In the year 1131, Turlough O’Connor, Monarch of Ireland, along with his son, Roderic O’Connor, King of Conaught, and the men of Conaught, made a hosting into Munster plundering the land of Uí-Conaill-Gabhra and reducing the entire province. He divided it into two parts, Desmond, South Munster, and Thomond, North Munster. The first he gave to Donough MacCarthy, and the other he conferred on Connor O’Brien.
The O’Connell family at the close of the fourteenth century were dynasts, or chiefs of the south-western shores of Kerry, from the river Maine to the sea; prior to which they held sway over a large portion of Limerick, from whence they removed, yielding to the pressure of the O’Briens and Fitzgeralds. They derive their origin from a younger branch of the royal line of Heremon, son of Milesius of Spain, Conal Gabhra, who bestowed his name upon the baronies of Upper and Lower Connelloe, in Limerick, which, as part of his territory, remained in his descendants’ possession for centuries after his decease.
Aodh O’Connell, the lord of this sept, in the eleventh year of the reign of Edward III. (1338-1339), and his eldest son Geoffrey O’Connell, received from that monarch a commission to chastise and reduce some revolted septs of Limerick. Geoffrey did not succeed to the chieftaincy, which, by his death, devolved upon his brother, the second Aodh, who had more powerful antagonists than the septs with whom his father and brother contended; for, no sooner had he arrived at the head of his people, than his possessions were attacked by the celebrated Geraldines, whose power was paramount and second only to the O’Neil of the north. He married Margaret, daughter of Mahon Menery O’Brien, Prince of Thomond, whose mother was Una, daughter of Fiedlim O’Connor, Prince of Carcumbrudagh, in the County of Clare.
On the death of the second Aodh, his territories devolved on Geoffrey, his eldest son, the dynast of Iveragh, who took to wife Catherine, daughter of O’Connor-y-Connor, who made him the father of a noble family, of whom the eldest, who succeeded to the hereditary domains, was Donal O’Connell, who married the Lady Honora, daughter of O’Sullivan Beare, Lord of Dunboy, Beare and Bantry, in the county of Cork. He entered into a treaty with James Fitzgerald, the seventh Earl of Desmond. This treaty was a reciprocal compact, wherein the respective immunities of the two neighbouring chieftains were to be mutually preserved.
Aodh O’Connell, being the third of that name, succeeded his father, Donal, and, in 1490, obtained from Henry VII. an order to the treasury for twenty pounds, in consideration of his eminent services in Munster, which must be supposed to have been of serious importance to the state, when the scarcity of specie is considered, and that its consequent value was great. The treaty which he and his father entered into with Desmond included a compact of affiance with the family of M’Carthy Mór, Prince of Desmond. To the daughter of this chief Aodh O’Connell was married. She was heiress of Blarney Castle, and from her descended a brave family, of whom the eldest, Maurice O’Connell, succeeded, at his father’s death, to the chieftaincy of his sept.
Maurice wedded Juliannna, daughter of O’Sullivan Mór, Lord of Dunkerrin, in the county of Kerry; and Morgan, their eldest son, became allied to Elizabeth, daughter of O’Donovan, Lord of Carbery, in the county of Cork. He died before his father, and left a son, Aodh, who, upon his grandfather’s decease, took possession, as thanist of the O’Connell domains, and formed a matrimonial alliance with the daughter of Teige O’Brien of Ballyorig in the county of Cork; her name was Mora, and descended from the Desmonds.
In 1534, the rebellion of the O’Byrnes cost much blood and treasure; and at this period the O’Connells appear to have had great preponderance, and for the purpose of detaching Aodh from the other chieftains, Leonard Lord Grey, lord-justice, entered into a treaty with him on the 22nd of January, 1535, in fulfillment of which Aodh left his son and heir, Morgan, as a hostage, at Dublin Castle. It does not appear at what precise period Morgan O’Connell obtained his liberty, but probably it was at his father’s decease; for the first record of his career was in seven years after, when, with O’Sullivan, O’Callaghan, O’Connor and other chiefs, he made his submission to King Henry VIII. on the 10th of January, 1542. In this act of allegiance, neither he nor his brother Toparchs were required to perform any duty as English subjects they retained their rights as chieftains in their own territories.
By this stipulation into which Morgan O’Connell entered, he agreed to pay a crown rent of twenty pence as an acknowledgement of Henry’s title, and also in consequence of the territory of Ballycarbery, in the barony of Iveragh, being added to his possessions through the bequest of his Grandam, Lady Elizabeth Donovan, of Carberry, in the county of Cork. Morgan O’Connell married Helen, daughter of Donald M’Carthy, Prince of Desmond, and was appointed by King Edward VI. to the shrievalty of Kerry. The royal writ bears seal and signature, the 26th December, 1550.
Rickard O’Connell, Morgan and Helen’s eldest son, made submission for his territory of Ballycarberry to Queen Elizabeth, to whom was regranted, or ratified, her father’s treaty concerning the rent-roll and royalty of the Carberry domains. These her majesty secured to him, with all their seignories, appurtenances, and appendances as a reward for his bravery in subjecting the FitzGeralds and Desmonds to severe extremities, in consequence of their turbulence and insubordination. He married Julia, daughter of Teige Owen M’Carthy, of Drishane.
Maurice, the second of that name, succeeded his father Rickard. The 15th of February, 1586, is the date which the writ of Elizabeth bears, appointing him high sherriff of Kerry. His wife was Margaret, daughter of Conogher O’Callaghan, Lord of Clonmeen. She bore him Geoffrey, who suceeded to the chieftaincy and seignories which his father enjoyed by a tenure from Queen Elizabeth, and married Honora, daughter of The Mac Crohan, chief of that name, and of the Castle of Iveragh, and died in 1635.
The civil war of 1641 convulsed the greater part of the kingdom, in which Maurice O’Connell, Geoffrey and Honora’s eldest son, adhering to the royalists, became the special victim of the parliamentarians. His possessions of Ballycarberry were forfeited; although in after times he received estates in the county of Clare, as compensation; but the granting of estates in a distant country, how ample soever they might be, could ill suffice to satisfy this chieftain, who was deprived of part of the hereditary lands which his ancestors had held for ages. He settled in Clare, and with his wife, daughter of Richard Barrett, of Barrett’s country, in Cork, withdrew to his territory of appropriation.
Geoffrey and Honora’s other sons were, John of Ashtown, seneschal to the Duke of Ormond, who, on the 27th of May, 1667, granted part of Ashtown to King Charles II., by deed; Daniel of Aghgore, was the ancestor of The Liberator; Peter of Claghanmacquin; and Charles of Ballynacleragh, titulado of Killemlagh, and life tenant under will of his brother John, was a Colonel in the army of King James II; upon forfeiture of estates in 1696, they were granted to the Petty family, who leased them, in perpetuity, to John O’Mahony, of Dunloe, grandson of Maurice O’Connell, of Caherbarnagh, who subleased most of them to Charles and his son John of Ballymacgullynavlaune, 30th June, 1699. Charles dying later that same year.
John, of Ballymacgullynavlaune, or Ballinabloun, will dated the 18th of March, 1726, married Mary O’Sullivan, and had five sons: Daniel, who died without issue, will dated 1776, proven on the 11th of February, 1783; Geoffrey, married Clara, daughter of Denis O’Mahony, of Dromore, and died in 1762; Philip, living on the 18th of March, 1726, who, according to tradition, married Anne, daughter of John O’Connell, of Derrynane; Maurice John, of Portmagee, who married, according to family tradition, Miss O’Connor-Kerry, a daughter of Dean Maurice O’Connor, Archdeacon of Ardfert, and was buried at Ardfert in 1787; and, Rickard, mentioned in the will of his father, John.