Arms of O'Sullivan
|Country||Kingdom of Desmond|
Kingdom of Ireland
|Founder||Suilebhan mac Maolura|
|Final ruler||Donal Cam O'Sullivan Beare|
|Cadet branches||O'Sullivan Mór|
O'Sullivan (Irish: Ó Súilleabháin, Súileabhánach) is an Irish Gaelic clan based most prominently in what is today County Cork and County Kerry. The surname is associated with the southwestern part of Ireland, and was originally found in County Tipperary and Kerry before the Anglo-Norman invasion. It is the third most numerous surname in Ireland. Due to emigration, it is also common in Australia, North America, Britain, and the rest of the world.
According to traditional genealogy, the O’Sullivans were descended from the ancient Eóganacht Chaisil sept of Cenél Fíngin, the founder of the clan who was placed in the 9th century, eight generations removed from Fíngen mac Áedo Duib, king of Cashel or Munster from 601 to 618. Later, they became the chief princes underneath their close kinsmen, the MacCarthy dynasty, in the small but powerful Kingdom of Desmond, successor of Cashel/Munster. The last independent ruler of the clan was Donal Cam O'Sullivan Beare, who was defeated in the Nine Years' War of 1594–1603.
Etymology and orthography
Ó Súilleabháin consists of ó (Old Irish úa) "grandchild, descendant", and the masculine genitive case of Súileabhán, viz. Súileabhán's grandchild/descendant. The female form in Modern Irish is Ní Shúileabhán; "ní" is the shortened form of iníon uí, iníon "daughter", uí, the genitive of ó "grandchild, descendant".
The etymology of the given name is uncertain. In his book titled The Surnames of Ireland, genealogist Edward MacLysaght states that “while there is no doubt that the basic word is súil (eye) there is a disagreement as to the meaning of the last part of the name.” It is interpreted as súildubhán ⇄ “little dark-eyed one” by Woulfe in Sloinnte Gaedheal is Gall, from súil ⇄ "eye," dubh ⇄ "dark/black," and combined with the diminutive suffix -án. Other suggested etymologies include "one-eyed" and "hawk-eyed."
O'Sullivan is the regular anglicization of the Irish name. Less common spelling variants of the name include: Sullavan, Sullivant, Sillivant, Silliphant, and Sillifant.
|Male||Daughter||Wife (Long)||Wife (Short)|
|Ó Súilleabháin||Ní Shúilleabháin||Bean Uí Shúilleabháin||Uí Shúilleabháin|
Some O'Sullivans in the midlands and south Ulster were originally (O) Sullahan (from Ó Súileacháin, probably from súileach, quick-eyed, according to MacLysaght). This surname has now almost entirely changed to Sullivan.
According to the genealogy recorded in the 17th-century Leabhar na nGenealach, the O'Sullivan clan claimed descent from the Eóganachta dynasty of the Kings of Munster (and via them, ultimately, from Milesius, Fénius Farsaid and Adam). The legendary founder of the clan, Suilebhan mac Maolura, is recorded as born in 862 as a descendant from the line of the kings of Munster, of the Eóganachta dynasty, eight generations after Fíngen mac Áedo Duib (d. 618).
Following the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169–71, Norman incursions into Munster were made in the 1180s. The O'Sullivan clan was forced from their original homeland in County Tipperary by the Normans in 1193. Dunlong son of Giolla Mochoda in 1196 from Tipperary to County Kerry.
They divided into several branches and the two main ones are:
- O'Sullivan Mór (Mór indicating larger or greater) in south Kerry, and
- O'Sullivan Beare in the Beara Peninsula, West Cork and South Kerry
The cadet branch of the O'Sullivan Mór dynasty is McGillycuddy of the Reeks (Mac Giolla Mochuda). Of the O'Sullivans Beare the cadet branch was the sept Mac Fineen Duff (Mac Fíghin Dúibh), now thought to be defunct.
The "Beare" suffix came from the Beara peninsula that was named for the Spanish princess Bera, the wife of the first King of Munster. They continued to be harassed by the Normans and so allied themselves with the McCarthys and the O'Donoghues.
The three clans defeated the Normans in 1261 at the battle of Caisglin near Kilgarvan, just north of Kenmare. They were again victorious the following year. These two battles settled the boundaries between the Normans of north Kerry (the FitzGeralds) and the three Gaelic families of south Kerry and west Cork.
Early modern period
The O'Sullivan Beare clan was further divided in 1592. When Dónal O'Sullivan, the chieftain, was slain in 1563 his son of the same name was but a child two years of age. The Irish laws of Tanistry required that the title of chieftain be passed on to the most capable of the dead chief's family. As a result, the clan decided that Owen, one of the brothers of the dead chief, would take over control of the clan and become Lord of Beare and Bantry. Owen acknowledged the English crown and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth.
In 1587 Dónal, now twenty-six years old, decided to claim leadership of the clan. He petitioned the authorities in Dublin, using primogeniture as the basis for his claim, whereby the oldest son should inherit his father's title regardless of his age at the time of his father's death. The English Commission in Dublin was receptive to his argument since they preferred to have the English procedure followed throughout Ireland. In addition Sir Owen had lost influence in Dublin due to implication in the Desmond Rebellion. The Commission found in favor of Dónal, who was now The O'Sullivan Beare. Sir Owen had to be content with Whiddy island and part of Bantry. He died the following year and was succeeded by his son, another Sir Owen.
The O'Sullivans and other clans provided shelter to 12-year-old Gerald FitzGerald when troops sought to capture him as the last heir to the Earlship of Desmond.
In the late 1590s, it was the Sullivan Mor clan and their close allies the McSweenys who bore the brunt of the fighting with the English forces. Donal, however, held the O'Sullivan Beare clan, held back from the fighting until the O'Donnells and O'Neills of Ulster entered the campaign.
By the year 1600 all of Munster was in a turmoil. As retribution for their support of the Desmond rebellion, the Munster clans lost over 500,000 acres (2,000 km2) of their land to English settlers. When the Earl of Clancarty died in 1596 his lands were parceled out as well to settlers.
King Philip III of Spain agreed to send help to his co-religionists in Ireland under the command of Don Juan D'Aquila. Rather than landing in Ulster, as suggested by O'Neill, the Spanish forces landed at Kinsale in County Cork to avoid encountering English warships in the Irish Sea. The war weary and decimated Munster clans had difficulty mustering an army to join the Ulster and Spanish forces. The Spanish were given the responsibility of forming the garrisons for the castles of the O'Driscolls and the O'Sullivans so as to free the Irish troops for the battles to come. The rest of the four thousand Spanish soldiers remained at Kinsale to await the arrival of the Ulster forces.
Donal O'Sullivan Beare was given command of the Munster forces, which consisted mainly of soldiers of his clan and those of the O'Driscolls, McSweeneys, and O'Connor Kerry. Daniel O'Sullivan Mor could only contribute token support because of the losses he had sustained in the previous years. Dónal marched to Kinsale with an army of one thousand men. He sent a letter to King Philip swearing allegiance to him as his sovereign. The letter was intercepted by English agents and was later used as reason for denying him pardon.
On 24 December 1601 at the coming of dawn the battle began. It was over in a matter of hours. It was a resounding defeat for the Irish forces. This was due in large part to the reluctance of the Spanish troops to leave the protection of the walled city of Kinsale and join the battle until it was over. O'Neill retreated back to Tyrone with his battered troops. O'Donnell handed over command of his soldiers to his brother and embarked for Spain to plead for more help from King Philip. General Aquila sued for peace and Lord Mountjoy, commander of the English, was only too happy to accept his request. Aquila agreed to surrender the castles his troops were defending. This meant that the O'Sullivans and the O'Driscolls had to fight the Spanish to regain their castles. Donal O'Sullivan wrote to King Philip complaining about the behavior of Aquila. When Aquila returned to Spain he was held in contempt by King Philip and put under house arrest.
Many of the O'Sullivan clan's non-combatants were sent to the island of Dursey to keep them out of harm's way. An English force led by a John Bostock attacked the small garrison guarding the island. They butchered the entire population of the island, women, children, and the garrison. They cast their bodies, some while they were still alive, onto the rocks below the cliff overlooking the sea.
Dónal O'Sullivan and approximately one thousand followers consisting of four hundred soldiers and the rest civilians began a journey to Leitrim to the castle of his friend Ó Ruairc (O'Rourke). He believed that he could hold out longer amongst his northern allies, the O'Donnells and O'Neills.
Carew declared them outlaws and decreed that anyone that aided them would be dealt with as outlaws as well. Throughout the 300-mile (480 km) trek they were attacked by English forces and Irish that were loyal to Elizabeth. The countryside had been ravaged by war and famine; the people along the way were trying to stay alive themselves. They could ill afford to provide any aid or food. They began the march on 31 December 1602. A detailed account of the march is provided by Philip O'Sullivan Beare, a nephew of Dónal O'Sullivan.[year needed]
Notable people named O'Sullivan
- Aisling Clíodhnadh O'Sullivan (born 1984), Irish comedian, actress, and screenwriter
- Andy O'Sullivan (Irish republican), Irish republican hunger striker
- Camille O'Sullivan (born 1975), Irish singer
- Cornelius O'Sullivan (1841–1907), Irish brewer's chemist
- Daniel O'Sullivan (disambiguation), several people
- David O'Sullivan (disambiguation), several people
- Denis O'Sullivan (golfer) (born 1948), Irish golfer
- Denis J. O'Sullivan (1918–1987), Irish Fine Gael TD from Cork
- Denise O'Sullivan (born 1994), Irish footballer
- Diarmuid O'Sullivan (born 1978), Irish sportsman
- Donal Cam O'Sullivan Beare (1561–1613), Irish chieftain
- Eddie O'Sullivan (born 1958), Irish rugby union coach and footballer
- Edward William O'Sullivan (1846–1910), Australian journalist and politician
- Eoghan Rua Ó Súilleabháin (Owen Roe O'Sullivan, 1748–1782), Irish Gaelic poet
- Eugene D. O'Sullivan (1883–1968), American Democratic Party politician from Nebraska
- Gearóid O'Sullivan (1891–1948), Irish teacher, Irish Republican Army officer, barrister and Sinn Féin and Fine Gael politician
- Gerald Robert O'Sullivan VC (1888–1915), Irish soldier in the British Army, recipient of the Victoria Cross
- Gerry O'Sullivan (1936–1994), Irish Labour Party TD
- Gilbert O'Sullivan (born 1946), Irish-born, UK-based singer-songwriter, who had several hits in the 1970s
- Gillian O'Sullivan (born 1976), Irish race walker
- Grace O'Sullivan (born 1962), Irish environmentalist and politician
- Graham O'Sullivan, Kerry Gaelic footballer
- J. T. O'Sullivan (born 1979), American professional football player
- Jacquie O'Sullivan (born 1960), British singer and songwriter
- Jan O'Sullivan (born 1950), Irish Labour Party politician, currently a Teachta Dála (TD) for Limerick East
- Jeremiah O'Sullivan (born 1842), Irish-born American Roman Catholic bishop
- Jerry O'Sullivan (disambiguation), several people
- John O'Sullivan (disambiguation), several people
- Sir John O'Sullivan (c. 1700 – c. 1760), a professional soldier in the service of France, known for his involvement in the Jacobite rising of 1745.
- Kevin O'Sullivan (baseball) (born 1968), American college baseball coach
- Laura O'Sullivan (born 1991), Welsh footballer
- Louise O'Sullivan (born 1973), Irish telecommunications executive
- Lance O'Sullivan (born 1963), New Zealand jockey, retired
- Maggie O'Sullivan (born 1951), British poet, performer and visual artist
- Marcus O'Sullivan (born 1961), Irish coach and former middle-distance runner based in the United States
- Maureen O'Sullivan (1911–1998), Irish cinema actress
- Michael O'Sullivan (disambiguation), several people
- Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin (1950–2018), Irish composer and musician
- Mickey O'Sullivan (1932–2012), American college baseball coach
- Muiris Ó Súilleabháin (1904–1950), Irish writer; author of autobiography Fiche Blian ag Fás (Twenty Years A-Growing)
- Nóirín O'Sullivan, first female Commissioner of the Garda Síochána
- Paddy O'Sullivan (1918–1994), female Special Operations Executive spy during World War II
- Pádraig O'Sullivan, Irish Fianna Fáil politician
- Pat O'Sullivan, American amateur golfer who won the 1951 Titleholders Championship
- Patrick O'Sullivan (born 1985), Canadian-born American professional ice hockey player
- Patrick O'Sullivan (disambiguation), several people
- Paul O'Sullivan Band (formed in 2014), Pop-Rock band where all four members are named Paul O'Sullivan.
- Peter O'Sullivan (disambiguation), several people
- Richard O'Sullivan (born 1944), English actor, notable for his sitcom roles in the 1970s and 1980s
- Ronnie O'Sullivan (born 1975), English professional snooker player
- Sean O'Sullivan (disambiguation), several people
- Seumas O'Sullivan (1879–1958), Irish poet and editor of The Dublin Magazine
- Shawn O'Sullivan (born 1964), Canadian boxer
- Siobhan O'Sullivan, Australian political scientist and political theorist
- Sonia O'Sullivan (born 1969), Irish Olympic runner
- Stephanie O'Sullivan (born 1959), Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence
- Terence Patrick O'Sullivan (1913–1970), English civil engineer
- Thomas C. O'Sullivan (c. 1858–1913), New York politician and judge
- Timothy O'Sullivan (Fianna Fáil politician) (1899–1969), Irish Fianna Fáil Party politician
- Timothy H. O'Sullivan (c. 1840–1882), American Civil War photographer
- Toddy O'Sullivan (1934–2021), Irish Labour Party politician
- Tyrone O'Sullivan (born 1945), Socialist and Chairman of Goitre Tower Anthracite Ltd., the owners of Tower Colliery.
- Vince O'Sullivan (born 1957), American racewalker
- Vincent O'Sullivan (1868–1940), Decadent American writer
- Vincent O'Sullivan (born 1937, New Zealand poet
- Wayne O'Sullivan (born 1974), Irish soccer player in Australia
- William S. O'Sullivan (1928–1971), Irish-American gangster
Notable people named Sullivan
- Alexander Martin Sullivan, Irish politician
- Andi Sullivan, American soccer player
- Andrew Sullivan, conservative author and political commentator
- Ann Sullivan (animator) (1929–2020), American animator
- Anne Sullivan, teacher and mentor to Helen Keller
- Anton Sullivan (born 1991/1992), Offaly Gaelic footballer
- Arthur Sullivan, the composer, best known for his work as part of Gilbert and Sullivan
- Barry Sullivan (American actor) (1912–1994), American actor
- Barry F. Sullivan (1930–2016), American financier
- Becky Sullivan, sound editor
- Billy Sullivan (1891–1946), American character actor
- Brian Sullivan, various people
- Brittany McKey Sullivan, winner of America's Next Top Model, Cycle 11
- Chandon Sullivan (born 1996), American football player
- Charles L. Sullivan, American politician
- Charles P. Sullivan, American lawyer and politician
- Charles Sullivan, American character actor
- Charles Thompson Sullivan (1884–1948), Canadian mathematician
- Christopher D. Sullivan, US Representative from New York from 1917 to 1941
- Chub Sullivan, Major League Baseball first baseman
- Con Sullivan, New Zealand-Australian rugby league footballer
- Cory Sullivan, Major League Baseball outfielder
- Dan Sullivan (United States Senator, R-AK) (born 1964), United States Senator from Alaska
- Dan Sullivan (Mayor of Anchorage) (born 1951), mayor of Anchorage, Alaska
- Daniel "Horse-Whisperer" Sullivan, horse tamer
- Danny Sullivan, race car driver and former winner of the Indianapolis 500
- Danny Sullivan (technologist) (born 1965), expert in search engine optimization
- Dennis Sullivan, American mathematician
- Dennis Michael Sullivan, American engineer
- Denny Sullivan, American baseball player
- Denny Sullivan (third baseman), American baseball player
- Eamon Sullivan, Australian Olympic swimmer
- Ed Sullivan, American entertainment writer who hosted a CBS-TV variety show, The Ed Sullivan Show.
- Edmund Joseph Sullivan (1869–1933), British book illustrator
- Elijah Sullivan (born 1997), American football player
- Eleanore Sullivan
- Sir Edward Sullivan, 1st Baronet
- Erik Per Sullivan, American actor, most known as Dewey on Malcolm in the Middle
- Fleury Sullivan (1862–1897), American baseball player
- Fleury F. Sullivan (1870–1951), American politician
- Francis L. Sullivan(1903-1956), Tony Award-winning Anglo-American actor
- Frances T. Sullivan, New York state assemblywoman 1991–2002
- Francis Stoughton Sullivan (1715–1766), Irish lawyer and Irish culture enthusiast.
- Gordon R. Sullivan (born 1937) American general
- Grant Sullivan (1924–2011), American actor
- Harry Sullivan (baseball) (1818–1919), Major League Baseball pitcher
- Harry Stack Sullivan, American psychologist and psychoanalyst
- J. W. N. Sullivan, journalist and writer of popular science
- Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan (1981–2009), American musician, composer and songwriter of California metal band Avenged Sevenfold
- James Sullivan, various people
- Jeremiah C. Sullivan, American Civil War general in the Union Army
- Jim Sullivan, various people
- John Sullivan, British writer
- John Sullivan, general in the American Revolution and Governor of New Hampshire
- John Sullivan (British governor) (1788–1855)
- John L. Sullivan, American prize-fighter
- Jonathan Sullivan, China specialist and political scientist.
- Joseph Sullivan, various people
- Justin Sullivan, frontman and lyricist of the British rock band New Model Army
- Kevin Sullivan (wrestler), American pro wrestler
- Kevin J. Sullivan (mayor), mayor of Lawrence, Massachusetts
- Kate Sullivan, Chicago news anchor
- Kathryn D. Sullivan, first American woman astronaut to walk in space
- Kyle Sullivan, American actor
- Laurence Sullivan, British writer
- Leo J. Sullivan (1905–1963), American politician
- Liam Kyle Sullivan, American comedian/actor
- Lily Sullivan, Australian actress
- Louis Sullivan (1856–1924), American architect
- Margaret Frances Sullivan (1848–1903), Irish-American writer, journalist, editor
- Mark T. Sullivan, American author
- Maud Durlin Sullivan (1870–1943), American librarian
- Maxine Sullivan (1911–1987), American jazz singer
- Michael Sullivan (disambiguation)
- Mick Sullivan, English rugby league footballer
- Mike Sullivan (Canadian politician), Canadian Member of Parliament
- Mike Sullivan (governor)
- Morris Sullivan, businessman and co-founder of Sullivan Bluth Studios, an animation studio
- Nicole Sullivan, American actress, voice actress, comedian
- Niki Sullivan (1937–2004), American rock and roll guitarist
- Pat Sullivan, winner of the 1971 Heisman Trophy
- Patrick Sullivan (American football executive)
- Patrick J. Sullivan (Pennsylvania politician), Pennsylvania congressman
- Patrick Joseph Sullivan, Wyoming senator
- Robert Baldwin Sullivan, Canadian lawyer, judge, and politician who became the second mayor of Toronto
- Roy Sullivan, American park ranger
- Sam Sullivan, mayor of Vancouver, British Columbia
- Stephen Sullivan (disambiguation), multiple people
- Stephanie S. Sullivan, United States Ambassador to the Republic of the Congo
- Steve Sullivan, North American NHL hockey player
- Susan Sullivan, various people
- Teresa Sullivan, president of University of Virginia
- Tim or Timothy Sullivan, various people
- William H. Sullivan, US ambassador
- Irish Family History, Dublin, 1865 p. 237. Genealogy: Óengus mac Nad Froích (d. 489, first Christian king of Munster), Feidlimid mac Óengusa ("Felim"), "Criomthan", "Hugh Dubh", Fíngen mac Áedo Duib ("Flan", d. 618), Seachnusa, Fiacha Laoch, Flan, Dubh-Jonracht, Murrogh, Eigherein, Maolura, Suilebhan.
- "Ó Súilleabháin". Sloinne. 5 December 2015.
- Byrne, Francis J., Irish Kings and High-Kings. Four Courts Press. 3rd edition, 2001.
- Charles-Edwards, T.M., Early Christian Ireland. Cambridge University Press. 2000.
- Cronnelly, Richard F., Irish Family History Part II: A History of the Clan Eoghan, or Eoghanachts. Dublin: 1864.
- Curley, Walter J.P., Vanishing Kingdoms: The Irish Chiefs and their Families. Dublin: Lilliput Press. 2004.
- Duffy, Seán (ed.), Medieval Ireland: An Encyclopedia. Routledge. 2005.
- Koch, John T. (ed.), Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia. 5 volumes or single ebook. ABC-CLIO. 2006.
- Laffan, Thomas (1911). Tipperary Families : Being The Hearth Money Records for 1665–1667. James Duffy & Co.
- MacLysaght, Edward, Irish Families: Their Names, Arms and Origins. Irish Academic Press. 4th edition, 1998.
- Mac Niocaill, Gearóid, Ireland before the Vikings. Dublin: Gill and Macmillan. 1972.
- Ó Corráin, Donnchadh, Ireland before the Normans. Dublin: Gill and Macmillan. 1972.
- O'Donovan, John (ed. and tr.), Annála Ríoghachta Éireann. Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland by the Four Masters, from the Earliest Period to the Year 1616. 7 vols. Royal Irish Academy. Dublin. 1848–51. 2nd edition, 1856.
- O'Hart, John, Irish Pedigrees; or the Origin and Stem of the Irish Nation 5th edition, 1892.
- O'Keeffe, Eugene (ed. and tr.), Eoganacht Genealogies from the Book of Munster. Cork. 1703. (available here)
- O'Rahilly, Thomas F., Early Irish History and Mythology. Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. 1946.
- Sullivan, Gary (2007). History of the O'Sullivan Clan: The Royal Blood of Gaelic Ireland. Gold Stag Communications, Inc. ISBN 978-0-6151-8013-7.