Gaelic - Ó Raghallaigh
Riley Coat of Arms [Ireland]
Gaelic - Ó Raghallaigh - (O) Reilly - Co Cavan - Uí Briuin Breifne
O'Reilly: Rulers of East Brefine:- AD1161-1607
Gaelic Prefixes: O or Oi & Mac or M = son of... - Au = grandson of...
Overview - Irish Legends - (General)
Ancient Social Structure of the Clans - (General)
- Prerequisites for the election of a King
- Ancient Legal Rights of Clan Members
Heraldry - Right to use - (General)
The O'Riley Clan Story
- O'Reilly Coats of Arms: O’Reilly ie.O Raghallaigh Coat of Arms:- Symbols, Interpretation and Legends
- Early History - Ancient Ancestry and Tales of O Raghallaigh
- The Defeat of the O'Reilly Clan at the hands of their cousins the O'Rouke Clan
- The O'Reilly Clan and the Norman Knights post 1066. Regain their former power
- The O'Reilly Clan defeat the Normans and rule Brefine for the next four hundred years
- 1607 to Modern Day
The Riley Family of Dublin
- Biography of Michael Riley [c.1791-post 1851] - Spouse: Catherine Coyne [c.1794-post 1851] born Dublin Ireland.
- Biography of John Riley [1822-1874] migrated to Australia - Spouse: Eliza Tideswell [1824-1903]
- Biography of John Coyne Riley [1852-1911] migrated to Australia - Spouse: Amelia Ann Wright of London [1856-1934]
The Legacy of Irish Legends and Mythology never ceases to hold fascination purporting to date to before the Deluge, recorded in various ancient manuscripts.
These stories are well documented online and in the Annals of the Four Masters, which record the details of many Irish Royal Families who ruled Kingdoms/
Territories in Ireland under various Chiefs or Lords. One such cited Royal Family was that of Raghallaigh the fore bearer of the Clan of the O'Reilly Breifne,
however as in the case of many great families, the Clan was merely in their care for a specific period, in contrast to English Royalty, which from the second
millennium at least was hereditary. Noble Gaelic Families were entirely taken from a common descent generating from the original ancient 'genetic pool' and
any member of the Clan had the same rights as the governing Family.
Ancient Social Structure of the Clans
Unlike English Monarchy, Kings of Ireland were not born to the Title, from the earliest history they were Elected. The ancient sacred place of Election in early
times was at Tara. At the death of an Irish King, the Sept would gather at their ‘Scared’ place and the contenders who fulfilled the mandatory prerequisites,
normally 'elected' from any one of the males comprised in the "deirbhfhine" [the descendants of a deceased Chief to the fourth generation or equal status.]
Any would-be king must be the son of a king and/or the grandson of a king i.e. Brothers, Nephews, Cousins were eligible and they must the comply with the
Old Law tract known as;
'The Five Paths of Judgment' one of which that he be physically unblemished. The abhorrence of the Irish towards any physical deformity in their
Rulers is Legendary. Should a King be disfigured in battle or any other cause, he was considered unfit to Rule.Several other pre-requisites also applied;
From an early third century, well-known piece of Irish literature
Cairbre, afterwards King of Ireland, is depicted asking his father Cormac Mac Airt the question;
Cairbre: "For what qualifications is a king elected over countries and tribes of people?"
Cormac: "He is chosen", said the king,
"from the goodness of his shape and family,
from his experience and wisdom,
from his prudence and magnanimity,
from his eloquence and bravery in battle,
and from the number of his friends.
He is however, always chosen from the near kindred of the reigning chieftain."
Cormac, in his answer embodied the views of practically every Clan in Ireland up to the beginning of the seventeenth century.
The would-be King or Chief would then be chosen after successfully combating his opponents.
Full Version of Pre-requisites - Excerpt: Catholic Encyclopedia : The Brehon Laws;
"A curious Irish social unit was the fine (finna), consisting of one group of five persons and three groups of four, all males. The head of the family, called the ceann-fine
(Kan-finna), and four members made up the first group, called geil-fine, the other three groups of four each were called deirbh-fine (true family), iar-fine (after family),
and inn-fine (end family). On the birth of a new male member in the geil-fine the eldest member of the group was moved up into the next four (the deirbh-fine), and one
out of that four into the next four, and one out of the last four was moved out of the fine altogether, into the Clan or Sept, this last male thereby ceasing to be a member
of the Family or Fine. The sept, to use the English term, sprang from the family, or the family after some generations grew into the Sept and then into the Clan,
contracting a greater share of artificiality in proportion to its enlargement. Because, while all the members of the Sept could actually point to a common descent, the
descent from a single ancestor in the case of the whole tribe was more or less founded upon fiction*. The portion of territory ruled over by a sub-king was called tuath
(too-a) and contained within it, at all events in later times, members of different descents. The chief, both of the tuath and the sept, was elected by the tribe or clansmen.
The law of primogeniture did not obtain in Ireland, and the selection was made of the man who being of the chieftain's near blood could best defend the tribe and lead it
in both war and peace. The head of every tribe, says the Brehon Law tract the Cain Aigillne, "should be the man of the tribe who is the most experienced, the most
notable, the most wealthy, the most learned, the most truly popular, the most powerful to oppose, the most steadfast to sue for profits and to be sued for losses.
Source: Catholic Encyclopedia : The Brehon Laws.
The prerequisite relating to the availability of wealth sufficient to sue and/or be sued was of paramount importance
since the Ruling Family was responsible for any legal liability for every member of the Clan/Sept/Tribe.
Rights of the Clansmen Under Brehon Law and Crime - Excerpt: Catholic Encyclopedia
Under Ancient Irish law the land did not belong to the king or the chief, but to the tribe, and the lowest of the free-tribesmen had as much an inalienable right to his share
as had the chief himself. In process of time parts of the tribal territory appear to have formed sub tribes or families, and the chief, who always exercised certain administrative
duties with respect to the land, appears to have had certain specific portions of the tribal land allotted to himself for his own use and for the maintenance of his household
and relatives. He was in no sense a landlord, although the whole tendency of later times was to increase his power at the expense of his tribe or vassals. The great bulk of
Irish Tribesmen were cultivators known as the Féine (Faina) or free-tribesmen from whom the Brehon law is called Féineachas, or the" Law of the Free-tribesmen". In
progress of time many of these men in hours of distress naturally found themselves involved in something like pecuniary transactions with their head-chiefs, and owing to
poverty or for some other reason, were driven to borrow or accept cattle from them, either for milk or tillage. These tribesmen then became the chieftain's céiles (kailas)
or vassals. However they retained their tribal rights, always most carefully guarded by the Brehon law in their integrity.
In the case of a crime committed by an individual, ALL the Sept were liable. If the offence were one against the person and the criminal happened to die, then the liability
of the Sept was wiped out, for, according to the maxim, "the crime dies with the criminal ". If, however, the offence had been one causing damage to property or causing
material loss, then the Sept remained still liable for it, even after the death of the criminal. This Regulation resulted in every member of the Sept having a direct interest
in suppressing crime.
Gaelic Clan Names are generally connected to a Royal Family
Differing from the Heraldry of England in that while English Coat of Arms was allocated to a specific person
and was only legitimate during the recipient's lifetime, in Ireland Coats of Arms were allocated to Septs,
the namesakes of which in any generation could lay claim for all time being blood kin of the Tribe. Some argue that the Chief Herald has no right to take such liberties with the ancient traditions of Heraldry,
which was introduced to Ireland (and England) by the Anglo-Normans. However, it should be remembered that
the ancient Irish Septs had their own form of Heraldry and Symbols such as the 'Red Hand' of the Uí Neill Clan,
the stag of the MacCarthy Clan, the oak tree of the O'Connor Clan and so forth and these emblems were borne
by the Chieftains and their followers in pre-Norman times.
Therefore, the Chief Herald is merely reclaiming an ancient Irish tradition.
Burke's General Armory, a bastion of English heraldic tradition, lists many Irish Coats of Arms belonging
to a Sept rather than an individual. It is thus by genetic right that the individuals of each Clan by Name alone
can lay Claim to their Coats of Arms as an Historic Record of their Family's Achievements, crafted in the
ancient Symbols and synonymous with oral history handed down in Ireland from it’s Ancient Beginnings.
Each Clan's Escutcheon depicts symbolic images of Gaelic History - The Legend of the Blood Dripping Severed Hand
The Origins Myth - The Legend of the Blood Dripping Severed Hand
Escutcheon:Vert two lions rampant combatant supporting a dexter hand couped at the wrist erect, amputee bloody proper (displayed in first panel).
Crest: None recorded.
Motto: None recorded.
Blazon: The two Lions imply a Royal Sept, the Lion universally meaning Courage and Royalty. That the beasts are drawn within the Shield rather than ‘supporters of’ i.e. drawn
either side of the shield or supporting it from without, [in the case of English Heraldry Blazon by a Royal Family the latter would point to some deed or
accomplishment] The placement of the Figures describes an independent Royal Sept in it’s own right.
The severed red right hand: [dexter hand couped at the wrist gules] This is an ancient Clan Symbol dubbed 'The Red Hand of Ulster' appears on the Arms of that Province
and was included on the modern flag of Northern Ireland for a short period around the 1960's.
This symbolism is a feature of many coats of arms for families of the legendary Uí Neill [i.e. descendants of Niall] of which the O Reilly clan is purported
to be descended, as is the O Rourke Clan. The symbol is associated with the province of Ulster where these Clans were prevalent.
Legends: 1) Origin Myth: This Legend tells of a pact among the seven sons of Miledh of Esbain, the Celtic king who sons conquered Ireland. The rule of the new land would be
whosoever among them first touched the soil of the island. As the flotilla approached the shore, one of the sons took his sword, cut off his right hand and
threw it to land, thus claiming Sovereignty.
This story appears to relate to similar myth relating to Erimhon who is reputed to have been the first Celtic ruler of the northern part of Ireland. His
brother Ebher ruled the southern half. They were the only two of the seven brothers who survived the original conquest, appearing to be a continuation of
the earlier episode. As the first story conflicts with the Laws of Ireland relating to the abhorrence of any physical imperfection of kings, it would seem
that this legendary king may perhaps have subsequently been one of the two surviving brothers of the first segment and possibly somehow the source of
the ultimately abhorrent physical defect rule for reasons lost in time possibly in a 'middle' segment. However there is another legend which may apply.
2) This Tale appears chronologically after the Origin Myth relating to a subsequent, King of the Tuatha Dé Danann (Nuada), who, the Saga tells, was of the owner of
an invincible sword, who had his right hand severed by Sreng during a great battle with the Fomorians [one of the earliest Legendary Tribes of Ireland].
No imperfect man being allowed to hold the throne, Nuada was forced to abdicate in favour of Bres. However, a silver hand was fashioned for him from
the power of ancient magic but still the people would not accept him as their King. The new aperture began to fester and the severed hand of Nuada was
eventually exhumed and with the power of ancient magic caused flesh and sinew to grow back around the prosthesis. Bres had proved to be a tyrant and
when the Tuatha de Danann exiled Bres. Nuada resumed his position as King but was later killed by Balor ....
Source and Further reading see Ireland's History in Maps.
One of the Gaelic Clans who displayed their Heraldry with symbols synonymous with the 'The Red Hand of Ulster'
was the Ó Raghallaigh Clan - (O) Reilly their Escutcheon displayed above and below and is unique to the Reilly Clan
click on image to enlarge or see top panel
Ó Raghallaigh - (O) Reilly - County Cavan - Uí Briuin Breifne
The Ancestry of Raghallaigh and their blood cousins the O’Rourkes, is well documented and is purported to date back to about the third Century AD. According to legend,
around the beginning of the new millennium the O’Rourke and O Raghalliah Clans were ever battling for supremacy. The O Rourkes, the then more powerful Sept gained
dominance and ruled for some generations. The O’Reilly Sept eventually regained their former power in AD1126, ruling over East Breifne for the next four hundred years
to AD1607. The Ancestry of the O'Reilly [Riley] Sept among others are said to derive from the first High King of Ireland, Conn of the Hundred Battles, around AD100.
The O'Riley Clan Story
Ancient Tales of O Raghallaigh
from various excerpts based on the Annals of the Four Masters at Ireland's History in Maps.
The Beginning: Con Cetchathach or ‘Conn of the Hundred Battles’ was a famed Warrior/King, purported the 110th Monarch of Ireland who ruled from AD123-157. Conn is
also mentioned to be the 45th in line of descent from Milesius. There are many stories of ancient tribes whose arrival outdated that of the Gael and their
ancient progenitor King Milesius (Milidh) who were said to arrive from Spain.
Prior to the arrival of sons of King Milesius the mythological tribes in Ireland were said to include the Fomorians (Fomhóire), the Partholonians, the
Nemedians, the Fir Bolgs and the Tuatha de Danann. Stories of these people are among the more prominent among the pre-historical accounts of ancient
Hibernia (i.e.Eire - later Ireland). The division of Ireland by the sons of Milesius (the Gael) followed.
As the generations progressed we come to the life of Conn of the Hundred Battles, a legendary High King of Ireland was the son of Fedhlimidh Rachtmar
and his mother was Ughna Ollchrothach. He gained the throne of Connaught by overthrowing Mal who had killed Conn's father. Con's rival for the
kingship of Ireland was the King of Munster, Éogan Mór, also known as Mug Nuadat, the son of Rochruidhe, King of Ulster, who defeated Conn in ten
battles and took half of Ireland from his control. Mug was able to gain such power because his Druid predicted a famine, which he prepared for by storing
grain. Mug was killed when Conn led a night attack against his forces with all of his tribal leaders save one behind him. Conn’s forces ultimately
overwhelmed Mug’s army and Mug was killed in the process.
Conn reigned 35 years until he was barbarously slain by Tiobraidhe Tireach, son of Mal. This murder was committed at Tara, A.D. 157, when Conn
chanced to be alone, unattended by his guards; the assassins were fifty ruffians, disguised as women. Brian, the son of Conn of the hundred battles was
known to have had twenty-four sons [records of how many were legitimate are lost]. Collectively, his descendants became known as Ui Briuin, or the race of
Brian. One of his sons, Dui Galach was the founder of not only the O'Reilly, but also of the O'Flaherty, the O'Connor, and the O'Rourke Septs.
Over the generations the Direct Line moved in the direction of Dubhcren and Catalan Raghallaigh. Their blood cousin was Niall of the Nine Hostages son
of the king over Erin, namely, Eochaid Mugmedon. Legend tells of Niall's perilous birth and his encounter with a seemingly loathsome hag at a Well in Erin,
who demanded a kiss in return for water. Whilst his brothers would take no part, Niall complied, no only with a kiss but an offer to lie with her. The hag
revealed herself as beautiful announcing: “I am the Sovereignty of Erin.” She instructed Niall Neil to go to Tara where he was given rulership of the Kingdom.
He owes his Title in later taking one high ranking hostage from each of the nine surrounding Tribes thus forcing them into submission. By the 10th Century
he eventually became the High King of Ireland and the Septs under his rule paid him his customary dues which legend states he used the money to re-build
Churches destroyed in Conflicts and on other projects.
One such register records O Raghallaigh [the ancestor of the O'Rielly Clan] who was blood cousin to Brian;
"Here is the account of the customary right and rent of O Neill from Breifne;
From O Raghallaigh that he come with his full muster, without considering any benefit or hardship of his people;
twenty marks from Iochtar Tire;
twenty marks from the kin of Aodh O Raghallaigh;
twenty marks and five ounces from the kin of Aodh Caoch an Fheadha;
and ten marks of An Biatach;
and ten marks from the kin of Scon mac Toirdhealbhaigh;
and five marks on the country of Cathal mac Maolmhordha;
and five marks from the kin of Giolla Iosa Og;
and five marks and six ounces from the kin of Feidhlimidh mac Feaghail;
and the two and a half marks of Toirdhealbhach Og mac Glaisne;
the mark of Eoghan O Raghallaigh
Provision for one hundred and fifty men is the normal billeting to which O Neill is entitled from Breifne.
And twenty shillings from Domhnall O Raghallaigh,
and twenty shillings from Baile Trasna,
the mark of Seon O Raghallaigh
And it was 'narrow-cross money', or salfas which was due from everyone when the rent was first proclaimed.”
It is recorded that Raghallaigh died in the Battle of Contat in AD1014 but no proof of this event exists. What is historically certain is that his direct descendants
became known from this time on as ‘son of’ or ‘grandson of’ etc of Raghallaigh giving birth to the nameO’Reilly.
The Defeat of the O'Rielly Clan at the hands of their cousins the O'Rouke Clan
The first references to the O’Reilly’s in official registers show them to the north, governing a small area of the Lough Ramour. Their blood cousins, the O’Rourke
Clan had grown to be a more powerful Tribe then governing Leitrem and onflict between the two tribes was inevitable. Each tribe remained resolute and both
population numbers waned and ebbed in the midst of constant battles. In AD1161 a severe battle ensued which saw the O’Rourke Tribe, more powerful in numbers
and by force defeated the O’Reilly Clan, their King Godfraid [son of Raghallach] massacred in the battle. It took several years for the O’Reilly Tribe to recover.
The O'Rielly Clan and the Norman Knights.
Meanwhile across the sea the Normans, after Defeating the Armies of the Saxons at Hastings in AD1066 were content to survey their new won Land and its Wealth
but before long, their greedy eyes soon cast towards Ireland. Some have said that the O’Reilly Tribe, knowing that they had little hope of defeating the O’Rourkes
and after regaining their former lands, looked for an alliance. The Normans were a likely ally, they were not the only Clan to consider such a proposal. This has
never been proven although the O’Reilly's sudden rise to power over the O’Rourkes during this era seems to indicate this alliance.
O'Reilly Clan Regain their Former Power
By AD1169 the Normans had begun to count their allies in Ireland in readiness for the Conquest of Ireland. For Political favours the O’Reilly clan may have joined
forces with them as did other of the Gaelic tribes. The Tribes who had more to gain and little to lose thus compromised their native land for a regaining previously
lost Territories. The O’Rourke Clan stood firm in defense of their lands in Ireland. The Norman conquest led to King Tieran O’Rourke eventually preparations to
negotiate peace with Hugh De Lacy the Chief of the Normans in 1172, when during the negotiations he died in an underhanded way. This left the O’Rourke Clan
without it’s leader and they fell into abandonment whereas the O’Reilly Clan was gradually gaining more power. An uneasy peace shadowed over Ireland, which
lasted almost a generation.
In AD1220 Annadh O’Reilly died. He was the last one of the ancestry to be traditionally crowned King. It was also in this year that De Lacy [or more likely his son]
returned to Ireland with his looting army thinking he was facing a weak and inefficient enemy. His arrogance was only exceeded by his dullness and his under
-estimation of the O’Reilly Tribe who seeing the greed and betrayal of the Norman began passing the time preparing for a war in retaliation. In AD1223 De Lacy
launched an invasion on the County of Cavan, determined to erase completely the family of O Reilly and to seize all it's lands.
O'Reilly Clan Defeat the Normans
By AD1224 the O’Reilly Tribe raised the wall in Lough Oughter and in AD1226 they defeated the Norman battalion in Kilmore. The Norman forces suffered a
severe defeat in the battle in Bellavalley Gap. The O’Reilly Sept were the clear victors, the Norman threat was then removed from Ireland. The Victory also took
a great toll on the Reilly Clan, many children were lost as were brothers. The now modern day County of Cavan was from that time called Breifne o’Reilly and
this Tribe ruled over that part of Ireland for the next 450 years until 1607. During this time they were said to have built their own mint and coined money in Ireland
called 'The Reilly'.
Documents during the subsequent three centuries were thought to be held at the Four Courts in Dublin, Ireland’s Principal Repository, built in by 1796. The Irish
were slow in following the English mandate in 1538 to keep Parish Records although some churches did comply. By the early 19th Century many parishes had
begun to comply. A thousand years of Documents, Wills, Deeds and ancient Manuscripts, kept in the basement vault were destroyed 14th April 1922 purported
caused by the Republican Forces of Ireland when a fire erupted during the bombing of the building during the Irish Civil War. Many early Catholic Registers were
also held in the building however some scattered parish registers did survive, not yet handed over to civil officials. Although great effort is underway to call for any
documents held privately to reconstruct the lost archives it is extremely difficult to prove direct lineage prior to the disaster.
The Riley Family of Dublin
Biography of Michael Riley [c.1791-post 1851] born Dublin Ireland, resident Cheshire, England - Spouse: Catherine Coyne [c.1794-post 1851] born Dublin Ireland.
Biography of John Riley [1822-1874] - born Dublin, Ireland, migrated to Melbourne, Australia - Spouse: Eliza Tideswell [1824-1903] born Manchester, England
Biography of John Coyne Riley [1852-1911] born Manchester, England migrated to Australia with mother - Spouse: Amelia Ann Wright born London, England