Select O'Brien Miscellany
accounts over the years:
- O’Brien Early History
- The History of the O’Brien Clan
- The O’Briens at Comeragh Castle
- Clare’s Dragoons
- Early O’Briens in America
- The O’Briens and Thimble Cottage
O’Brien Early History
O’Brians emerged as chiefs of the Dalcassian
tribe in SW Ireland which claimed a descent from the legendary Cormac
in the 3rd century. This claim may have been fanciful. The Dalcassians in fact first began to
appear in history in county Clare around the 8th century.
Their chief was crowned king of Thomond (or
north Munster) two centuries later. His
son Mathgamain mac Cennetig was to expand their territory further,
the Annals of Ulster, and he captured
the Rock of Cashel (in present day Tipperary), thereby becoming the
Cashel and Munster.
around 940, first made himself king of Munster, then subjugated
eventually became the King of All Ireland, in the process ending the
domination of the Ui Neills. He died in
1014 in the celebrated battle of Clondorf when the Norsemen were
defeated. He was the founder of the
O’Brien clan that was to follow.
The History of the O’Brien Clan
first O’Brien history, The
Historical Memoir of the O’Briens, was
written by John
O’Donoghue and published in 1860. It told
the story of the O’Briens from Cormac
Cas through Brian Boru and up until the end of the 18th century.
The author used as his source material the various
reference works of Irish history that were available to him at the
as The Annals of the Four Masters, The
Annals of Innisfallen, The Annals of Ulster, plus
the works by
John O’Donovan and other scholars of Irish history.
From these sources came the development of
the O’Brien clan pedigrees.
which has only been available in limited numbers, has recently been
with a foreword by Morgan Llewelyn (who has written the story of Brian
and portraits of the notable O’Briens in history.
is an update on this O’Brien history
which has taken the story to 1946.
The O’Briens at Comeragh Castle
reference to the O’Briens of Comeragh castle, at the foot of the
mountains in Waterford, was in 1549 when Anthony O’Brien obtained a
the English government. However,
were never safe from the English. The
castle was besieged unsuccessfully in 1619.
During Cromwell’s time Derby O’Brien, the head of the O’Brien
that time, was taken in 1656 and he died in captivity.
Then, after fierce
resistance from the five sons of Derby O’Brien, Comeragh castle was
Cromwell. He hanged four of these
sons. The fifth son, John of
Kilnafrahane, managed to escape to the coast and he made a home for
Helvick Head. From him came the O’Briens
of Ballyetragh who were there through the 18th and 19th centuries.
initially named O’Brien’s Regiment
after its originator Daniel O’Brien the 3rd Viscount Clare, had been raised
as a mounted dragoon regiment from Limerick to support the dethroned
James II against the army of William or Orange in Ireland.
the defeat at the Battle of the Boyne,
the regiment reformed in France, first in 1689 and later in 1696. It fought under the name of Clare’s Dragoons
in the service of France in various campaigns between 1696 and 1774.
marching song has survived. The
stanza which follows shows the O’Brien
Clare is here to lead,
worthy son of such a breed
The French expect some famous deed,
Clare leads on his bold dragoons.
Our colonel comes from Brian’s race,
wounds are in his breast and face,
The bearna baoghil is still his place,
The foremost of his bold dragoon.
la, the new brigade!
la, the old
la, the rose shall fade
the shamrock shine forever new!”
Early O’Briens in America
O’Brien had arrived in Machias, Maine from Cork
in Ireland in 1765. He was aged about
fifty then and engaged himself in the lumber business, operating a
his sons. He died in Machias in 1799 and
his tombstone read:
“Here lie deposited
the remains of Morris O’Brien, who died June 4, 1799, aged 84 years.
‘Come think on me, as you pass by,
As you are now, I once was too;
I am now so you must be,
death to follow me.’”
American patriot and the father of five sons, including Captain
O’Brien, who all distinguished themselves during the Revolutionary War.
other early O’Brien arrivals in America
can be seen in the table below.
|1760’s||Philip O’Bryan||Russ||Dublin to Maryland|
|1764||James and John Brien||Hannah||Cork to Boston|
|1766||Timothy Bryan||Wilmott||Cork to Boston|
|1767||Mary and Elizabeth O’Brien||Ann
|Ireland to Boston|
O’Bryan is believed to have come from
Armagh. He appeared on the census
Frederick county, Maryland in 1776 and served in the Maryland militia
the Revolutionary War.
and Thimble Cottage
O’Brien had come to Newfoundland from Ireland
around 1818 and started his farm in fourteen acres of land that he had
in Freshwater valley near St. John’s. He
established a commercial dairy farm there and
sold his milk to housewives and shopkeepers in the west end of St.
He had built two farmhouses on his land
before he started work on a third one, on Nagle Hill in St. John’s, in
1850. It was to be situated on a narrow,
steep, winding gravel road on Nagle Hill, nestled in a forested grove
overlooking much of the city of St. John’s.
for his son Timothy, it took two winters to gather sufficient
materials from the nearby forest to build the house.
He made the chimney from locally-gathered
stone and sheltered the structure with locally-made spruce shingles. The two-and-a-half-storeyed salt-box house
has a sloping roof which makes the structure a single storey at the
the kitchen is located.
typical of a 19th century Newfoundland Irish farmhouse.
It is the sole survivor of approximately
twenty similar homes that were once common in the Freshwater valley
Cottage survived the 1892 fires and
has been continuously lived in by the O’Brien family since the time it
built. In 1992 the Heritage Foundation
of Newfoundland and Labrador rewarded the efforts of the O’Briens to
their land and home when Thimble Cottage was declared a Registered
O’Brien who died there in 2008 was said to have been the last Gaelic
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