O’Farrell – descended from the man of valour

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

O’Farrell is one of the most common surnames in Ireland. The O’Farrell clan have a long and event filled history which has seen them involved in many battles including several conflicts with the English.

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There are several variations of the surname O’Farrell. Some of these include Farrell, Farrelly, Frawley, Ferrell and Fearghail.

See a list of several more variations at the end of this article.

The name derives from the Gaelic surname O’Fearghail. The prefix ‘O’ means that a person with the surname is a ‘descendent of’, so the clan were either descendants, or possibly followers of Fearghail.

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

Originated in Co Longford

Fearghail was the first chef of the clan. It’s not certain when he lived but it was before the 10th century. His name comprised of two Gaelic words, ‘Fear’ which meant ‘Man’ and ‘Gal’ which meant ‘Valour’. The surname in full means ‘Descendent of the man of valour’.

The O’Farrells originated in Co Longford. Longford got its name from Longphuirt Ui Fearghaill, which was a fortress owned by the O’Farrells and used by their chief, the Lord of Annaly. The chief of the clan sat at Longphort O’Fearghail, which became the modern day Longford town.

The O’Farrells fought alongside the legendary Irish High King Brian Boru, (who was the head of the O’Brien clan) in the Battle of Clontarf in 1014.

The Battle of Knockdoe

The O’Farrells didn’t always remain allies with the O’Briens. In 1504, the Chief O’Farrell joined forces with several other Irish chiefs to form a huge Gaelic/English army.

They marched on Munster and defeated the O’Briens in the Battle of Knockdoe. This was one of the biggest battles in Irish history.

Colin Farrell. Photo copyright Tabercil CC2
Colin Farrell

In 1262, the O’Farrells had a conflict with the Anglo Irish Protestants from Co Meath. The English pillaged the O’Farrell’s land. The O’Farrells chief, Lord Annaly took revenge by leading his men into battle. They killed many of the Anglo Irish men and destroyed their property.

In 1316, the O’Farrells gave their support to Edward the Bruce’s Irish campaign. They fought against the English in the Second Battle of Athenry. The English defeated the O’Farrells and four prominent members of the clan were killed.

O’Farrells defeated the English

Seven years later, Lord Bermingham led another English attack on the O’Farrells. However this time the clan, under the leadership of Donnell O’Farrell, were too strong and many of Lord Bermingham’s men were killed.

During the 15th century the O’Farrells also had numerous tensions with the O’Reillys. The two families went into battle at Clankee in 1471. The O’Farrells killed the O’Reilly commander but their own chief was captured and taken prisoner.

Click here for more information about well known O’Farrells

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