Ó Ruairc

Rev Patrick Woulfe

Ó RUAIRC—IIO Ruairc, O Rowarke, O'Rourke, O'Roarke, O'Rorke, Rourke, Roarke, Rorke, &c.; 'descendant of Ruarc' (older Ruadhrac, from Norse Hrothrekr); the name of several distinct families in different parts of Ireland. The O'Rourkes of Breifney, one of the most celebrated families in Irish history, were chiefs of the great clan of Ui Briuin Breifne, whose territory comprised the present counties of Leitrim and Cavan. Three of them, in the 10th and 11th centuries, were kings of Connacht. As lords of Breifney, they sometimes ruled over a district extending from Kells in Meath to Drumcliff in Sligo; but after the 12th century, their power gradually declined. O'Reilly became lord of East Breifney, the present Co. Cavan, and O'Rourke's lordship was confined to West Breifney, the present Co. Leitrim, which was known as Breifney-O'Rourke. The O'Rourkes took a leading part in the Elizabethan wars, in which they suffered severely, but retained considerable property down to the Cromwellian confiscations. Many of them attained to high distinction in the military service of continental powers, especially of Poland and Russia. A branch of the Ui Maine, in Co. Galway, also bore this name, but was never very numerous and, if it survives, cannot now be distinguished from Ó Ruairc of Breifney. The same applies to the other families of the name, some of whom are mentioned above under the form of Ó Ruadhraic.

Alphabetical Index to Irish Surnames