The O’Donnelly’s of Ireland


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O’Donnghaile
A reader asked if I came across any Donnelly’s or O’Donnelly’s in my research. The answer is, of course!

The name comes from the Irish O’Donnghaile. As in the case of most Irish names, there is more than one possible source of the surname. The most common, though, comes from Donnghal O’Neill, a descendant from Niall of the Nine Hostages.
Donnghal’s clan originally lived in Donegal, and spread east into Tyrone, Derry and Antrim.

The spread into the rest of Ulster was relatively painless, as the clan was aligned with (and kin to) the O’Neills. For many centuries, the Donnghal clan chief commanded the combined and powerful O’Neill army.

The name is now spelled many ways, with or without the "O" prefix – Donnelly, Donnelley, Donnally – and sometimes with one “n” and sometime one “l”. I’m not sure where the “y” or “ey” or “ay’” ending comes from. The name wasn’t pronounced with such an ending in the Gaelic language. But once spelled with an “e” ending, it became pronounced in the English language.

I personally don’t take much stock in family crests, but the O’Donnelly crest is shown on the right. It has the Red Hand of Ulster, as one would expect of an Ulster clan.

If you are a Donnelly and ever in Iowa City, you should stop in at Donnelly’s Irish Pub, shown on the right.

April, 2015

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