Ó Fearghail

The Farrell or O'Farrell (Irish orthography: Ó Fearghail) is an Irish clan whose name can be traced back to king Fearghail, who was killed fighting alongside Brian Boru in the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. Fearghail's grandfather Angall had previously established control over Annaly (Anghaile). All variants of the Farrell name are Anglicized forms of the Gaelic name Fearghail (fear = man, ghal = valor). The O-prefix, meaning the grandsons or descendants of Fearghail (source: "A Dictionary of Surnames". Oxford, 1994.) The O'Farrell surname is abundant in the present-day midland counties of Ireland, especially in County Longford, where it is second in number only to O'Reilly. The surname of O'Farrelly or Farrelly is a completely different clan.

Ó Fearghail
O'FARRELL Coat of Arms.jpg
Parent houseMuintir Anghaile
CountryAnnaly, Kingdom of Leinster
MottoCu Re bu

Ferghail's descendants took the surname Ó Fearghail, indicating their heritage. These descendants became princes of the territory of Annaly, which corresponds roughly to present-day County Longford. Their chieftain sat at O'Farrell's stronghold (Irish orthography: Longphort Uí Fhearghail), located in the present day town of Longford. The clan is also associated with Moatfarrell (Irish orthography: Móta Uí Fhearghail) in the eastern part of Annaly. Presently, this lies between the towns of Ballinalee and Edgeworthstown.

From the early 11th century until the colonial confiscations of James I in the early 17th century, the Farrell clan maintained control over the Annaly region. This rule was disrupted by repeated English invasions in the 12th and 13th centuries. By the 15th century, the clan regained complete control and had divided into the North Annaly ruling White O'Farrell (Irish orthography: Uí Fhearghail Bán) and the South Annaly ruling Yellow O'Farrell (Irish orthography: Uí Fhearghail Buí). After the Clan-based Gaelic Order had been shattered, many members of the clan became tenants of their old land with English and Scottish landlords.

Members of the O'Farrell clan had served in an Irish regiment of the Spanish Army in the Eighty Years' War in the 1580s. Although originally intending to fight on the English side for Elizabeth I in support of the Dutch United Provinces, religious factors and better pay offered by the Spaniards resulted in their changing sides. By the time of the Irish Rebellion of 1641, many troops returned to fight with the Irish Catholic movement of confederate Ireland. After the Confederates were defeated many of the Irish soldiers returned to Spain. Some of these later defected to French armies seeking better conditions. By the end of the 17th century, the Farrell clan had mostly returned to Ireland.

The motto of the Farrell clan was "Prodesse Non Nocere" (Do good, not evil).[1]

Farrell Clan HistoryEdit

  • By 1014: Fergal's Grandfather Angall established control over Anghaile.
  • 1014: Fergal of Conmaicne was killed during the Battle of Clontarf. It is from this man that the Farrell clan claims their descent.[2]
  • 1262: The English of Meath pillage the lands of Lord of Annaly GiUa O’Farrell (the Just), causing him to take revenge by slaying many and destroying land in County Meath.
  • 1316: The O’Farrell's fought at the Second Battle of Athenry and were defeated by the English. They fought in support of Edward the Bruce's Irish Campaign. Four prominent O’Farrells were recorded as dead.
  • 1323: A large English army under Lord Bermingham attempted to attack the O’Farrells, but were repulsed and slain at the command of Donnell O’Farrell.
  • 1329: The sons of John O’Farrell and a group of Meath English lured and murdered the Earl of Breifne at a house in Fore.[3]
  • Between 1347 and 1583: No fewer than seven O’Farrells served as Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise.
  • 1452: The Chief O’Farrell clashed briefly with the Earl of Ormond, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, over the imprisonment of Lord Bermingham's son by the O’Reilly's of East Breifne. O’Farrell buys Ormond off, and the Lord Lieutenant leaves to pursue O’Reilly.
  • 1464: John O’Farrell and Redmond O’Farrell of the Annaly Lords died of bubonic plague along with members of their families.
  • 1471: A battle between the O’Reilly's and the O’Farrell's took place at Clankee in which the O’Reilly commander was killed and the Chief O’Farrell was taken prisoner.
  • 1475: A number of O’Farrells were banished to the English of Meath for killing a member of the clan.
  • 1504: Chief O’Farrell (along with most other Irish chiefs) joined forces with the Lord Deputy, Gearóid FitzGerald, and they formed a very large army. This English/Gaelic army marched on Munster and were victorious over the O’Briens at the Battle of Knockdoe, one of the largest battles ever witnessed in Ireland.
  • 1565: The Annaly O’Farrell's repeatedly clashed with the new Lord Deputy to Ireland, Sir Henry Sidney, who planned to shire the county.
  • 1618: The Farrell's of Longford are finally deposed as Lords of Annaly by King James I, losing their lands and privileges forever. “They were deprived of their estates without any compensation whatsoever, or any means of subsistence assigned them” (Annals of the Four Masters).
  • 1620: The first written record of a Farrell in the English language was by Father Richard O’Farrell, who was a priest in Annaly, Longford. He was a member of the Irish Catholic Confederacy, and later witnessed and wrote about conflicts on the European Continent.
  • 1646: At the Battle of Benburb, General Richard Farrell, arrived in Ireland from his serving as an officer in the Spanish Army on the continent, led the Longford Column which was a Farrell force in the Irish Confederate Army under the leadership of Owen Roe O’Neill, and decisively defeated the Covenanters in a large scale major pitched battle. Farrell was deputy to Owen Roe O'Neill in the Irish Confederate Army.
  • 1649: At the First Siege of Waterford, Oliver Cromwell battled with General Richard Farrell who arrived in order to defend the city. Farrell was victorious due to tactical superiority to Cromwell, namely via siege warfare experience gained battling in the Low Countries in Spanish and French armies.
  • 1649: In Wexford, Captain Daniel Farrell recaptured Enniscorthy Castle from the New Model Army.
  • 1650: Francis Fergus O’Farrell was born in County Longford. He moved to the Netherlands, married a local girl, and had six children. Eventually, he served in the army of William of Orange and saw action in England and Ireland, fighting for the Protestants.
  • 1652: After Waterford, General Richard Farrell appeared again in Irish history, this time defending Galway with Thomas Preston, 1st Viscount Tara against the New Model Army. Here the English Parliamentarians were victorious.
  • 1657: The remnants of the O’Farrell clan, known as the Wild Geese, were in the service of the French Army, and commanded an access route to Brussels during the Franco-Spanish War. However, at the behest of exiled Charles II of England, they switched sides and allowed the Spanish to pass on the road and attack Brussels from Flanders.[4]
  • 1662: The O’Farrell clan, on the orders of the recently reinstated King Charles II, was commissioned to Tangier in North Africa. 381 O’Farrells make up the bulk of the Irish contingent, which was half of the Tangier Regiment, and sailed for Africa.[5]
  • 1691: Ceadagh O’Ferrall of Annaly, Longford was killed at the Battle of the Boyne, Meath. Cheadaigh's three sons were recorded as fleeing to fight in French Brigades, with some settling in Picardy, France.[6]
  • 1709: Roger O'Ferrall authored a work entitled "Linea Antiqua, or, A Genealogical, Cronological, and Historical Account of the Gathelian, Melesian, Scottish or Irish People, or Nation, from the Beginning of time, to this Year of Our Lord 1709", which collected together many genealogical pedigrees of the Gaels. It was later transcribed by Sir William Betham and copied by John O'Hart in his Irish Pedigrees. The document is held by the Genealogical Office at the National Library of Ireland.

Name VariantsEdit

Variants of the name Farrell include:

  • (O')Farrall
  • (O')Farrell
  • (O')Fairrel
  • (O')Farrel
  • (O')Farell
  • (O')Farel
  • (O')Farill
  • (O')Farrill
  • (O')Feral
  • (O')Ferrall
  • (O')Ferral
  • (O')Ferall
  • (O')Feraly
  • (O')Feral
  • (O')Ferrell
  • (O')Ferrill
  • (O')Frawley
  • (O')Fearghail
  • (O')Ferrel


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