The O’Donoghues of North Kerry
Where did they come from?
By Rod O’Donoghue (one of them)
The question I am also asking myself is who were these O’Donoghues in North Kerry? Where did they come from? In Listowel and its vicinity by J Anthony Gaugan, 1973, I found that ‘the Broder or Broderick, Kennelly, O’Connor and Scanlan are probably the oldest in the district. Close behind those are the McCarthy, Moriarty, O’Connell, O’Donoghue, O’Mahony, O’Shea and O’Sullivan families’. O’Mahony and O’Sullivan also figure in our family tree.
Right next door to Ballyduff is the parish of Ballydonoghue (Baile Dhonnchú or Donoghue’s town or home). The term baile means that the territory was occupied by an extended kin-group or family. The parish used to be called Lisselton but, when asked what name they would like, the parishioners chose Ballydonoghue; this is the name of a local townland, which has nine rátha or circular forts in it showing that it was a place of some tribal importance long ago. Further north and just over the border in Limerick is another townland called Ballydonoghue, and in the east of that county another one of the same name. This suggests the presence of tribes of our name for many centuries. Looking at the census of 1659 there were a lot of O’Donoghues in these three areas.
Local folklore states that Rattoo Tower was built to commemorate a battle against the Vikings at The Paddock, close to Ballyduff, which it is said that the O’Donoghues won. In an article on Rattoo in the Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society in 1910 it says ‘It is recorded in The Wars of the Gaedhill with the Gaill (the Gaels with the Foreigners) supposed to have been written by an eye-witness of the famous battle of Clontarf that in 812 the Danes first began the devastation of Erin, and that in this year they landed in Munster from 120 ships, plundered the country, and burned Inis Labhrainn and Dairinis, but were defeated by the Eoghanacht (O’Donoghues) of Lough Léin, ie the Lakes of Killarney’. O’Donoghues has, it appears, been inserted by the author, on what basis I cannot say.
The Annals of the Four Masters says for 807 (corrected to 812) that ‘A slaughter was made of the foreigners by Cobhthach, son of Maelduin, lord of Loch Lein’ but doesn’t say where. This is repeated in Annals of Ulster for the year 811 with the added note that King of Loch-Lein was a bardic term for the King of West Munster. Francis Byrne in Irish Kings and High Kings shows Cobhthach (d.833), son of Máel Dúin (d.786) as a king of Locha Léin. As I can see no Donnchadh in the pedigree for the Eoghanacht Locha Léin I am left confused.
I am afraid all this poses more questions than it answers. My genetic signature of the O’Donoghue Mór suggests that these North Kerry/Limerick O’Donoghues probably came up from Cork or Kerry but it could very well have been a long time ago or even as a separate branch of the Eoghanacht, the paramount tribal group of Munster.
In the Aran Isles an O’Donoghue family told me that they were descended from two or three brothers and a wife from Kerry who rowed up the coast in the eighteenth century and stopped at Inis Oírr. So perhaps that happened here but centuries earlier.
There is much more work to do!