HAS ANYONE HERE SEEN KELLY?
The name O'Kelly, Kelly, Kelley, Kellie and the Gaelic form O'Ceallaigh, is the second commonest surname in Ireland. There are approximately half a million people worldwide who bear this name.
Up until the 10th century surnames were not used in Ireland. Instead, they were called their own name followed by their father's name followed by their grandfather's name. For example, Brian Mac Thomas Mac Hugh.
In the 10th century because of increase in population and the confusion arising in people's names, it was decided to use surnames or family names. This took two forms either Ua, later changed to 101, which meant the grandson of, or Mac, which meant the son of. Thus the name O'Ceallaigh which meant the grandson of Ceallagh arose. In some areas the form MacKelly, meaning the son of Ceallagh, was the norm.
In other areas, notably in Cornwall, Isle of Man and probably in Antrim, the name Kelly arose from Celli, meaning man of the woods.
The name O'Kelly did not spring from a single source, but arose independently in several areas in Ireland, also in Scotland and the Isle of Man and in England.
As in Ireland, the Kellys of Scotland did not spring from a single root: -
Maine and his chieftains led the exodus of people and their stock from the North to their new homeland. History does not tell us how long this journey took. Their arrival prompted Cian, the leader of the Fir Bolgs, to assemble a large army to oppose them. A Holy Man called Grellan, who lived in that area, welcomed Maine an his people as fellow Christians. Grellan saw that a major blood bath was imminent so he called for and succeeded in obtaining peace between the two peoples. Hostages were exchanged and all appeared to be well.
One of Maine's sons was housed in the law maker of the Fir Bolgs house. The law maker's wife fell in love with this young man. This, naturally, caused treat resentment to the law maker. He prevailed on Cian to murder all the hostages. After this dastardly act had been carried out, Cian realised what a tragic error he had made. To avoid the inevitable consequences that would result, he hatched up a plot. He invited Maine Mor and his chieftains to a great feast. Maine at this stage was unaware of the fate of the hostages and therefore accepted the invitation.
Grellan became aware of the mischief being hatched by Cian. Cian had by this time assembled a large band of heavily armed warriors who lay in ambush for the unsuspecting Maine and his friends. St. Grellan invoked the Almighty who caused the land in the area that Cian and his warriors lay to suddenly become a quagmire. Cian and his warriors were swallowed up.
When Maine Mor heard all that had occurred, he realised his indebtedness to Grellan. Many gifts and privileges were bestowed on him. After that, St. Grellan became the patron Saint of the territory of Maine which became known in english as Hy Many. St. Grellan's staff was carried in battle by the Hy Manians. With the passage of time, the My Manians gradually subjugated the neighbouring tribes. My Many at its height covered an area of 200 square miles, roughly a third of the Province of Connacht.
Before the arrival of the Normans, this territory stretched from Ballymoe in the North to County Clare in the South and f rom Loughrea in the West to the Shannon River in the East. They also owned a small area East of the Shannon called Lusmagh. The present Diocese of Clonfert occupies a large portion of the area once occupied by the territory of Hy Many. It also possesses the territory of Lusmagh on the Eastern bank of the Shannon.
After a long life, Maine Mor died and was succeeded as Chieftain by his son Breasal. Maine was considered the first Chieftain of Hy Many and Breasal the second.
The fifteenth Chieftain was Ceallagh. He in turn was succeeded by his son, Aedh, (Hugh) who was succeeded by Murchadh O'Ceallaigh who was the seventeenth Chieftain. He was the first Chieftain to bear the name O'Ceallaigh, which meant grand-son of Ceallagh, and he was the ancestor of all the O'Kellys of Hy Many as well as the Mac Keoghs (Keogh) and the Magh Finns (now Finn) and also the Mac Teighes (McTigue) of Leitrim.
Murchad O'Ceallaigh died in 960 and was succeeded as Chieftain by Tadh Mor O'Kelly.
During the previous century, their territory had regularly been invaded by marauding Norsemen. The monasteries, particularly Clonfert and Clonmacnoise, were regularly pillaged by these Northern vandals.
At that time Brian Boru, King of Munster, was effectively the High King of Ireland. Brian felt that something had to be done about the Norse scourge. He consulted with other Munster Chieftains and with the Connacht Chieftains. Tadh Mor O'Kelly with a very large army was the only Connacht Chieftain to join Brian on that fateful day, Good Friday, April 23rd 1014. Tadh and his Connacht warriors fought valiantly all day. The Dal Cassians and the other Munstermen with the assistance of some friendly Norsemen opposed the Norse King of Dublin with assistance from Norsemen in other parts of Ireland, the Isle of Man and the
Western Isles of Scotland as well as from the Scottish mainland. The Norse were assisted by the King of Leinster who bore Brian a grudge after previous problems the year before.
Brian, because of advanced age, was unable to lead on the field. He was killed in his tent. Tadh Mor and his son, Murrough, were killed in the field of battle. We are told that after the death of Tadh, a strange animal called an enfield came out of the sea and protected Tadhls body until it was retrieved by his fellow Hy Manians.
Ever since then, the enfield is borne as the crest by the O'Kellys. The name Brian also became popular among the Kellys after this battle.
The arrival of the Normans into Ireland had little effect on the O'Kellys for some considerable time. Their alliance with the O'Briens acted as a deterrent to the other Irish Clans, particularly the O'Connors who wished to increase their territory.
With the passage of time, De Burgos became overlords to the O,Maddens who occupied the Southern part of Hy Many. The De Burgos gradually occupied the South-Eastern area of what is now the barony of Loughrea.
The rump O'Kelly areas occupying the Eastern part of Galway and the Southern part of Roscommon was granted and re-granted to various Normans. But as the Kings ridge did not run in this area, castles built by the new arrivals were soon occupied by the Kellys.
The battle of Knockdoe in 1504 was a watershed in the affairs of Connacht. Clanrickard destroyed the recently erected O'Kelly castles of Monivea, Gallagh and Garbally. O'Kelly sought the assistance of Garoid Mor Fitzgerald, the King's representative in Ireland. Fitzgerald needed little persuasion as he had another score to settle with Clanrickard, who was his son-in-law. Clanrickard had been maltreating his wife, who was Fitzgerald's daughter. With Fitzgerald and the O'Kellys were the Mayo Bourkes and most of the Northern Chieftains, including the O'Neills and the O'Donnells. Clanrickard had the support of the O'Brians and most of the Southern Chieftains. It was in effect a battle between leath conn, the Northern half of Ireland and leath modh, the Southern half. The battle took place at Knockdoe near Claregalway, a major stronghold of Clanrickard. For the first time in Ireland guns were used in this battle. A victory was won by Fitzgerald, O'Kelly and their allies.
The significance of this battle was not realised till later. A large battle had occurred with great loss of life with Irishmen fighting against Irishmen. This weakening of the Irish played into the hands of the Norman. The O'Briens, who had been great allies of the O'Kellys since the Battle of Clontarf, were now at war with them. This signalled the beginning of the end of the Kellys. The demise was a lingering one.
Up until the end of the 16th century, the English Monarch was occupied with wars in Europe. With the arrival of peace there the English were able to turn their full attention to the Irish campaign. Increased resources were poured into what the English saw as subjugation of the wild Irish. They commenced on a campaign of the Irish surrendering their title to their land with the promise that it would be re-granted back to them according to the English law. The O'Kelly was one of the last Irish Chieftains to succumb. The O'Kellys gave up the title of The O'Kelly, or Chieftain of the Tribe, and their system of appointing a successor, namely the Tanaist.
Queen Elizabeth wrote to Colla O'Kelly of Screen. She requested him to drop the 101 from his name and to speak the English language and to assume the reformed religion. She, and her agents, practised the old system of dividing and conquering. Colla, a seventh Lord of Screen, in 1601 commanded a regiment of foot under the overall command of the Earl of Clanrickard at the Battle of Kinsale. They fought on the English side against an Irish Army lead by O'Neill and O'Donnell and the Spanish. This battle, which should have been won by the Irish and Spanish, was unfortunately lost.
Colla O'Kelly got well rewarded for his efforts and was granted the castles of Screen, Knockcroghery, Lecharro in Roscommon, and the castles of Kiltullagh, Fadane, Cloneoran, Coolowe and a large tract of land in the Barony of Tiaquin, with a Wednesday market and a yearly fair at Knockcroghery, also the right to run a ferry over the river Suck from Ballyforan on the East, to Muckloon on the West.
Colla died in 1615 and is buried in Kilconnell Abbey.
The 17th century was a very bad period for the O'Kellys. The rot that set in with the demise of the Chieftainship continued. The merchant Princes of Galway came and shook their moneybags at many impoverished Kellys who succumbed to the temptation and parted with their lands for the gold.
John Crossach O'Kelly of Monivea castle sold the castle and a large area of land around Monivea to Patrick Ffrench for E217 in 1609.
Thomas Dillon, of Norman descent, whols ancestors came to Ireland in 1185 and who was Chief Justice of Connacht, purchased the Clonbrock estate with castles and 3,000 acres of land from Tadh O'Kelly at the beginning of the 17th century. Dillon gradually built up his estate by buying lands from other O'Kellys and other land-holders in the area. In the 19th century Dillon owned 29,000 acres.
The 1641 rising had a further deleterious affect on the fate of the O'Kellys. Soon after this, the arrival of Cromwell took place. Many of the O'Kelly castles and former O'Kelly castles were destroyed by the power and mite of the Cromwellian cannon.
Many of the Kellys left the area, including Colonel Charles O'Kelly of Screen who went into Spain with 2,000 foot to the service of the Spanish King. Those that remained were displaced, such as the O'Kellys of Gallagh, the Premier house of that name. These Kellys, if lucky, found small holdings.
The O'Kellys of Gallagh with the help of the Dillons of Cloncrock, who were connected to them by marriage, were given a small estate at Tycooley. Their castle at Gallagh and their large estate was soon occupied by the Cromwellian Blakeneys.
Many other Kellys were moved to smaller holdings or out of the area to make room for people being transplanted from Leinster. Some of these transplanted people from Leinster bore the name Kelly and were of the Laoise or Kilkenny septs. The restoration of the Monarchy gave little relief to the Kellys who had been displaced.
The civil war between King James and King William was the next disaster to strike Hy Many. At the battle of Aughrim in 1691 the Irish, led by San Ruth, fought the English and Dutch of King William. The Irish-French victory was suddenly thrown into defeat by a stray cannon ball decapitating San Ruth. Leaderless, chaos broke out and a massacre of the Irish French side resulted. Four hundred Kellys lost their lives in that battle. Many other Kellys went on to Limerick. A large number of Kellys were attainted.
Col. Charles Kelly, now a man of 68 years of age, retired to his castle at Aughrane. He wrote a book describing the Williamite Wars. He called the book "Destruction of Cyprus". All the names of people and places were changed. The book was written in Latin. This is an interesting document since it was the only account of the Williamite Wars written by a catholic.
After the Treaty of Limerick a large number of Kellys went into Europe. Many to continue the fight against the English under French, Spanish and Austrian flags. Many of them won great honours in their adopted lands. Many of them married titled people.
In 1767, Empress Marie Terese, conferred on Dillon John O'Kelly, one of our Generals, in recognition of his many victories the title of Count O'Kelly of Gallagh and Tycooley. General O'Kelly married a Princess. They had no family. As a result, the Empress conferred the title also on the Generalls Father, Festus O'Kelly of Tycooley and to all his male descendants and the females until they married.
Today, Count Walter Lionel O'Kelly, The O'Kelly of Gallagh and Tycooley, is Chieftain of the O'Kelly Clan with a longer bloodline than any of the Royalty of Europe.
The middle of the 17th century saw the enactment of the Penal Laws against the Catholics. This was the most draconian legal instrument ever conceived by one group of people against another group. These laws lasted for about a hundred years. Some of these laws were:-
There were many other similar type laws. Despite these savage laws, most of the Catholics retained their old religion. They heard Mass in secluded areas. Priests were hidden by their friends some of whom were considered Protestants. For a time the Catholics used various devices to hold onto their land. If they had a mentally handicapped child, they often made a Protestant out of him so that he acquired the land. Other times, friendly Protestant neighbours or relatives held the land in trust for them.
The pressures of these laws were so great that some catholic landlords conformed to hold onto their possessions.
Some Kelly families such as those of Aughrane, Fedane, Cargins and Muckloon conformed. Those that did so were well rewarded. The Aughrane estate at the time of its sale by Dennis Henry Kelly in 1863 covered 15,000 acres. As a result of conforming, other opportunities became available. They were enabled to rise in the ranks of the British Army. Many did so and won rapid promotion. At least fifteen Generals bearing the name Kelly were in the British Army. One of these was General Sir Thomas Kelly, born in Kilrush who assumed the additional name Kenny in 1870. Others were Lt. General Freeman Kelly, General Sir Richard Dennis Kelly of Muckloon, Co. Galway. He owned a very large estate around Muckloon.
Some Kellys joined the Navy. Two bothers became Admirals. Sir John Donald Kelly (1871-1936) and his brother, Sir Howard Kelly (1873-1952) were sons of Lt. Col. H.H. Kelly, whols ancestors emigrated from Ireland.
A month before the outbreak of the First World War when the clouds of war were beginning to gather, these two brothers at that time Commanders of small Naval craft were cruising in the Mediterranean when they spotted the German battle-cruiser Goeben of 22,640 tons. Both of their ships called the Glouster and the Dublin, were under 5,000 tons. They followed the Goeben for twenty-four hours despite the great danger that she would turn her heavy guns on them and blow them out of the water. They only relinquished the pursuit after direct orders from their Commander in Chief . Both of these brothers had extremely interesting careers worthy of an article in their own right.
Sir John married a girl called Mary, daughter of Thomas Hussey Kelly of New South Wales. Just before his retirement in 1931, Sir John, known by the nickname Joe, was called to act as peacemaker in a mutiny in the Home Fleet and Invergorden. This man, whose name meant strife and whose trade was war, was sent on a mission of peace by his superiors. His mission was successful.
One minor family of Kellys from Carraroe Lodge near Dunsandle produced ten officers.
No sooner was the Penal Laws dismantled, than the greatest tragedy that ever struck Ireland occurred. The potato, which was the staple diet of the masses, contacted a previously unknown disease called blight which destroyed the tubers in the clay. This plague which occurred in 1845 lasted for three years. The population was decimated. Some villages had no healthy people left to bury the dead. Relief measures introduced by the British were too little and too late. As a result of death from starvation and the accompanying diseases and the flight from Ireland in coffin ships, the population dropped from around nine million to about four and a half million.
Emigration, which had always existed as a trickle, became a flood. Massive numbers of Kellys emigrated to the United States and to Canada as well as to Australia and to Great Britain. Those that survived the long journeys prospered and later sent the transportation fare to their relatives at home who soon followed them. Freed from the shackles that had cramped them at home and with sufficient food available, these Kelly emigrants prospered.
Today, the name Kelly is one of the commonest names in the United States and is the eighth commonest name in Scotland. They are found in all areas of the United States, especially around New York, Chicago and other eastern cities. They were also found in the mines of Montana. People like Yellowstone Kelly blazed trails through the wilderness of Montana. They dug canals, built railways and bridges, erected skyscrapers and made sufficient money to educate their children. Their children benefited from the education entered the professions and politics and the Church. A number of them became Bishops, such as Francis Clement Kelly (1870-1948) who became Bishop of Oklahoma. Bishop Edward Joseph Kelly of Boise, Idaho, and Bishop Francis Martin Kelly of Winona, Minnisota.
They also rose in the business works. People such as Eugene Kelly (1808-1894) the banker and philanthropist and major benefactor to St. Patrick' s Cathedral, New York. Eugene was born in Co. Tyrone, but was of Hy Many stock and his people had gone north to avoid the troubles in Connacht. He was honoured with the Papal Knight of Chamberlain of the Cape and Sword.
John Kelly (1822-1886) was Tammany politician and congressman. He fought and succeeded in cleaning up the corruption in Tammany Hall.
John B. Kelly of Philadelphia, the son of an Irish emigrant from Westport, Co. Mayo, whols ancestors came from Hy Many, won gold medals in two Olympic Games at the single skull rowing. He was barred from competing at the Royal Regatta at Henley, London, because he had once been a bricklayer. In 1947 his son, John B. Kelly (Jnr) proudly wearing a replica of the green cap his father wore, won the single skulls at Henley by eight lengths. Two years later he won the same event again, but on this occasion by a hundred yards. John B. Kelly's daughter, Grace, an academy award winning actress married Prince Rainier of Monaco. She had returned from the New World to the old in style much to the delight of her relatives in Westport.
In Europe, large numbers of Kellys joined the various Armies of France, Spain, Austria and other countries. Irish Regiments and Brigade were manned by Irishmen with a considerable number of Kellys in their midst. People like Dennis O'Kelly, son of John O'Kelly of Clonlyon, who descended from the family of Screen, served in the Army of Spain in command of a Company of Infantry. On the death of his uncle, James O'Farrell, he inherited an estate in Ireland on condition that he added the name Farrell to his name. Dennis O'Kelly Farrell's son, called John James O'Kelly born in 1749, was in 1777 appointed Minister Pleni Potentiary of France to the Court of the Elector of Mayence. He was made a Count by Louis. After the Revolution his star went into the decline.
Rev. Malachy Kelly was the founder of the Irish College in Paris in 1677. He was confessor to Mary Gonzaga, Queen of Poland. Due to his espousal of Jansenism, he failed to obtain the anticipated Bishopric in Ireland.
On the homefront in Ireland, condition began to improve. After the success of Sinn Fein in the British general election of 1918, a provisional Irish Government was formed. Count Gerard O'Kelly (1890-1968) of Gortray, Co. Galway, was appointed by Arthur Griffith to promote the Irish cause at the League of Nations. He later became Minister to France in 1929. After some years he retired, but was recalled on a number of occasions for important diplomatic functions.
A contemporary of Count Gerard's was Sean T. O'Kelly, son of a Dublin shoemaker. Largely self-educated, he participated in the 1916 Rising. He was imprisoned with many other Irish in Wales, but escaped and returned to Ireland. He was elected speaker of the first Dail in 1921 and was sent on several diplomatic missions to seek help and support for the fledgeling State.
After the General Election of 1932, DeVelera became Prime Minister with O'Kelly as his Deputy Prime Minister. He held various Ministries in the Fianna Fail Governments. In 1945 he became the second President of Ireland. He retired in 1959 and died in 1966. During his lifetime he received many titles, honours and honorary degrees from all over the world.
The late 19th and the 20th century has signalled the resurrection of the Kellys star. No longer are they Princes of large tracts of land, instead they are Princes of the Church, Merchant Princes and hold important positions in the legal, medical and business worlds. They also are very much involved in academia. Their contribution to sport world-wide is out of proportion to their numbers. They figure prominently in the entertainment world. In a word, they have returned to what they consider their rightful place.
In 1995 the O'Kelly Clan was formed with the purpose of fostering good fellowship with their namesakes world-wide. It is their aspiration to purchase and furnish one of the O'Kelly castles. There were at one time eighty of them. The castle will be used as a headquarters where news, views, histories and genealogies will be collected, compiled and shared. This castle would be the Mecca of the Kellys of the world.
JOSEPH M. KELLY
OLLAMH TO THE O'KELLY CLAN.