Amongst the ancient lineages of Ireland, the story of the O'Byrne family is amongst the most interesting and coherent. Although a traditional genealogy would seek to carry the story back into Biblical times, the genuine tribal origins can be traced back through 1,600 years, to an origin in Ossory. Later, after many centuries in present-day Kildare, the tribe moved eastwards to the Wicklow Mountains, where it retained its Celtic identity and harassed the English settlers of "the Pale" long after most other tribes had been suppressed. As late as 1578, Dunlang was inaugurated as "the O'Byrne" in the age-old manner, and it was not until April 1601 that Phelim MacFeagh O'Byrne submitted to the new order.
This work arose through the personal interest of the author, who was conducting his own research and found that no comprehensive and authoritative history of this ancient clan was yet available. More to the point, even the basic outline of the story was buried in a myriad of sources; for the convenience of a wider public, Paul Burns has drawn the threads together and presents them in a coherent form.
The book consists of eight brief chapters, opening with "The First Millennium"; subsequent chapters cover each succeeding century, finishing with the seventeenth century. There are valuable footnotes and a selected bibliography has been included. Separate appendices deal with "Other Origins of the name Byrne or Burns" and with two famous women called "Gormlaith", both of whom are of significance. Illustrations include an extract from an early map by John Norden and a reduced facsimile taken from a work by Rev. P.L. O'Toole, "The Genealogy of the Ui Faelan (The Clan O'Byrne)".
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