• 321 members

About us

The news is that there is more than just one Ó Catháin clan. Historians have always known this from their study of the Irish annals. But you wouldn't know it from the pulp mill press, which focusses on just the clan, the most well-known, and ignores the other Ó Catháin clans, those we know from the Irish annals, and those discovered by the Cain DNA Project, to which project many members of the Keane Y-DNA project also belong. Thus we have:

Ó Catháin of Ciannachta Glinne-Geimhein, Co Derry 

The descent of the Ulster O’Cahan (“Grandson of Cathan") clan is well documented as factual recorded history since its first appearance (Ranall O'Cahan, as first recorded Chief of that particular clan) in the Annals of Ulster in 1138, having overthrown the Ciannachra and adopted the Ciannachta's royal title as their own. The pedigree is recorded further back, to Niall Noigallach (Niall of the Nine Hostages). were 'ri' (kings) or 'ur-ri' (sub-kings) under the Provincial King, McLaughlin. It was the Ó Catháin throwing his support behind Brian Ó Niall that the Ó Nialls became king of Ulster. An important role of the O'CAHAN Chiefs in Ulster was as hereditary co-Inaugurator (along with O'HAGAN) of the O'Neill Kings at Tullyhog. 

Ó Catháin of Cenel Ianna, later also of Cenel Sedna, Co Galway

The people holding the anvil-shaped peninsula of Kinvarradoorus had been known as the Tradraige Dubh-Ros until granted a royal pedigree by the Ui Fiachra kings, who made them Chiefs of Cenel Ianna. The Ó Catháin clan doubled their small territory when they won a fratricidal contest with Ó Draighneán, chief of Cenel Sedna. Eoghain Ua Catháin, Abbot of Cluain-fearta-Brennain (Clonfert, Co Galway) died 980 AD (Ref: Annals of the Four Masters). This clan suffered heavy losses at the battle of Clontarf in 1014, where High King Brian 'Boru' was killed 1014 along with Connachta chiefs Ó hEidhin (Hynes) and O'Kelly.  

Ó Catháin of the Shannon Estuary

 This Ó Catháin clan were chiefs of  Ó Catháin's Castle on Iniscatha (Scattery Isle) in the Shannon Estuary. They were also known as the carbs (successors) of St Senan, the Irish saint who founded a monastery on Iniscatha. They came to possess much of the Town of Kilrush, Co Clare at the time of the Spanish Armada when a Nicholas O'Cahane was Coroner (a crown office-holder) of Clare.

MacCatháin of the Isle of Man

This name is now appears as Cain and Caine, having lost the "Mac". Their shield, sable (black) bears a phoenix, argent, rising from the flames. Their DNA shows that there were two different ancestors, one a Viking from Dublin and the other likely a Scot as his descendants belong to the "Little Scots Cluster" DNA Type. 

Ó Cein of Co Waterford
This name was anglicised as Keen, Kean and Keane so as to become indistinguishable from Ó Catháin descendants who may have chosen the same anglicised version of the original Gaelic name Ó Catháin. The leading Ó Cain family became Baronets of Cappoquin House, Co Waterford, and produced several successful officers of the British Army named Keane.  

Caution: At various times, individual members of each of the minor clans have fabricated pedigrees and registered arms that erroneously claims descent from the more powerful and better-known Ulster O’Cahans. 
Q & A:

1. What is the oldest Ó Catháin relic? 

Probably the tomb of ConMuighe na nGall Ó Catháin in Dungiven Priory. He succeeded as chief in 1260 after his father's death at the Battle of Down, and carried on the Gaelic resistance in the north. He was still raiding the English in 1282 so died after that date. His tomb effigy is the oldest Ó Catháin likeness in existance. On his chest is a shield bearing the oldest known Ó Catháin coat armour. It is divided into two compartments by a perpendicular line or pale. The right side exhibits stag passing uder an oak. The left side is subdivided into two by a horizontal line or bar. The upper portion is charged with an ox, the lower portion with a salmon.  

The Ballymacloskey branch of the  same Ó Catháin clan bore the arms, "Gules Three Salmon naiant in pale Argent".  Other branches of the Ó Catháins of Ulster had their own coat armour, as did the Ó Catháins of Galway and the Ó Ceins of Cappoquin.

2. Are there name lists of Chiefs on-line?

Yes, but you're most likely to only find lists of the 21 or so previously recognized by the Chief Herald. Such lists cite much misinformation concerning the improper IGO "recognition", by primogeniture, of these Chiefs. Most of them have not changed much since the list I assisted Mr. C. Eugene Swezey, a local Massachusetts educator, in compiling back in the early 1970s. That list also can be found in Burke's "Irish Family Records" - American Ed. (1972). There are a number of completely valid Chiefships held by persons who wisely have not sought approval from the Chief Herald, including one of the two O'Neills. The lists may be found easily with a Google search. Keep in mind though, that in 1972 tanistic succession seemed to be practically unknown to the Chiefs, who were then totally unorganized. Assuming "implied 'derbhfine' concurrence" and solid pedigrees, I would not question the validity of any of those 21 Chiefships, nor any of the others who have privately complied fully with the requirements of tanistic succession as anciently required under Brehon Law. There is also the Irish Chiefs Watch website, where the claims of a Keane from a Co Clare family to be chief of the Ulster Ó Catháins earned a mention. 

3. Are there sept names diffrent from the chiefs?

Firstly there are spelling variations of the many anglicised versions of the original Gaelic name Ó Catháin.
McCloskey: the descendants of Bloscaidh Ó Catháin, who killed the Ó Niall chief in 1196. His descendants adopted the surname McCloskey (the C replacing the B for pronunciation).
McHenry: the descendants of Henry O’Cahan ca. 1400 added McHenry to become McHenry O’Cahan for several generations before eventually dropping O’Cahan and just using McHenry.

4. Is there property involved? Castles?

All their castles in ruins, I'm afraid, including that known as O'Cahane's Castle on Iniscatha, Kanes Fort on the shores of Galway Bay, the several castles of the Ó Catháins of Derry. The last known stronghold of an Ó Catháin chief was Dunseverick castle. The Dunseverick branch of the Ulster Ó Catháins became chiefs after the Plantation of Ulster rendered the clan landless in Co Derry. The tune O'Cahan's March celebrates Turlough O'Cahan arriving at a battle in north Antrim in time to turn the tide and defeat the English. This branch layed aleading role in the War of 1641-1652, including the raising of O'Cahan's Regiment for the Marquis of Motroe's Irish Brigade by Colonel Manus Rua O'Cahan. The last O'Cahan clan Regiment was raised by Colonel Rory O'Cahan of Dunserverick in 1688. He wwas recognised as chief in a declaracion d'noblesse granted to his son, Caitaine Jean O'Cahane, an Irish officer then at Strasbourg serving King James in exile.  

Dunseverick Castle was forfeited and it suffered the fate of the O'Cahan castles in Co. Derry. It is recorded that Lady O'Cahan, widow of Sir Donnell 'Ballagh' O'Cahan, the "last" Chief (as recognised by the English and who died in the Tower of London in 1628) as an elderly woman taking refuge from the elements in the ruins of her late husband's castle, burning sticks to keep warm. One of the military strongholds of the O'Cahans was Dungiven (Glengiven) Castle, a strategic location in south Derry near the Antrim border. The tradition is that the three slmon often born on Ó Catháin coat armour represents fishing rights in the Rivers Bann, Foyle and Roe in Ulster. However it should be noted the the Ó Catháins of Galway also bore three salmon, as did several other smaller Ó Catháin and Cain/ Kane/ Keane families not connected with Ulster.

5. Were the Keane family claiming the Ulster chiefship actually chiefs or landholders.
Landholders appears more accurate. Even then, their lands were leased from the MacDonnell family. The Co. Clare MacDonnells "of Kilkee", a Protestant family, were a branch of the Baronets of Moye, Co. Antrim, related to both Ulster and Clare O'Cahans and to 2nd Viscount Clare aka Lord Clare (O'Brien). As Lord Clare's agent, they held all his leases after he was attainted for forming the Regiment of Clare and fighting on the side of James II. The O'Cahans (as they still were named then) were very much involved in all the rebellions. Several went into exile with Lord Clare after Aughrim and were killed fighting for France (Ramillies & Fontenoy). One descendant, in order to get some of the leases back about 1720, conformed to the Protestant faith and anglicized his surname to KEANE, though the religious conversion only lasted about two generations. His descendant and heir left Ireland about 1800 to become a lace merchant in London, which I believe he financed by selling and/or leasing his property to a Protestant Keane whose claim to Ulster ancestry is supported by DNA, unlike the family claiming the chiefship who have homegrown Co Clare DNA.