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O'Keeffe Clan

Gathering and Rally

9, 10 and 11 Sept 2016

guided tours, lectures

historical and genealogical exhibitions

cultural and musical events,

buffet banquet Saturday evening
The O'Keeffes of Dromtariffe

It is claimed of the O'Keeffe family, that there were 22 Kings of Munster in direct male line in the family. Ten other Kings of Munster were brothers, and four who were first cousins. During the tenure of members of this dynasty (one of the longest in world history), Munster was not subjected by any foe. The O'Keeffe family does not emerge as an identifiable family unit until the time of Aodh, who was killed at the battle of Clontarf in 1014.

According to the Annals of the Four Masters, Aodh's great-grandfather, Fionguine, was slain by his own brother, Ceilecher in 902.  Fionguine had a son called Caoimh, who gave his name to the family, and had a very large territory comprising what later became the Baronies of Fermoy, Clangibbon and Condons in Co Cork. Caoimh was slain in battle on August 16th, 908, leaving a son Donnchadh, who commanded the forces of Munster under Callaghan, King of Munster, against the Danes in 946.

Donnchadh's son Aodh, was the first to assume the name O'Caoimh  (from his grandfather), pursuant to the edict of King Brian Boru in 1004 which stated that all clans should have a distinctive family name, crest and coat- of-arms.

The family remained in undisputed control of their lands around Fermoy, until the Anglo-Norman invasion, and for many years afterwards, until the Roches, the Condons and the Fitzgeralds made gradual encroachments on their territory and eventually, the family retired to the territory in Duhallow, near the river Blackwater, where they settled on a large tract of country, which became known as Pobal Uí Caoimh. This domain they enjoyed until their Chieftain followed James 11 into exile. Originally of course, the O'Keeffes had held their lands in trust for the whole clan. This  was all changed when Art O Caoimh  surrendered the lands to Queen Elizabeth and had them regranted to him as her subject. Art was the fourteenth King in direct descent from Aodh who died, as we have already said, at Clontarf in 1014. Art himself  died on March 21, 1582 and was succeeded by his son Art Óg,  who was 35 when his father died, and who himself died on May 31, 1610, leaving three sons, Manus, Daniel and Donagh. Manus died in 1636 and his son Daniel emerged in history as a member of the Supreme Council of the Confederation of Kilkenny. He commanded a company of infantry during the 1641- 1652 Civil War.

Daniel O'Keeffe was a confirmed royalist; he supported the policy of the Earl of Ormond against that of Rinuccini, the Papal Nuncio. There is a story told, that in some engagement in which he fought against Murcadh O'Brien, Lord Inchiquin, was taken prisoner and gave his word not to escape.  One morning rising up suddenly in bed, he said “Gentlemen, I give you notice I'm off,” and jumping out of the window, escaped, pretending that he had not broken his word because he had given notice of his intention to escape.

Daniel held out against the Cromwellians until May 14, 1652, when Dromagh Castle was taken under siege tactics by Major Weller.

Daniel then escaped to the continent and joined the forces of Charles 11, getting a Foot Company in the Duke of York's regiment in France and Flanders, which comprised mainly of Munster men, McCarthy followers, and felt an excellent record. On the restoration of Charles 11 in 1660, Daniel was rewarded by his castle in Dromagh being returned to him. There was a Royal Declaration of Gratitude for Daniel O'Keeffe dated November 30, 1660.

In the following months however, Daniel died, and another Daniel O'Keeffe was restored to Dromagh Castle, not the Captain Daniel who was a member of the Supreme Council of the Confederation of Kilkenny, but his son who raised a troop of horse in 1650 and who was one of the last to surrender to Cromwell in Ireland.

Daniel II was to have a bit of trouble in getting back Dromagh and we can see from the Book of Survey and Distribution that he did not get all his father's lands back.  In actual fact, he got back very little except the townlands of Dromagh and Dromtarriff.  Newcomers, Sir Nicholas Purdon, Lord Kingston and William Lombard had held their grip on the rest of the land.

Daniel O'Keeffe II married Joan Everett and he died, presumably in 1666, when his only child was born. This son, Daniel III, was a minor in 1683 when a match was proposed for him with Ann Sarsfield, eldest daughter of Dominic Sarsfield.  It was deferred and the estate was delivered, two-thirds to Dominic Sarsfield and one-third to Daniel's mother who had since married James Butler of Derrylast, Co Tipperary.  The marriage must have taken place not too long afterwards. Daniel III followed the fortunes of King James II, he was a captain in the Jacobite Army and was killed at Aughrim in 1691.

His estate was confiscated and much of it was purchased by the Hollow Sword Blades Co. – a company founded in London to finance Cromwell's campaign in Ireland.

Daniel III left a son, Daniel Og, who was taken to France at the age of six and died there in full manhood, a Captain of Infantry. Many other O'Keeffes served in the Wild Geese; there were for instance, four brothers from Pobal Uí Caoimh, one of whom was killed at the Battle of Ramillies in 1706 and two others died later on active service for their adopted country. The fourth brother Constantine, was wounded at Ramillies but survived to carve out a considerable reputation as a soldier. He was admitted to the ranks of French nobility in 1714.

Daniel Og – Daniel IV – seems to have been the last of the Dromagh O'Keeffes, although there was a tradition that the last of the direct line was a Barrister, and he died at Donnybrook, Doughas, Cork in 1780. The O'Keeffes, who owned a distillery at St Maries of the Isle in Cork, were supposed to be collaterals of his family.

by Eddie Horgan, published in Seanchas Duthalla 1986