Monday, December 3, 2007

History of the O'Sullivan Clan

For more information visit:

to find a complete and well-researched history of the O'Sullivan clan, the most senior branch of the royal family of Ireland. The true meaning and significance of the O'Sullivan name is revealed and the clan tartan and battle flag are introduced. The castles, keeps, and grand houses of the family are reviewed, including Dunderry Castle.

O'Sullivan Keeps, Castles, and Grand Houses

The haunting moss-covered mounds that remain in the place where the proud Castle Dunboy once stood are stark reminders of the ferocity with which the last Gaelic lords defended their ancestral lands. It was a fight to the death between two European cultures that would end only after one of them was utterly destroyed.

There are no intact Gaelic castles in Ireland. Only English castles remain. Castles and great houses associated with the noble Irish clans that are still standing are to be found only in France, Spain, and Portugal. The Irish aristocrats were forced to immigrate to the Catholic countries on the continent after losing their original estates. The continental monarchs recognized their royal blood based on their Milesian genealogies. (It’s interesting to note that modern British and American genealogists refuse to acknowledge the validity of the Irish royal genealogical tracts, but the kings of seventeenth century Europe recognized their veracity and paid generous allowances from their own treasuries to support their noble foreign guests.)
There are thirty-two castles or manors known to be associated with the O’Sullivan clan. Four are still extant.

Arabella Castle, County Kerry, Ireland[Ard-bile, the height of the ancient tree]
The MacElligott family, purported by some sources to be a sub-sept of the O’Sullivan clan, built Arabella Castle sometime in the thirteenth century. It was referred to as “Castle Eliot” in Carew’s manuscripts and in early maps of the Tralee area. The castle was still intact in 1641 but is now in ruins.

Ardea Castle, County Kerry, Ireland[Ard-Aodha, the height of Aodh or Hugh]
In its time Ardea Castle was an impressive structure with six foot thick walls made from well grouted large blocks of green stone. It stood majestically atop a very steep cliff overlooking the Kenmare River. It was built by and named after Aodh Beanan, the ancestor of the O’Moriarty clan and the father of Mor Mumhan, maternal ancestor of the O’Sullivan clan. Aodh had 12 sons and died in 621 A.D.
Ardea remained in O’Moriarty possession until the early part of the thirteenth century when it was peacefully surrendered to the O’Sullivan Beara sept. The O’Moriarty family withdrew to Castledrum on the Dingle Peninsula while Philip, the brother and tanist of the O’Sullivan Beara, moved into Ardea. In January, 1603, the castle was surrendered intact to the English but was later re-granted to the O’Sullivan family. During the Cromwellian wars the castle was slighted and several walls fell into the sea. The castle continued to deteriorate and today it is in total ruins.

Ballaghboy Castle, County Cork, Ireland
(Bealach baoi, main road of Baoi)
Little is known of Ballaghboy Castle other than it was the home of Dermot O’Sullivan who paid land rent to Donal Cam O’Sullivan Beara in 1594. It was completely destroyed.
Ballygobbin Castle, County Cork, Ireland
This was an O’Sullivan Beara castle owned by Donal Cron, son of Owen of Dunboy. In 1632 the Lord President referred to this castle in a correspondence concerning piracy in the region: “Mr. Daniel O’Sullivan (Donal Cron) has a house of reasonable strength at Berehaven and takes upon him to defend it and Ballygobbin; he promises to erect five beacons, one upon the Dorseys and four upon the Great Island.” It no longer exists.

Bushmount House, County Kerry, Ireland
[Bush-mount, the hill of bushes]
This large elegant home boasts five bays, two massive chimney stacks, and a slated roof. Limestone steps and a balustrade terrace lead to the front door. Ancient trees line the avenue of the property, originally built by the Rice family but later acquired by a branch of the O’Sullivan clan. It was non-marshal and is still standing.

Cappanacoss Castle, County Kerry, Ireland[Ceapach na Coise, foot of the mountain]
The castle of Cappanacoss has a complicated history. While the main residence of the O’Sullivan Mor was Dunkerron Castle, the tanist of the clan historically resided at Cappanacoss. Some sources maintain that Cappanacoss was built by Cragh [103] in the middle of the fifteenth century; but most accounts include the castle as one of a string of Norman keeps constructed by Robert de Carew during his invasion of Kerry over two hundred years before Cragh’s time.
All sources agree that when Cragh died his younger brother and tanist, Rory, assumed the title of the O’Sullivan Mor and moved from Cappanacoss Castle to Dunkerron. Cragh’s widow and children were then moved to Cappanacoss.
Over the next several generations, the descendants of Cragh (the O’Sullivan MacCragh) were displaced from Cappanacoss by closer relatives of Rory, whose line maintained the chieftainship. It is not known exactly when this occurred but by the mid seventeenth century the castle was no longer in the possession of the MacCragh sub-sept. The castle is now in ruins.

Carraig Fionnmhuighe Castle, County Cork, Ireland
(Carraig Fionnmhuighe, the rock of Fionnmhuighe)
Once the O’Sullivan clan had lost Knockgraffon to the Normans in 1192, their chief, Donal Mor, moved to Carraig Fionnmhuighe Castle in the townland of Carrig, in the parish of Kilmaloda, west of Timoleague. Thereafter a steady stream of Eoghanacht chieftains came to Carraig Fionnmhuighe Castle to implore Donal Mor to challenge Dermot Duna Droighneain for the leadership of their tuatha.
Once the O’Sullivan clan’s defiant independence from the MacCarthy Mor had grown into outright competition for the throne of Munster, the threatened chief of the Eoghanacht nation had the O’Sullivan Mor and his entire family murdered.

Carriganass Castle, Bantry, County Cork, Ireland(Carraig an Easa, the rock of the waterfall)
About seven miles from Bantry and a half mile past Kealkill toward the Pass of Keimaneigh, the ruins of Carriganass Castle can be found. The castle was built from stone that was quarried two miles north of the site and transported there by a human chain. The structure was dominated by a large central tower, four stories high, and surrounded by a daunting machicolated stone wall. The outer rampart was framed by four corner defense towers.
It was built c.1540 by Dermot O’Sullivan Beara, posthumously nicknamed ‘An Phudair’ because he blew himself up while handling gunpowder. After Dermot’s oldest son, Donal, was killed in a succession skirmish, his younger son, Owen, inherited the castle. Owen reigned over the O’Sullivan Beara territory in peace from 1563 until 1577.
Eventually Donal’s son, Donal Cam, decided to challenge his uncle for the chieftainship in an English court of law. In 1593 the judges split the territory of Beara between Owen in the north and Donal Cam in the south. The following year Owen died leaving his estate to his oldest son, Owen II.
When Hugh O’Neill marched south to battle Queen Elizabeth’s minions at Kinsale, Donal Cam supported him while Owen II opposed him. This infuriated Donal Cam who then captured Carriganass Castle forcing his cousin to run to his English allies.
When the Gaelic forces were defeated at Kinsale, Owen II joined Carew in the siege of Dunboy.

Carrigaphooka Castle, Macroom, County Cork, Ireland
(Carraig an Phuca, the rock of the fairy horse)
After the devastating Battle of Kinsale, Donal Cam O’Sullivan Beara captured Carrigaphooka Castle, a MacCarthy keep. The castle stands on a high rock in the middle of a field off the main road to Killarney. It is a tall and classic tower house with one chamber in each of its five stories. It was built by Dermot MacCarthy Mor in 1436. It remained in O’Sullivan possession only briefly.

Cashel, County Tipperary, Ireland(Caiseal, circular fort)
Cashel of the Kings was originally founded by King Corc [75] of Munster sometime in the fourth century AD. The original oak wood palace was constructed atop a great limestone rock that rises over thirty meters above the surrounding Golden Vale. Many generations of royals added to the stone and mortar structure of which only grand ruins now remain. The major additions were commissioned by the MacCarthys. The last king in the O’Sullivan bloodline to reign at Cashel was Finghin [81], whose name means ‘of noble birth’.

Castle Cor, Knockane, Beaufort, Ireland
(Caislean cor, castle of the round hill)
Castle Cor was the residence of the chief of the O’Sullivan MacGillycuddy sept when they joined the Earl of Desmond in open rebellion in 1583. It was also the family seat from which soldiers of the clan marched to join the Gaelic lords at Kinsale in 1601. Despite the failure of these noble endeavors, the O’Sullivan MacGillycuddys managed to retain their estate until the middle of the seventeenth century. Again the O’Sullivan MacGillycuddys chose the losing side in the Parliamentarian War and the contemporary chief, Donough, was forced to burn Castle Cor down and retreat to France. In 1660 the estate was restored to the sept by Charles II and they rebuilt the castle on its original site. In 1717 Denis MacGillycuddy converted to Protestantism, married Anne Blennerhassett of Castle Conway, and moved to the Reeks.

Castlequin, County Kerry, Ireland(Castle cuinche, Conn’s castle)
Castlequin was built at the end of the eighteenth century by Myles Mahony. Upon his death his oldest son, Kean, inherited the property and married the daughter of the O’Sullivan Beara. The family retained the castle until the beginning of the twentieth century.

Cove Castle, Kilcrohane, Sneem, County Kerry, Ireland(Caislean bun an Uidir, Castle at the mouth of the Heer River)
Castle Cove was a minor keep of the O’Sullivan Mor that stood by the sea shore near Sneem. It is now in ruins.

Derreen House, County Kerry, Ireland
(Doirin, the little oak wood)
The O’Sullivan MacFinin Duibh was a sub-sept of the O’Sullivan Beara. They built the Derreen House early in the eighteenth century. They lost the property during the Parliamentarian War but remained there as tenants of Sir William Petty. When the last MacFinin Duibh died in 1809 a protracted law suit ensued among the various claimants to the estate. Because of this extensive litigation, there is more documentation extant on this obscure and minor branch of the O’Sullivan clan than there is on the more important O’Sullivan MacCragh or O’Sullivan Mor lines.

Dunboy Castle, County Cork, Ireland
[Dun Baoi Bheirre: The fort of Baoi of Beara]
Dunboy was built in the fifteenth century to defend the flourishing trade route between Gaelic Ireland and the rest of Europe. It became the primary residence of the O’Sullivan Beara. In 1549, the chief of the O’Sullivan Beara sept accidentally blew himself up with gun powder. True to humorous form, the Irish memorialized him with the nickname, “Diarmuid a Phudair”, or Dermot of the Powder. Dermot’s brother, Abhlaobh, was his appointed successor (tanist), and accordingly became the next chief after the unfortunate incident; but many adult males in the clan preferred Dermot’s twelve year old son, Donal of Knockante, for the job. When Abhlaobh arrived at Dunboy to claim his inheritance he was assassinated by a band of Donal’s supporters. The English, who were holding Donal hostage to insure his father’s loyalty, were delighted to see a Gaelic clan promoting the British system of inheritance by primogeniture and promptly released the young heir to assume his role as leader.
The sixteenth century was a turbulent time in Ireland and Donal of Knockante was dead before his thirtieth birthday. Since his son, Donal Cam, was only three years old at the time of his father’s death, Knockante’s brother and tanist, Owen, was recognized as chief.
When the Desmond rebellion erupted in 1569, Owen chose to remain neutral, which resulted in his incarceration in Dublin by the English. Upon coming of age, Donal Cam took advantage of his uncle’s absence and took possession of Carriganass Castle. He successfully repelled the English in several battles and earned himself a hero’s reputation among the locals. The English sued for peace in 1585 and Donal agreed to surrender his properties to the crown in return for a re-grant and a knight’s title. Owen was released from jail and immediately had Donal Cam evicted from his castle. Donal Cam sued his uncle and, in 1593, a compromise was reached in which Owen was awarded the Bantry area and Donal retained the Beara region. When Owen died in 1594 his son, Owen II, continued the feud that split the O’Sullivan Beara sept.
At the end of the sixteenth century the great O’Neill rebelled against his friend, Queen Elizabeth, and Donal Cam joined him in his quest to win total independence from England. Donal’s cousin, Owen, sided with Elizabeth. After the Gaelic lords and their Spanish allies were soundly defeated at Kinsale, in 1601, Donal returned to Dunboy to find that the Spanish officer that he had left in charge, Don Aquila, had plans to surrender it to the English in return for terms. Donal’s men secretly breached the castle walls under the cover of night and recaptured the castle for their chief. Donal retreated to Ardea Castle where he waited for the promised Spanish reinforcements to arrive. They never came.
On June 17, 1602, British troops under the command of Sir George Carew laid siege to Dunboy Castle. According Carew’s account in the Pacata Hibernia:
“About five o’clock in the morning our battery, consisting of a demi-cannon, two whole culverings, and one demi-culvering, began to play, which continued without intermission till towards nine in the forenoon, at which time the turret annexed to the castle at the south-west part was beaten down. That being ruined, the ordnance played on the west front of the castle which by one o’clock in the afternoon was also forced down.”
At this point Richard MacGeoghegan, the commander of the castle, sent a messenger to Carew and offered to surrender. Carew had the messenger executed and ordered his men to give no quarter. An intense battle ensued that lasted nearly two hours at the end of which the English had advanced only eight feet but had gained control of the ruined south-west tower. The Irish fought fiercely but they were greatly outnumbered (143 against over 4,000) and eventually the main tower of Dunboy was breached. The 76 survivors retreated to the cellar carrying the severely injured MacGeoghegan with them. Thomas Taylor, MacGeoghegan’s English son-in-law, assumed command of the Irish at this point. He threatened to blow up the castle with the nine remaining kegs of gunpowder if the English didn’t offer fair terms of surrender; but Carew ignored his gambit and resumed the attack in full. Thomas finally agreed to surrender when it was clear that the situation was hopeless. MacGeoghegan waited until the English had poured into the cellar before attempting to strike one last blow against his enemies. As Carew described, “though mortally wounded, as before, [he] raised himself from the ground, snatched a lighted candle and staggering therewith to a barrel of powder that for that purpose was unheeded, offering to cast it into same, was by our men, who perceived his intent instantly killed and then Taylor and the rest were brought prisoners to the camp.”
Carew tortured the survivors for information but when they refused to submit he had them all hanged. The remaining walls of Dunboy were destroyed by gunpowder. Carew later honored the Irish at Dunboy when he declared, “so obstinate and resolved defense had not been seen within the kingdom.”

Dunderry Castle, Gravier, Cher, France
(Dun Daire, Fort of the Oak Wood)
One branch of the O’Sullivan MacCragh sept of Cappanacush Castle later acquired Dunderry Castle in the village of Gravier, near Nevers, France. Dunderry Chateau du Gravier remains the family home of this illustrious sept and serves as the international headquarters of the O'Sullivan MacCragh Clan. Many noble families of Ireland settled in Catholic France after losing their estates in Ireland:
O’Connor: Chateau du Bignon-Mirabeau
O’Mahony: Chateau de Pont Bellanger
O’Kelly Farrell: Chateau La Soriniere
Walsh: Chateau de Serrant
Hennessy: Chateau de St. Brice
Phelans: Chateau Phelan-Segur
O’Byrne: Chateau La Houringue
Lynch: Chateau Lynch-Bages
MacCarthy Reagh: Chateau St. Gery
MacMahon-O’Sullivan Beara: Chateau Sully
O’Sullivan MacCragh: Chateau du Gravier (Dunderry Castle)
In addition to the nobles, in the seventeenth century there was also a large immigration of Irish soldiers to the continent romantically known as ‘Les Oies Sauvages – The Wild Geese’. These men formed the various regiments of the Irish Brigades and fought valiantly for their adopted French homeland. Variations of Irish surnames can still be found throughout France as a result of this exodus. The Leaders of the Regiments of the Wild Geese that fought for France were:
Colonel William Stanley: 1596-1604
Colonel Henry O’Neill: 1605-1610
Colonel John O’Neill: 1610-1628
Colonel Hugh O’Donnell: 1632-1638
Colonel Hugh O’Donnell: 1632-1638
Colonel Owen Roe O’Donnell: 1633-1642
Colonel John Barry: 1636
Colonel Patrick Fitzgerald: 1639-1641
Patrick O’Donnell: 1643-1647
Colonel Dermot O’Sullivan Mor: 1646-1647
Colonel John Murphy: 1646-1659
Colonel Dudley Costelloe: 1653
Colonel Charles Cary Dillion: 1653
Colonel Richard Grace: 1658
Philip O’Reilly: 1655-1660
Colonel George Cusack: 1656-1662
Colonel Louis Farrell: 1658-1660
Colonel James Dempsey: 1660-1662
Colonel Theodore O’Meara: 1660-1664
Colonel John Murphy: 1667-1669
Colonel Denis O’Byrne: 1673-1686
Charles O’Sullivan of Nantes was the grandson of an Irish emigrant who was sent to the guillotine for being a royalist. His brother John, a respected fencing master, was also tried but found to be innocent.

Dunkerron Castle, County Kerry, Ireland
(Dun Ciarain, fort of Ciarain)
Dunkerron was built by Carew early in the thirteenth century as a typical Norman keep, nearly sixty feet in height with seven foot thick green stone walls. In the mid fifteenth century it was converted to a Tudor style castle by Donal, the O’Sullivan Mor at the time. An additional stone residence was added to the structure by Owen, the O’Sullivan Mor at the end of the sixteenth century.
Four carved stones adorned the chimney piece, three with O’Sullivan heraldic devices including a merrow, and one with these words inscribed: “This work was made on 20th April, 1596 by Owen O’Sullivan Mor and Sily ni Donough MacCarthy Reagh” (Sheila MacCarthy, the wife of Owen).
From the notes on sculptures and an inscription carved on a chimney piece preserved in the building attached to Dunkerron Castle, written by George V. Du Noyer, Esq., MRIA:
Figure 13 shows “in dexter and sinister chief points, and in dexter and sinister base points, a star fish. In middle chief, a cherub, with oriole surrounding the head. In honour point and hand and arm coupe close below the elbow, and crossing the shield per bend. In fess point a wild boar. In nombril point a water-newt or lizard. In middle base a Romanesque galley, with human figure on board, of which the bust and head are only visible. Supporters: on the dexter side a non-descript winged animal, with the head and neck of an eagle, but horned like a bull; legs clawed like those of a bird, and spurred from the heel and elbow joints; body and tail of a lion. On sinister side an animal resembling a maned lion, with an unusually long tail; the head prolonged into a lengthened snout, and a deep, grinning mouth, armed with a double row of formidable teeth, and having a long, sharply barbed tongue projecting. Under both supporters, a fleur-de-lis, and below the shield, on the dexter base, a graceful sprig of shamrock. On the stone over the armorial bearings, just described, are carved the letters, O.S.M.S.: these I take to be the beginning of the names O’Sullivan Mor, and his wife, Sily MacCarthy; but the rest of MacCarthy’s name has been omitted.”
Figure 14 illustrates the stone plate on the left-hand side of the chimney piece. It reveals a “spirited representation of an Irish gentleman performing on a hunting horn, and probably calling his hounds around him, preparatory to the chase; his favorite dog, covered with curling hair, and in that respect resembling the Irish liver-colored water spaniel, is seen trotting up to him. His dress is a close-fitting tunic, belted around the waist, and extending to a short way above the knees; his legs appear bare; his cap very closely resembles a Glengarry bonnet, with a twisted band surrounding the lower part over the forehead; what appears to be a small feather hangs gracefully drooping from the back part of the cap. The hunting horn is held in the right hand, and appears to be a simple cow’s horn, without the least decoration; the left hand of the figure grasps a long double corkscrew scroll, which divides the field of the stone into two compartments, the lower one of which is filled with the chestnut flower ornament so common in carvings of the sixteenth century, and in the upper is the dog before described; below, and to the rear of the dog, are two animals which more nearly resemble water-newts than lizards; they have their tails looped together, in front of the human figure. Above and below the scroll-work are three Tudor roses, only two of which are complete.”
Figure 15 shows the carvings on the right-hand side of the chimney piece. Complimenting the gentleman on the left is found a “figure of a female on the right, a lady with her right arm extended, and the hand grasping the stem, as it were, of a double corkscrew ornament which extends along the top of the stone and down its center. This lady is dressed in a long, close-fitting gown, the feet not visible; a kind of narrow collar around the neck, and a loose belt around the waist, buckled by a circular fibula in front, but much lower than the waist itself; her head-dress is something “stunning”. First, a whimple and a plain fillet across the forehead; over that a cap of straight plaits; a circular ornament decorates the right side of the cap, while on the left is a rosette, with drooping ends hanging over the ear. The ornament in the field of the stone is very similar to that described on the other side of the chimney piece, the upper compartment commencing with a large Tudor rose of seven pedals, followed by a zigzag raised line having ivy leaves sculptured in high relief in each of the triangular compartments.”

Dunloe Castle, County Kerry, Ireland
(Dun Loich, fort of the river Loich)
Dunloe was built by the Fitzgerald family in 1215 but was lost to the O’Sullivan clan in 1261 after the Battle of Callan. The castle was breached and destroyed by Ormonde in 1595, forcing the O’Sullivan Mor to retreat to Dunkerron Castle. The ruins of the castle are still standing on the grounds of a hotel of the same name.

Dunmanus Castle, County Cork, Ireland
(Dun un Maghnais, fort of Manus)
Little is known about Dunmanus Castle other than it was an O’Sullivan Beara keep. After the debacle of Kinsale, King Philip of Spain sent money to Donal Cam with which he outfitted a force under the command of Richard Tyrell. While Tyrell ravaged West Muskerry and Dunhallow, the English were ravaging all of west Cork. Donal Cam offered to join forces with his cousin, Owen II, against Elizabeth, but Owen responded by attacking and capturing Dunmanus Castle.

Dursey Castle, Dursey Island, County Cork, IrelandThis castle was built by Dermot O’Sullivan Beara in the sixteenth century on Illaunbeg off Dursey Island. His son, Don Phillip, the author of Ireland Under Elizabeth, was born there in 1590. Unfortunately, Dursey Castle witnessed one of the worst massacres of the Elizabethan War. In the summer of 1602, Donal Cam braced his people for an assault following his disastrous defeat at Kinsale the year before.
Considering the castle to be impregnable, Donal Cam had the fort garrisoned under the leadership of Conor O’Driscoll, and sent the women and children of the sept to be safeguarded there. On June 12, 1602, a force led by Captain Bostocke attacked the castle and breached its walls after several hours of fierce fighting. When the defenders surrendered, a grisly massacre ensued. Everyone in the castle was killed including men, women, and children.
Don Philip described the following scene, “Some ran their swords up to the hilt through babe and mother who was carrying it on her breast; others paraded before their comrades little children writhing on their spears, and finally binding all the survivors, they threw them into the sea over jagged and sharp rocks, showering at them shots and stones.” Carew then had the castle leveled.

Fermoyle Castle, County Kerry, Ireland(For Maoil, the round hill)
This castle was built by the O’Sullivan Mor of green stone with lime and stone mortar. The walls of this impressive structure were seven feet thick.

Foildarrig Castle, County Cork, Ireland(Faill Dearg, red cliff)
Also known as Castle Dermot, this fort was built by a cadet branch of the O’Sullivan Beara on a small peninsula projecting into Bantry Bay east of Castletownbere.

Killarney House, County Kerry, Ireland
(Cill Airneadh, church of the sloes)
This imposing structure, built in the French chateau style, was the seat of the Browne family. Several generations of the Brownes married O’Sullivan Beara women and they developed a very Gaelic attitude, despite their distinctly English title, Earls of Kenmare. Catherine, the daughter of the 4th Viscount Kenmare, married a French nobleman and acquired the title, Countess de Civrac. Again O’Sullivan blood was infused into the French aristocracy.

Kilmocomogue Castle, County Cork, Ireland(Cill Mo Comog, the cell of young Coman)
This castle stood between Reendisert and Cariganass on the road to the Pass of Keimanagh. It was originally an O’Driscoll property that had been acquired by the O’Sullivan Beara sept upon its arrival in Cork at the end of the twelfth century. There is scarcely a trace of the ruins remaining.

Knockgraffon, County Tipperary, Ireland(Cnoc Rath Fionn, hill of the fort of Fionn)
Long before Corc [75] established his royal residence at Cashel, Knockgraffon was the sacred site for the coronation of the kings of Munster. Archaeologically, Knockgraffon was second only to Tara in significance. After the usurpation of the Eoghanacht throne by the descendants of Failbhe Flann, the descendants of King Finghin [81] (the O’Sullivan clan) returned to Knockgraffon where they enjoyed considerable wealth and power. The O’Sullivan lands originally included Clonmel, Cahir, Carrick, and Cashel.
It can be argued that the land of the Golden Vale, the ancestral property of the O’Sullivan clan surrounding Knockgraffon, was the most fertile and valuable land in all of Ireland. The serpentine course of the Suir River and the lush green fields of Tipperary created an idyllic scene to be viewed from the heights of Knockgraffon.
In Heerin’s topography, written in 1400, is found the verse:
“O’Sullivan, who delights not in violence
Rules over the extensive Eoghanacht of Munster;
About Knockgraffon broad lands he obtained,
Won by his victorious arms, in conflicts and battles.”
When the Normans arrived in Ireland in 1169, the O’Sullivan chiefs were recognized as princes of the Eoghanacht nation who enjoyed considerable independence from the over-lord of Munster, the MacCarthy Mor. In 1192, the O’Sullivan clan suffered a devastating defeat and was forced to surrender its precious territory to the English invaders. The entire tribe immigrated west to the stark mountains of Cork and Kerry. Adding insult to injury, the Normans constructed a large earthen mound surrounded by a wooden fence right on the sacred hill of Rath Fionn. Eventually they also built a small stone castle near the motte.
Donal Mor [96], the chief of the O’Sullivan clan when Knockgraffon was lost, was later assassinated by the MacCarthy Mor in 1214 to quell a movement among the Eoghanacht nation to restore the throne of Munster to the descendants of Finghin [81]*.
Knockgraffon remained in Norman hands until 1998 when Gary Brian O’Sullivan MacCragh, a direct male descendant of Donal Mor [96], bought the sacred site back from Donal Keating of Clonmel House. Today the motte is a national monument.

Liberty Hall, County Kerry, Ireland
This manor house was believed to be built after the French Revolution by a cadet branch of the O’Sullivan Mor line. Early in the nineteenth century the house was owned by Timothy O’Sullivan, a purported descendant of the illegitimate son of the last O’Sullivan Mor. The structure is also known as “The Prospect House”.

Reeks Castle, County Kerry, Ireland(Righ, mountains of the king)
The chief of the O’Sullivan MacGillycuddy sept originally lived in Castle Cor until 1695. When Dennis became chief, he moved to Bauncloon and built the Reeks Castle. He married Anne Blennerhassett of Castle Conway and conformed to the Protestant faith to placate his new wife. Richard, the last O’Sullivan MacGillycuddy to live at The Reeks, sold the estate to Phillip O’Sullivan in 1985.

Reenadisert Castle, County Cork, Ireland
(Rinn-a-disert, headland of the hermit)
To curry favor with the English, Owen O’Sullivan Beara turned on his first cousin, Donal Cam, after the Irish were defeated at Kinsale in 1601. As a reward for his treachery, Queen Elizabeth granted him all of his cousin’s lands and properties. Unfortunately for Owen, however, he was despised by his own people because of his cowardice and greed and his descendants were contemptuously nicknamed the “O’Sullivan Galldha” or “Foreigner O’Sullivans”.
With his new, ill-gained wealth, Owen abandoned the stark Carriganass Castle and built Reendisert Castle on the road between Bantry and Glengarriff. Reendisert was a combined tower house and modern residence with large defensive machicolations alongside fine windows and tall chimneys. The structure was nearly destroyed during the Parliamentarian War of Cromwell in the 1650s but remained inhabited until late in the twentieth century. It is now in ruins.

Reenbawny Castle, Whiddy Island, County Cork, Ireland
(Rinn Banai, headland of the young pigs)
On a promontory at the north eastern shore of Whiddy Island a cadet branch of the O’Sullivan Beara sept built Reenbawny Castle during the reign of Henry VI (1429-1471). When Owen O’Sullivan Beara and Donal Cam O’Sullivan Beara were suing each other the castle was referred to as ‘Castle Foyd’ in the legal documents. It was eventually awarded to Owen who later sold it to an Englishman.
Reenbawny was briefly held by the O’Brien clan during a foray into Desmond, but the Dalcassians retreated when word reached them that Donal Cam was preparing to attack. One month later the castle was occupied by Carew who used it as his headquarters during his devastating campaign against Dunboy Castle.
The castle was destroyed by Ireton during the Parliamentarian War. On January 11, 1920 the walls of the ruined castle were toppled in a storm.

Sully Castle, Autun, Burgundy, FranceThe Chateau de Sully is a magnificent structure and the home of the 4th Duke of Magenta, Philippe de MacMahon. He is a relative of King Juan Carlos of Spain, with whom he often played with as a child in Portugal. He descends from Brian Boru, an Eoghanacht high king of Ireland, and Donal Mor O’Sullivan [96], the last lord of Knockgraffon.
In the early years of the eighteenth century Sean MacMahon, the son of Patrick MacMahon of Dooradoyle, Limerick, and Margaret O’Sullivan of Beara, was forced to immigrate to France after his lands were confiscated by the English. He studied medicine at Rheims and became a practicing physician in Autun. One of his patients was Jean Baptiste de Morey, an incredibly wealthy man. When de Morey died at the age of 79 his 39 year old widow married the 33 year old Irish doctor.
Once MacMahon had acquired the Chateau de Sully through marriage, he submitted his royal Milesian genealogy to King Louis XV in an effort to join the French nobility. The king bestowed upon him the title of Marquis d’Eguilly. MacMahon’s son, Maurice, was forced to leave France during the Revolution but returned to Sully during the Restoration. He had an illustrious military career serving as a colonel in the Royal Cavalry. His strictly monarchist views resulted in his opposing Napoleon, for which he was imprisoned. After Bonaparte’s defeat at Waterloo, MacMahon was freed and he married the daughter of the Marquis de Caraman. His third son, Edme Patrice de MacMahon, became the President of France and the 1st Duc de Magenta. Edme’s descendants were still living in the fabulous Chateau de Sully at the end of the twentieth century.

Tara, County Meath, Ireland(Teamhair na ri, hill of the kings)
It is believed that Tara was the original seat of the Tuatha de Danan kings of pre-Gaelic Ireland. After the Milesian invasion, Heber Fionn [24] and his younger brother Heremon ruled as co-kings at Tara for a brief time. During a land dispute, Heremon killed Heber and took the throne for himself. Descendants of Heber and Heremon vied for Tara and the high kingship of Ireland for the next 900 years. Eventually Tara was abandoned for other royal sites throughout the kingdom.
Atop a hill at Tara still stands what is believed to be the original Lia Fail or Stone of Destiny. Legend contends that if a true king were inaugurated on this stone it would roar three times. The Scots had their own Lia Fail which was eventually stolen by the English and placed beneath the throne of Buckingham Palace in London.

Tomies Castle, County Kerry, Ireland
(Tuamaidhe, monumental mounds)
Now in ruins, Tomies Castle was the last seat of the O’Sullivan Mor line descended from Rory, younger brother of Cragh [103]. After losing Dunloe Castle during the Elizabethan wars, Daniel O’Sullivan Mor claimed the estate at Tomies after it had been forfeited to the crown by Lord Nicholas Brown as punishment for supporting the usurped King James II.
Daniel’s son, Rory, married Juliana O’Sullivan Beara and continued to live at Tomies. Rory’s son Donal O’Sullivan Mor married Hester O’Sullivan but left no legitimate issue. He died on April 16, 1762. A man claiming to be his illegitimate son burned all of the original O’Sullivan clan deeds and documents to protect him from potential lawsuits.
The O’Donoghue of Glenfesk acquired the castle soon after Donal’s death.

Friday, November 30, 2007

History of the O'Sullivan Clan

For more information visit:

to find a complete and well-researched history of the O'Sullivan clan, the most senior branch of the royal family of Ireland. The true meaning and significance of the O'Sullivan name is revealed and the clan tartan and battle flag are introduced. The castles, keeps, and grand houses of the family are reviewed, including Dunderry Castle.

The Clan Master Genealogical Chart

1596 Birth of Phoeniusa Farsaidh [1], king of Scythia
1571 Birth of Niul [2], lord of Capacyront
1546 Birth of Gaodhal [3], lord of Capacyront
1521 Birth of Asruth [4], lord of Capacyront
1496 Birth of Sruth [5], last lord of Capacyront
1471 Birth of Heber Scut [6], king of Scythia
1446 Birth of Beouman [7], king of Scythia
1421 Birth of Ogaman [8], king of Scythia
1396 Birth of Tait [9], last king of Scythia
1371 Birth of Agnon [10], chief brigand of the Caspian Sea
1346 Birth of Lamhfionn [11], last chief brigand of the Caspian Sea
1321 Birth of Heber Glunfionn [12], king of Gothia
1296 Birth of Agnon Fionn [13], king of Gothia
1271 Birth of Febric Glas [14], king of Gothia
1246 Birth of Nenuall [15], king of Gothia
1221 Birth of Nuadhad [16], king of Gothia
1196 Birth of Alladh [17], king of Gothia
1171 Birth of Arcadh [18], king of Gothia
1146 Birth of Deag [19], king of Gothia
1121 Birth of Brath [20], last king of Gothia
1096 Birth of Breoghan [21], king of Spain and Portugal
1071 Birth of Bile [22], king of Spain and Portugal
1046 Birth of Milesius [23], last king of Spain and Portugal
1021 Birth of Heber Fionn [24], Joint Ard Ri of Ireland
996 Birth of Conmaol [25], 12th Ard Ri of Ireland
971 Birth of Eochaidh Faobhar Glas [26], 17th Ard Ri of Ireland
946 Birth of Eanna Airgthach [27], 21st Ard Ri of Ireland
921 Birth of Glas [28], king of Munster
896 Birth of Ros [29], king of Munster
871 Birth of Rotheachta [30], king of Munster
846 Birth of Fearard [31], king of Munster
821 Birth of Cas [32], king of Munster
796 Birth of Munmoin [33], 25th Ard Ri of Ireland
771 Birth of Fauldergoid [34], 26th Ard Ri of Ireland
746 Birth of Cas Cedchaingnigh [35], king of Munster
721 Birth of Failbhe Iolcorach [36], king of Munster
696 Birth of Ronnach [37], king of Munster
671 Birth of Rotheachta [38], 35th Ard Ri of Ireland
646 Birth of Eliomh Ollfhionach [39], 36th Ard Ri of Ireland
621 Birth of Art Imleach [40], 38th Ard Ri of Ireland
596 Birth of Breas Rioghacta [41], 40th Ard Ri of Ireland
571 Birth of Seidnae Innaridh [42], 43rd Ard Ri of Ireland
546 Birth of Duach Fionn [43], 45th Ard Ri of Ireland
521 Birth of Eanna Dearg [44], 47th Ard Ri of Ireland
496 Birth of Lughaidh Iardhonn [45], 48th Ard Ri of Ireland
471 Birth of Eochaidh [46], 50th Ard Ri of Ireland
446 Birth of Lughaidh [47], 52nd Ard Ri of Ireland
421 Birth of Art [48], 54th Ard Ri of Ireland
396 Birth of Oilill Fionn [49], 56th Ard Ri of Ireland
371 Birth of Eochaidh [50], 57th Ard Ri of Ireland
346 Birth of Lughaidh Lagha [51], 60th Ard Ri of Ireland
321 Birth of Reacht Righ-dearg [52], king of Munster
296 Birth of Cobthach Caomh [53], king of Munster
271 Birth of Moghcorb [54], 72nd Ard Ri of Ireland
246 Birth of Fearcorb [55], 75th Ard Ri of Ireland
221 Birth of Adhambra Foltcain [56], 78th Ard Ri of Ireland
196 Birth of Niadhsedhaman [57], 83rd Ard Ri of Ireland
171 Birth of Ionadmaor [58], 87th Ard Ri of Ireland
146 Birth of Lughaidh Luaighne [59], 89th Ard Ri of Ireland
121 Birth of Cairbre Lusgleathan [60], king of Munster
96 Birth of Duach Dalladh Deadha [61], 91st Ard Ri of Ireland
71 Birth of Eochaidh Garbh [62], king of Munster
49 Birth of Muireadach Muchna [63], king of Munster
29 Birth of Loich Mor [64], king of Munster
9 Birth of Eanna Muncain [65], king of Munster
11 Birth of Dearg Theine [66], king of Munster
42 Birth of Dearg [67], king of Munster
73 Birth of Mogh Neid [68], king of Munster
104 Birth of Eoghan Mor [69], Joint Ard Ri of Ireland
135 Birth of Oilill Olum [70], king of Munster
170 Birth of Eoghan Mor II [71], crown prince of Munster
215 Birth of Fiacha Maolleathan [72], king of Munster
260 Birth of Oilill Flann-Beag [73], king of Munster
300 Birth of Lughaidh [74], king of Munster
340 Birth of Corc [75], king of Munster, lord of Cashel
380 Birth of Nathfraoch [76], crown prince of Munster
420 Birth of Aonghus [77], king of Munster, lord of Cashel
455 Birth of Felim [78], king of Munster, lord of Cashel
495 Birth of Crimthann [79], crown prince of Munster
535 Birth of Aodh Dubh [80], king of Munster, lord of Cashel
571 Birth of Finghin [81], last king of Munster, last lord of Cashel
606 Birth of Seachnasagh [82], lord of Knockgraffon
641 Birth of Fiachra na Gaircedh [83], lord of Knockgraffon
674 Birth of Flann Noba [84], lord of Knockgraffon
714 Birth of Dubhinracht [85], lord of Knockgraffon
754 Birth of Morough [86], lord of Knockgraffon
794 Birth of Moghtigern [87], lord of Knockgraffon
834 Birth of Maolura [88], lord of Knockgraffon
874 Birth of Eochaid (An Ui Suilleabhainn) [89]
914 Birth of Lorcan [90], lord of Knockgraffon
954 Birth of Buadhach Atha-Cra [91], lord of Knockgraffon
994 Birth of Aodh [92], lord of Knockgraffon
1034 Birth of Cathal [93], lord of Knockgraffon
1074 Birth of Buadhach O’Sullivan [94], lord of Knockgraffon
1114 Birth of Maccraith [95], lord of Knockgraffon
1134 Birth of Donal Mor [96], last lord of Knockgraffon
1166 Birth of Giolla Mochoda [97]
1200 Birth of Dunlong [98], the O’Sullivan Mor
1235 Birth of Murtagh Mor [99], the O’Sullivan Mor
1270 Birth of Bernard [100], the O’Sullivan Mor
1340 Birth of Dunlong [102], the O’Sullivan Mor
1375 Birth of Cragh [103], the last O’Sullivan Mor
1410 Birth of Donal [104], the O’Sullivan MacCragh
1444 Birth of Conor [105], the O’Sullivan MacCragh
1474 Birth of Eoghan [106], the O’Sullivan MacCragh
1504 Birth of Buodach [107], the O’Sullivan MacCragh
1534 Birth of Donogh (Dermot) [108], the O’Sullivan MacCragh
1564 Birth of Conor [109], the O’Sullivan MacCragh
1594 Birth of Owen [110], the O’Sullivan MacCragh
1624 Birth of Dermot [111], the O’Sullivan MacCragh
1654 Birth of Owen [112], the O’Sullivan MacCragh
1684 Birth of Dermot [113], the O’Sullivan MacCragh
1714 Birth of Sean O’Sullivan MacCragh [114]
1748 Birth of Seamus O’Sullivan MacCragh [115]
1788 Birth of Murtagh ‘Crah’ O’Sullivan MacCragh [116]
1816 Birth of Murtagh ‘Crah’ O’Sullivan MacCragh II [117]
1857 Birth of Mortimer James [118], O’Sullivan MacCragh
1890 Birth of Daniel Joseph I [119], O’Sullivan MacCragh
1920 Birth of Daniel Joseph II [120], O’Sullivan MacCragh
1947 Birth of Kathleen O’Sullivan MacCragh [121K]
1949 Birth of Daniel Joseph III [121D], O’Sullivan MacCragh
1955 Birth of Gary Brian [121G] O’Sullivan MacCragh
1965 Birth of Robert Barry [121R], O’Sullivan MacCragh
1967 Birth of Christine Ryan O’Sullivan MacCragh [122K-1]
1968 Birth of Daniel Joseph IV O’Sullivan MacCragh [122D-1]
1975 Birth of Leigh O’Sullivan Greiner [122D-2]
1981 Birth of Heather Anne O’Sullivan Ryan [122G-1]
1982 Birth of Jennifer Rileigh O’Sullivan MacCragh [122G-2]
1984 Birth of Patrick Brian O’Sullivan MacCragh [122D-3]
1988 Birth of Garryowen Brian O’Sullivan MacCragh [122G-3]
1994 Birth of Erin Alvey O’Sullivan MacCragh [122G-4]
1995 Birth of Robert Barryowen O’Sullivan II MacCragh [122R-1]
1996 Birth of Kelly Shea O’Sullivan MacCragh [123D-1-1]
1998 Birth of Megan Ann O’Sullivan MacCragh [123D-1-2]
1999 Birth of Donal Mor Connor O’Sullivan MacCragh [122G-5]
1999 Birth of Sean James O’Sullivan MacCragh [122R-2]
2006 Birth of Daniel Joseph O’Sullivan MacCragh [122R-3]
2006 Birth of Charles Richard Greiner II [123D-2-1]
2007 Birth of Vincent Justinian O’Sullivan Ryan [123G-1-1]
2007 Birth of Connor Sullivan McKinlay [123K-1-1]
Note: Documented primogeniture, as presented in O’Donovan’s Ordinance Survey, ends with Dermot [113]. The Book of Munster records the bloodline to Dermot [111]. Sean [114] and Seamus [115] are recorded in the Account Books of the Bantry House, Bantry, County Cork, Ireland. Murtagh [116] and Murtagh II [117] are listed in Griffiths Valuation. Mortimer [118] and Daniel [119] are found in the church records for the parish of Kilcasken, County Cork, Ireland. Daniel [120] and all of his progeny were born in the United States and have American documentation. All dates are approximate before 1857.