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Farrell, with and without the prefix O, is a well known name in many parts of the country and it stands thirty-fifth in the statistical returns showing the hundred most common names in Ireland. It is estimated that there are over thirteen thousand of the name in Ireland; the great majority of these were born in Leinster, mainly in Co. Longford and the surrounding areas. This is as might be expected for the great O Fearghaill (O'Farrell or O'Ferrall) sept was of Annaly in Co. Longford. The chief of the sept, known as Lord of Annaly, resided at Longphuirt Ui Fhearghaill (i.e. O'Farrell's fortress), hence the name of the town and county. The name is derived from the personal name Fearghal, meaning "man of valour". The original Fearghal or Fergal from whom the family claim descent was killed at Clontarf in 1014. His great grandfather Angall gave his name to the territory they possessed, Annally in Co. Longford.
They ruled this area for almost seven centuries, down to the final catastrophes of the seventeenth century and also held territories in nearby counties Roscommon and Westmeath. So important were they that references to them in the "Annals of the Four Masters" occupy more than seven columns of the index to that monumental work. There were two branches of the sept, the chiefs of which were distinguished as O'Farrell Boy (buidhe, i.e. yellow) and O'Farrell Bane (ban, i.e. white or fair).
The More O Ferralls descend from the illustrious Mordha (Moore or More) family. As with the Nugents and the O Reillys, it was marriage which amalgamated the two names, but, unlike the Nugents, the O Ferralls kept the More name. Lysagh O More, in about 1340, wrested his territory and title of Lord of Leix (Laois) from the usurping Mortimers. It is recorded that "He stirred up to war all the Irish in Munster and Leinster by persuasion, promises and gifts, and expelled nearly all the English from their lands by force, for in one evening he burned eight castles of the Englishry, and destroyed the noble castle of Dunamase belonging to Roger Mortimer, and usurped to himself the lordship of the country. From a slave he became a lord, from a subject a prince". Caech MacDonnell O More was Chief of Leix from 1542 to 1545. In 1555 his brother, Patrick O More, supported by the O Connors of Offaly (the neighbouring county) invaded Leix. His brother Rory Og, who opposed him, was killed. In England this invasion was regarded as Rory Og's rebellion and, as a result, his land was forfeited and colonised by the English, and its name was changed from Leix to Queen's County. In 1567, twelve years too late, it was established that it was Patrick and his allies who had been the "rebels", while Rory Og had been the defender. In the meantime the O More territory had been parcelled out among English adventurers and it was deemed politically inadvisable to uproot them. Instead, by way of compensation, Queen Elizabeth I granted Rory Og's surviving son, Charles O More, the Balyna estate near Moyvalley in County Kildare. He had no alternative but to accept and Balyna became the home of the O More chieftains and their descendants for the next 400 years. In October 1641 Rory O More (1592 - 1655), a nephew of Rory Og, plotted with Conor Maguire, Baron of Enniskillen, and others to seize Dublin Castle. They were betrayed by Owen O Connelly. Rory, who had been suspicious of the traitor, escaped, but the others were executed. Rory hid in the thick woods then surrounding Balyna. When surprised by his pursuers he is said to have plunged his stick into the ground before fleeing. This stick took root and grew into a conifer. There was a family legend that when the tree died the family would leave Balyna. In 1957 the tree died and, shortly afterwards, Balyna passed from the More O Ferrall family. Rory O More managed to rally the Irish and the Old English into forming the Confederate army in which he was a colonel. It represented the four provinces and its aim was a united Ireland and to drive out the usurpers. It was an inspired idea which had the support of many of the influential Irish in Europe. There were many differences of opinion however, and, after several years, the army came to a sad end.
Colonel Charles O More was the commander of a troop of horse in Owen Roe O Neill's army. In 1688 he raised a regiment of foot in which all barring two of its members were natives of the Queen's County. All the officers, except for these two odd men out, were killed at the battle of Aughrim on Sunday 12 July 1691, after quarter had been granted.
The O Fearghaile are well recorded in the genealogical archives, having a variety of spellings. The Catholic Confederation of Kilkenny which endured from 1642 to 1649 had Father Richard O Farrell, a Capuchin friar, as one of its members.
In 1709, Roger O Farrell completed his admirable Linea Antiqua, a genealogical manuscript which is now in the custody of the Genealogical Office in Dublin.
Ceadaigh O Farrell, who was killed at the battle of the Boyne in 1690, left three sons who emigrated to Picardy in France.
The lists of the Irish regiments who served in France in the early eighteenth century contain at least twenty one O Farrell officers. In 1780 there was an O Farrell regiment.
Francis Thurot O Farrel (1726 - 60) was born in Burgundy, France. He adopted the name of his maternal grandfather, a Captain O Farrel who had fled with the Jacobites to France where he had married a French lady named Thurot and assumed her name. A headstrong youth, Francis tried many ways of earning a living. With England and France at war, he turned his hand to privateering and became very wealthy. Later he got a commission in the French naval service where he had many adventures during the Seven Years' War. In 1760 he was aboard one of the frigates that broke through the English blockade in Belfast Lough, but he was killed shortly afterwards when they met a British squadron.
Among the many O Farrell papers abroad is an account of an "Act for naturalising the children of Colonel Francis Fergus D. O Farrell who was born in Holland in 1694".
In 1799, Gonzalo O Farrell, who was Spanish Minister to Berlin, exchanged diplomatic letters with the French Foreign Minister, Talleyrand.
In Ireland, despite the difficult times in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, at least one of the O Farrells was prospering. In his book "Dublin 1660 - 1860", Maurice Craig, the architectural historian, considered the rising social class of Dublin brewers and mentions an English traveller who in 1790 "dined with the most eminent of the Dublin brewers, Mr James Farrell, who had his brewery in the Black Pitts but his dwelling house in Merrion Square East" - a fashionable residential area.
Like Rory or Roger, Letitia is a name that appears frequently, and often potently, in the O Ferrall lineage. Letitia, daughter of Ambrose O Ferrall of Balyna, who was a nun in the Sisters of Charity order, gave £3,000 to purchase a house in St Stephen's Green, Dublin, which grew to be one of Dublin's largest hospitals, St Vincent's, now moved to the suburb of Donnybrook.
It was the Letitia (born 1732) who married Richard Ferrall of Dillon's Bank in Dublin who joined the More name to O Ferrall. A descendant of theirs, James Ambrose O Ferrall (1753 - 1828), was a major-general in Austria's Imperial army, which he entered when he was twenty. He had a long and adventurous military career and was also a Royal Chamberlain. A Miss Ambrose, a connection by marriage, left him a fortune and the family seat, Balliane House, in County Wexford, on condition that he change his name to Ambrose. He died unmarried, which saved further confusion with names. The Balliane estate went to his kinsman, Charles More O Ferrall, who entered the Sardinian service in 1791 when he was 23. When the monarchy was overthrown by Napoleon in 1798, Charles's appointment with the Sardinian army came to an end and he went to Piedmont in northern Italy. At Novi Liguri, on the southern bank of the River Po, the scene of a French defeat in 1799, he was made a captain of the horse on the field of battle by the king's viceroy. Subsequently the king made him first equerry, gentleman of the bedchamber, major-general of cavalry and adjutant-general. He retired to Ireland where he died at Balliane House in 1831.
Balliane had previously been the home of his eldest sister, Mary, a widow. Charles's son, Victor Emmanuel More O Ferrall, named after his godfather, the King of Italy, returned to Ireland to manage the Balliane estate. Despite the efforts of the More O Ferrall family to help him, he mismanaged it so badly that it had to be sold. He emigrated to America where he died.
Major Ambrose O Ferrall (1752 - 1835) of Balyna had his early education at Dublin's popular Fagan's Academy before going to the Jesuit College at Bruges. In 1770 he entered the Military Academy in Turin, where he was taught to ride by the famous Chevalier Capitolo. He also served for some years in the Royal Sardinian army. He married twice and had ten children.
His eldest son was the Right Honourable Richard More O Ferrall (1797 - 1880), who was a Member of Parliament for Kildare and Longford. In 1832 he was a member of the parliamentary committee set up to report on the situation in Ireland. When a Royal Commission was issued in 1833 to report into the condition of the poor in Ireland, Richard More O Ferrall and the Archbishop of Dublin were its two Catholic members. He was an adviser to the Catholic University and was a friend of Cardinal Wiseman and a supporter of Daniel O Connell. In 1835, under the administration of Lord Melbourne, he became Lord of the Treasury, First Secretary of the Admiralty and, in 1841, was Secretary to the Treasury. In 1847 he was the first civilian to hold the post of Governor of Malta. Four years later he resigned because he would not serve under the Prime Minister, Lord John Russell, who had championed the Ecclesiastical Titles Act of 1851 in opposition to the Papal Bill of 1850 to restore a Catholic hierarchy in England.
Richard's brother, John Lewis More O Ferrall (1800 - 81), was educated at Acton Burnell and Stonyhurst College in England. He graduated from Trinity College, Dublin, and was called to the Irish Bar. He became Commissioner of the Dublin Metropolitan Police on its establishment in 1871. He declined a baronetcy.
George Anthony More O Ferrall (1907 - 82) joined Sir Phillip Ben Greet's Shakespearean Company and later won a scholarship to the Central School of Dramatic Art. In 1936 he joined the first BBC television team and was joint producer of the very first television programme. Following four and a half years of service with the Royal Artillery during the Second World War, he was put in charge of all BBC broadcasts to Allied Forces, including the American Forces Network. From 1946 to 1950 he was a senior BBC television producer, but he left when told he had reached his salary ceiling. He went into films and directed for 20th Century Fox, ABC, Korda, Rank and British Lion. In 1959 he joined Anglia Television as Head of Drama. He had more television plays to his credit than any other producer and was awarded the Baird Medal for outstanding contributions to television. From 1964 to 1968 he directed for ATV. He retired to live in Spain.
Following the More O Ferrall lineage can be confusing, especially in the case of the long and sometimes catastrophic history of Kildangan, near Monastereven in County Kildare. Kildangan was originally a FitzGerald castle but they sold it, in about 1705, to the brothers Edward and Edmund Reilly, originally from County Cavan, but now prosperous merchants in Dublin where Edmund was an alderman of the city. In 1849, Kildangan passed into the More O Ferrall family with the marriage of Susan O Reilly (1826 - 54) to Charles Edward More O Ferrall. She died in childbirth aged only 28, leaving a son, Dominick. During his lifetime he considerably extended the estate, with the advice of the eminent British landscape gardener John Sutherland, who laid out the celebrated gardens. He dynamited the remains of the ancient castle and used its stones to build the present house.
In Victorian Dublin, Sir Thomas Farrell (1827 - 1900) was a popular sculptor whose numerous statues of its leading citizens adorn the city.
James Gordon Farrell (1935 - 79), who was born in Liverpool, won the 1973 Booker Prize for literature with his novel The Siege of Krishnapur. In the same year he wrote a best seller, The Singapore Grip, and was forecast by the critics to be on the way to a promising career. Unfortunately, he died dramatically, washed into the sea by a freak wave while fishing in County Cork.
In the nineteenth century, many Farrells left Ireland for Australia and the Americas.
Charles F. O Farrell (1840 - 1905), born in Virginia, was a lawyer, a Confederate cavalry colonel and Governor of Virginia from 1894 to 1898. It was this son of Irish immigrants who, as a Virginia legislator, worked vigorously to stamp out lynching.
The parents of John Farrell (1851 - 1904) emigrated during the Famine to Buenos Aires. Some years later they sailed for Australia where the family farmed and went into brewing. John became a minor poet and an excellent journalist, especially as a contributor to the Sydney Daily Telegraph.
James A. Farrell (1863 - 1943) is a classic example of the American-born Irish who did well for themselves, and for America. Born in Connecticut, he married Catherine McDermott and rose from labourer in a New Haven steel mill to developing its foreign trade sales figures to an astonishing degree. He became president of the US Steel Corporation in 1911. Later he held directorships of the American Bridge Company, Federal Steel, the Tennessee Coal and Iron Railroad, Minnesota Steel and many other related companies. He was also vice-president of the American Iron and Steel Institute and founder and chairman of the National Foreign Trade Council.
The grandparents of James T. Farrell (1904 - 79) emigrated from Athlone and Mullingar to the USA. He became a best-selling writer in the 1930s with the Studs Lonigan trilogy, in which he wrote of the social inequalities of the Irish artisan community in Chicago. He visited Ireland several times.
Charles Farrell (born 1906), a Dubliner, went first to Canada and then to the USA where, during the boom years of the Hollywood film industry, he appeared in many films and was Janet Gaynor's leading man in the classic film Seventh Heaven. He also acted on radio and television and was a founding member of the British Actors' Equity Association in 1930.
O'Farrell (as recorded by the Chief Herald of Ireland) Arms: Very a lion rampant or. Crest: Out of a ducal coronet or a greyhound springing sable.
O'Farrell, or O'Ferrall (Clarendon MSS., 4639, British Museum). Vert a lion rampant or, armed and langued gules. Crest - a greyhound in full course proper.
O'Ferrall Buoy (Lords of Annaly, co. Longford; descended from Fearghail, Chief of the Sept, who fell at the Battle of Clontarf, 1014). Arms: Vert a lion rampant or. Crest: - On a ducal coronet or, a greyhound springing sable. Motto: Cu reubha.
O'Ferrall Bane (Bawne, co. Longford;). Arms: Vert a lion rampant or. Crest: - On a ducal coronet or, a greyhound springing sable. Motto: Cu reubha.
These coats of arms represent the main lines of Farrell. Several other people of the name also bore arms. In general they include the same symbolism with someextra features by way of distinction.
Ancient genealogy according to O'Hart
"Irish Pedigrees or the Origin and Stem of the Irish Nation", by John O'Hart is one of the best known Irish genealogical publications in the world. The first edition appeared in 1876, but was followed by several subsequent editions that added greatly to the overall size of the work. The most quoted edition was published in New York in 1923, twenty years after the author's death. It is worth mentioning here that the original work did not include and heraldic (coat of arms) information and that this was added to posthumous publications by unscrupulous publishers, presumably to increase sales. In general, O'Hart is a dubious source, at best, for such information (see quote below from Edward MacLysaght in regard to this topic).
John O'Hart was born in Crossmolina, Co. Mayo, in 1824. He received an excellent education with the intention of joining the priesthood. However, he instead spent two years in the constabulary (the police), after which he was employed by the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland from 1845, the first year of the Famine. He became an Associate in Arts at the Queen's University, and thereafter he was an active member of several scholarly societies. He was an avid genealogist and took a keen interest in Irish history, despite never receiving formal training as an historian. Politically he was an Irish nationalist, and in religious matters, a committed Catholic. Both of these factors permeated his work. He died in 1902 in Clontarf, Co. Dublin, at the age of 78.
O'Hart used many sources to compile the information that appears in his major work. His principal sources were Gaelic genealogies, like those of O'Clery, MacFirbis and O'Farrell. Along with the Gaelic annals, especially the Annals of the Four Masters, O'Hart was able to 'reconstruct' the medieval and ancient pedigrees that appear here. He also used later sources, like the works of Burke, Collins, Harris, Lodge and Ware to extend these lineages into the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. But arguably the most important information contained in these genealogies came where O'Hart gathered the details directly from the families concerned, often from private papers or family tradition. These sections concern the later period, particularly post 1800, and are good for many specific localities like western Co. Clare.
There are two types of genealogies in O'Hart; the genealogies of the Gaelic families and the genealogies of Anglo-Norman and other later settlers. O'Hart made one important distinction in his treatment of these. Irish mythology records that every family was descended from a certain Milesius of Spain who in about 1700 BC led his followers to invade and conquer Ireland. The Christian monks who wrote these genealogies down in the 9th century, 2,500 years after Milesius, also added their own beliefs. So they recorded that Milesius was the 36th in descent from Adam! O'Hart, being both an ardent believer in the Gaelic myths and Christianity, followed their example. In his Gaelic genealogies a number representing the generation of descent from Adam precedes every generation. By contrast the Anglo-Normans and later invaders made no such claims, so O'Hart's genealogies of these families do not include these numbers. O'Hart showed, probably incorrectly, that every Gaelic family was descended from four of Milesius's family. These were his three sons, Heber, Ir and Heremon, and his uncle Ithe. These four were considered the 'stem' lines of the genealogies that followed.
While he undertook a great deal of research, using the majority of available published sources, many Gaelic scholars have superseded his work over the last 100 years. He was not familiar with the abundant unpublished Gaelic manuscript sources available. These have shown that many of his genealogies are incorrect for the years prior to 1600 AD. Furthermore, O'Hart was not a professional historian or genealogist, and had little training in using the esoteric sources he consulted. As a consequence he misunderstood a great deal about Gaelic society and culture, a world which had largely disappeared from Ireland long before he put pen to paper. He was also credulous in using the sources he did consult, believing that the myths were fact.
these limitations, careful use of his work can be very productive.
His genealogies for the years after 1600 have great value, and are
often unavailable elsewhere. He was also able to consult many sources
which have since been destroyed or lost. In the words of Edward
MacLysaght, Ireland's most famous authority on the history of
surnames, he 'made use of it almost daily'.