Driscoll Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Driscoll Meaning
The surname Driscoll or O’Driscoll comes from the Irish O’hEidirsceoil,
grandson of
Eidirsceoil, where eirdsceoil
meanis “go-between” or “bearer of news.”  The original
from whom descent is claimed is believed to have
lived in
the mid-10th century. The name is one of the very few to have
been identified with the Erainn, Celts who were settled in Ireland
before the arrival of the Gaels in the 8th century.

With the English invasion and anglicization of the country, O’hEidirsceoil became O’Driscoll and later, particularly on its travels and sometimes to avoid discrimination, Driscoll or even, occasionally in America, Driskell. However, once the English yoke had gone, O’Driscoll became the preferred name again in Ireland.

Resources on

Driscoll/O’Driscoll Ancestry

Ireland. The O’Driscolls,
Princes of Corca Iaogdhe, were one of the most powerful families in SW
Ireland in the 11th and 12th centuries. They were
and remained a seafaring clan until the English encroachments
of the 16th and 17th centuries.

SW Cork. Their
base was the
Bay of Baltimore in
SW Cork. A number of O’Driscoll strongholds exist between
Baltimore and Skibbereen, one of which, Dun na Sead (the Fort of
Jewels), has been restored as a tourist attraction in Baltimore.

The O’Driscolls profited for a long time from the rich fishing fields
off Cork. In the latter half of the 16th century, the clan
produced a rather notorious rogue, Fineen O’Driscoll, known as “Fineen
the Rover.” To augment his income, he engaged in some lucrative
piracy on the side. However, his downfall came when he lent
support in 1602 to Spain against the English in the Battle of

In the aftermath of that debacle, he had to forfeit his
lands and his son Connor went into exile in Spain. Many other
followed in the ensuing decades. Later, Cornelius O’Driscoll
fought with the Irish brigades in Spain. After Cornelius, the
direct family line seems to have
fizzled out. There was said to be a descendant in England and
then in South Carolina (where Dennis O’Driscoll was killed in a
shooting duel).

Later O’Driscolls
In the 19th century, the O’Driscolls were tenants of the lands
once held by their forefathers. During the famine, many
O’Driscolls struggled to stay alive in the Skibbereen workhouse and
they suffered
as much as any other Catholic family did at that time. Skibbereen
acquired at the time a notoreity for its appalling levels of famine
mortality. Large
numbers emigrated.

Although the
O’Driscolls have suffered extensive losses over the years in their
ancestral homelands, they are still in Ireland today to be found mainly
in this Cork area. Cork accounted for 85% of Driscolls
in Griffith’s Valuation in the 19th century. The O’Driscoll name
remains at Baltimore with Barnadette O’Driscoll and her Corner House.

A 20th century O’Driscoll from Cork was Herbert O’Driscoll, who
recorded his childhood memories of growing up Protestant in the “warm
and loving ghetto” of Irish Catholicism in his book The Leap of the Deer. He is
now a popular writer on spirituality based in Canada. Daniel Driscoll
from Limerick fought for Britain in the Boer War, forming Driscoll’s
Scouts, and later emigrated to Kenya.

An early arrival
in Maryland, in the 1680’s, was Dennis Driskell. His descendants
later settled in North Carolina.

The main influx came
in the 19th century, particularly after the potato famine.
Boston was the principal arrival port (Massachusetts still has the
largest number of Driscolls in the United States). Many came to
Connecticut and New York as well. Michael Driscoll reached
Milwaukee where he continued his living as a fisherman.

A number succeeded in these
immigrant melting pots:

  • one such was Cornelius Driscoll, born in
    County Cork, who rose to become the first immigrant mayor of New Haven
    in 1899. He also helped found the Catholic Knights of
    Columbus. His name is honored today by Irish Americans with the
    Cornelius Driscoll Award.
  • while Gerald O’Driscoll, a 20th century
    immigrant, started with his brother the highly successful Circle Line
    sightseeing tours around New York in the years after World War II.

Other Driscolls moved inland to Ohio and Illinois. John Driscoll
from Ohio led a group of bandits that marauded across the Prairies in
the 1840’s. Eventually John was captured with one of his sons and
they were both shot by a vigilante mob. We also find an immigrant
Driscoll family in Kansas. Their son, Charles
Driscoll, was the author of books, including Kansas Irish which described what
was like growing up on a farm in Kansas.

Canada. Many of the Irish
escaping the potato famine would not have been as generous as Captain
Michael Driscoll was to the landlord he had left behind.

“We, the committee of the passengers of
the Aeolus, do send our
thanks to our late landlord, Sir Robert Gore Booth. He was always
kind to his tenants. It was not tyranny which forced us to
emigrate. It was the loss of our crops for two years past.
And we hope to gain a living in America by strict industry and

The Aeolus departed for New
Brunswick where large numbers of Driscolls went after the famine.
John Driscoll was part of the Cork settlement in York county.
James Driscoll settled in Fredericton. Later on, there
were more Driscolls in Ontario.

Australia. The English
often treated the Irish badly. They transported many to
Australia, some for political crimes, such as Daniel Driscoll in 1815,
and others for various crimes and misdemeanors.

A Dennis Driscoll
was onboard the first convict ship, the Queen in 1791, to bring Irish
convicts to Australia. There is the sad story of Michael
Driscoll, aged only 19, brutally murdered in 1835 by a soldier while on
a work gang. He had been a Cork errand boy who had been given a
fourteen year transportation sentence three years prior for

The Gold Rush brought many Irish immigrants to Australia in the
1850’s. One who prospered was John Driscoll who arrived in
Bendigo at that time. He worked hard there and profited as well
from the buying and selling of property. Jeremiah and Catherine
O’Driscoll arrived from west Cork in 1869 and settled in Grass Valley,
Western Australia.


Select Driscoll/O’Driscoll Miscellany

The Origin of the O’Driscolls.  According to one legend, Lugh Ith was the leader of an expedition of
Celts who arrived in the Baltimore area seeking to escape Roman
domination.   He was given the name Hy Drisceoil or O hEidersceol which comes from the
Irish Eidersceol meaning
“go-between” or “bearer of news.”The first mention of a name resembling Driscoll occurs in
the Annals of Inisfallen
wherein the death of Conchobar Ua hEtersceoil in 1103 is
reported.  He was king of Corca Loegde.

Peerless Jim Driscoll’s Funeral.  By any reckoning, it was the biggest funeral that Wales had ever seen.

On February 3 1925, an estimated 100,000 people lined the
streets of Cardiff in respectful silence as the cortege slowly wound
its way from St. Paul’s Catholic Church in the Newtown district of the
city to Cathays cemetery.  Following the obsequies, the solemn
funeral procession moved onto North Road where the coffin, draped in
the Union Jack, was transferred from the bearers’ shoulders to a gun
carriage.  The band of the 2nd Battalion moved to the head of the
procession – now over a mile long – playing the funeral march, while
soldiers of the regiment carried their rifles reversed in honor of a
dead comrade.

Children from Nazareth House, the city’s Catholic
orphanage run by the Sisters of Charity, carried striking floral
wreaths in honor of their staunchest supporter and patron, while a
number of former Welsh boxing champions and representatives of local
government and the military were also in attendance.

At the conclusion of a brief graveside service in the
gathering dusk, the Last Post was sounded.  “Peerless” Jim
Driscoll, champion boxer and winner of a coveted Lonsdale Belt,
philanthropist and people’s champion, feted son of Cardiff’s “Little
Ireland,” was dead.

Colonel Daniel Patrick Driscoll.  There is some doubt as to where he was actually born.  It is
generally thought that he was born in Burma. However, his Indian naval
records indicate that he was born in Limerick, Ireland.  He sailed
from India to East London in South Africa in 1899 where he joined the
British in the Boer War.  Driscoll’s Scouts were formed in March
1901.  The Australian author A.J. Hales published a novel-style
book called Driscoll King of Scouts,
a slightly exaggerated view of his exploits during the war but no doubt
with elements of historical fact in it.

He returned to the UK in 1902 with a letter of
introduction to Roger Pocock and became one of the prime movers behind
the Legion of Frontiersmen.  A picture of him, entitled “The Old
Warhorse,” was published in Vanity
in 1911.  After the war he sailed on the Durham Castle for Kenya where he
became a soldier settler, purchasing a coffee farm and subsequently
becoming a District Commissioner.

The O’Driscolls in Ireland.  Within Ireland the O’Driscolls do not stray far away from SW
Cork.  In the index to Griffith’s Valuation there are 1,321
O’Driscolls and variants.  Of these, 85 percent were in County
Cork.  Matheson’s surname analysis based on 1890 births yields 91
percent.  Further, Matheson’s report shows that of the 121
Driscoll births that year, only one was outside the province of
Munster.  A similar analysis of the 2000 electoral rolls for the
Republic of Ireland leads to the conclusion that even today 53 percent
of the O’Driscolls are in Cork.

The Corner House in Baltimore.  Bernadette O’Driscoll welcomes you to the Corner House, a friendly
family-run guest house right in the heart of Baltimore.  Enjoying
a commanding view of the harbor, the Corner House is within easy reach
of everything in the village and only 50 meters from the seafront.

We offer B+B accommodation in comfortable en suite rooms
with a full Irish breakfast.  Dinner is also available by prior


Select Driscoll/O’Driscoll Names

  • Fineen O’Driscoll was the
    O’Donnell clan chief in Elizabethan times who backed the Spanish
    against the English with unfortunate results.
  • Cornelius Driscoll was the
    first Irish immigrant mayor in the US, of New Haven in 1899.
  • Pearless Jim Driscoll, born in
    Wales, was a featherweight boxing champion who captured the public
    imagination. It is estimated that 100,000 attended his funeral in Cardiff in 1925.
  • Alfred Driscoll was Governor
    of New Jersey from 1947 to 1954.
  • Brian O’Driscoll, one of the
    world’s best rugby backs, was the captain of the Ireland rugby union team.

Select Driscoll/O’Driscoll Numbers Today

  • 15,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 8,000 in America (most numerous in Massachusetts)
  • 15,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)


Select Driscoll and Like Surnames 

The Irish clan or sept names come through the mists of time until they were found in Irish records such as The Annals of the Four Masters.  The names were Gaelic and this Gaelic order was preserved until it was battered down by the English in the 1600’s.

Some made peace with the English.  “Wild geese” fled to fight abroad.  But most stayed and suffered, losing land and even the use of their language.  Irish names became anglicized, although sometimes in a mishmash of spellings.  Mass emigration happened after the potato famine of the 1840’s.

Some surnames – such as Kelly, Murphy and O’Connor – span all parts of Ireland.  But most will have a territorial focus in one of the four Irish provinces – Leinster, Munster, Ulster, and Connacht.

Munster in SW Ireland covers the counties of Clare, Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary, and Waterford.  Here are some of the Munster surnames that you can check out.






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