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Clan Gatherings

Irish Clans Explained

Ireland, a land famed for her breathtaking beauty and incredible history, was once dominated by a clan system that can still be seen and felt in the names and townlands of people to this very day.

Once, centuries ago, before governments were established and books were written by the bloody pages of history, Ireland’s people were separated into groups and clans and this system of ruling dominated for hundreds of years.

We recently explored the various aspects of the Irish title system and thought we’d do the same with the history of Irish clans.

Irish Clans Explained

The Irish clan system was generally used from the Middle Ages right through until the 17th century and the word “clan” means “family” in Irish. This should give you an indication of what these groups represented. Clans, in general, were collections of people who lived, worked and survived together based on family, territory, interest or kinship connections. 

Clan kings “were normally "elected" from any one of the males comprised in the "deirbhfhine", the descendants of a deceased chief through to the fourth generation. Election frequently originated from a council of higher level kings and overlords, and these kings were often "selected" after battling with rival claimants.”

Medium Rock Of Cashel Co  Tipperary

The History of Irish Clans

Irish clans dominated the country for centuries and “from ancient times, Irish society was organised around these traditional kinship groups or clans. These clans traced their origins to larger pre-surname population groupings such as Ui Briuin in Connacht, Dal gCais in Munster, Ui Neill in Ulster, Fir Domnann in Leinster and Gaileanga  (the case for Mac Maoláin). 

Within those larger groupings there tended to be one sept (division) who through war and politics became more powerful than the others for a period of time and the leaders of some were accorded the status of royalty in Gaelic Ireland. Some of the more important septs to achieve this kind of power by the 2nd millennium were O'Conor in Connacht, O'Brien of Thomond in Munster, O'Neill of Clandeboy in Ulster and Kavanaghin Leinster.”

One of the most famous clans, closest to the Emerald Heritage land, was the MacDonnell clan who, throughout the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, dominated Ulster and, under the guidance of the infamous Sorley Boy MacDonnell, made the iconic Dunluce Castle their home and headquarters.

Irish Clans and Irish Titles

We recently explored the various Irish titles that exist and have existed over time and the Irish clan system intertwines at various points throughout the Emerald Isle’s history.

The majority of Clan titles were issued during the period of “Gaelic Nobility” which was eventually disbanded at some point during the late 16th century or 17th century. 

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