Branches of the Cenél Conaill

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The Cenél Conaill, or "kindred of Conall", are a branch of the Northern Uí Néill, who claim descent from Conall Gulban, son of Niall of the Nine Hostages, and allegedly the first Irish nobleman to convert to Christianity. Their kingdom was known as Tír Conaill, with their powerbase at Mag Ithe in the Finn valley, however they gradually expanded to cover what is now counties Donegal and Fermanagh. The Cenél Conaill clashed regularly with their kin the Cenél nEogain, eventually capturing the latters original power-base of Ailech in the Inishowen peninsula—in modern-day County Donegal—by the 12th century.

Below is a list of their principle clans and septs.

  Sept of Irish origin
  Sept of Scottish origin

Cenél Luighdech[edit]

The Cenél Luighdech (more commonly known as Sil Lugdach) descend from Lugaid mac Sétnai, the great-grandson of Conall Gulban. Their tribal territory extended from Dobhar (Gweedore) to the river Suilidhe (Swilly) in County Donegal. The O'Donnells and O'Dohertys who descend from this branch, were the two principal and most powerful septs of the Cenél Conaill. The most famous descendant of the Cenél Conaill is Saint Columba, who founded the monastery at Derry, and is claimed as being the grandson of Conall Gulban.[1]

(Common Forms)
Ó Domhnaill
(O'Donnell, Donnell)
Meaning: World ruler
Progenitor: Domhnall
Territory: Kilmacrenan, Donegal
Extra: In the 13th century they rose to power as kings of Cenél Conaill.
Ó Dochartaigh
(O'Doherty, Doherty, Dougherty)
Meaning: Hurtful
Progenitor: Dochartach
Territory: Raphoe, Donegal
Extra: Dochartach was 12th in lineal descent from Conall Gulben. The Ó Dochartaigh would rule Inishowen from the 13th to 17th centuries.
Mac Meanman
(MacMenamin, McManaman)
Meaning: Courage, spirit
Progenitor: Meanma
Territory: Donegal
Mac Daibhéid
(MacDevitt, MacDavitt, Devitt, Davitt)
Meaning: Descendants of David O'Doherty
Progenitor: David
Territory: Glenfinn, Co. Donegal; by the 15th c., also Inishowen
Extra: The McDevitt leaders served as counselors and emissaries for the O'Doherty leadership based at Elagh Castle, Elagh More Townland, County Londonderry
Mac Giolla Bhríghde
(MacBride, MacGilbride)
Meaning: Devotee of (St) Brigid
Progenitor: Giolla Bríde Ó Dochartaigh
Territory: Parish of Raymunterdoney
Mac Eachmharcaigh
(MacCafferty, MacCaffrey)
Meaning: Horse-rider
Territory: Donegal
Extra: Eachmarach was a popular personal name amongst the O'Donnells
Ó Baoighill
(O'Boyle, Boyle, Boal, Bohill)
Meaning: Pledge
Progenitor: Baighill mac Bradagain
Territory: Ballyweel (town of the O'Boyles), Tír mBoghuine and Tír Ainmireach


Cenél Aedha[edit]

The Cenél Aedha ("kindred of Aed") are descended from Aedha mac Ainmirech, great-great grandson of Conall Gulban, son of Niall of the Nine Hostages. His father, Ainmirech mac Sétnai was the brother of Lugaid mac Sétnai, founder of the Cenél Luighdech. The O'Gallaghers were among the leading clans of Cenél Conaill. The Cenél Aedha are said to have given their name to the barony of Tirhugh (Tír Aedha) in County Donegal.[2]

(Common Forms)
Ó Gallchobhair
(O'Gallagher, Gallagher)
Meaning: Foreign help[3]
Progenitor: Gallchobar
Territory: Ballybeit and Ballyneglack
Extra: Hereditary chief was marshal of the O'Donnell forces. Gallchobar was descended from Conall Gulban, allowing the Gallaghers to claim to be the most royal branch of the Cenél Conaill.
Ó Canannain
(Cannon, Canning)
Progenitor: Canann
Territory: Letterkenny
Extra: Letterkenny derives its names from the Ó Canannain sept
Ó Connalláin

(O'Conlon, Conlon, Conlan)

Progenitor: Connall
Territory: Tirconnel, Donegal and Crioch Tullach
Ó Maeldoraidh
Territory: Tirhugh

Cenél Eanna[edit]

The Cenél Eanna or Enda, or "kindred of Enda", descend from Eanna, the sixth son of Conall Gulban. They are listed as kings of Magh Ith, Tír Eanna, and Fanad in present-day County Donegal, a territory around the southern tip of Inishowen.

(Common Forms)
Ó Lapáin
(O'Lappin, Lappin, Delap)
Meaning: Possibly paw
Territory: Tirconnell, Donegal and then later Co. Armagh
Extra: One of the oldest hereditary surnames in Ireland and thus the world
Ó hEicnechan Meaning: Roughly O'Heneghan
Territory: Tirconnell
Extra: Cited in the annals as chief of Cenél nEnda
Ó Breasláin
(O'Breslin, Breslin, Breslane)
Meaning: Descendant of Breaslán
Territory: Inniskeel, Fanad peninsula, later Derryvullan, Fermanagh
Extra: Forced out of Fanad by the MacSweeneys in 1261 and migrated to Fermanagh where they became brehons to the Maguires.

Other Septs[edit]

(Common Forms)
Mac Ailín
(MacAllan, MacAlan, McCallion)
Meaning: Son of Ailín
Progenitor: Ailín
Extra: Clan Campbell Mac Ailíns were brought as gallowglasses to Tirconnell by the O'Donnells in the 15th century. In the early 1600s, the McCallions served the O'Dohertys and their leadership was based in Gleneely, Inishowen.

Cenél mBógaine[edit]

The Cenél mBógaine, or "kindred of Binny", descend from Énna Bóguine, son of Conall Gulban. The territory of the Cenél mBógaine is stated as Tír Boghaine, which O'Donovan equates to being the barony of Banagh, and part of the barony of Boylagh in County Donegal. The Laud 610 Genealogies, compiled c.1000 AD, give seven sons for Énna Bóguine- Secht maic Bógaine .i. Áedh Cesdubh, Feidilmid, Brandubh Caech Cluassach, Anmere, Crimthan Lethan, Fergus, Eichín & Melge.[4] However O'Clery's Book of Genealogies give a different listing- Ui. mic Enda bogaine mic Conaill gulban .i. Melge, Lugaid,Criomhthann, Anguine, Niall, Cathair. Mac don Chathair sin Caelmhaine diaruo mac an Conall errderc.[5]

Saint Crona (Croine Bheag) is descended from the Cenél mBógaine, being 5th in lineal descent from Énna Bóguine.

Cenél Duach[edit]

The Cenél Duach, or "kindred of Duach", are named after Tigernach Duí (Duach), son of Conall Gulban. Tigernach's son Nainnid is mentioned as being at the battle of Móin Daire Lothair (modern-day Moneymore, County Londonderry) where the Northern Uí Néill defeated the Cruithin. Baedan, grandson of Tigernach through Nainnid would rule as king of Tara for one year in AD 568.

See also[edit]


  • Robert Bell (1988). "The Book of Ulster Surnames", The Black Staff Press


  1. ^ Adomnan of Iona (23 February 1995). Life of St. Columba. Penguin UK. ISBN 9780141907413. Archived from the original on 26 September 2021. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
  2. ^ Woulfe, Patrick (1923). "Cineal Conaill - Irish Names and Surnames". Retrieved 31 May 2023.
  3. ^ "Gallagher - History of the Irish surname". 18 September 2022. Retrieved 10 May 2023.
  4. ^ "The Laud Genealogies and Tribal Histories". Archived from the original on 31 December 2018. Retrieved 18 September 2020.
  5. ^ The O Clery Book of Genealogies, Seamus Pender (ed.), in Analecta Hibernica, No. 18, 1951 pp. 1-198