Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Origin of O'Reilly

Hello Friends!  It's Irish History Thursday and in today's lesson we will explore the derivation of the 11th most popular Irish surname:  O'Reilly.  Literally meaning "descendants of Reilly", O'Reilly has been translated to mean "outgoing people."  Fitting!! Join us for Thanksgiving and you will certainly understand...

Anyhow, back in the 12th Century the historic kingdom of East Breifne covered a considerable amount of land in north central Ireland.  Our predecessors, the O Raghallaigh's, ruled their happy kingdom; breeding and raising nobleman until a great battle broke out between cousins.  The outcome of this battle would  divide Breifne forever. 

The O'Rourkes and O'Reillys fought hard to gain control over an area about 76 miles from what is today Dublin.  Eventually, Breifne would be split; the O'Rourkes would found County Leitrim, and our kinfolk County Cavan.  For the next 400 years, or so, the Lords O'Reilly of Breifne would rule over County Cavan.

Today, there are still many O'Reillys leading their people.  Heather O'Reilly is helping lead the United States Women's soccer team into the World Cup. My cousin Heather O'Reilly leads her mom around Rochester when she comes to visit.  When she remembers her GPS that is! 

Tom O'Reilly leads the Irish Sinn Fein in their fight for Irish independence from Britain.  My dad Tom O'Reilly leads his young granddaughter in the appreciation of Beatles and other Woodstock era music.  And he will have her standing before she can crawl! 

Walter Cresswell O'Reilly was the founding President of the National Trust of Australia.  My grandfather, Walter Thomas O'Reilly was one of the founding architects of the Rolling Rock Bottling plant.  Three cheers for the original green lights! 

And who can forget Mr. O'Reilly, the fictional character who led "The Builders" from Fawlty Towers.  Today, Mr. Scott O'Reilly, leads his young players to victory on the basketball court.  And leads his young friend Matt through the chaos that is high school.

So, to review: there are Murphys and Kellys, O'Sullivans and Walshes, Smiths (really, top 10?) and Byrnes (if you can find it out in east bum...), O'Brians and Ryans (Ryan Ryan, how funny!), O'Connors (where you can find your church goods) and O'Neills (on Manor Place) but nobody tops the O'Reillys.  Or, has more fun!

Happy Day


  1. Next week, the origin of the Irish whisper. Oh wait, that's easy... Wine!