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Some Carroll Surname History

Pages, 73 to 76, borrowed from IRISH FAMILIES, Edward MacLysaght, 1972


Prior to the Gaelic resurgence, at the end of the last century, under the influence of the Gaelic League, and later of the Rising of 1916. a minor result of which was the resumption of the prefixes 0 and Mac so widely discarded two or three centuries earlier, the simple form Carroll was almost universally used. As MacCarroll, an entirely distinct surname (a note on which appears at the end of this section), is also often shorn of its prefix Mac, confusion may well arise in the case of the name Carroll. However, undoubtedly, the great majority of people called Carroll are, in fact O'Carrolls.

Before the Anglo-Norman invasion, there were six distinct septs of O'Carroll, the two most important of which were O'Carroll of Ely O'Carroll [Tipperary and Offaly) and O'Carroll of Oriel (Monaghan and Louth). The others disappeared, except as individuals, before Ihe end of the thirteenth century and need not he considered here—-0'Carroll of Oriel Lost his status of chief and his sept disintegrated as a result of the Anglo-Norman invasion (they cease to appear in the Annals after 1193). but the clansmen themselves were not dispersed, and a fair number have remained in their territory to this day. The very large and well-known tobacco firm, Carrolls of Dundalk, have their factory in this area, though it may be mentioned that, curiously enough, the head of it has substantiated a claim to be descended from the O'Carrolls of Ely 0'Carroll. That sept retained its Gaelic way of life and its distinct independence until the end of the sixteenth century, and its activities are frequently recorded throughout the Annals. They derive their name O'Cearbhaill from Cearbhal, Lord of Ely, who was one of the leaders of the victorious army at Clontarf (1014), and thus descend from King Oilioll Olum. Before the advent of the powerful Norman Butlers they possessed a very extensive territory in Co. Tipperary. but they were later restricted to the district around Birr, Co. Offaly.

Carroll has a high position in the list of most numerous surnames in Ireland, taking twenty-second place with an estimated population at the present time of approximately 16,000, the majority of whom belong to the four counties stretching from Cork to Kilkenny.

Many noteworthy O'Carrolls figure in' the " Annals of the Four Masters-" Maolsuthain O'Carroll (d. 1031}. confessor of Brian Boru and contributor to the " Book of Armagh," was of the Kerry sept. Margaret O'Carroll (d. 1451),famous for hospitality, encouragement of learning, ,and as builder of churches, roads and bridges belonged to the Ely O'Carroll sept, as did Charles Carroll ([737-1332), who is remembered as an Irish signatory of the American Declaration of Independence. It is with America rather than with the home country, that notable Carrolls have been associated during the past two centuries. The Dictionary of Amencan Biography includes four others closely related to the Carrollton family, for so their place In Maryland was called (not to be confused wIth Carrollton, a town in Georgia, U.S. A.), the most distinguished of them beuig Most Rev. John Carroll (1735-1815), the first Catholic bishop in U.S.A, and the first Archbishop of Baltimore. Rev, Anthony Carroll, S.J. {1722-1794} who was robbed iind murdered in a London street was a cousin of the Archbishop. Three members of the Ely O'Carroll sept distinguished themselves in the armies of James II and of France. The best known of these was Brigadier Daniel O'Carroll (d-1713).

As we have seen there is a distinct sept of MacCarroll - the Irish Mac Cearbhaill is now more usually anglicized as MacCarvill in Ulster where its mediaeval territory is indicated by the place name Ballymaceairoll. One of these, Donslevy MacCarroll (d- 1357), is described by the Four Masters as "a noble master of music and melody, the best of his time"; and. another, Mulroy MacCarroll (d. 1328}. was called Chief Minstrel of Ireland and Scotland : indeed the family was noted for its musicians, James MacCarroll (1814-1892), who emigrated to U.S.A. at the age of 17, was a well known American poet, dramatist and inventor. A Bishop of Cork and three Archbishops, of Cashel, in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries were MacCarrolls but these were probably of the Ely O'Carroll 5ept: it appears that its members sometimes used the prefix Mac instead of 0 during that period.

The name Lewis Carroll,famous as the author of Alice in Wonderland; is a nom de plume and has no connexion with O'Carroll or MacCarroll.


Maher, also written Meagher, is in Trish O'Meachair, derived from the word meachar, meaning hospitable—Maher is a word of two syllables, not pronounced Marr. Of the same stock as the O'Carrolls of Ely it belongs to the barony of Ikerrin in Co. Tipperary where it originated and where it is still more common than anywhere else in Ireland—in fact fifty per cent of the eight thousand people of the name come from County Tipperary. Their territory was near Roscrea, at the foot of the famous Devil's Bit Mountain and, unlike some Gaelic septs, they were not ousted by Norman invaders but remained in possession side by side with the Ormond Butlers.”…

borrowed from, "A Topographical and Historical Map of Ancient Ireland," compiled by Philip MacDermott, M.D., are FAMILIES IN IRELAND FROM THE 11th TO THE END OF THE 16th CENTURY, ( Link: )

Surname Title Patrimony
O’Carolan Chief Londonderry
O’Carolan Meath
O'Carroll Prince Tipperary
O'Carroll Chief Leitrim
O'Carroll Prince Kilkenny
O'Carroll Prince King's County
O'Carroll Prince Tipperary
O'Carroll Lord Kerry
O'Carroll Prince Louth

In, “Mughdhorna”, by Hugh McGough, you will find many interesting references to the different Carroll Clan’s in North and Central Ireland.
( Link: )

In the volume, “1000 Years of Irish Poetry” by Kathleen Hoagland, first published in 1931 is a classic portrait of the historical breadth of Irish Literature.

Included is the romantic poem, O’Carroll’s Sword.

O’Carroll's Sword

Hail, sword of Carroll!
Oft has thou been in the great woof of war,
Oft giving battle, beheading high princes.

Oft has thou gone a-raiding in the hands of kings of high judgments'
Oft has thou divided the spoil with a good king worthy of thee.

Oft where men of Leinster were hast thou been in a white hand,
Oft has thou been among kings, oft among great bands.

Many were there kings that wielded thee in fight,
Many a shield hast thou cleft in battle,
many a head and chest, many a fair skin.

Forty years without sorrow Enna of the noble hosts had thee,
Never was thou in a straight, but in the hands of a very fierce king.

Enna gave thee-'twas no niggardly gift- to his own son, to Dunling,
For thirty years in his possession, at last thou broughtest ruin on him.

Many a king upon a noble steed possessed
thee unto Dermot the kingly, the fierce:
Sixteen years was the time Dermot had thee.

At the feast of Alenn, Dermot the hardy-born bestowed thee,
Dermot, the noble king, gave thee to the man of Mairg, to Murigan.

Forty years stoutly thou wast in the hand of Alenn's high-king
With Murigan of mighty deeds thou never was a year without battle.

In Wexford Murigan, the king of Vikings, gave thee to Carroll:
While he was upon the yellow earth, Carroll gave thee to none.

Thy bright point was a crimson point in the battle of Odva of the foreigners,
When thou leftest Aed Finnlaith on his back in the battle of Odva of the noble routs.

Crimson was thy edge, it was seen at Belach Moon thou wast proved,
In the valorous battle of Alvy's plain throughout which the fighting raged.

Before thee the goodly host broke on a Thursday at Doon Ochtair,
When Aed the fierce and brilliant fell upon the hillside above Leafin.

Before thee the host broke on the day when Cealleadh was slain,
Flannagan's son, with numbers of troops, in high lofty great Tara.

Before thee they ebbed southward
in the battle of the Boyne of the rough feats,
When Cnogva fell, that lance of valor, at seeing thee, for dread of thee.

Thou wast furious, thou wast not weak, heroic was thy swift force,
When Aillil Frosach of Fal fell in front of the onset.

Thou never had a day of defeat with Carroll
of the beautiful garths (cattle enclosures),
He swore no lying oath, he went not against his word.

Thou never hadst a day of sorrow, many a night thou hadst abroad;
Thou hadst awaiting thee many a king with many a battle.

O sword of the kings of mighty fires, do not fear to be astray!
Thou shalt find thy man of craft, a lord worthy of thee.

Who shall henceforth possess thee, or to whom wilt thou deal ruin?
From the day that Carroll departed, with whom wilt thou be bedded?

Thou shalt not be neglected until thou come to the house of glorious Naas:
Where Fionn (mac Cumhaill) of the feasts is, they will hail thee with 'welcome'."

Page 71 to 73, “Clans and Families of Ireland and Scotland, An Ethnography of the Gael A.D. 500 – 1750,” © C. Thomas Cairney, Ph.D,

This is a very good narrative relating the relationship between the Gaels of Ireland and Scotland, ( Link: )

“The Ulaid

The Ulaid were the great Erainnian people who gave their name to Ulster, and it is they who are celebrated in the Ulster Cycle. Their direct royal representatives in historical times were the Dal bhFiatach of County Down, but they also encompassed the Ui Duach and Dal Riada as well.

The Dalbh Fiatach or MacDonlevys (Mac Duinnshleibhe) were a warlike clan that held great power in County Down and South Antrim until 1177, when they met and were defeated by the Norman army under John de Courcy, though only after brave resistance. The battle occurred near Downpatrick. After this defeat the MacDonlevys were reduced in power, although as late as 1273 they were referred to as kings of Ulidia (Uladh), the name of their original territory. Afterwards branches of the clan sought new homes as far away as Scotland. The main line became hereditary physicians to the O’Donnells, and had their new patrimony in Tirconnell (County Donegal). The MacDonlevys are also known as MacNultys or Ultachs (Macan Ultaigh) , which literally means "Son of the Ulidian."The MacNallys (Mac Con Ultaigh) of the ArmaghMonaghan border, whose name means "son of the hound of Ulidia," are also of Dal bhFiatach stock.

The DaL Riada were originally a tribe of North Antrim in Ireland, but from as early as the third century, and especially during the late fifth century there had been a steady settlement of the adjacent coastal and island areas of Scotland by these Dal Riada Scots. This area, which became the Scottish part of the greater tribal kingdom of Dal Riada, was separated from the rest of Scotland by mountains. The Scottish part of the tribal kingdom of Dal Riada was known as Argyll which means "coastland of the Gaels," for by this time the population of Ireland had long been Gaelic-speaking, and the Dal Riada considered themselves to be Gaels in the general sense, though nonetheless Erainn in the context of ethno-dynastic politics. About A.D. 500 the kings of Dal Riada took up permanent residence in the Argyle, and with the coming of the Vikings in the ninth century, the tribe, by then centered in Argyle, was cut off from their Irish collateral kinsmen in Antrim, the O’Quins of Antrim, who declined in power after the Anglo-Norman invasion. The chief kindreds of the Dal Riada of Argyle, the Cineal Loairn and the Cineal nGabrain, soon spread into much of Scotland with the uniting of their kingdom and the Kingdom of the Picts (Chapter IV).

The Cineal Loairn derive their descent from Loam, son of Erc, a king of Dal Riada in the fifth century. They originally inhabited the present districts of Loin (named for them) and Mull, with the adjacent mainland and island territory to the north and west. This territory comprised the northern part of Scottish Dal Riada, and when the time came for expansion, the Cineal Loairn migrated up the Great Glen. The chief kindred branches of the Cineal Loaimn were the Clann Duibhne, or Cam pbells, the MacGillivrays and Maclnneses, the Cineal Baodan, or MacLeans, the MacNaughtens, the MacNabs, the Clan Chattan, and the Carnerons, MacGillonies, MacMartins and MacSorleys.”

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