The Farrell Clan
Farrell Clan History
The O’Farrell territory of Anghaile or Annaly grew out of a larger territory occupied by the Conmaicne people, which included part of neighbouring County Leitrim. Annaly was shired and became County Longford in 1570.
Castlerea Castle. Photo Credit:John Riddle - Discovering Longford
The Clan of Annaly
In Ireland, the word ‘clan’, or ‘clann’ (in the Irish language), was used in different senses in the medieval period. It could mean those who had the same surname or, more specifically, the descendants of a particular individual. In the latter case, it could mean that those who were closely related had common interests in landownership. However, political power was exercised by the head/chief over a particular territory and did not extend to relatives in other territories.
The clans who occupied the lands of County Longford in times past were as follows: O’Farrell, O’Fox, O’Mulfeeny (O’Feeny), O’Quinn, McGilligan, MacRonan, McGowan, McCormack, McGilchrist, O’Slevin, O’Sheridan, McHugh and McConway. There were also two Anglo Norman families: the Flemings and the Tuites. The location of the above clans is easy to pinpoint because of the prevalence of their names among the people of the present day. We of course are focused on O’Farrells, the Chieftans of Annaly, who held sway over the lands of Annaly from the 1100s right up to the reign of James 1st of England.
The O'Farrells of Annaly
The Uí Fhearghail — O’Ferralls or O’Farrells, claim to be descended from Ir, son of Milesius through their ancestor Conmac, son of Fergus Mac Roigh and the legendary Maedhbh (Maeve) Iron Age Queen of Connaught, from whom they derive their clan name, Conmaicne — the race of Conmac. The chief clans of the Conmaicne were the MacRannals, MacDonoughs, O’Duignans and the O’Farrells. They were princes of Annaly, their chief seat noted as being at Longford town, called in Irish, Longphort Uí Fhearghail, which translates as ‘O’Farrells Stronghold’. The famous ancient saga Táin Bó Cúailnge or ‘Cattle Raid of Cooley’ illustrates the prowess of Queen Maeve and part of the trail crosses north County Longford, passing through Longford Town.
The name Uí Fhearghail, translates as ‘Followers of Fearghal’ and the name Fearghal is assumed to derive from the Gaelic words Fear which translates as ‘Man’ and Ghal which translates as ‘Valour’, so we arrive at “Man of Valour” or a similar version ‘Valiant Warrior’. Some sources say that Fearghal, King of Conmaicne, was indeed ‘a valiant warrior’ slain at the famous battle of Clontarf in 1014. He was one of only a few Irish Chieftains who fought alongside Brian Boru against the Vikings and one of only three from the lands now known as Leinster who did so, the other two being the O‘Nolans and the O‘Mores. Many of the other clans fought with the Vikings or through petty jealousies didn’t involve themselves at all.
The name Anghaile or Annaly is said to have originated with Anghal, great-grandson of Fearghal, who had also given his name to the greater family group the Muintear Anghaile, of which the Uí Fhearghail were the dominant members. By the middle of the 12th century the clan had gained possession of most of the lands. This prosperity was disrupted by the Anglo-Norman invasion of the 12th century, but by the 15th century, they had reasserted considerable control over the territory. They had however also by this time, due to internal clan conflict over the Lordship of Anghaile, divided into two clan subgroups, Clann Seaáin /Ó Fearghail Bán (White O'Farrell) and Clann Murchadha/ Ó Fearghail Buidhe (Yellow O'Farrell), controlling the north and south of Annaly respectively. Although there was also a plethora of Gaelic Irish and Anglo Norman familiesin the area during this time period, there was little internal opposition to the Uí Fhearghails domination of the Lordship of Anghaile, indeed they monopolised the Chieftancy of Anghaile from the time the clan first appeared in the area claiming rights of ownership. It was the internal feuding of the clan that ultimately led to the end of a single Ó Fearghail Lordship of the territory.
The title of Ó Fhearghail went to the ruling Lord (Taoiseach) and that title did not necessarily go from father to son, but by a more complex process that involved choosing from a large kin group. Often, the strongest succeeded. The Lord‘s household was where the greatest concentration of wealth and political influence was evident, with any economic surplus within the clan channelled into that household, helping to maintain their status. The core lands of the medieval Lordship of Anghaile are noted by Neil Farrell in his research paper for Longford History & Society, as being ‘clustered in two distinct segments, the south eastern lands encompassing most of the Barony of Shrule in the possession of the Ó Fearghail Buidhe and the rest, further north, encompassing much of the Barony of Granard, in the possession of the Ó Fearghail Bán’.
The bitter internal division between the branches of the Uí Fhearghail which saw the establishment of two separate chieftaincies also meant separate inauguration sites, a situation which ‘interfered significantly with the internal workings of the lordships’. The Lords of the Ó Fearghail Buidhe used Móta Uí Fhearghail (Moatfarrell) while in the north the Ó Fearhaile Bán used Ráith Granaird (the Moat of Granard). Their territory was then reduced under the colonial confiscations of James 1st and Oliver Cromwell with many of the clan members becoming tenants of the new English and Scottish landlords. In 1570 the two main septs of the O’Farrell clan surrendered their lands to the crown. This account of the history of the Uí Fhearghail provides only a brief glimpse into what is a lengthy, complex, and truly fascinating historical story involving many interesting chieftains, battles, murders, marriages, and mayhem of all kinds due to clan rivalry.
The Farrells have been associated with this midland region for more than 1,000 years, in that time having built many castles and fine tower houses of note including their main fortress at Longford Town. The Clan lost its control of the area by the mid-1600s when leading military members were forced to take flight and joined the armies of France and Spain. The majority remained settled in County Longford and the surrounding counties of Roscommon and Westmeath. Others moved to the cities in search of a livelihood with Dublin being the most popular destination. Farrells are presently very plentiful in the county of Longford but there are also thousands of Farrells in Ireland and throughout the world, the majority of whom can trace their ancestry right back here to the Hidden Heartlands of Ireland and the County of Longford. Internationally most people with Farrell origins are in the UK (England, Scotland and Wales), USA, Canada, Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina. We also have members from South Africa, Zimbabwe, France, Germany, Spain and Belgium. Our current Ó Fearghail (Farrell Clan Chieftan), Conal Connie O’Ferrall, is a man of great honor, wit and wisdom, who is held in high esteem by members of the Farrell Clan from around the world. He is a worthy chieftain who along with his wonderful wife Rose has been leading our Longford Farrell Clan since its founding in 1991, representing us and the County of Longford at events, locally, nationally, and internationally.
Coat of Arms & Crest
The Farrell Coat of Arms and Crest is distinguished by a Golden Lion rampant which signifies bravery, nobility, glory, strength, and courage on a green field which signifies hope, joy and love. The golden colour denotes generosity and elevation of mind. The crest is a ducal coronet with an unleashed hound — Cú reubha — which translates as” I Have Broken My Hold”. In Irish folklore, Gaelic poetry, and mythology the hound is often used as an epithet to describe a valiant warrior. A famous example of such a warrior in Irish Mythology is the Hound of Cullen — more famously known as Cú Chulainn who legend tells us fell victim to the powerful Queen Maedhbh — Ancestral Queen of The Farrell Clan.
There are a number of mottos associated with the Farrell Clan including ‘Cú Rue Baid’ which translates as ‘The Unleashed Hound’ and Cor et Manus Concordant which translates as ‘Hand and Heart are in Concord’. They encompass the many wonderful character traits that are evident of the noble O’Farrells, but the most popular motto used is that here below:
Prodesse Non Nocere — ‘To do Good not Evil’
Farrell Clan Longford
Our Longford-based clan have a dedicated core committee, comprised of Farrell family members, relatives, and friends. We meet regularly throughout the year to discuss how best to promote our Farrell Clan activities, celebrate important dates for members, organize mini gatherings, dinners, and daytrips, but also just to catch up on local news, events, and projects of interest.
The most important event and project for us and indeed for all our clan members around the world, is the Farrell Clan Rally. Held every four years here in Longford this is a five-day gathering of Farrells from every corner of the globe who come together in celebration of our shared ancestral roots. The rally has been taking place since 1993 so there are many interesting images to view of those gatherings on our clan website.
The Farrell Clan is a long standing, registered member of the Clans of Ireland, via which we connect, communicate, and celebrate with other family clans from around the Island and abroad. We also maintain a modern website and manage a dedicated Facebook group with over four thousand members.
We are happy to have our members contribute to the clan in whatever way is meaningful to them. The more you engage with us the more vibrant and rewarding the clan family will be for you.
Become a Clan Member
We offer a number of Farrell Clan membership possibilities which include annual and lifetime membership options. These membership packages all include a beautifully designed Clan Certificate, signed by our county archivist and a quarterly newsletter with all kinds of interesting content from Farrells here in the Hidden Heartlands of Ireland, as well as our members around the world.
Become a Clan Ambassador
Would you like to act as a Farrell Clan Ambassador for your country? If so, we would love to hear from you! We want to make connections with Farrell people in as many countries around the world as possible so we can trace where our Farrells are, what they are up to and what kind of history the Clans have in those countries. Our hope is that by having dedicated Farrell Ambassadors we will be able to connect more efficiently and co-ordinate our activities across countries — a Farrell Clan without barriers, borders or boundaries and connected by history, heritage, and haematics.
The Farrell Clan brochure has been launched. You can download the brochure below or read the press release launch → here
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