O’Collins Lords of Lower Connello, County Limerick


Lords of Lower Connello, County Limerick

From Irish Pedigrees; or the Origin and Stem of the Irish Nation (1892) by John O’Hart

THE O’Cuileann family (“cuileann:” Irish, a whelp, meaning a young fearless warrior), anglicised O’Collins and Collins, is distinct from the O’Coilean (“coilean:” Irish, a whelp, also), anglicised O’Cullen and Cullen (see the “Cullen” pedigree, ante); and derives their descent from Fiacha Fighinte, son of Daire Cearb, son of Olioll Flann Beag, who is No. 87 on the “Line of Heber” (ante). They were lords of Eighter Conghalach or Lower Connello, in the county of Limerick, until deprived of their possessions by Maurice Fitzgerald, second “lord of Offaly,” in the second quarter of the thirteenth century. They were also chiefs of a portion of Eoghanacht Ara, now a barony in the same county; as we are informed by O’Heerin:

“O’Collins, a distinguished chief,

Rules over the Eoghanacht of Aradh.”

When the “war loving O’Collins’s” were deprived of their estates by Fitzgerald in 1228, they removed to Carbery, in co. Cork, where they obtained lands from their kinsman Cathal, son of Crom O’Donovan, a powerful prince in that country. From one of these settlers in Carbery descended John Collins, author of a MS. History of the O’Donovans, written in Myross, March, 1813; Lines on the Ruins of Timoleague Abbey; An Irish Translation of the Exile of Erin, by Reynolds, etc. He attended school at Kilmacabee, near Myross, about the middle of the last century, with Jerry an-Duna, to whom he was related. When they parted, Jerry commenced a life of projects and peregrinations; Collins remained at home, and occupied himself with the collection of the traditions, history, and genealogy of the reduced local Irish families. Dr. O’Donovan pronounced John Collins to be “the last of the bards, genealogists, and historiographers of Munster.” As his pursuits were not of a lucrative nature, like many others of late years, he was compelled to supplement any slender resources he may have derived from them, by other means: he taught school in the townland of Cappagh, in Myross, up to the year 1817; after that in the town of Skibbereen, until 1819, when he died there at the age of between 70 and 80 years. He was buried in Kilmeen—between Dunmanway and Clonakilty. One daughter of his lived at Skibbereen in 1874. Many old people in the locality knew him, and all have a high respect for his memory.



In A.D. 1109, Maolisa O’Collins, Bishop of Leath-Cuin (Conacht and Ulster), died. In 1126, Murray O’Collins, erenach or manager of the church lands and revenues of the religious establishments at Clogher, was killed. In A.D. 1266, Mahon O’Collins, lord of Claonglas, was killed by his wife, with a thrust of a knife, in a fit of jealousy. Claonglas was a district in Hy Conal Gabhra, in the barony of Upper Connello, south-east of Abbeyfeale; it was sometimes called Hy Cuileann, a name by which the more extensive territory of Hy Conal Gabhra was also known. In A.D. 1832, we learn that Michael Collins, Bishop of Cloyne and Ross, died.

There are in the present day several highly respectable families of this name and race in the counties of Cork, Limerick, Louth, Down, Tyrone, Dublin, Clare, and Tipperary; those in the latter two counties, we regret to add, are with few exceptions in narrow circumstances.

William Collins,[see Addenda] “the finest English poet which England has produced.” was, though a native of England, of Irish extraction; he was the son of a poor hatter in Chichester, being born there on the 25th of December, 1720; he died a lunatic in his sister’s house, in that town in 1756.

This family is (1887) represented in the Antipodes by C. MacCarthy Collins (or O’Collins), Esq., Barrister, &c., Brisbane; and in co. Cork by Mr. Daniel Collins, Clouncallabeg, Kilbrittan.

There is another family of this name descended from Cullean, son of Tuathal, according to the following pedigree compiled by Cathan O’Dunin:—


Criomthan: his son.

Laoghaire: his son.

Flanlaoi: his son.

Tuathal: his son.

Culean (a quo O’Collins): his son.

Very few notices of this family or of their possessions are preserved by the annalists; one in particular may be mentioned:—John Collins, a native of Kilfenora, a Dominican Friar, suffered martyrdom for his faith, in 1657, at the hands of Oliver Cromwell’s troopers.

Arms: The ancient Arms of this family were—two swords in saltire, the blades streaming with blood.

HD ocollins

Irish Pedigrees; or the Origin and Stem of the Irish Nation (1892) by John O’Hart




O’Collins is a common anglicized surname of two ancient families of Irish origin: O’Cuilleain and O’Coilean.

O’Cuilleain or Cuilliaéan is an extremely ancient Irish name from Gaelic cuileann and primitive Gaelic cuilieann meaning Holly. In pre-Christian Celtic culture and history, the Holly Tree was regarded as sacred on account of its alleged mystic and herbal properties.

As testimony to the ancient age of this family, the origin of the word holly comes from the 11th Century Old High German hulis and Old English holegn both meaning Holly. The word hulis originates from an even older pre-Christian proto-Germanic word khuli a shortened derivation of the ancient Gaelic cuilieann both meaning holly.

The English word “holly” itself pre-dates the word holy which appeared around the 13th Century with the Old English word hālig derived from hāl meaning health, happiness and wholeness.

It is possible the word Celt is also derived from Holly as a description of these, the earliest leaders of Ireland. The first literary reference to the Celtic people, as keltoi is by the Greek historian Hecataeus in 517 BC. He locates the Keltoi tribe in Rhenania (West/Southwest Germany). The similar proto-Germanic word ‘Khuli was in use at the time in the area through the proto-Germanic language, a shortened derivation of the ancient Gaelic cuilieann both meaning Holly.

Also sometimes written as Cualann, Cuilonn, Cullen, Culaan, Cuilinn and Cuillin, the O’Cuilleain originate from the Wicklow Hills (in Gaelic “Cill Mhantáin”) and were originally known as the Feara Cualann which probably more accurately translates as the Holly Men, than the Wicklow Men.

While the exact evidence of their migration south to West Cork is not clear, the event precedes the arrival of the O’Coilean (O’Collins) to the same area in the 12th Century by a significant period of centuries.


Ó Coileáin is an ancient Irish name from Gaelic coileain meaning “young warrior” or “hound”. In ancient Irish history, this family had a famous and fearless reputation for their skill at battle and are the original source of the name Collins, now so common throughout England and the world.

Due to pressures of defeat against the Anglo-Norman invaders, O’Coilean were gradually driven south from County Limerick to settle in the same approximate area as the O’Cuilleain in West Cork and Cork around the end of the 12th Century. As a result, the two families have been virtually impossible to geographically distinguish for the past eight hundred years.

The O’Donovans, also originally from Co. Limerick, and from the same ancient kingdom, known as Uí Fidgenti, made the journey to Co. Cork under similar circumstances, and so are closely related to these O’Collins.