O'Byrne (No.1) family genealogy

Lords of Ranelagh, County Wicklow

[1] Arms: Gu. a chev. betw. three dexter hands couped at the wrist ar. Crest: A mermaid with comb and mirror all ppr. Motto: Certavi et vici.

EVEN in the annals of Ireland it would be hard indeed to find a nobler record than that of the O'Byrnes of Wicklow. Through a long line of warriors and chieftains they were eminently distinguished for devotion to the sacred cause of Faith and Country. High-souled in their patriotism, fearless and fierce in defence of their Nation's rights, proud of their race, and intensely attached to the mountain crags and exquisitely picturesque glens of their ancient patrimony, they, during centuries of wrong, persecution, plunder and perfidy, held their ground invincibly, and fought against their ruthless oppressors with courage indomitable and fortitude heroic.

Their motto Certavi et Vici was truly appropriate. The love of freedom, "bequeathed from bleeding sire to son," burned so fiercely in their hearts, that it can scarcely be considered an exaggeration to say, they contended for four hundred years unconquered. It was almost as natural to them to fight as it was to breathe, and, in a sense, as necessary; because they were perpetually assailed, and every element of force and every base subterfuge, that fiendish minds could conceive, were made available to ruin and annihilate them. By nature dauntless and combative, yet merciful and humane; and by the treachery of perfidious enemies obliged to be ever watchful, it may be believed, that they almost slept with their battle-axes grasped, at all times ready to spring at the foe, repel aggression, aid their kinsmen, and jealously guard their stronghold, wooded hills and crystal watered valleys of the beauteous region which they ruled and loved.

Not only do they figure prominently in the pages of Irish history, but their deeds and exploits have furnished touching themes for song and story. No persecution, however malignant, could deter them, no allurement could seduce them. Threat and overture they spurned with equal contempt; and to their eternal honour it is stated, that there was never "a king's or a queen's O'Byrne," and that they were the very last of the Irish clans to yield to the Saxon. Some writers seem to think, that they did not always receive that prompt aid from other septs which their common cause demanded; but it is not our purpose to draw contrasts, and most assuredly it is not our desire to pass, perhaps, unmerited censure. All created beings have their faults and follies, and exemption from the sins and frailties of human nature cannot be claimed for the O'Byrnes; but it can be pleaded in extenuation of their errors that their virtues were many and their sufferings great.

Numbers of the O'Byrnes, in different generations, consecrated themselves to the service of the Church, at the altar, and in the cloister; some of them founded abbeys and generously maintained them. Their Faith was as warm in them as the burning rays of the noonday sun, and as immovable as the base of "The Golden Spears" which tower high in their beloved Wicklow; and proudly it can be proclaimed, that the mother of the great Saint Laurence O'Toole was an O'Byrne.

At the present day, the descendants of the O'Byrne clan are, perhaps, more numerous than those of any other. At all events, they appear to be more concentrated, and to cling more tenaciously to the historic county of their ancestors. The saying that: "You will find a Byrne in every bush in Wicklow," can be easily understood; but it is strange and sad to think, that few of them have retained the distinctive prefix O'. No clan has a more rigid right to it. One historian alludes to the name of the O'Byrnes as "heroic;" surely, those who bear it should be proud of it, and all the O'Byrnes—those who can trace their pedigree connectedly, and those who cannot, should keep before their vision the noble example of their martyred forefathers. The old spirit of clanship should bind them firmly together in love for kith and kin and country.

The past glories of our land should urge them to labour incessantly for her future greatness. Thank God, she is not now as she was in generations gone by, still she is sadly placed in many respects, and her children are bound by ties the tenderest, and obligations the most sacred, to make every effort that the precepts of religion, the principles of justicc, the dictates of honour, and the chastened sympathies of exalted minds can sanction for her elevation amidst the proudest nations of the earth. Ireland is a country of beauty, fruitfulness, and holiness.

The O'Byrnes of the past loved her with all the intensity of their impassioned souls. In proof of their faithfulness to God and their country, they hesitated not to pour out their blood in crimson streams. The same sacrifices are not now required from their descendants, but the latter should be guided and governed by the characteristic instincts of their great race, which would infallibly teach them, that their first and highest aspiration should be to live and die for God and Ireland.

MOROGH (or Murcha), who is No. 102 on the "O'Toole" pedigree, had a younger son Faolan, who was the ancestor of O'Brain; anglicised O'Byrne, Byrne, Byron, Brain, etc.

103. Faolan, the 18th Christian King of Leinster: son of Morogh.

104. Rory: his son; the 23rd King whose brother Bran was the 28th King.

105. Diarmaid: his son; had a brother Roderick who was the 29th King.

106. Muregan (or Morogh): his son, the 35th King; whose son Donal was the 37th King; and son Cearbhall, the 38th King.

107. Maolmordha: his son; m. Joan, dau. of O'Neill, Prince of Ulster.

108. Bran Fionn ("bran:" Irish, impetuous as a mountain torrent; "fionn," fair-haired): his son; the 42nd King; a quo O'Brain; m. the dau. of O'Sullivan Beara.

109. Morogh, the 45th King: his son; m. the dau. of O'Mahony of Carbery.

110. Maolmordha: his son; the 51st King; had a brother Faolan.

111. Bran, the 54th King; son of Maolmordha; taken prisoner in battle by the Danes of Dublin, who put out his eyes, and afterwards put him to death.

112. Donoch na Soigheadh ("soighead" or "saighead:" Irish, a dart, an arrow; Lat. "sagit-ta"): his son; was the first of the family who assumed this sirname.

113. Donoch Mór: his son.

114. Donal na Scath ("scath:" Irish, a shadow): his son.

115. Dunlang Dubhchlarana ("dubhchlarana:" Irish, a small, dark person): his son.

116. Olioll an Fiobhbha ("fiobhbha:" Irish, a wood: his son; had a brother named Angar.

117. Moroch Mór: his son.

118. Donoch: his son. Had two brothers—1. Melachlin; 2. Dalbh, a quo Gabhail Dailbh.

119. Ranal: son of Donoch; a quo Gabhail Raighnaill; had a brother named Lorcan.

120. Philip: son of Ranal.

121. Lorcan: his son.

122. Ranal: his son.

123. Connor: his son.

124. Donal Glas: his son.

125. Hugh: his son.

126. Shane (or John): his son.

127. Redmond: his son.

128. John: his son.

129. Hugh: his son; d. 1579.

130. Fiacha (or Feagh): his son. Defeated Lord Grey de Wilton, at Glendalough, in 1580; and in 1597 was killed, by the English soldiers, under Sir W. Russell. Had a brother John, who commanded a military contingent from Wicklow, in aid of the O'Neill, Prince of Tyrone, against the English army in Ireland, temp. Queen Elizabeth; two other brothers—1. Connell, 2. Charles, both of whom were slain in battle; and a sister Esibel. Was twice married: first wife was a Miss O'Byrne; second wife, Rose, dau. of Luke O'Toole of Fercoulen and Castlepevir. Had three sons and two daughters: the sons were—1. Phelim; 2. Raymond, a J.P. for Wicklow; living in 1625; buried at Killevany Castle, shown on the Ordnance Map as "Raymond's Castle." 3. Tirloch, who, attempting to betray [2] his father, was by him delivered to the English, and executed in Dublin. One of the daughters was married to Rory Oge O'Moore; the other to Walter Reagh Fitzgerald.

131. Phelim: eldest son of Fiacha. Submitted to Queen Elizabeth, in 1600, who granted him lands in the co. Wicklow. Will is in the Probate Office, Dublin; it is dated from Clonmore, 1632. He was M.P. for Wicklow in 1613; in prison in Dublin, 1628; and d. at Clonmore, in 1632. Married Winifred M. Toole, and had nine sons and one daughter: the sons were—1. Brian, who was committed to Dublin Castle, 1625; was at Meeting of the Confederate Catholics in Kilkenny in 1641; and is mentioned in Cromwell's Denunciation, 1652. 2. William, ancestor of Brain,[3] in England. 3. Hugh, a Colonel of the Confederate Catholics, 1611; proclaimed a "Rebel," same year; living in 1652. 4. Gerald (or Garrett), living in 1604. 5. James, living in 1603. 6. Tirloch, living in 1628, had three sons and one daughter: the sons were—Henry, Gregory, and Hugh; the daughter was Mary, m. (according to the De La Ponce MSS.) to Owen O'Rourke. 7. Feagh, alias Luke. 8. Cahir (slain at Aughrim, co. Wicklow, 1657), who had Hugh,[4] who had Charles, who was living about 1697, and is mentioned in the Leabhar Brannagh. 9. Colla. The daughter m. John Wolverton, and d. in Connaught.

132. Brian: eldest son of Phelim. Had two sons—1. John, who was a Colonel of the Confederate Catholics, in 1641; 2. Hugh.

133. Hugh: second son of Brian.

134. William: his son.

135. John: his son.

136. Lawrence: his son; migrated to America, in 1818.

137. Brian (2): his son.

138. Lawrence Byrne, of Pikeville, near Baltimore, Maryland, United States, America: his son; living in 1877.

139. Richard MacSherry Byrne: his son. Had two brothers—1. Charles, 2. Bernard; and two sisters—1. Anna, 2. Eliza: all living in 1877.


[1] O'Byrne: Feagh O'Byrne, who is No. 130 on this pedigree, and who is commonly known as "Feagh MacHugh O'Byrne" (which means Feagh, son of Hugh O'Byrne), resided at Ballinacor, in Glenmalure; and was chief of that sept of the O'Byrnes called Gabhail Raighnaill (pr. "Gaval Rannall"). His father, Hugh, who died in 1579, was far more powerful than The O'Byrne, and possessed a large tract of territory in the county Wicklow. Upon the death of The O'Byrne, in 1580, Feagh MacHugh O'Byrne became the leader of his clan, and one of the most formidable of the Irish Chieftains. In 1580 he joined his forces to those of Lord Baltinglass, and defeated Lord Grey. After holding out in the rocky fastnesses of his principality for several years, he was, in 1595, driven up Glenmalure, and his residence at Ballinacor was occupied by an Anglo-Irish garrison. He then made terms, but seized the first opportunity of driving out the garrison, and razing the fort. He was killed in a skirmish with the forces of the Lord Deputy, in May, 1597, and his head was impaled on Dublin Castle. The family estates were confirmed to his son Felim (or Phelim), by patent of Queen Elizabeth, but he was ultimately deprived of them by the perjury and juggling of adventurers under James I.; and although in 1628 acquitted of all the charges brought against him, he was turned out upon the world a beggar.—WEBB'S Compendium of Irish Biography.

Of this family also is Doctor John Augustus Byrne, of Dublin, living in 1887; who was born in 22 Wellington-quay, Dublin, on the 9th of April, 1827. Having received his preliminary education at Mr. Walsh's school in Bolton-street, Mr. O'Grady's in D'Olier-street, and from private tutors, Dr. Byrne entered Trinity College, and graduated B.A. and M.B. in 1848. In 1858 he became Assistant Master to the Rotunda Lying-in-Hospital, under the Mastership of Dr. McClintock; taking, in 1864, the diploma of the College of Physicians. Doctor Byrne is Professor of Midwifery in the Catholic University Medical School, and Gynaecological Surgeon to St. Vincent's Hospital. He is a past President of the Dublin Obstetrical Society, Physician to the Grand Canal-street Dispensary, and Honorary Fellow of the San Francisco Obstetrical Society. He has contributed a large number of papers to the Dublin Journal of Medical science and to the Medical Press. Doctor Byrne's mother was Anne, daughter of W. Griffith, an extensive leather merchant, in his time, in Dublin. He is married to Kate, daughter of the late John Quinn, of Aubrey House, Shangannagh, and has one son and three daughters.

[2] Betray: By some members of this family this assertion has been strenuously denied.

[3] Brain: This sirname appears to be derived, by metathesis from "Brian." Unhappily, at that period and long afterwards, an Irishman might not, under his Irish patronymic, expect favour or affection from the authorities in England or Ireland. Hence the changes, at the time, of many Irish sirnames; and hence some members of the "O'Byrne" family, for instance, anglicised their names Byron, Brain, etc.

[4] Hugh: This Hugh had, besides Charles, two other sons—1. James; 2. Edmond, who was buried in Clonmore Church-yard, co. Carlow, in 1777, and who left three children—namely, Murtogh, John, and Anne who married a Ryan, in the co. Carlow. This James of Clonmore, but then of Ballyspellin, co. Kilkenny, son of Hugh, had four sons: 1. Pierre, 2. Edmond, 3. James, 4. Phelim. This Pierre had Margaret, who m. —— Meagher, and had Maryanne, who m. John Cosgrave, of Castlewood-avenue, Rathmines, co. Dublin.