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Exploring Historic Placenames and Families of an Irish Parish

The most important part of any parish is its people and the traditions which many families have left their mark in the placenames which we take for granted, such as Ballymackleduff, Derrygortreavy, Derrygoonan, Mullaghdaly, Mullybrannon, Lismulreavy, Knockarogan, Carrowcolman, and older names like Muintir Amyl indicate the importance of the Hamill family, and Muintir Birn from which the Ulster Murphy family traces its roots.

Early Families Recorded in Placenames By Brendan McAnallen

Munter Amyl

Mick Hamill, Roan (1897-1945)

‘Munter amyl’, as the name suggests, was the homeland of the Hamills (Uí Ádhmoille), whom Ó Dubhgáin (Topographical Poems) identifies as being a branch of the Cinél Binnigh. The Cinél Binnigh were descended from Bindeach, son of Eoghan, son of Niall of the Nine Hostages and moved south-eastward with the Cinél Eogain to settle at Loch Drochait near Castledawson in county Derry. The Hamill territory extended from the Blackwater near Moy westwards to the little river that separates Sanaghanroe from Roan. According to Séamus Ó Ceallaigh in Gleanings from Ulster History, Clonfeacle was, to all intents and purposes, the ecclesiastical name for the civil territory of ‘Munter amyl’.

The Hamills have a long association with the Eglish area. Murtagh O Hamill appears on the Hearth Money Rolls (1666) for the townland of Drain. They were numerous in the adjacent townland of Mullaghlongfield during the nineteenth century. Friar O Mellan writes that Pádraig O Hamill, a Franciscan (probably from the Brantry Friary), was a chaplain to O’Neill’s army in the 1640s.
Various spellings of the name (Hamel, Hamil and Hamill) appear on the oldest headstones in Eglish cemetery. They can be found by referring to the accompanying drawing – nos. 50, 53, 116, 117, 119, 225. This numbering system continues to be used below.


Ceathrú Cholmáin (Colman’s quarterland). Colman is an anglicized version of the surname Ó Colmáin, a descendant of Colmán, a diminutive form of Colm meaning “a dove”. ‘Colm’ is a very common Irish personal name. Saint Colmán (553-610), born in Glenelly in the Sperrins, had a close association with the monastery of Ardboe, was a cousin of Saint Colm Cille and is reputed to have founded the abbey of Muckamore in Co. Antrim. In her article ‘The Early Church in Tyrone to the Twelfth Century, Ann Hamlin remarks that:

“Ardboe, on the shores of Lough Neagh, is associated with Colmán, son of Aed, a member of the royal family of the Uí Meic Cairthinn of Lough Foyle, who was probably the father of Fergus mac Colmán, King of the Uí Meic Cairthinn. He lived in the 6th or 7th century and is listed in the Martyrology of Tallaght on the 21st of February as Colmán ‘of Ard Bó on the banks of Logh nEchach”. (Tyrone History and Society, Dublin, 2000, p. 90)

‘Colman’ or ‘Coleman’ is a family name long associated with Clonfeacle and Eglish, and the name is still quite numerous. A priest named Peter Coleman is buried inside Eglish Chapel, where a wall tablet is placed above his resting place. He was Parish Priest of Derrynoose and a cousin of the Right Rev. Dean Byrne of Dungannon, a native of Eglish parish.


Mullaghdaly, meaning “Daly’s summit”, Daly, O Dálaigh, from Dalach, meaning ‘one who is present at assemblies’. The Ulster Dalys are descended from an ancient bardic family and no doubt carried out this function for the great O’Neills. The name Daly is one of the most common names in the parish. The O Dálaighs was a traditional bardic family; some carry on this ancient art. As recorded in No 233 from Crievelough, the old Daly family still performed the bardic tradition during the nineteenth century.

Art O Dalaigh from Sessiamagaroll, Benburb, still keeps the ancient tradition alive today with his writings and storytelling. At the same time, Domonic Daly is also a well-known traditional singer.

John Daly, from Crievelough, wrote many songs about this area during the early part of the last century. Their ancestral burial ground was recorded Daily No233, 234,149, Dealy 245.


Lisbancarney (Cearnaighs White Fort) O Cearnaigh, Mc Kearney, Cearnach, “Victorious”. Most often, Mac Cearnach in Ulster was a branch of the Cinel Eoghain. The name is also anglicized Fox, and along McKinney, Mac ant Sionnaigh, meaning “Son of the fox”, are all still both common in this area today. A Tadhg O Catharnaigh, Chief of Teffia, Co. Meath, who died in 1084, was known as An Sionnach (the fox), and subsequently, the family took the name O Sionnaigh later Fox. Padraig Mac Giolla Domhnaigh, in “Some Anglicised Surnames in Ireland” (1923), illustrates the connection between those two names; “I know two brothers at Dungannon. One lives in the town and is known by the name of Fox and the other lives in the country (probably Eglish) and is known as McAtinny.” McAtinny is also sometimes anglicized McKinney and Shannon. Recorded as Fox on No2,73, 204, 207, 210 and 270, McTinney 231.

O’Neill’s people

Within this historical mound lies the remains of many of the great O’Neill clan, including their chief families, the O Donnellys, O Quinns, O Devlins and the O Hagans, who are described in English documents as the people of “O’Neills Own Country”. Other names such as O Mellon, Mac Cann, Mac Cathmhaoil (McCaul), O Hamill, O Maolchallainn (Mulholland), O Hugh (Hughes), O Kelly ETC could also be described as O Neill’s people.

Arthur O Neill, the famous blind harper, is buried in the cemetery, although no stone bears his name. We can assume he is buried in one of the many O Neill burial plots that occupy the cemetery’s central position. This O Neill coined the phrase “Where an O Neill sits at the top of the table”. He records in his memoirs that “his mother and father grandfathers and grandmothers and all belonged to him were O Neills”.

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