's were busy protecting their holdings in Northern Ireland., the emergence of the "Great O'Neill" is a well documented event in history, and came about at the time of the Norman invasions. The Great O'Neill was a position of power and prestige in the family and estates of O'Neill. In essence a Lordship and princely title. Much communication exists between England and Ireland in the hand of the Great O'Neill, which was the most democratic of systems as all of the descendants in the House of O'Neill were eligible to be chosen it's monarch, and many did. All of the follwing were known in their time as being "The Great O'Neill". Mortough Midriche was the son of Domnall O'Neill and he became the first in a long line of holders of the title, "The Great O'Neill", held in fact until the 17th century, by a long line of O'Neill's.

Hugh the Dark became the Prince of Tyrone and King of Ulster in 1186 AD, and died in 1230 AD, he refused to submit to King John of Carrickforgus, Ireland's sitting monarch. His grandson was Hugh B. O'Neill and died in 1283 AD after being named the Great O'Neill.

His son was Brian and he suceeded his father as Prince of Tyrone and Clannaboy, this Brian was slain by the descendant of the Nial Rudh who was Hugh the Dark's brother and this line thereafter took the title of Prince of Tyrone. Brian's descendants retained the title of Prince of Clannaboy. Henry was Brian's son and he became Prince in 1319 AD.

Murchedach or Maurice was Henry's son and was known as "strong-minded" he was of course Prince of Clannaboy as well as Lord of the Baroniee of Castlrecagh, Lower Ards in County Down and the Barony of Loghlinelin in county Derry of Belfast and Maurice died in 1395 AD.

His eldest son was Brian Ballagh, he imposed a tax on the British, which they paid until the time of Henry the 8th. Brian Ballagh was slain in 1426 AD by the people of Carrick. It was written in the Irish Annals of Brian, " most distinguished man of his time for hospitality, goodness and learning, and the knowledge of many sciences, was killed". His eldest son was Hugh Buidhe, and suceeded the Prince of Clannaboy, who died in 1444AD.

Constantine or Con of Edendubh-carrig, was next in line living at the Castle which would later be known as Shane’s Castle, also called "the brow of the black rock." I wonder if that is where the term "black Irish" came from.

In his son Niall Mor's time the castle was destroyed and he was also the propreitor of the castle of Carrickfergus. He died on April 11, 1312.

The youngest son of Niall Mor was Phelim Bacca and he came into his fathers estates and some sources he is refered to as the Prince of Clannaboy. Brian, son of Phelim inherited next and records refer to Brian O'Neill of Edenduff-carrick" where he made his residence. In 1573 AD he invited the Walter Devereux, Earl of Essex of England to his home, at Belfast Castle where they enjoyed a banquet, a feast, and after retiring for the evening the Earl of Essex's men surrounded the castle and murdered two hundred of O'Neill's friends and associates, capturing Brian and his wife and brother and the murderers be-headed them all. Later Essex met the same fate in Mother England.

Next to inherit was Shane, Brian McPhelim O'Neill's son. Shane became Prince of Clannaboy and married Rose Magenniss, daughter of Lord Arthur Magennis of Iveagh, they had one son Henry. He is the Shane for which the castle is named. By his second marriage to Anne, daughter of Bryan Carrach O'Neill, Lord of Loughinsholin he had sons Arthur, Phelim Dubh and Shane Oge. Shane had issue by Rose of one son Henry.

By his second wife Anne Carrach O'Neill he had Arthur, Phelim Dubh and Shane Oge. Shane fought bravely with his kinsman Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone in war against Queen Elizabeth, and in 1586 was forced to submit to the English. Shane died in April of 1617 and his son Sir Henry O'Neill, Knight of Shane's Castle inherited.

Phelim Dubh became heir to Shane's Castle when Sir Henry O'Neill's daughter died. Phelim Dubh was the father of the next heir Brian O'Neill, Brian married Elinor Magennis of Kilwarton, by whom he had 3 sons and one daughter.

Phelim daughter is Sarah O'Neill and his sons are, John also known as French John, who became heir to the estates of Shane's Castle, Henry who went to Spain where his granddaughter became maid of honour to the Queen and our American ancestor Hugh O'Neill, who changed the spelling of his name to O'Neall to escape detection from the British Navy and marry Anne Cox in Christiana, Delaware, where their family grew to eight sons and daughters and now thousands of living descendants.

There are other collaterol stories about the O'Neill dynasty which may be interesting to the reader, including the story of the Stone of Destiny.

This ancient rock was called Stone of Destiny, it was presented to the ruling monarch Mortough, by his brother Fergus Mor. It weighs 336 lbs. and is 26" long and 16" wide. The stone is inscribed with a Latin cross.

This was the stone which was used as the pillow of Jacob of biblical history when he dreamed of the heavenly ladder.. Fergus Mor wanted to use the stone at his own coronation, and the ancient Irish Kingdom of Dalriada used the stone from 400 AD to 850 AD at all pagan ceremonies. It had been blessed by St.Patrick who said that wherever the stone lay, the race of Erc would reign. Erc was the ancient King of the Dalriada tribe in Antrim, North Ireland.

Scottish Kings began to use this stone @ 850 AD and it was placed at Scone by Kenneth McAlpine, descendant of Fergus Mor. Now it was called the Stone of Scone.

When Edward I invaded Scotland, in 1296, the sitting King took the Stone to England and placed it in Westminister Abbey, and in 1950 a group of Scots took the stone and put it at Arbroath Abbey, in Scotland. Rumour has it that a copy of the stone was made and returned to Westminister, while the real stone is at Scone Palace now.

If that be the case then what happened with St. Patrick's message? Scottish Kings descend from Irish Kings and when in 1603 Elizabeth I failed to keep the line British, the title became James 6 of Scotland. He was called James I is England. Elizabeth II is descended from Scottish Kings, who descend from Irish Kings and the present English monarch Elizabeth I is in fact descended from Erc, making St. Patrick's blessing correct, except if the rumour is correct only the copy of the Stone was in Westminister when Elizabeth was crowned in 1952, perhaps she should of gone home to Scotland?

And anyway, Mortough was the ancestor of Hugh O'Neill and he was the first Monarch to be crowned on the Stone of Destiny which may be used to crown the next English monarch.

In 1730 Hugh O'Neill, the ancestor of some of the O'Neall's, Neal's, O'Neale's and O'Neill's living today, was a young British Naval midshipman aboard a ship bound for America.

Being third in line for the title of Prince of Clannaboy he wisely chose to assert himself in a great endeavour and brave the seas in the hope of freedom forever, our ancestor Hugh O'Neill changed his name to Hugh O'Neall to escape detection, after he had jumped ship on the Delaware, he married Anne Cox and they had many children, six sons were variously involved in the American Revolution, pitted against one another, or following a religious conviction to abstain from making war, many thousands of O'Neall, O'Neill, O'Neil, O'Neal and Neal descendants are alive and free today because of the bravery of our ancestor Hugh and his ancestors the Kings of Ireland.

Coat of Arms
Shane's Castle, Ancestral Home of American O'Neall's
O'Neall History

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