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Oneill Family Crests (My Heritage)

Motto: "lamh dearg eirin" (The red hand of Erin)

Being a Proud Australian . I am also very proud of my heritage which as you could have guessed is Irish. After what I have so far been able to find out on my name I am finding more and more pride within my roots . As I have found out from other pages the O'Neill name is very famous and the bloody hand of O'Neill is also featured on the Nth Ireland flag as this is where It all originated from .

The name O'Neill is derived from a number of distinct Septs that were widely dispersed throughout Ireland. Counties Clare, Waterford and Carlow were all strongholds but the most famous Septs were located in Counties Tyrone and Derry. It was this Sept that Provided some of the High Kings of Ireland.

This name is one of the most prominent in all Ireland, being in the top ten in Antrim, Derry and Tyrone. Comprising many branches and long associated with regal power, the Tyrone line is descended from Niall Ruadh (Red Niall), brother of Aodh Dubh (Black Hugh) the latter a King of Ulster in the fourteenth century.

The Legend of the BLOODY HAND of the O'Neills

The bloody hand has been a prominent part of the O'Neill family heritage. Below the hand is a wavy line representing water and below that a silver salmon. This is said to represent the voyage of the Milesians from Spain by boat to the "Land of Destiny" or Ireland. Other generations have of course made a subtle changes to the shield .Added three stars (which represent christianity), lions rampant. There are a few variations to the legend as told through the ages. Following is one of the better known versions:

There was once two chiefs disputing ownership of the land. They agreed to settle the question in a competition. They set out in two open boats with the understanding that the first to touch the shore with his right hand could claim the land. The O'Neill ancestor saw his opponent stepping onto the shore, and realizing he would lose, he cut off his hand with his sword and threw it, touching the shore before the other.

The BLOODY HAND is also referred to as "The Red Hand of the O'Neills", "The Red Hand of Ulster" and as "The Red Hand of Ireland".


The name O'Neill is associated with Ulster and the Red Hand of Ulster was taken from their arms. The first of the great Ulster sept to bear the surname O'Neill was Donell O'Neill, the eponymous ancestor being his grandfather Niall, King of Ireland, who was killed in a battle with the Norsemen in A.D. 919, not as might be supposed, the famous Niall of the Nine Hostages, though that somewhat legendary and heroic character was also a remote ancestor. From that time until the end of the seventeenth century, when Ulster ceased to be the leading Gaelic province of Ireland, the O'Neills figureprominently among the great men of Irish history.

The O'Neills were the chief family of the Cinel Eoghan, their territory being Tir Eoghan. Tir Eoghan (modern Tyrone) in early times comprised not only that county but most of Derry and part of Donegal. Down to the time of Brain Boru, who reigned from 1002 to 1014,

In the fourteenth century a branch of the Tyrone O'Neills migrated to Antrim where they became known as Clann Aodha Bhuidhe, from Aodh Buidhe (or Hugh Boy) O'Neill, who was slain in 1283, the term being perpetuated in the territorial name Clannaboy or Clandeboy. The attempts made by the English in the sixteenth century to exterminate them, which were carried out by Essex and others with a ferocity and perfidy seldom equalled even in that violent age, were unsuccessful.

The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries produced the most famous of the O'Neills: among them Con Bacach O'Neill (1484-1559), first Earl of Tyrone; Shane O'Neill (1530-1567); Hugh O'Neill (1540-1616) second Earl of Tyrone; Owen roe O'Neill (1590-1649); Sir Phelim O'Neill (1604-1653)and Hugh O'Neill (d. 1660) - names too well known in the history of Ireland to require description here.

Less famous but worthy of mention, even in so cursory a sketch as this, is Sir Nial O'Neill (1658-1690), whose regiment of dragoons distinguished itself at the battle of the Boyne, where he was mortally wounded.

Niall Noigiallach (of the Nine Hostages) established himself as King of Midhe (Meath) at Tara around 400 A.D. This kingship was followed by many of his descendants, thereafter referred to as the Ui Neill. The Ui Neill dynasty divided into two in the 400's, the Northern Ui Neill remained in the north while the Southern Ui Neill moved to Meath and the eastern midlands - they took it in turns to be Kings of Tara and, later, High Kings of Ireland.

The O'Neills can trace their family history back to A.D. 360, a rare feat among the families of Europe. They are descended from the royal family of Tara, who were kings of Ulster and monarchs of all Ireland from the 5th to the early 17th centuries. The name comes from Nial Glúin Dubh, or Niall of the Black Knee, who was a King of Ireland from 890 until he was killed in 919. His grandson Domhnall adopted the surname Neill, which means champion. In addition to the O'Neills of Ulster, where the family is most numerous, there are septs in Thomond (counties Clare and Limerick), Decies (Co. Waterford), and Co. Carlow.

As heads of the main sept in Ulster, O'Neill chieftains exerted great authority in the northern part of Ireland for over four centuries, managing by a combination of force, charm and intrigue to command the allegiance or subservience of several other clans. Within the territory of Tyrone there was intense rivalry among fellow O'Neills, and even in the time of Hugh as 'O'Neill Mor' and Earl of Tyrone there were those who would have supplanted him had they been able. Hugh O'Neill was the last chief to be inaugurated, and following the English victory in 1603, the O'Neill coronation chair at Tullaghoge was destroyed by General Mountjoy.

The name is distinguished both within and beyond Ireland. Hugh O'Neill (1550-1616), the Second Earl of Tyrone, was defeated by the English at the battle of Kinsale in 1601. He was the last great leader of Gaelic Ireland. But in 1646, Owen Roe O'Neill defeated an English and Scottish army at Benburb, Co. Tyrone. Much material on the O'Neills can be found in the O'Neill Historical Centre there.

They are descendants of Niall of the Nine Hostages. After the death of King Niall Glúin Dubh (BlackKnee) in 919 AD, his grandson Domnall became the first to use and adopt the surname O'Neill.

The surname Niáll means champion. The surname O'Neill is derived from two Gaelic words, Uá Niáll, which means grandson of Niáll. It is also the surname of one of the three most important Irish families, the other two being, O'Brien and O'Conor.

The nickname creagh, derived from the Gaelic word craobh, meaning branch, was one by which earlier O'Neills were known. This nickname was given to them because they camouflaged themselves with greenery when battling against the Norsemen near Limerick.

the above information I found at The Clan O'Neill


History of Sean O'Neill (c.1532-c.1567)

From Ulster comes the story of Sean an Diomais, a warrior and proud man who fought not only the English, but also, the Irish, the Scots and his own family in order to protect what he considered his rights. In particular, he defended his family's territory in Ulster and barred further advancement by the English into this portion of Ireland during the 16th Century. Although his defiance eventually got him killed, his stand earned him great respect among both his enemies and friends.

Sean was born in the early 1530's, the son of Conn Bacach O'Neill and Sorch, the daughter of Hugh O'Neill, Chief of the Clanaboy O'Neill's. His mother, Sorch, died shortly after his birth and Sean was given to the O'Donnelly family to raise.

Four distinct groups were vying for power in Ulster around 1550. They were the English; the rightful family of O'Neill (hereditary rulers); a splinter group of O'Neill's called the Clanaboy O'Neill's, and; a group of Scots largely led by the Clan MacDonnell of the Isles. With the Scots to the Northeast, Clanaboy O'Neill to the East and the English to the South, the problems faced by Conn, Sean's father, in ruling his territory must have been almost insurmountable. He was continually forced to make and then break alliances in order to maintain his power. It was when Conn accepted an English title as Earl of Tyronne that his problems really started. Although the act of accepting the title was meant to appease the English, it was not taken as such by his family.

After Conn accepted the title, he was forced to battle with his nephew (his elected heir) and many of his sons who considered it unpardonable to ally with the English. After achieving success, he then launched a surprise attack on his son, Feardorcha, whom the English had named Baron of Dungannon. Conn lost this war and was arrested, but many now realized Conn's true stand on the issues. All the Irish now considered Feardorcha an enemy, as he was now waging war on all the remaining O'Neill's. The English meanwhile turned their attention to the Scots.

Sean emerged during this period as the youngest and only son who supported his father. He formed an alliance with the Scots against the English and began to successfully wage war. Within a very short time, Sean and his Scottish allies were the victors, driving the English back to Dublin. The English sued for peace and Sean forced the release of his father. But Sean's father was not the least bit thankful, and immediately set out with Feardorcha against the Scots. Sean was forced to fight his own family and they were defeated. Feardorcha was assassinated and his father Conn fled to Dublin where he died the following year, 1559.

Sean immediately had himself crowned the O'Neill, the rightful King of Ulster, and he sued Elizabeth I for his father's title, Earl of Tyronne. But he also asked for reparation of damages caused by the English in their wars on Ulster. This, the English would not accept and immediately set out to defeat Sean in war again. Sean's victory was quick and decisive, and after an unsuccessful assassination attempt on Sean, the English decided to hear Sean's claims. Sean was invited to England to visit the Queen with assurances of his safety and a loan of 2000 pounds. On January 5th, 1562, Sean arrived to present himself to the Queen. Gall-oglach warriors (Scot-Viking mercenaries also known as Gallowglass) clad from head to knee in leaf mail surrounded him with swords and battle-axes, their helmets removed as a sign of peace

Although he was at least initially received well, it soon became apparent that he had opposition. The Earl of Sussex, the English commander in Dublin whom Sean had already defeated twice in battle, was also in the court and arguing against Sean at every turn. Sean remained in London until April, when it became apparent that things were not going his way.

He returned home to discover that the English had not been entirely honest in their guarantees. The Earl of Sussex had been working hard to ursurp Sean's power in Ireland. Sean was again forced to go to war to reassert his authority. Again the Earl of Sussex was quickly defeated and this time forced to resign his position. Sussex had received little support from the Queen, who was now embroiled in the politics of France. Sean was offered a peace agreement, which he accepted and things remained quiet for a year or so. From 1564 to 1567 Sean was entangled in a war of wider scope than ever before, when he attacked the Scots who were now the only threat to his power. After many successes, the English again stepped in, correctly surmising that he was weakened by the war. Eventually Sean was defeated and he entered talks with the Scots over future dealings in Ireland. The negotiations broke down, however, and Sean got his throat cut by a member of the Scottish contingent. Sean was buried and then dug up again four days later by the English. They cut off his head and placed it on a pole outside Dublin Castle, in an attempt to claim credit for his killing. Many rumours about Sean's lifestyle surfaced after his death, namely that he was a drunk, sadistic, cowardly and a very cruel man. These rumors originated from his enemies however, and in actuality Sean appears to have been a man of strong character who was forced to perform many cruel acts given the realities of the time. His abilities as an Irish leader and warrior are aptly displayed by history, and are appropriately coined by the nickname given him by the English, as Shane the Proud.

So as you can see I have an exciting time ahead of me researching my family history, as I get more info i will put it up.


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