Clan History

Byrne Clan History

Byrne (variations: Byrnes, O'Byrne) is a surname derived from the Irish name Ó Broin, and is the seventh most common surname in Ireland today.


In the Irish language, 'Ó Broin' means "descendant of Bran". The name has been traced back to the ancient Celtic chieftain, Bran mac Máelmórda, King of Leinster, deposed in 1018, (d. 1052), who belonged to the Uí Dúnlainge dynasty. He was descended from Cathair Mór, an earlier king of Leinster, who was, according to medieval Irish legend and historical tradition, also monarch of all Ireland around 200 AD. The clan's motto is the Latin phrase Certavi et vici, meaning "I have fought and conquered".

In pre-Norman times the O'Byrnes, then known as the Uí Fáeláin sept, inhabited the rich Kildare plains. With the progress of the Anglo-Norman conquest, they were compelled to migrate to the poorer lands and the mountainous country eastwards, later to be denominated as the county of Wicklow.

The O'Byrne family (Irish: Ó Broin) is an Irish clann that descend from Bran mac Máelmórda, King of Leinster, of the Uí Faelain of the Uí Dúnlainge. Before the Norman invasion of Ireland they began to colonise south Wicklow

The seat of the most famous branch of the Ó Broin (Uí Broin or Branaigh) was at Ballinacor and controlled the surrounding lands, part of Crioch Branach.

During the Desmond Rebellions, the warlord Hugh O'Byrne gave support to the Earl of Desmond, and died during the second rebellion. His son Feagh or Fiach McHugh O'Byrne took over the cheiftainship and together with the Pale lord James Eustace, 3rd Viscount Baltinglass, continued hostilities to the English administration. A large English force under the Lord Deputy of Ireland Earl Grey de Wilton was sent to subdue them, only to be ambushed and defeated at the battle of Glenmalure on 25 August 1580, losing over 800 dead. Feagh also helped in the escape of Hugh Roe O'Donnell from Dublin Castle in 1591 and Hugh Roe stayed with O'Byrne at Ballinacor, Glenmalure.

In 1595, Ballinacor was occupied by an Tudor garrison, with Feagh later expelling the garrison, and destroying the fort. Feagh was betrayed and killed by the forces of the Lord Deputy of Ireland at Fananerin on 8 May 1597. He was drawn and quartered and his head was sent to Dublin Castle and placed on a spike. The head was later pickled and sent to England.

Phelim or Felim McFiach O'Byrne, Feagh's son, was confirmed in his fathers lands by patent of Queen Elizabeth after submitting to her authority, however these were lost under patent of King James I. He held the office of Member of Parliament (M.P.) for County Wicklow in 1613 and died in 1630.

The O'Byrnes have long been close to their kinsmen the O'Toole family.