Dillon Surname Genealogy
Leinster Dillon derived from the Norman family of de
Leon (meaning either “of Lyon” or “of the lion”). There is an old
Irish saying: “All the Dillons descended from Henry de Leon.” But
the Dillon name also came from the anglicization of the Irish O’Duilleain (from Dalian meaning “little blind one”)
in Munster and
Dillon Resources on
- Dillon – Bios, Obits, Stories. Dillon history.
- History of the Regiment
Dillon ‘s Regiment in France.
- Dillon Family History. Dillons from Kerry to
The first person to come to Ireland with the Dillon name was Sir Henry
de Leon, from Brittany in France. He had come in 1185,
immediately after the Anglo-Norman invasion, to act as secretary to
Prince John and was awarded large tracts of land. As the de Leon
family multiplied and spread out over the country, it began being
called by its Gaelic form O’Duilleain,which
over time became the anglicized Dillon.
The base for these Dillons was Westmeath where they had built Portlick
castle. In fact they owned so much land there that
popularly known as Dillon’s country. The two main Dillon
ennobled in the 17th century, were:
- the Viscount Dillons who fled
to France after the Jacobite defeat in 1691 and thus lost their Irish
- and the
Roscommon. In addition, the Dillons of Drumreany were
to be found
at Dillon’s Grove, Roscommon in the 18th century.
The Dillon name was and continues to be common in Meath, Westmeath and
France. The Dillons
in exile from Ireland made their mark in France. Sometimes called
“the Irish Dillons,” they mixed in the highest levels of French society.
Sir James Dillon
had fled the Cromwellians and in 1653 he raised the famous Regiment of
Dillon. It was to be led by a Dillon for over a hundred
years. Son Arthur, who fled Ireland after the Jacobite defeat in
1691, served in the French army; as did grandson James who commanded
the Irish Brigade which helped defeat
the English at Fontenoy in 1745.
Theobald Count Dillon became a Field Marshall of France and fought
with Washington in the American War of Independence. When
fighting the Austrians in 1792, he was massacred by his own troops in a
tragic misunderstanding. He lies with Napoleon in the
also fought in the American War of Independence.
But he was accused of being a Royalist and was guillotined
From Dublin in 1744, from the Kilcornan branch of the family, came the
merchant Robert Dillon and his brother Thomas. They purchased the
large Terrefort estate in Blanquefort, Bordeaux from which later came
the Chateau Dillon wines. Robert died in 1764; but his sons
carried on the family name in Bordeaux. One, nicknamed “le beau
Dillon,” was a particular favorite of Marie
made it to America. Possibly the first was Luke Dillon, a Quaker from
Armagh who arrived in Nantucket in 1710. These Dillons were to be
found later in Hopewell, Virginia. Meanwhile Peter Dillon and
Mary Veghte of Somerset county, New Jersey date from the Revolutionary
War period. Other Dillons fought in this war on the French side.
Timothy Dillon also fought in the Revolutionary War and later eked out
a living as a farmer in upstate New York, in what was then Montgomery
county. His son Sidney started work as a water boy for one of
America’s earliest railroads and rose to be President of the Union
Pacific. Another branch of this family moved west to Iowa in
1838. John Forrest Dillon became prominent there as a judge.
Edward Dillon came to Cape Breton in Nova Scotia
with his parents from Ireland in 1787.
At the age of 12, some ten years after his arrival, he was
orphan when the rest of his family bar one sister was slaughtered by
Dillon was an Indian captive for
about five years
and was then set free
by an European trader who noticed
Edward trying to show a squaw how to compass a box. This
trader convinced his owner
him for ammunition and blankets.”
married and settled down at Main-a-dieu.
Australia and New Zealand.
A Dillon family from Tipperary came to Melbourne in 1849. That year John Dillon acquired the Horse
and Jockey Inn at Chiltern some 200 miles north of Melbourne. The inn remained in Dillon hands until
1920. Another John Dillon family from
Tipperary came to the Nelson area in New Zealand in 1870 and then
Melbourne in the 1890’s.
Dillon, a younger son of the Viscount Dillons at Ditchley in
sailed for New Zealand with his family in 1842.
He acquired land to farm in Marlborough’s Waihopai valley. In 1851, on his ninth wedding anniversary, he wrote:
next nine years of our lives, if we should be
spared as long, be as productive of joy and comfort to me as the last
may God give me to be a stay and comfort to her whom above all other
beings, I loved and adore.“
However, two years later he drowned while crossing a
river on his property. Heartbroken, his
wife Fanny and their children returned to Oxfordshire.
But some of the family later returned and Dillons have
continued to live and farm on this land.
If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:
Sir Henry de Leon was the forebear of the Norman Dillons in
Sir James Dillon fled Cromwell
for France and was the first of the
Dillon French line.
John Dillon was an Irish Home
Rule activist and the last leader of the Irish parliamentary party
Sidney Dillon was an American
railroad executive, President of the Union Pacific Railroad from
1874 to 1884.
Clarence Dillon, born Clarence
Lapowski, was an American financier who grew rich through his Wall
Street company Dillon, Read and Co.
Matt Dillon is a popular
Select Dillons Today
- 10,000 in the UK (most numerous
- 18,000 in America (most numerous in California)
- 17,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)
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