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O'Hanlon History

The Ua'h-Anluain sept were rulers of the southern part of Ulster some 1,000 years ago. The oldest on record is Flaithbheartach Ua'h-Anluain, Lord of Ui-Niallain, whose murder in the year 983 A.D. is recorded in the Annals of the Four Masters. The clann is documented in several of the earliest written histories of Ireland and appears in medieval tales, elizabethan documents, the Plantation of Ulster, and traditional Irish songs.

The modern (anglicised) version of the name is usually given as Hanlon or O'Hanlon, but there are many variants: Handlon, Handlan, Hanlan, Hanlen, Hanlin, Hanlyn etc. Occasionally some variants of the names Hanly, Hanley and Handly are also derived from Ua'h-Anluain, although Hanly is usually the anglicised form of Ua'h-Ainlighe, an ancient Roscommon sept (the oldest on record is Donal O'Hanly, Bishop of Dublin from 1085 to 1096).


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O'Hanlon boar facing right Heraldry O'Hanlon boar facing left


Most families entitled to carry armorial bearings will have a blazon (also known as a coat of arms) and a separate crest. It is important to note that the coat of arms and crest are regulated so do not belong to all persons of a given surname. They may rightfully be borne only by descendants of the individual to whom they were first granted. In order to display a coat of arms legally you must first have the genealogical proof of your descent from the person originally granted the coat of arms.

Many families also have a motto and some may have a war cry but these are not regulated, i.e. they are not specified in the grant. This means that the motto may be used by anybody. It can also change at will so, for example, a son can choose to have one different from his father.

The difference between a blazon and a coat of arms is that the blazon is the description in words, while the coat of arms is the image.


1: The O'Hanlon Blazon and Coat of Arms
According to Burke's General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales the O'Hanlon/Hanlon name has four blazons registered (pages 453 & 752).
thumbnail: vintage extracts from Burke's General Armory Vintage extracts from Burke's General Armory.
Click on thumbnail for larger image.

The four blazons are:

1. Argent on a mount vert, a boar passant proper, armed or.

2. Vert on a mount in base proper a boar passant ermine.

3. Gules, three crescents argent.

4. Gules, three plates argent.

The first two are for the descendants of the O'Hanlons of Armagh. These are those most often seen and are shown below. The third is used by the Hanlons of Kent, England, and the fourth by another Hanlon branch in England; these last two are very rarely seen.

O'Hanlon
Coat of Arms (1)

The Boar is the symbol
of Bravery and
ermine signifies
nobility or royalty.

O'Hanlon
Coat of Arms (2)
O'Hanlon coat of arms (1): by permission of irishsurnames.com, with link to source O'Hanlon coat of arms (2), Ermine: by permission of Eddie Geoghegan, with link to source

The boar was an ancient Celtic motif used well before medieval heraldry came into being to symbolise courage, agression and savagery. This choice for the O'Hanlons of Armagh would have been a none-too-subtle message implying Gaelic defiance and hinting at the O'Hanlons' military strength and courage.


Hanlon
Coat of Arms (3)

Hanlon coat of arms (3)


2: The O'Hanlon crest


3: The O'Hanlon motto
This varies from family to family, but the following are known to have been used:

An article by Seaumas Ua Cuinn entitled "The O'Hanlon tomb and arms in Newtown Cemetery, Lordship" (County Louth Archaeological and Historical Journal, 1908, Vol. 2, no. 1) contains an error regarding the family motto. Mr. Ua Cuinn admitted that the motto on the 1759 tomb in County Louth was "practically undecipherable", but went on to postulate that it might be Fidelior Nemo (which translates to "None more loyal"). A visit to the headstone in June 2003 provided a definitive answer as given above. (With thanks to Martin O'Hanlon of Canada and Bernard O'Hanlon of Mullaghbawn.)



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O'Hanlon boar facing right Origins of the Ua h-Anluain Sept O'Hanlon boar facing left


Niall of the Nine Hostages & The Milesian Genealogies
The Ua hAnluain sept is descended from Niall of the Nine Hostages, one of Ireland's most famous and powerful kings, whose genealogy predates written history in Ireland. This line was committed to memory by bards and was eventually transcribed when the first missionaries brought writing to Ireland in the fifth century A.D. The ancient writings from the fifth century onwards were compiled in 1632-1636 by a Franciscan monk, Michael O'Clery, into a volume which became known as the Milesian genealogies and survived to modern times.


The Three Collas
Niallan or "Niall of the Nine Hostages" had a son Eochaidh Dubhlen, who had three sons in the fourth century A.D. known as The Three Collas:

Colla da Crioch appears in the Milesian genealogies as the 91st in his line and died in 357 AD. His descendant Anluain appears nine generations later as the 100th, probably born around the end of the seventh century A.D. The name Anluain comes from the Gaelic words 'an' = great and 'luain' = champion. It appears that the 104th in this line, Anluain's great great grandson Flaitheartach Ua'h-Anluain, was the first to use the Ua'h-Anluain surname. (See Milesian genealogy below.) Clann Ua'h-Anluain (in English: Clann O'Hanlon) are therefore the descendants of Anluain.



THE O'HANLONS IN THE MILESIAN GENEALOGIES

Generation numbers as given in the Milesian genealogies.

  • 89. Niallan - had two brothers: Fiachra Ceannfinan and Oronn
  • 90. Eochaidh Dubhlen - had a brother Fiacha Sraibhtine
  • 91. Muireadach, or Colla da Chrioch - had two brothers, Carioll and Meann
  • 92. Baodan, or Fiachra Cassán
  • 93. Ronan
  • 94. Suibhneach - had a brother Crunmoal
  • 95. Colgan
  • 96. Eagnach
  • 97. Suibneach
  • 98. Cosgrach - had a brother Cearnach
  • 99. Dermod
  • 100. Anluan (from an-luan, Gaelic for great champion)
  • 101. Flann
  • 102. Aodh (Hugh)
  • 103. Dermod
  • 104. Flaitheartach Ua'h-Anluain
  • 105. Cumascach
  • 106. Maccraith
  • 107. Flann
  • 108. Moroch - had a brother Giollapadraic
  • 109. Ardgal
  • 110. Moroch
  • 111. Edmond
  • 112. Eocha
  • 113. John O'Hanlon - had a brother Patrick O'Hanlon
  • 114. Eocha, son of John
  • 115. Shane
  • 116. Eocha
  • 117. Shane
  • 118. Giollapadraic Mór
  • 119. Eocha
  • 120. Shane
  • 121. Shane Oge
  • 122. Eocha (Sir Oghy) O'Hanlon - had four brothers: Patrick, Melaghlin, Shane Oge, Felim
  • 123. Owen Oghy Oge - had an older brother Tirlogh and a younger brother Edward.


Kings of Airghialla
It can certainly be said that the three Collas were of noble descent. Their father was the son of the legendary Niall of the Nine Hostages, his brother (their uncle) was Fiacha Sraibhtine, the 120th High King of Ireland, and their mother was Aileach, the daughter of the King of Alba (Scotland). But they aspired to more. Some time early in the fourth century, about 320 A.D., the three Collas descended upon the ancient but decaying Kingdom of Uladh (Ulster) with an army of Firbolg kinsmen from the Province of Connaught. After a battle of seven days they slayed Ulster's king, Fergus, and conquered a large portion of southwestern Ulster which they declared the Kingdom of Airghialla. Colla da Crioch was the first King of Airghialla. Also known as Oirghialla or Oirghiall, the territory name was later anglicised to Oriel and sometimes Uriel.

Map of Ireland showing Oirghialla: link to source, Ireland's History in Maps

The Kingdom of Oirghialla covered most of today's County Armagh, Louth, Monaghan and Fermanagh, as well as the southern parts of Tyrone and Derry.

© 2002 Dennis Walsh
for Ireland's History in Maps.
Reproduced by kind permission.


But the Collas did not stop there. In 323 A.D., Carioll (Colla Uais) became the 121st monarch of all Ireland by slaying his uncle, King Fiacha, in the Battle of Dubhcomar assisted by his brothers. The victory was shortlived: Colla Uais was deposed four years later by his cousin Muireadach Tireach, son of the previous King Fiacha. This was almost disastrous for all three Collas as they were banished to Alba (Scotland) to live at their grandfather's court. Peace was soon made and they returned to rule Oriel. Colla da Crioch's descendants ruled the Kingdom of Airghialla for the next thousand years.



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O'Hanlon boar facing right The Dark Ages O'Hanlon boar facing left


The Surname Ua'h-Anluain
Ireland did not have family names until the tenth century as patronyms were the tradition. Under this system a man would take his father's first name as his own last name. For example:

Patrick John = Patrick, son of John
Owen Patrick = Owen, son of Patrick, grandson of John

This was not easy to follow as the second name would change with each generation. In the example above, Patrick's son Owen would be Owen Patrick: there would be no mention of old grampa John. To make matters worse, only a handful of names were used at all, so there could be several people with identical first AND last names!

In the tenth century King Brian Boru ordered that the clanns take a family name for each sept. Many of the various families descended of Niall of the Nine Hostages took the name Ua'Niall (descendants of Niall), and the Ua'Niall sept was amongst the most powerful in Ireland, ruling most of central and north Ulster. But, in the East of Airghialla in a territory known as Airthir, the Kings of Airthir distinguished themselves from the rest of their O'Neil clansmen by taking the name Ua'h-Anluain (descendants of Anluain). Hence the Ua'h-Anluain became recognised as a separate sept in the tenth century, but were closely related to the Ua'Niall. It is indeed in the tenth century, in the year 983 A.D., that the earliest written reference is found to the clann by name. The Annals of The Four Masters 983 A.D., chapter 6 record that:

M983.6 Flaithbheartach Ua hAnluain, lord of Ui-Niallain, was treacherously slain by the Ui-Breasail.


The Federated Kingdom of Airghialla
The Kingdom of Airghialla was in fact a federation of tribes and sub-kingdoms, e.g. Ui Cremthainn (now Fermanagh), Ui Nad Sluaigh (now the Clogher Valley part of Tyrone), Airthir (now Orior). Each of these territories was ruled by a branch of descendants of one of the Three Collas. There were constant battles amongst the various Lords to decide which would rule Airghialla as a whole. Power shifted frequently, and many different tribes laid claim to the title Lord of Airghialla - however briefly. The Annals of the Four Masters record such a struggle in 1027 where two Lords in Airghialla both fought to the death.

M1027.9 Cathalan-Ua-Crichain, Lord of Fearnmhagh, and of the Airghialla in general, and Culocha Ua Gairbhith, Lord of Ui-Meath, mutually fell by each other.


The Kingdom of Airthir
In the south east of Airghialla lay the Kingdom of Airthir, meaning Eastern (i.e. Eastern Airghialla). This was the stronghold of the Ua'h-Anluain. Airthir covered a large tract of what is now southern County Armagh, spilling over slightly into Counties Down, Louth and Monaghan. The Kingdom of Airthir was also known as Ind-tÁirthir, Oirthir and later Orior.




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O'Hanlon boar facing right The Middle Ages O'Hanlon boar facing left


By the middle ages Clann Ua'h-Anluain was one of Ireland's dynastic families and the clann's deeds are thoroughly documented in The Annals of The Four Masters, The Annals of Ulster, The Annals of Connacht and Mac Carthaigh's Book. They are cited as medieval chiefs of Ui Meith Tiri, Lords of Airthir, and occasionally Kings of Uí Nialláin, and Lords of Airghialla. (See Hanlons in ancient Irish texts for citations).

End of The Kingdom of Airghialla
The Kingdom of Airghialla was broken up by the Saxon-Gall (Anglo-Norman) advance into Ireland in the late twelfth and early thirteenth century. The Annals of Ulster record the Norman advance and a rare victory for the Airghialla:

U1211.1 The Foreigners came to Narrow-Water, until Aedh Ua Neill assembled [Cenel-]Conaill and [Cenel-] Eogain and the Airghialla, so that they [the Foreigners] were killed by him.

In the end, however, after half a century of skirmishes, the foreigners won more than they lost. Following the conquest the descendants of Colla da Crioch mostly remained in their territories, but these were no longer part of a unified Kingdom of Airghialla. From this time on, after the Norman conquest, the term Airghialla was used to describe a much reduced area approximately equal to modern day County Monaghan.

Almost all of the Kingdom of Airthir was retained by The O'Hanlons who lost only the southern tip of their territory to the conquerors. The O'Hanlons continued to rule Orior without interruption for the next four centuries and were known henceforth as the Lords of Orior.

The O'Hanlons lost the town of Dundalk in the South of Airthir (modern day County Louth), but were allowed to stay as paying tenants. The town's coat of arms still has an ermine boar representing the O'Hanlons supporting a shield with the De Verdon coat of arms (representing the Norman conquerors).

Dundalk Coat of Arms: link to source, International Civic Heraldry website


© 1998 Ralph Hartemink
Reproduced by kind permission.


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O'Hanlon boar facing right 14th Century: Lords of Orior O'Hanlon boar facing left


Unfortunately there are no surviving maps of Ireland from this period (the earliest date about 1600). However, a map of medieval Ireland c. 1300 can be reconstructed from the written records mentioning medieval place names. The example below is from Ireland's History in Maps.



This reconstructed map (right) shows that by 1300 the O'Hanlon name was found mainly in what is now southern County Armagh.

(The Munster sept sprang up well after 1300, mainly due to the Cromwellian plantations of the mid 1600's.)
Map of Ireland c. 1300: link to source, Ireland's History in Maps


© 2002 Dennis Walsh
for Ireland's History in Maps.

Reproduced by kind permission.




The Roydamna
When Edmond Mortimer arrived in Ireland in 1380, The Annals of The Four Masters records that the O'Hanlons as Lords of Orior were considered to be amongst the mightiest lords of Ireland, i.e. The Roydamna of Ireland:

Mortimer came to Ireland with great powers, as Lord Justice; whereupon the Irish nobility repaired to [pay their court to] him, and among others the Roydamna of Ireland, i.e. Niall O'Neill, O'Hanlon, O'Farrell, O'Reilly, O'Molloy, Mageoghegan, and the Sinnach Fox, with many other nobles.


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O'Hanlon boar facing right 15th Century: Henry VII & VIII O'Hanlon boar facing left


In the early 1490's King Henry VII appointed his son Henry, Duke of York, as Lieutenant of Ireland. Keen to impress his father, Henry (Duke of York, soon to be Henry VIII) sent Sir Edward Poynings to Ireland as his new deputy on 13 October 1495 with a mighty army. The O'Hanlons suffered several defeats at the hands of Poynings. But they found an unexpected ally in the disgruntled deposed Lord Deputy, Gerald Mor Fitzgerald, who was widely rumoured to have supported the O'Hanlons in their ongoing rebellion against the British. After being arrested, Gerald Mor's Act of Attainder of November 1495 charged him with "encouraging O'Hanlon" - a treasonable offense!



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O'Hanlon boar facing right 16th Century: Submission & Nine Years War O'Hanlon boar facing left


Sir Oghy O'Hanlon
Eocha "Oghy" O'Hanlon, son of Shane Oge O'Hanlon, lived in a castle in Tandragee, near what is today Poyntzpass, Armagh. By Irish tradition (Brehon law) he was Chief of his name and Lord of Upper and Lower Orior.

As of Henry VIII's accession to the Irish throne in 1541, the British crown had started a policy of "Surrender and Regrant" whereby the Gaelic chiefs surrendered their lands, but were re-granted them with an English title after swearing allegiance to the Crown. The offer was reiterated when Queen Elizabeth took the throne in 1558. Several of the Irish princes accepted this offer, the first being Hugh O'Neill in 1587 who was given the English title Earl of Tyrone. Oghy O'Hanlon followed his example and had his lands re-granted by letters of patent in the same year. He became a British Knight, Sir Oghy O’Hanlon, hereditary royal standard bearer north of the River Boyne. But in doing so he effectively abolished the chieftaincy, and with it Clann O'Hanlon's direct rights to the land. It should be noted that both O'Neill and O'Hanlon had little choice. Three years earlier, in August 1584 with the new Lord Deputy Sir John Perrot's army marching on Newry, both O'Hanlon and Tuelough Luineach O’Neill had waited till he was within half a mile of the town before reluctantly giving their sons to him as hostages.


O'Hanlon's Country
After half a millenium as Kings of Orior, the O'Hanlon name was synonymous with the territory which was better known as "O'Hanlon's Country". Two of the earliest maps of Ulster, Jobson's Ulster maps (c. 1590) and Norden's map of Ireland (1610), both show O'Hanlon's Country. In 1586, when Sir John Perrot created the County of Armagh, O'Hanlon's country accounted for one of the five baronies: Armaghe, Toaghriny, Orier, Fuighes (Fews) and Onylane (O'Neilland). In later times "Orier" became the Baronies of Orior Upper and Orior Lower, the southernmost two of Armagh's eight Baronies. So it is not surprising that the O'Hanlons were a major force in the new County - and slightly beyond. It is often overlooked that the Gaelic territory of Orior predates and extended beyond the Barony of that name in County Armagh. O'Hanlon's Country extended southwards into northern County Louth and to the East it encroached slightly into County Down. In fact, before the county borders were finalised, some old maps show the old O'Hanlon seat of Loughgilly in County Down!


The Nine Year War (1594 - 1603)
After ascending to the throne in 1558, Queen Elizabeth I proclaimed herself head of the Irish Church (the Act of Supremacy), and went about replacing the "Old English" clergy and administrators with newly appointed Englishmen. The deposed "Old English" had fallen out of favour for their acquired local habits of dress, speaking Gaelic, and moderate sympathies with the native Irish. (After all, by the late 1500's it had been four hundred years since their arrival in Ireland with the Anglo-Norman advance.) The new administration was vehemently anti-Gael, but also anti-Catholic. To their horror, this meant the Galls (Gallic descendants of the Normans) suddenly found themselves out of favour too. Discontent led to an uprising of the Northern clanns in 1594. It was led by the O'Neills - including some of the O'Hanlons under Oghy Og, Sir Eocha's son - and the O'Donnells, supported by their new allies the Galls. The rebellion started in Ulster and spread all over Ireland to become the Nine Year War.

The Galls and the Gaels hoped for help from Catholic Spain but it was slow in coming. In September 1601, after seven years war in Ireland, the Spanish Armada sent 4,000 men to help Hugh O'Neill and Hugh O'Donnell. But the Armada landed at Kinsale in the South, while O'Neill and O'Donnell's strongholds were way up in the North. Against the odds, the Gaels marched South through enemy territory to meet the Spanish, and arrived in a matter of weeks with 12,000 men to lay siege to the English at Kinsale. By December 1601 the combined Spanish and Gael forces had the upper hand, but had been reduced to 10,000 men. Impatient to leave, the Spanish demanded an attack which took place on Christmas Eve 1601. It was disastrous and losing the Battle of Kinsale effectively marked the end of the Nine Years War. Although the war ended formally only in March 1603 when O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone submitted to the English.



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O'Hanlon boar facing right 17th Century: End of the Gaelic Lords O'Hanlon boar facing left


Death of Sir Eocha "Oghy" O'Hanlon - 1600
According to John P. Prendergast's book "The Cromwellian Settlement of Ireland" page 353:

On the 17th November, 1600, he (Eocha O'Hanlon) was slain at the pass of Carlingford, fighting on the English side, under the orders of Lord Mountjoy. For his loyalty and his services in this war against the Earl of Tyrone, King James I bestowed upon his family seven townlands.


The First Census of the Fews - 1602
This census was taken in 1602 to record the clanspeople of Turlagh MacHenry O'Neill, chief of the Fews (a Barony in southern Armagh neighbouring Orior). It survives today as the first census taken in Ireland and records five O'Hanlon clansmen living as tenants:

Many O Hanlon, Shane O Hanlon, Brain O Hanlon, Hugh O Hanlon, Glessny O Hanlon

Turlagh MacHenry O'Neill was a half brother to the mighty Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, and had initially cooperated with the English before joining his brother's forces in the Nine Years War. After his brother's defeat at Kinsale, Turlagh received a pardon in 1602 for himself and all his clanspeople. Since the pardon did not extend to his brother's people, The Census of The Fews was compiled to list who the pardon applied to.

Murder Committed before their rebellion, intrusion on Crown lands, and debts to the Crown excepted from their pardon. [Date destroyed] Lord Deputy's warrant dated 24 June 1602.


The Attainder and Exile of O'Hanlon - 1605
For his participation in the nine years war on the side of O'Neill and the Gaelic lords young Oghie Og O’Hanlon, son of the late Sir Oghy, could reasonably have expected to be charged with treason and hung - or worse. But he surrendered and in return Oghie Og was attainted, then pardoned on the 12th February 1605. His family (i.e. his brothers, wife and sons) were able to stay on the family estates. But the pardon included a provision that Oghie Og himself must leave Ireland for exile in Europe. He is said to have done so and to have joined the Catholic armies of France and Spain in their wars against The Netherlands.


Flight of The Earls - 1607
On the 14th September 1607 The Earls of Tyrone and Donegal (The O'Neill and O'Donnell) fled Ireland with some 90 family and friends. The Flight of The Earls was construed by the English as an admission of guilt, and all those who left were charged with treason in their absence and their lands and livestock "reverted to the Crown".

The O'Hanlons could count themselves lucky, for in the absence of Oghie Og they knew the British did not consider them a threat, so felt safe enough to stay. They lost Hanlon castle but otherwise kept their lands while all around them their allies lost everything.


Plantation of Ulster - 1609
In the Plantation of Ulster most of the remaining Gaelic chieftains had their lands escheated (confiscated) and reassigned to Scottish or English foreigners. Only a few lucky "natives" were awarded land grants. In the "Precinct of Orier" the O'Hanlons figured prominently: they accounted for 10 of the 39 grants made to "natives".

PLANTATION OF ULSTER: PRECINCT OF ORIER
LAND GRANTS TO NATIVES

Grant
No.
Name Acres
3 Tirlogh Groome O'Hanlon, gent. 140
4 Shane McShane O'Hanlon, gent. 100
5 Shane McOghie O'Hanlon, gent. 100
6 Oghie Oge O'Hanlon's two sons, Felim and Brian, gents 200
7 Rorie McFerdoragh O'Hanlon, gent. 120
8 Shane Oge McShane Roe O'Hanlon, gent. 120
11 Patrick McManus O'Hanlon, and Ardell Moore O'Mulchrewe 120
12 Redmond McFerdoragh O'Hanlon 60
30 Patrick Moder (O'Hanlon ?), gent. 120
39 Ardill McFelim O'Hanlon, gent. 80


The O'Hanlon Title
The O'Hanlon title (Barony) is believed to have died with its first holder, Sir Oghy (Eocha) O'Hanlon in 1600. At the time of his death his son, Oghie Oge, was fighting in the nine years war against the British so could hardly expect to inherit a British title. Oghie Oge's omission from the plantation would appear to confirm this. As would the inclusion of Oghie Oge's two sons Felim and Brian as a single entry; if either of them had inherited a title, they would surely have been listed separately. Oghie Oge was still alive at the time of the plantation- he only died in 1611.

The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland has an early patent of 1609 (Document ref. D/1854) in which King James I grants to Patrick O'Hanlon in perpetuity various towns and lands near Mountnorris, Co. Armagh. I do not know if this is one of the two Patrick Hanlons named above in the plantation, and/or if this might refer to the seven townlands granted to the descendants of Sir Oghy O'Hanlon. Whatever their history, the lands did not remain in O'Hanlon hands for long: the Mountnorris estate shortly afterwards became the property of Francis Annesley, 1st Viscount Valentia (an Englishman).


O'Hanlon Castle
After the Plantation of Ulster, Oliver St John (the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland) took over and rebuilt O'Hanlon Castle. During the Ulster Rebellion of 1641 the clann attempted to take back their lands, but it ended in disaster and the castle burnt down. Having passed out of the family it became known as Tandragee Castle and remained a ruin for 200 years (see 19th century, below).


Redmond O'Hanlon
Born around 1640 in Poyntzpass, O'Hanlon's Country, Redmond O'Hanlon was the son of Loughlin O'Hanlon, rightful heir to the castle at Tandragee. As a young man he worked as a footboy to Sir George Acheson of Markethill, but became fiercely anti-British. He spent several years in exile with the French army and tried to organise a French invasion of Ireland to depose the British. He was popular in France and awarded the courtesy title of Count O'Hanlon (though in fact he was untitled as the title died with Sir Eocha O'Hanlon in 1600 and the family had been evicted from Tandragee castle during the plantation in 1609). When the attempt failed he returned to Armagh in 1671 and became a notorious highwayman or rapparee as they were known then. A real-life Robinhood, Redmond robbed the English settlers, took protection money from the Scots, and gave freely to the poor. In 1674 the British government put a price on his head with posters advertising for his capture, dead or alive. He was eventually murdered in his sleep for two hundred pounds in silver by his half brother Art O'Hanlon at Eight Mile Bridge near Hilltown in 1681. As had become the custom in Cromwellian Ireland, there were gruesome displays of his body parts including his head which was placed on a spike over Downpatrick jail. His remains are said to lie in an unmarked but well-known grave in Ballynabeck old graveyard. Undoubtedly the most famous man to carry the O'Hanlon name, Redmond's popularity was immortalised in pulp fiction of the day and poems and ballads which survive to the present day.


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O'Hanlon boar facing right 18th Century O'Hanlon boar facing left


The 1700's saw the enforcement of the penal laws against Catholics which stripped what little power or wealth remained from the Catholic gentry. Illegitimate children could not inherit, and under the new laws the state recognised only Church of Ireland marriages - so a Catholic's property would be seized by the Crown on his death, since in the eyes of the Crown all his children were "illegitimate". It can be no coincidence that it is early this century that we see the first use of the anglicised surname Hanlon (without the O') and the first Hanlons with Protestant affiliations.


Hanlon tomb in Letterkenny, County Donegal - 1708
A heavily worn flat grey stone just outside the vestry door of the Conwal Parish Church of Ireland in Letterkenny marks the final resting place of the five sons of "Redmond Hanlen, Marchant in Letterkenny" together with David Conyngham and "Catherine his wife, daughter of Redd Hanlon" (different spelling). It is believed these may be the children of the rapparee Redmond O'Hanlon of Armagh, though no more than circumstancial proof has been found to date. In wet weather the name Redmond Hanlen can just be made out with the coat of arms of a boar passant and a lizard crest still distinctly engraved upon the stone. These Hanlons were the first in Donegal, and gradually moved further West to establish a considerable presence around the towns of Dungloe, Glenties and Killybegs (all of which had existing Conyngham residences). The families consistently used the name Hanlon without the O' - perhaps to distance themselves from the notorious family connection in Armagh? Traditional family names were used and in the next generation the Diocese of Raphoe records a will in Letterkenny for another Redmond Hanlen in 1725, and an Isabella Hanlen in 1748. The Hanlons are documented en masse in Dungloe in St. Crone's Church of Ireland church registers and in the vestry minutes from 1766 onwards; they account for about half of all headstones in the churchyard there! (See the Hanlon Headstones page for photographs and transcriptions of headstones in Donegal, including this headstone in Letterkenny.) Small photo with link to larger photo of 1708 Hanlon headstone
Photo courtesy of Chris Hewett


O'Hanlon tomb in Newtown Cemetery, County Louth - 1759

In Newtown Cemetery, County Louth, lies another tombstone with the O'Hanlon coat of arms, also said to have links to the rapparee Redmond O'Hanlon of Armagh.

The sketch to the right is based on that in Seaumas Ua Cuinn's article entitled "The O'Hanlon tomb and arms in Newtown Cemetery, Lordship" (County Louth Archaeological and Historical Journal, 1908, Vol. 2, no. 1). It has been ammended as a visit to the headstone in June 2003 found Mr Ua Cuinn had misread the family motto, and omitted the O' in the surname.

(With thanks to Martin O'Hanlon of Canada and Bernard O'Hanlon of Mullaghbawn.)

The headstone reads:

Here lyeth the body of Mr. Patt. OHanlon, who departed this life Decr. 1759, aged 32 years. Here also lies interred Margaret OHanlon, who departed this life on the 15th May 1767 aged 22 years. And Terence O'Hanlon father to both the former, who departed this life on the 4th of February 1777, aged 90 years.

Sketch of 1759 O'Hanlon headstone

The coat of arms depicts the customary boar passant, but the crest above it is a right handed fist holding a dagger. The family motto inscribed in Latin reads "RE.E.MERITO" which translates to "by reality and merit".

Photo of 1759 O'Hanlon headstone's coat of arms

In his 1908 article Mr. Ua Cuinn stated that Terence was the son of one James O'Hanlon, who in turn was a son of "Count Redmond O'Hanlon" (the rapparee). Terence and his son James were apparently able to remain on their old family lands by cooperating with their British landlord: they are documented as sub-agents for a small part of the British-owned Anglesey estates, c.1732-1790. (See Public Record Office of Northern Ireland ref. D/619/1-24).


The Rebellion of 1798
But not all Hanlons cooperated with the British. The rebellion of 1798 started in the small hours of the morning on the 24th of May with a bloody massacre of British soldiers in Prosperous, County Kildare. Three days after the incident an eyewitness, James Jordan of Prosperous, Co. Kildare, wrote a sworn testimony naming one Edward Hanlon Donore amongst the rebel leaders. His testimony is on display at the Irish National Archives website: see their document The Rebellion of 1798, facsimile number 7. The testimony of James Jordan naming Edward Hanlon appears on page 1 as a typed transcription, and on page 2 is the handwritten document.

image of 1798 handwritten name accusing Edward Hanlon Donore


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O'Hanlon boar facing right 19th and 20th Centuries O'Hanlon boar facing left


Famous Hanlon people from the nineteenth century onwards are listed on another page, together with modern day Hanlons from every walk of life.

Tandragee Castle
O'Hanlon Castle remained a ruin for two centuries after being burnt down during the rebellion of 1641. Better known as Tandragee Castle after passing by marriage to the Montague family, it was rebuilt in 1836 by the Duke of Manchester in the fashion of the day. It was the seat of the Dukedom until 1939.

Right: vintage photo of Tandragee Castle c. 1910.

Tandragee and the castle are described in the memoirs of Robert Walter Ernest Gillis (1874 - 1942), a Tandragee local :


Tandragee Castle c. 1910

Tandragee is a small town of about 3,000 people, beautifully located on the Cusher River. The town is a picture postcard place, with the main street built on a steep hill. [...] On the hillside overlooking the town is the wonderfully situated Tandragee Castle. The Castle was built in the 1830’s by the sixth Duke of Manchester and has been described as a ‘Gothic Extravaganza’.

The castle still stands today, albeit partly in a state of disrepair. During World War II it was requisitioned by US troops who were housed there from 1939 until the end of the war. The castle was not restored afterwards, until it was purchased in 1955 by the Hutchinson family who are its current owners and run a successful snackfood business there.

Right: Tandragee Castle today.

Alongside the castle there is also Tandragee Golf Club, with views of the castle. It was built by the Duke of Manchester in 1911 within the original (O'Hanlon) estate.

Tandragee Castle

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O'Hanlon coats of arms, maps and Dundalk arms appear by permission (linked to source).
Rest of page copyright © 2002-2006 Annemarie Bruinsma Hanlon. All Rights Reserved.

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