Origin of the O'Connor Clan Name


O’Connor means descended from Conchobhair ( dog or hound-loving) , and is today one of the most common surnames in Ireland. Conchobhair was descended from the Milesian Kings of ancient times and Conchobhair ruled Connaught in 971, during the Viking Age.

The O’Conor clan was subdivided again into the O’Conor Don, O’Conor Roe and O’Conor Sligo families. The former survives to the present day and their seat is at Clonalis near, Castlerea, Co. Roscommon.

O' Connor Clan, Connachta, brian Boru

This clan was often referred to as the Royal O’Conors, possibly as this line has produced two High Kings. The first Turlough Mór (creator of the Cross of Cong) reigned from 1119 until 1156, and his son Rory O’Connor from 1166 until 1198. Rory was the last High King in Ireland and fought for many years to prevent the Normans from reaching Connaught across the Shannon. Father and son are buried in Clonmacnoise.

In 1201 a Cathal Cromhdearg (Charles of the Wine-red Hand), reputedly the illegitimate son of Turlough Mór became King of Connaught. Legend tells how he was banished and cursed with a red hand by the jealous wife of Turlough, until one day whilst working in the rye fields as a lowly labourer, he was revealed as the true heir to the Kingship of Connaught. "Cathal's farewell to the rye" is a proverb meaning a farewell never to return.

Their coat of arms bears a green oak tree on white background with a knight's helmet and arm bearing a sword and a snake.

Their motto is ‘From God every help.’ ‘O’Dhia gach aon cabhair’ and religion was of great importance to the O'Connor clan. Cathel founded many abbeys such as Ballintubber Abbey in 1216. The O’Connors also built many castles and Turlough it is said built the first three stone castles in Ireland as well as the first stone bridges over the Shannon and the Suck. He is also remembered as the founder of Tuam Cathedral with its splendid chancel-arch and the unique cross.

Visit the Castles of the Famous O'Connors

Ballintubber Castle, the seat of the O’Connor Don until the 1600s, was built by Hugh O’Connor in the 14th century. Lost in Cromwellian times it was regained in the 19th century by Charles Owen O’Connor, who became O’Conor Don and inherited Clonalis estate. The title is today held by Desmond O’Conor Don of Sussex.

Clonalis House is open daily to visitors and provides accommodation.

Roscommon Castle was also an O’Connor stronghold.

Carrigafoyle Castle, known as the Guardian of the Shannon was the seat of the O’Connors of Co. Kerry, near Ballylongford in Kerry. The O’Connors of Ulster were known as the O’Connors of Keenaght and were quashed by the O’Kanes.

Rathangan Castle was the original family seat of the O’Connors of Offaly (Fály) who also have a royal line, and are descended from King Cathaoir Mór of the 2nd century. Their castle was captured by the Fitzgeralds in the 1400s and so the seat moved to Daingean recalling Daingean Ua bhFáilghe the ancient island fortress of the O'Connors.