My Adventure Through Our Family Tree Branches

For over 50 years my Dad researched both his and my Mom's family tree branches - and loved every minute of it! Trying to fulfill the promise I made him the last month of his life, I have spent the past four years continuing where he left off - finding out about all the many family members who came before us, from the many branches of our family trees. The histories will still be published as my Dad always wanted. But what he wanted most was to share the stories of the people who came before us - the places they lived, the cultures of the times, the families they created, and the circumstances - good and bad - that would one day lead to us, their descendants. These are the stories of my Mom's families. . . .

Surnames in this Blog


Saturday, March 17, 2012

FRIDAY'S FAMOUS - Red Hugh O'Donnell, King of Tyrconnell (1572-1602)

In honor of St. Patrick's Day and our Irish ancestry, I wanted to highlight a former leader of the kingdom of Tyrconnell - Hugh O'Donnell, often called Red Hugh O'Donnell. It is believed that all O'Donnells were descended from the family of Red Hugh and his ancestors. Thus, those of us descended from John Huber O'Donnell (1905-1965), my grandfather, are also part of this clan,

There have been numerous books written about Red Hugh O'Donnell, poems, and even songs. In 1966 Disney released a live-action movie, The Fighting Prince of Donegal, based on the novel Red Hugh, Prince of Donegal by Robert T. Reilly. Here is his story in a nutshell:

"Aodh Rua Ó Dónaill, anglicised as either Hugh Roe O'Donnell or Red Hugh O'Donnell (1572 – 10 September 1602), was An Ó Domhnaill (The O'Donnell) and Ri (king) of Dun na nGall (anglicised Donegal, now known as County Donegal). He led a rebellion against English government in Ireland from 1593 and helped to lead the Nine Years' War (a revolt against English occupation) from 1595 to 1603. He is sometimes also known as Aodh Ruadh II or Red Hugh II, especially within County Donegal." [Taken from]

"Hugh Roe O’Donnell, also called Red Hugh (born c. 1572, County Donegal, Ire.—died Aug. 30, 1602, Simancas, Spain), lord of Tyrconnell (now County Donegal), Ireland. When he became chieftain of the O’Donnells, he was only 20 years old but already was an inveterate enemy of the English because of his previous experiences. When less than 16 years old, he had been kidnapped by Sir John Perrot, the English lord deputy, who—conscious of the O’Donnell family’s connections with the powerful O’Neills of Tyrone—feared a dangerous combination against the English government He was long imprisoned in Dublin Castle, made an abortive attempt to escape in 1590, and was finally successful in January 1592.

The Gaelic Chieftan (1999)
Near the town of Boyle, at the site of the Battle of the Curlews in 1599
Red Hugh’s first concern was to drive out the English sheriff and his company of undisciplined marauders who, despite promises, had come to Tyrconnell and occupied the monastery of Donegal, after expelling the friars. This he accomplished successfully. He then led two expeditions against the O’Neills. Red Hugh’s exploits in 1594 have been exaggerated. But in 1595 and 1597 he made good his control of Connaught from Sligo to Leitrim. By 1596 he had joined forces with O’Neill, and the war that followed was famous for the great Irish victory of the Yellow Ford in 1598, where O’Donnell played a major part, and for the disaster ofKinsale (December 1601). O’Donnell’s march to join O’Neill at Kinsale was remarkable: in 24 hours he and his men covered no less than 40 miles, including the almost impassable Slievefelim Mountains. Red Hugh’s support of the Spanish commander, Juan del Aquila, who counseled an immediate attack against the advice of the more cautious O’Neill, may well have brought about the crushing defeat that may be regarded as the death blow of the old Gaelic Ireland. O’Donnell then went to Spain, where he died of a fever—not, as was long said, of poison administered by an English agent."  [Taken from]

His Legacy
  • He was highly praised in the Irish language writings of the early seventeenth century for his nobility and religious commitment to the Catholic faith - notably in the Annals of the Four Masters and Beatha Aodh Ruadh O Domhnaill ("The Life of Red Hugh O'Donnell") by Lughaidh Ó Cléirigh. Although his posthumous reputation has been somewhat overshadowed by that of his ally Hugh O'Neill, his leadership and military capabilities were considerable especially considering that he was active at a very young age and only 29 years old at the battle of Kinsale. His personality seems to have been particularly magnetic and contemporary sources are united in their praise of his oratorical ability.
  • In 1977, the Aodh Ruadh O Domhnaill Guild was formed to seek his recognition as a saint of the Catholic Church.
  • In 1991, a plaque was erected at Simancas Castle in commemoration of Red Hugh O'Donnell.
  • In 1992, commemorating the 390 anniversary of the arrival of O'Donnell in Galicia, the Grammy-award winning composer of Riverdance, Bill Whelan, brought together the best musicians of Ireland and Galicia and released the symphony "From Kinsale to Corunna".
  • In September 2002, Eunan O'Donnell, BL, gave the Simancas Castle Address in honour of Red Hugh, during the O'Donnell Clan Gathering to Spain.
The O'Donnell Clan Association, an International family organization, has a website, with newsletters, pictures and upcoming events -

The most popular O'Donnell song is "O'Donnell Abu":
Proudly the note of the trumpet is sounding
Loudly the war cries arise on the gale;
Fleetly the steed by Lough Swilly is bounding,
To join the thick squadrons in Saimear's green vale.
On, ev'ry mountaineer,
Strangers to flight and fear;
Rush to the standard of dauntless Red Hugh!
Bonnaught and Gallowglass,
Throng from each mountain pass;
On for old Erin, "O'Donnell Abu!"

Princely O'Neill to our aid is advancing,
With many a chieftain and warrior clan;
A thousand proud steeds in his vanguard are prancing,
'Neath the borders brave from the banks of the Bann:
Many a heart shall quail,
Under its coat of mail;
Deeply the merciless foeman shall rue
When on his ear shall ring,
Borne on the breeze's wing,
Tír Chonaill's dread war-cry, "O'Donnell Abu!"
Wildly o'er Desmond the war-wolf is howling,
Fearless the eagle sweeps over the plain,
The fox in the streets of the city is prowling -
All, all who would scare them are banished or slain!
Grasp every stalwart hand
Hackbut and battle brand -
Pay them all back the debt so long due;
Norris and Clifford well
Can of Tirconnell tell;
Onward to glory - "O'Donnell Abu!"
 Sacred the cause that Clan Connell's defending -
The altars we kneel at and homes of our sires;
Ruthless the ruin the foe is extending -
Midnight is red with the plunderer's fires.
On with O'Donnell, then,
Fight the old fight again,

Sons of Tirconnell,
All valiant and true:
Make the false Saxon feel
Erin's avenging steel
Strike for your country! - "O'Donnell Abu!"

To get a real feeling of the love and admiration that Ireland has for Red Hugh you really need to check out this video made with various images of Hugh O'Donnell, County Donegal. It's all set to music that was written and sung about this hero of Ireland. It's really worth your time:


  1. I am so glad to see this website. I am descended from the O'Donnells of Newport County Mayo, baronets. My great x2 grandfather Neal O'Donnell son of the 2nd baronet, was sent out to Australia by his brother for stealing family monies. So I am of the Australian leaf of the shamrock.

    1. MaryJaneSchaffer (Candy)December 1, 2015 at 12:38 AM

      I am also decended from the Newport County Mayo , O'Donnell's . Mary O'Donnell married James McCann . Ive had my DNA done and match up to many of Red Hugh O'Donnell's decendents . I am going to County Mayo & Donegal in May & June 2016