Donnolly surname history

Donnelly is O Donnghaile in Irish, from Donnghal, a personal name made up of donn, meaning "brown" and gal, meaning "bravery". The original ancestor was Donnghaile O Neill, who died in 876, himself a descendant of Eoghan, son of Niall of the Nine Hostages, the fifth-century king who supposedly kidnapped St. Patrick to Ireland. The family were thus part of the great northern tribal grouping, the Cenel Eoghain. Their territory was first in Co. Donegal, but they later moved eastwards into Co. Tyrone, where the centre of their power was at Ballydonnelly. Many of the family were hereditary bards, but their chief historical fame is as soldiers, especially in the wars of the seventeenth century. Donnell O?Donnelly, one of the best known of the family, died at the battle of Kinsale in 1602. Patrick Modardha O?Donnelly managed to re-take Ballydonnelly castle from Lord Caulfield in the rising of 1641, but it was lost again, and renamed Castle Caulfield.

A separate family, the O Donnghalaigh, appear in the records in the barony of Lower Ormond in Co. Tipperary in the middle ages but history appears to have unkind to them; very few of the name remain in the area.

The name was ranked 67th most common in 1890 and 54th overall in 1996; while only 98th in the Republic, it was 27th in Northern Ireland, reflecting its northern origins. Similarly, placenames reflecting the family presence are exclusively northern, with 2 Ballydonnellys and a Killydonnelly in Antrim, Killdonnelly in Monaghan, and Donnellystown in Louth.

.Charles Donnelly (1914-1937) was one of the most promising of the group of young writers emerging in the mid-1930s; he was killed fighting in the International Brigade in Spain at the age of 22.

Dervilla Donnelly is one of Ireland?s most distinguished scientists. She is Professor of Phytochemistry at University College Dublin and was elected President of the Royal Dublin Society in 1981.


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