The lords of Ely O'Carroll derived their name from Cearball, King of Ely, one of the leaders of the victorious native Irish army at the battle of Clontarf in 1014. Although their power was much reduced over the centuries in the continuing conflict with the Norman Butlers, they held on their distinctive Gaelic customs and way of life until the start of the seventeenth century.
The Oriel family lost most of their territory in the twelfth century, as a result of the Norman invasion, but remained powerful in Church affairs;.
The O'Carroll arms are those of the Oriel family, and may derive from a canting pun on the name of the race from whom the O'Carrolls claimed mythical descent, the Laighin, in Latin Gallinga, whence dha leon (two lions). Lions are in any case a very common heraldic symbol. The O'Carrolls were also reputed to possess a sword with magical powers of destruction. Hence, perhaps, the sword in the arms.
The crest, a hawk, relates to the traditional war cry of the family's followers, An Seabhac Abu, "the hawk forever", referring to their ancestral nickname. As late as 1843, at the great monster meeting organised at Tara by Daniel O'Connell to demand Home Rule, it was being used as a rallying cry by the inhabitants of the lands which had traditionally been ruled by the O'Carrolls.
. Donogh O'Carroll founded the first Cistercian monastery in Ireland at Mellifont, Co. Louth c. 1145, and the family provided no fewer than six abbots of nearby Louth Abbey before its dissolution in 1540.
Charles Carroll (1737-1832), a signatory of the American Declaration of Independence, was one of the old Ely O?Carroll family. Dubliner
Paul Vincent Carroll (1900-1968), playwright and sharp critic of the Irish clergy and Irish provincial life, was of the same stock. He won New York Dram Critics? Circle Awards in 1938 and 1939 and, after emigrating to Scotland, was one of the founders of the Glasgow Citizen?s Theatre