Branches of the Cenél Conaill

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The Cenél Conaill, or "kindred of Conall", are a branch of the Northern Uí Néill, who claim descent from Conall Gulban, son of Niall of the Nine Hostages, and allegedly the first Irish nobleman to convert to Christianity. Their kingdom was known as Tír Conaill, with their powerbase at Mag Ithe in the Finn valley, however they gradually expanded to cover what is now counties Donegal and Fermanagh. The Cenél Conaill clashed regularly with their kin the Cenél nEogain, eventually capturing the latters original power-base of Ailech in the Inishowen peninsula—in modern-day County Donegal—by the 12th century.

Below is a list of their principle clans and septs.

  Sept of Irish origin
  Sept of Scottish origin

Cenél Luighdech (also Sil Lugdach)Edit

The Cenél Luighdech (more commonly known as Sil Lugdach) descend from Lugaid mac Sétnai, the great-grandson of Conall Gulban. Their tribal territory extended from Dobhar (Gweedore) to the river Suilidhe (Swilly) in County Donegal. The O'Donnells and O'Dohertys who descend from this branch, were the two principal and most powerful septs of the Cenél Conaill. The most famous descendant of the Cenél Conaill is Saint Columba, who founded the monastery at Derry, and is claimed as being the grandson of Conall Gulban.[1]

(Common Forms)
Ó Domhnaill
(O'Donnell, Donnell)
Meaning: World ruler
Progenitor: Domhnall
Territory: Kilmacrenan, Donegal
Extra: In the 13th century they rose to power as kings of Cenél Conaill. The Clann Dálaigh are a branch of the Ó Domhnaill sept
Ó Dochartaigh
(O'Doherty, Doherty, Dougherty)
Meaning: Hurtful
Progenitor: Dochartach
Territory: Raphoe, Donegal
Extra: Dochartach was 12th in lineal descent from Conall Gulben. The Ó Dochartaigh would rule Inishowen from the 13th to 17th centuries
Mac Daibhéid
(McDaid, McDevitt, McDavitt, Devitt, Davitt, McKevitt)
Meaning: Descendants of David O'Doherty
Progenitor: David
Territory: Glenfinn, Co. Donegal; by the 15th c., also Inishowen
Extra: The McDevitt leaders served as counselors and emissaries for the O'Doherty leadership based at Elagh Castle, Elagh More Townland, Co. Londonderry
Ó hAmhsaigh
(O'Hampsey, O'Hampson, Hampson, Hempson)
Meaning: descendant of Amhsach, a byname meaning ‘mercenary soldier’ or ‘messenger’ Territory: Magilligan, north east County Londonderry
Mac Giolla Bhríghde
(MacBride, Gilbride, MacIlvreed, MacGilbride)
Meaning: Devotee of (St) Brigid
Progenitor: Giolla Bríde Ó Dochartaigh
Territory: Parish of Raymunterdoney
Mac Meanman
Meaning: Courage/spirit
Progenitor: Meanma
Territory: Donegal

Clann ChindfaoladhEdit

The Clann Chindfaoladh are a branch of the Cenél Luighdech and take their name from Cindfhealadh, the great-grandfather of Baighill, the eponym of this clans leading sept, the Ó Baoighill's (O'Boyle). The Ó Baoighill were chieftains of Tír Ainmireach and Tír Boghaine in southern Donegal, with territory originally extending from Donegal town to near Kilmacreannan along the west coast. The barony of Boylagh is alleged to take its name from the O'Boyles. By the 13th century, the O'Donnells would see the O'Boyle territory divided in two; Tír Ainmireach in the south and the Three Tuatha in the north.

(Common Forms)
Ó Baoighill
(O'Boyle, Boyle, Boal, Bohill)
Meaning: Pledge
Progenitor: Baighill mac Bradagain
Territory: Ballyweel (town of the O'Boyles), Tír mBoghuine and Tír Ainmireach

Clann DálaighEdit

The Clann Dálaigh (also Síl Dálaigh), or Clan Daly, is another name for the Ó Domhnaill sept of the Cenél Luighdech. This clan takes its name from Dálach, the father of Éicnechán, a chieftain of the Cenél Luighdech.

(Common Forms)
Mac Eachmharcaigh
(MacCafferty, MacCaffrey)
Meaning: Horse-rider
Territory: Donegal
Extra: Eachmarach was a popular personal name amongst the O'Donnells

Cenél AedhaEdit

The Cenél Aedha, or "kindred of Hugh", are descended from Aedha mac Ainmirech, great-great grandson of Conall Gulban. His father, Ainmirech mac Sétnai is brother of Lugaid mac Sétnai, founder of the Cenél Luighdech. The Cenél Aedha are said to have given their name to the barony of Tirhugh (Tír Aedha) in County Donegal.

(Common Forms)
Ó Gallchobhair
(O'Gallagher, Gallagher)
Meaning: Foreign help[citation needed]
Progenitor: Gallchobar
Territory: Ballybeit and Ballyneglack
Extra: Served as the leaders of the O'Donnell cavalry. Gallchobar was descended from Conall Gulban, allowing the Gallaghers to claim to be the most royal branch of the Cenél Conaill
Ó Canannain
(Cannon, Canning, Kenny)
Progenitor: Canann
Territory: Letterkenny
Extra: Letterkenny derives its names from the Ó Canannain sept
Ó Connalláin

(O'Conlon, Conlon, Conlan)

Progenitor: Connall
Territory: Tirconnel, Donegal and Crioch Tullach
Ó Maeldoraidh
Territory: Tirhugh

Cenél mBógaineEdit

The Cenél mBógaine, or "kindred of Binny", descend from Énna Bóguine, son of Conall Gulban. The territory of the Cenél mBógaine is stated as Tír Boghaine, which O'Donovan equates to being the barony of Banagh, and part of the barony of Boylagh in County Donegal. The Laud 610 Genealogies, compiled c.1000 AD, give seven sons for Énna Bóguine- Secht maic Bógaine .i. Áedh Cesdubh, Feidilmid, Brandubh Caech Cluassach, Anmere, Crimthan Lethan, Fergus, Eichín & Melge.[2] However O'Clery's Book of Genealogies give a different listing- Ui. mic Enda bogaine mic Conaill gulban .i. Melge, Lugaid,Criomhthann, Anguine, Niall, Cathair. Mac don Chathair sin Caelmhaine diaruo mac an Conall errderc.[3]

Saint Crona (Croine Bheag) is descended from the Cenél mBógaine, being 5th in lineal descent from Énna Bóguine.

Cenél DuachEdit

The Cenél Duach, or "kindred of Duach", are named after Tigernach Duí (Duach), son of Conall Gulban. Tigernach's son Nainnid is mentioned as being at the battle of Móin Daire Lothair (modern-day Moneymore, County Londonderry) where the Northern Uí Néill defeated the Cruithin. Baedan, grandson of Tigernach through Nainnid would rule as king of Tara for one year in AD 568.

Cenél Eanna/EndaEdit

The Cenél Eanna/Enda, or "kindred of Enda", descend from Eanna, the sixth son of Conall Gulban. They are listed as kings of Magh Ith, Tír Eanna, and Fanad in present-day County Donegal, a territory around the southern tip of Inishowen.

(Common Forms)
Ó Lapáin
(O'Lappin, Lappin, Delap)
Meaning: Possibly paw
Territory: Tirconnell, Donegal and then later Co. Armagh
Extra: One of the oldest hereditary surnames in Ireland and thus the world
Ó hEicnechan Meaning: Roughly O'Heneghan
Territory: Tirconnell
Extra: Cited in the annals as chief of Cenél nEnda

Ó BreasláinEdit

The Ó Breasláin of Fánad (Fanat) descend from the Cenél Enda branch of the Cenél Conaill via descent from Fergus Fanad.

(Common Forms)
Ó Breasláin
(O'Breslin, Breslin, Brice, Bryce, Bryson)
Meaning: Violent + little
Territory: Inniskeel, Fanad peninsula, later Derryvullan, Fermanagh
Extra: Forced out of Fanad by the MacSweeneys in 1261 and migrated to Fermanagh where they became brehons to the Maguires

Linked SeptsEdit

(Common Forms)
Mac Ailín
(Allen, McAllen, McCallion, Campbell)
Meaning: Either son of Alan or son of Ailín (a distinct name meaning rock)
Progenitor: Ailín
Extra: The first Allens to make an impact in Ulster were the Clan Campbell Mac Ailíns who were brought as gallowglasses to Tirconnell by the O'Donnells in the 15th century. In the early 1600s, the McCallions served the O'Dohertys and their leadership was based in Gleneely, Inishowen; nearby was found the famous 16th century grave slab of Clonca, with an inscription in Scots Gaelic stating that 'Fergus MacAllen made this stone', confirming McCallion presence in northeast Inishowen.

See alsoEdit


  • Robert Bell (1988). "The Book of Ulster Surnames", The Black Staff Press


  1. ^ Adomnan of Iona (23 February 1995). Life of St. Columba. Penguin UK. ISBN 9780141907413. Archived from the original on 26 September 2021. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
  2. ^ "The Laud Genealogies and Tribal Histories". Archived from the original on 31 December 2018. Retrieved 18 September 2020.
  3. ^ The O Clery Book of Genealogies, Seamus Pender (ed.), in Analecta Hibernica, No. 18, 1951 pp. 1-198