February 16th 2010 Dr. Dermot Devlin: From Aileach to Tullyhogue
Aileach ( Co. Donegal): stoney place
Tullyhogue (Co. Tyrone): Tulach na nOg: where young men gathered round their chieftan.
In fifth century Ireland, Donegal chieftan Niall na Naoi nIallach (Niall of the Nine Hostages)
saw the seas as a path to a better future and plundered England-the future patron saint of
Ireland, St. Patrick, being one of his captives.
Niall left behind him 14 sons, including Eoghan (Inis Eoghain) and Conall (Raphoe).
In the 8th and 9th centuries, Niallʼs descendants pushed into Derry and central Ulster.
Struggle for power ensued between the OʼNeills and the Mc Loughlins. At a battle at the
banks of the Stule,Omagh, the OʼNeills wiped out the Mc Loughins, leaving the Oʼ Neills as
political head of central Ulster.
The OʼNeills were politically astute. Scotch soldiers-Mac Donalds- from the gaelic islands
settled at Galbally(townland of the Galls(foreingers) fought OʼNeill battles and remained
loyal to the chieftan.
The Devlins,Ardboe, were constables for the OʼNeills; the Donnellys, solictors; the Quinns,
Ballyquinn(Mountjoy) civil service. The OʼHagans, descendants of Eoghan OʼNeill,played a
leading role in the wipeout of the Mc Loughlins. The same OʼHagans lived on a hill at
Tullyhogue. The Campells were a church family as were the Mallons. The Mc Guires of Fermanagh and the Mac Mahons of Farney. Each family had a poet: OʼCathain\OʼKane; McNamee .
The latter was the OʼNeill poet: he had equal status with OʼNeill but no power.
All these families around the OʼNeills elected OʼNeill as their chieftan at a secular ceremony
at Tullyhogue. Oʼ Kane, yielding a white wand, would have directed OʼNeill to honorably
impose law on all. OʼNeill would have placed his foot on the mark of a shoe in the stone
chair (which had been brought to Tullyhogue fron Aileach). The poet would have
declared,”this is the OʼNeill”.
In the 14th and 15th centuries, the OʼNeills began to split:
from Clandeboye to south Derry:Aodh Bui from Tyrone to Portugal;
south Armagh, OʼNeill of Fews,survived to the 21rst century;
Strabane- they never stood together; there was always conflict between them.
Each of the big families had poem books or handwritten manuscripts in which were the
familyʼs history/genealogy; except for the Tyrone OʼNeills as the Tudors had banned the
In 1604,Mountjoy smashed the stone at Tullyhogue. Caulfield got the OʼNeill lands.
There hangs in the Vatican a portrait of Hugh OʼNeill with the Pope and the Spanish