The O’Riordans of Ballingeary.




Mike O’Riordan from Southampton traces his family’s history from ancient times through Ballingeary to his present home in the south of England.


Early Irish situation.


The ruling dynasties in Munster of the first millennium AD are referred to as the 'Eoganachta'. This name comes from one 'Eogan Mor' son of Ailill Olum and grandson of Mug Nuadat (devotee of Nuada) Nuada is a mythological figure common to Irish and British Celtic religion. In Britain he was known as Nodens - there was a temple devoted to him at Lydney in late Roman times.


Ailill Olum was said to have died in 227 A.D. The revolt of the 'Firbolgs' was said to have occurred in 100A.D. and from somewhere in this period came the concept of two halves of Ireland.


The north was Leth Cuinn ( Con's half - Con of the 100 battles from whom Connaught is named ) and the south was Leth Moga ( Mog's half ) .


In the centre and north of Munster were the Muscraige with a string of petty kingdoms on the borders.

These included – Eile, Araid, Glasraige, Tacraige. These people were loosely controlled by Eoganacht Cashel until the rise of Brian Boru and the Dal Cais of Co Clare around 1000 A.D.


In 1058 Turlough O'Brien invaded Munster. He was the son of Tadc who had been killed by the Eile at the instigation of Tadc's brother Donnchad in 1023.


Donnchad was the son of Brian Boru and rival of Turlough, his nephew. Donnchad had abandoned Limerick but gave battle to Turlough at Sliabh gCrot in Co Tipperary. This was a decisive defeat for Donnchad and a turning point in history. It was also where Righbardan King of Eile and progenitor of the O'Riordan sept was killed. Turlough assumed the Kingship in 1063.Donnchad died in Rome in 1064 on a pilgrimage. From 1118 O'Briens were making extensive settlements in Munster although the O'Conors of Connaught became dominant during the 12thC.


Kingdom of Eile

The petty kingdom of Eile was founded by the same family of people as the Eoganacht although a minor branch.


Eoghan being the first son of Ailill Olum, Cormac Cas the second - from whom came the Dal Cais.


The third son of Ailill Olum was Cian who was the progenitor of Clan Cian. 7th in line from Cian was Eli Righdeard from whom the name Eli derives (from 'A long way to Tipperary' by June O'Carroll Robertson). 24th in line from Cian was Cearbhall (Carroll) the progenitor of the O'Carroll sept and from whom the Riordans issued - Cearbhall was the great grandfather of Righbardan who died at Slieve gCrot. The original extent of Eile included the baronies of Ballybritt and Clonlisk in the south of Co Offaly and the baronies of Ikerrin and Eliogarty in the north of Co Tipperary. The town of Birr in Offaly may have been the main seat. Other castles were Dunkerrin, Kinitty and Emmell. The sanctuary of Seir Kieran lies to the west of the Slieve Blooms between Birr and Roscrea. The O'Carrolls clung to the area of Nenagh (not originally part of Eli) in the west of Tipperary until recent times.

The area known as Ely O’Carroll encompassed the barony of Ikerrin only.


MacCarthy Lordships.

The senior of the Eoganacht groups in Munster was Eoganacht Caisel based around Cashel in the south of Co. Tipperary as previously stated. From about the 11th C. surnames came into common use among the Irish clans and at this time Caisel was ruled by Carthach (d.1045) from whom the MacCarthys take their name. This was a time of upheaval in Munster as the O'Briens of Dal Cais were expanding eastwards. There was a nominal partition of Munster in 1118, which ceded the north of the province to the O’Briens, and Muiredach MacCarthy retained the southern part.


Two generations later in 1151 Diarmaid MacCarthy suffered a disastrous defeat and the MacCarthys were banished from the Golden Vale in Tipperary and took up residence in Lismore on the River Blackwater in Co Waterford. This caused a massive displacement of septs in Desmond (South Munster).


On the eve of the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1170 - the "Kingdom of Cork" comprised the area from Lismore to Mt Brandon and from the Blackwater to the sea. After 1170 the Normans occupied East Munster and attempted to exert control over the whole province. The MacCarthys , however, were able to reassert themselves and were granted lands around Macroom in the early 13th Century. The other Eoganacht groups appear to have lost ground at this time.


The first split from this main branch ( MacCarthy Mor) occurred in 1230 with a younger brother of Cormac Fionn called Domhnall taking Carbery from the O'Mahoneys. This group eventually became MacCarthy Reagh.


In the next generation further splits occurred due to expansion. One younger son of Cormac Fionn became Lord of Duhallow in the Blackwater valley.


The descendants of another son (the sixth) - Donncha an Drumin became MacCarthy of Aharas in Iveleary.


Cormac Fion died in 1247 at his stronghold of Mashanaglass east of Macroom. His eldest son -

Finghin - in turn became MacCarthy Mor and made great advances into Kerry. This line eventually settled in and ruled south Kerry from the Killarney area.

The third and last split came in the 14thC. when another junior branch was made Lord Muskerry and held the modern barony of Muskerry and land as far as Cork city. It was this branch that built Blarney castle and became the dominant group although MacCarthy Mor was still nominally the Chief of the MacCarthys.


It is known that the O'Riordans as followers of the MacCarthys were often "captains of soldiers" for them and it is for this reason that the distribution of Riordans is similar to that of the MacCarthys. They probably moved south into Desmond between 1118 and 1170 as a result of the defeats inflicted by the O'Briens. At this time the main MacCarthy residence was at Lismore. The main seat moved to east of Macroom in about 1220.The main seat of the O'Riordans is thought to be to the north of Macroom in the Laney valley.

It was probably at the death of Cormac Fionn MacCarthy in 1247 when the eldest son Finghin became MacCarthy Mor and the other brothers were given other territories, that some O'Riordans moved with them to new homes. They appear to have stayed until the post famine era in the late 19th Century. In the case of the Aharas group in Ballingeary (Inchigeela Parish) the associated O'Riordans were probably the ones referred to as the ' Carrignadoura Clan ' (one of three groups of O'Riordans in the parish according to local tradition recorded in the O'Donoghue papers).


The Riordans of the Bunsheelin valley

In the Parliamentary Returns of 1766 there were seven Riordan households recorded in this area of Inchigeela parish. They were :-

Owen and Denis at Aharas,

William at Gorteenakilla,

Mathew at Bawnatemple,

Cornelius at Gurteenowen and

Daniel and Owen at Coomdorragha.

The number of individuals in these households was recorded as fifty one. Sixty one years later at the time of the Tithe Applotment there were three tax payers recorded including Mathew Reardon who farmed land at Keamcorravooly and Dromanallig. It is possible that this Mat could have been born in about 1770 and be the son of the William at Gorteenakilla in 1766 although there are also other possibilities.


In 1852 when the Griffiths Primary valuation was carried out in this area there were eight Riordan householders recorded.


One of the householders at Keamcorravooly was Jeremiah Riordan who was probably the eldest son of Mat. Another householder at Keamcorravooly, Denis Riordan was probably a younger son of Mat. Their houses were situated about two hundred metres downhill from Maureen Creeds house where a track joins the modern road. Other families in the area were living at Aharas ,Gorteenakilla and Gurteenowen. Daniel Riordan at Gorteenakilla was probably another brother of Jeremiah and had a house and garden only with no land. He had married Margaret Lyhane of Gortnarea in 1833 and they had had five children. Denis may have married Hannah Hurley of Dromanallig in 1854.


In 1853 Jeremiah Riordan was listed as the postmaster in Bantry although he didn't hold this position for long and may have moved on to a sub office in the area such as Inchigeela.

He married Norry Reen of Bawnatemple in 1842 and their children were :- Mathew b.1843;Ellen b.1845;Denis b.1847;Mary b.1849;Daniel b.1852;Margaret b.1855;Norry b.1858; Joan b.1860 and Norry b.1862.


Jeremiah died in 1881 and the farm in Keimcorraboula was taken on by Mat who had married Margaret Cotter in 1874.This family seem to have emigrated soon after this. Two of Jeremiah’s daughters, Ellen and Mary, married O'Learys in 1869 and 1870 respectively while Daniel emigrated to England at about this time. By the time of the 1901 census there were no Riordans at Keamcorravooly, Gurteenakilla or Gurteenowen. There were three Riordan families at Aharas and one at Carignadoura.


Daniel Riordan emigrated in about 1870. He may have used the Cork-Gloucester route. Although Bristol was the main seaport of the south west of England the opening of the Sharpness canal in about 1830 had increased the traffic passing through Gloucester. Here he probably met Mary Ann Enon whose father was William, a bricklayer. Daniel and Mary moved north to Middlesbrough and married in 1871 in Stockton on Tees. Daniel is recorded as being a general labourer at this time. Hubert, their first child, was born in 1873. Middlesbrough was a rapidly growing, new town in the late 19thC with coal and iron as the main industries. It was quite common for coal or iron workers to move between industrial towns looking for better conditions and Daniel and his family moved to south Wales where they finally settled in Dowlais near Merthyr Tydfil.


Daniel and Mary had five sons and four daughters with another two sons dying in infancy. Sydney and my grandad Daniel George were the sixth and seventh of Daniel’s family respectively and they moved to Doncaster in England during the depression of the 1920s again to work down the pit. They each had one son only - my dad Richard James and his cousin Edgar.


Edgar stayed in the Doncaster area until his death in 1960 aged only 50.He had married Edna Allsopp and they had one son Terry. Terry married Claudia Smith and they have two daughters and live in Leicestershire. Richard James married my mother Audrey Lamb in 1946 and they lived in the London area for some years during which time my two older sisters were born. The family moved around during the 1950s before settling in the Southampton area where my dad found work in a synthetic rubber factory as a process controller. I was born in 1953 in Staffordshire during a brief stay in Leek. Dad died in 1975 aged 55.Sheila, my elder sister, emigrated to Australia in the 1960s and my other sister Barbara still lives near Southampton. I now live in Southampton with my wife Jennie (nee Reynolds) where the next generation of O’Riordans, in the shape of my daughters Kate and Becky, is continuing the story which began 2000 years ago in Ireland.