The Irish race of today is popularly known as the Milesian Race, because the genuine Irish (Celtic) people were supposed to be descended from Milesius of Spain, whose sons, say the legendary accounts, invaded and possessed themselves of Ireland a thousand years before Christ.
The races that occupied the land when the so-called Milesians came, chiefly the Firbolg and the Tuatha De Danann, were certainly not exterminated by the conquering Milesians. Those two peoples formed the basis of the future population, which was dominated and guided, and had its characteristics moulded, by the far less numerous but more powerful Milesian aristocracy and soldiery. All three of these races, however, were different tribes of the great Celtic family, who, long ages before, had separated from the main stem, and in course of later centuries blended again into one tribe of Gaels - three derivatives of one stream, which, after winding their several ways across Europe from the East, in Ireland turbulently met, and after eddying, and surging tumultuously, finally blended in amity, and flowed onward in one great Gaelic stream.
The Ui Etersceoil people were established well over a thousand years ago in an area roughly coterminus with the Carbery baronies in County Cork, Ireland. This area extended from around Courtmacsherry and Bandon, south to Mizen Head, and to the border of County Kerry. By about the 16th century, after many centuries of warfare with other clans, the O'Driscolls ended up largely confined to the territories of Collybeg, Collymore, and Barrahane, situated between Castlehaven and Roaringwater Bay.
County Cork was part of the ancient kingdom of Desmumhan, and home to pre-Milesian tribes of Fír Bolg such as the Corcu Lóegde, Múscraige, Uí Liatháin and Uí Meic Caille. The O Driscoll were the chief family of the Corcu Lóegde. By the 9th century, Milesian tribes of the Eóganacht dominated much of the area and the the people of the Corcu Lóegde were pushed into south-west Cork.
The first mention of a name resembling Driscoll occurs in the Annals of Inisfallen wherein the death of Conchobar Ua hEtersceóil in 1103 is reported; he was the king of Corcu Lóegde. For the next 500 years the O Driscolls were a powerful family involved in a number of adventures and conflicts. Their lands of rocky peninsulas and islands were not well suited to farming. Thus it should be no surprise the O'Driscoll were a seafaring people engaged in fishing, trading and piracy. They constructed a number of great castles and the ruins of some may still be found.
By the 1200's three lines of Driscolls had emerged. From Donnchadh Mór (d. 1229), a later king of the Corca Laoidhe descended the main line. Donnchadh's youngest brother Aedh (d. 1213) split off and moved to the Beara peninsula, probably as the result of a dispute. Apparently Aedh was killed by his own relatives. The Beara Driscolls may have extended as far as Dingle. The third line was descended from Donnchadh Mór's youngest son Amlaíbh (d. 1234 in Tralee). His line was known as Uí Eidirsceóil Óig. The Driscolls in Beara were eventually superceded by the Eóganacht O Sullivans two to three hundred years later, a story in its own right.
By the 16th century, pressure from the Sullivans in Beara plus the other major clans had pushed the O Driscoll Mór into Collymore and the O Driscoll Óg into Collybeg. Their principal residences being Baltimore and Rincolisky (Whitehall, parish of Aghadown) respectively. Gleann Bearcháin (Castlehaven) was a third, smaller territory occupied by descendants of Tadhg, in turn descended from Fínghin Mór.
During the 17th century the O Driscoll were to lose their lands. The stage was set when an attempt to take over large sections of Munster and Leinster involving the O Driscoll failed. The Mór chief Fínghin surrendered his lands to the Queen of England in 1573. Fínghin was later knighted and granted all the the sept-lands of the O Driscoll Mór but in so doing he had lost his autonomy and held the lands as England so dictated. As other chieftains fought with England Sir Fineen remained loyal to the English until the Spanish entered the conflict allied with those chieftains. Even with Spanish help against them the English prevailed and in 1602 the O Driscoll would once again lose their lands. Some family leaders took refuge in Spain and some in the Spanish armed forces. Sir Fineen himself surrendered to the English and with some other O Driscolls of note was pardoned. However by 1629, through plantation, mortgaging, surrender and regrant, the lands of Collymore were lost.
By 1670 the lands of Collybeg were also lost. The word lost should not be taken literally and neither should the earlier statement that by the 16th century there are only two branches of O Driscoll. These are statements of the essence of the situation and minor exceptions can be found. For example, in 1694 Dennis Driscoll of Ballnegornagh (Barleyhill, parish of Ross) was successful in his claim for restoration. There are still Driscolls at Barleyhill East in Griffith's valuation about 150 years later. There are O Driscolls in the parish records for the Béarra peninsula despite losing this ground to the O Sullivan hundreds of years earlier.
In the 19th century the O Driscolls were tenants on the lands once held by their forefathers. During the famine they suffered as badly as any other impoverished tenants despite their noble ancestry. Large numbers emigrated to the United States, Australia and England. Within Ireland itself though the O Driscolls did not stray far from South West County Cork. In the index to Griffith's Valuation there are 1,331 O Driscoll and variants; of these 1,125 or 85% are in County Cork. Matheson's surname analysis based on 1890 births yields 91%. Further, Matheson's report shows that of the 121 Driscoll births that year, only one was outside the province of Munster. A similiar analysis of the 2000 electoral rolls for the Republic of Ireland leads to the conclusion that even today about 53% of the O Driscolls are in Cork.
The above linkage of the Corcu Lóegde to the O Driscoll is based upon the book by Ó Murchadha, D. Family Names of County Cork, Collins Press, 1998.
Related Links Corca Laoigdhe
The O Driscoll (Family Tree)
Cornelius Driscoll - King James Irish Army List 1689 see also Military
Cape Clear Island - JCHAS 1905