O’Carroll – warrior who fought alongside Brian Boru

History of the Irish name O'Carroll. Image copyright Ireland Calling

The name O’Carroll has a long and eventful history. It dates back to a warrior called Cearbhaill, who fought alongside King Brian Boru against the Danish in The Battle of Clontarf in 1014.

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The word cearbh meant to hack, alluding to Cearbhaill’s role in battle. The name Cearbhaill was gradually modified to O’Carroll – with the ‘O’ meaning descended from Cearbhaill.

Cearbhaill was leader of the Cian Clan, which dated back to Cian, the son of Olioll Ollum, King of Munster, and the grandson of King Mogh Nuadath of Leith Mogha, who had contested for supremacy of all Ireland in the second century.

The Cian Clan thrived for more than 1500 years.

In the 1400s, Éile the Red King, ruler of the Cian Clan, renamed the Cian territory Éile O’Carroll to mark it apart from other kingdoms. The territory covered what is now known as Tipperary, Waterford and also parts of Offaly, Laois and Kilkenny.

The Cian Clan split into several groups of O’Carrolls. Most faded away but two remained strong forces. The Ely O’Carrolls spread throughout Tipperary and Offaly, while the O’Carrolls of Oriel moved into Monagan and Louth.

Signed the Declaration of Independence

The Oriel O’Carrolls faded as a major force following the Anglo-Norman invasion but remained a presence in their native territories. The O’Carrolls of Ely maintained their strength right up until the 16th century when they were restricted to the region around Birr in Offaly by the rise of the Norman Butlers.

Many O’Carrolls left Ireland for America in the 1800s during the great potato famine.

Charles Carroll, was a descendent of the Ely O’Carrolls and a wealthy landowner in Maryland. He was one of the people who signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

Lewis Carroll: author of Alice in Wonderland

The name O’Carroll and its variations Carroll and Carol have repeatedly cropped up in history. Lewis Carroll was the pen name chosen by the English author and mathematician Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. He wrote dozens of books in science and in literature, most notably the world famous children’s story Alice in Wonderland and the sequel Alice and the Looking Glass.

In the 20th century P.J. Carroll set up what became Ireland’s biggest tobacco company in Dundalk.

Brendan O’Carroll is a successful Irish writer and actor. He won a BAFTA in 2012 for his hit comedy Mrs Brown’s Boys.
Sean Michael Carroll, Ph.D. is a highly regarded physicist working at the California Institute of Technology. He is an expert in dark energy and general relativity and has had his work published in numerous science magazines and books.

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