O’Reilly, with its variants Riley and R (e) illy, comes from the Irish Ui Raghallaigh, “grandson of Raghallach” thought to be from ragh meaning “race” and ceallach meaning “sociable”. The family was part of the Connachta tribal grouping and the particular Raghallach, and Irish chieftain from whom the name is derived is said to have been a descendant of the O’Conor kings of Connacht. A great-grandson of Maomordha, he lived at the time of Brian Boru, High King of Ireland, and, like him, died at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014.
The O’Reillys were for centuries the dominant ruling family of the kingdom of East Breifne, and at their height controlled most of counties Cavan and Longford and large parts of county Meath, despite many attempts by their main rivals, the O’Rourkes, to make it otherwise.
The chiefs were inaugurated on the Hill of Shantramon (Seantoman or Shantoman) between Cavan and Ballyhaise, in Castleterra parish on the summit of which may still be seen the remains of a Pagan Druidical temple consisting of three huge stones standing upright and known as Fionn McCool’s fingers. In later times the O’Reillys were inaugurated on the Hill of Tullymongan, above the town of Cavan; and took the tribe name of Muintir Maolmordha or the People of Maolmordha, one of their celebrated chiefs. This name Maolmordha or Mulmora was Latinized “Milesius” and anglicised “Miles” or “Myles,” – a favourite personal name among the members of the clan.
The patron saint of the O’Reilly family was St. Maedoc.
The Right Hand Symbol, a symbolic representation of God the Father in the Middle Ages, was the principal symbol of the clan.
The primary place of residence and Castle was Ballyreilly (Baile Ui Raghallaigh)
Their religious zeal is evident from the following foundations that were endowed by them: Monastery of the Augustinian Canons Premontre (Trinity Island, Lough Oughter, County Cavan, founded by Cathal O’Reilly, Prince of Breifne, circ 1237); Franciscan Monastery, Cavan town, founded by Gilla Isa Ruadh O’Reilly, King of Breifne, in 1300; Franciscan Brothers, Third Order Conventual, founded in 1414 by William O’Reilly at Thacineling, County Leitrim; Inchamore Abbey, Lough Gowna, County Cavan; while abbots of the O’Reilly family ruled the Monastery of Canons Regular of St. Augustine, Kells, County Meath from 1423 to 1523.
They were also renowned in medieval Ireland for their involvement in trade; their success may be gauged by the fact the “reilly” was at one point a colloquial term for money in Ireland, for the O’Reillys were the only clan in Ireland known to have a money system, their own coinage, which encroached on the monetary system of the English Pale and of Britain before being banned in 1447. What use they made of their prosperity can only be conjectured, but the phrase “the life of Reilly” is suggestive. After the collapse of Gaelic power in the seventeenth century, large numbers emigrated to serve in the armies of France, while many joined Colonel Edmund O’Reilly’s regiments in Austrian and Spanish armies during the 1700s.
The connection with the original homeland is still strong, however; even today (O’) Reilly is the single most numerous surname in both Cavan and Longford. The return of the prefix has been spectacular. Less than 10% give their name as “O’Reilly” in 1890, but almost 60% in 1996. The O’Reilly name is extremely common (as is Wang in China, or Kim in Korea) and widespread throughout Ireland, ranked the 8th most common in 1890 and 11th in 1996.
Myles Maolmordha O’Reilly, better known as Myles “the Slasher” O’Reilly fought his great fight as the heroic defender on the Bridge of Finea in Co. Cavan in 1644 where he and a band of one hundred held out against a 1,000-strong Cromwellian army. O’Reilly is commemorated by a cross in the main street of Finea, a pretty village on the banks of the River Inny.
Count Alexander O’Reilly (1722-1794) was born in Baltrasna, Co. Meath. Like so many of his “Wild Geese” generation, during the penal times he left Ireland and fight Spanish army. He became Governor of Madrid and Cadiz, and Captain-General of Andalucia. As a Field Marshal and Count, his later career took him to Cuba in 1769 to quell a rebellion. Many his of O’Reilly descendants are still to be found in Cuba. His name is recorded in one of Havana’s streets: Calle Orely.
The O’Reillys of Templemills, Celbridge, County Kildare: Pedigree
ME: Niall O’Reilly, son of Liam Sean O’Reilly, and Kathryn Byrne. (Byrne / O’Reilly Family Tree http://www.familyecho.com/?p=START&c=mpgxjfzsss&f=658075834244417881)
FATHER: Liam Sean O’Reilly, son of Dr. Michael William O’Reilly (http://wp.me/p15Yzr-R) I and Catherine Cooney, m. Kathryn O’Reilly, and had issue: Michael William III; Conor James; Niall Joseph.
GRANDFATHER’S BROTHER: Stephen James, son of John O’Reilly II, m. Elizabeth O’Toole (whose family have a tradition of descent from the O’Tooles of Wicklow) and had issue: Cathal; Elizabeth (Lilly).GREAT GRANDFATHER: John O’Reilly II, son of John O’Reilly I and Anne Craddock; m. Mary Lyons, and had issue: John Joseph; Stephen James; Michael William I; Mary Anne (Molly).
GRANDFATHER’S SISTER: Mary Anne (Molly), daughter of John O’Reilly II, m. Richard Eyre and had issue: Mary Una; Roland; Finbarr Roche; Margaret Elizabeth; William Joseph.
GREAT GREAT GRANDFATHER: John O’Reilly I of Templemills, Celbridge, born circa 1828-1832, son of Thomas Reilly and Anna Lynch, m. Anne Craddick (Craddock), 11 Oct. 1858 (Register of Celbridge), and has issue: John O’Reilly II and Michael O’Reilly.
GRANDFATHER’S FATHER’S BROTHER: Michael O’Reilly, m. Alice Barrett, and had issue: Edward Clement, Johanna Mary, Padraig Gabriel, Michael William, Angela, Margaret, and James Joseph.
GREAT GREAT GREAT GRANDFATHER: Thomas Reilly II, of Templemills, who m. Anna Lynch, circa 1812-1828, son of Thomas Reilly I of Templemills.
GREAT GREAT GREAT GREAT GRANDFATHER: Thomas Reilly I of Templemills, born circa 1792 son of James O’Reilly of Templemills.
GREAT GREAT GREAT GREAT GREAT GRANDFATHER: James O’Reilly of Templemills, born in County Cavan circa 1762-1777 (descended from Colonel Myles “the Slasher” O’Reilly) m. (Anne Gorey?), circa 1792.
Myles ‘The Slasher’ O’Reilly looks over the village of Finea
As Colonel Myles died in 1644, there must be three or four generations missing between him and my GREAT GREAT GREAT GREAT GREAT GRANDFATHER James O’Reilly of Templemills.
Sons of the Slasher
The following is the pedigree of Colonel Myles O’Reilly, from Burke’s “Landed Gentry”, O’Hart’s “Irish Pedigrees, “The Dictionary of National Biography”, the Preface by O’Donovan to Carlton’s “Willie Reilly”, and the manuscript 23.D.9:-
Myles (Maelmordha) “the Slasher” O’Reilly m. Catherine O’Reilly and had issue: John, Philip, and Edmund.
From Myles “the Slasher” O’Reilly’s http://www.irishidentity.com/stories/myles.htm son John are descended Count Alexander O’Reilly of Spain (the hero of Algiers 1722) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alejandro_O’Reilly and Count Andrew O’Reilly of Austria who died in 1833.
From Myles “the Slasher” O’Reilly’s sons John, Philip, or Edmund, according to constant family tradition, is descended my GRANDFATHER Captain Michael William “M.W.” O’Reilly, I.R.A. 1916 (Commandant in P.H. Pearse’s division, holding the General Post Office during the Easter 1916 Rising against British rule in Ireland).
Alexander O’Reilly (Count Alexander de O’Reilly / Marshal Alejandro, Conde de O’Reilly)
Alexander O’Reilly was born in Baltrasna, Co. Meath in 1722. Military tradition ran in the family; his grandfather John O’Reilly was a colonel in the army of King James II, whose regiment—‘O’Reilly’s Dragoons’—fought at the siege of Derry.
Colonel John O’Reilly died on 17 February 1716. His wife was Margaret O’Reilly of County Cavan and they had five children, Brian, Eugene, Myles, Cornelius and Thomas.
The latter Thomas O’Reilly, father of Alexander, married Rose MacDowell of County Roscommon. Their four children were James, Nicholas, Dominic and Alexander.
Thomas O’Reilly left Ireland with his family and settled in Zaragoza, Spain where Alexander O’Reilly was educated. Aged only eleven, Alexander O’Reilly joined the Spanish army as a cadet in the Regimento de Infanteria de Hibernia, or Hibernia Regiment, formed in 1705. He was promoted to Sub-Lieutenant in 1739 (he was 17 years old), the year that war broke out with Britain and Austria. His regiment was sent to Italy to confront the Austrians. He showed such outstanding bravery and ability in several battles that he was promoted to Infantry Lieutenant. In the Battle of Campo Santo he was badly injured and lay all night on the field with other wounded and dead. The following morning, about to be bayoneted by an Austrian soldier, he convinced him he was of a wealthy Spanish family and worth a ransom. He was taken before the Austrian commander, who, as luck would have it, was another Irishman called Browne (Austrian military leader and scion of the “Wild Geese”, Maximilian Ulysses, Reichsgraf von Browne, Baron de Camus and Mountany), who had O’Reilly’s wounds tended to, and returned him to the Spanish side, but with a permanent limp as a result of his wounds.
Peace was signed and Alexander O’Reilly returned to Spain, now third in command of the Irish brigade Regimento de Infanteria de Hibernia or Hibernia Regiment. He immediately petitioned the king for a temporary transfer to the Austrian army, no longer at war with Spain, but now with Frederick the Great of Prussia. The Prussian army was renowned for its advanced tactics of manoeuvre and attack, and O’Reilly’s proposal was to study these with the view to their incorporation in the Spanish army.
In 1757 he joined the Austrian army, and distinguished himself against the Prussians at Hochkirchen, in 1758. The following year he entered the French service and assisted at the Battle of Bergen (1759), and the taking of Minden and Corbach.
War having broken out between Spain and Portugal, he re-entered the Spanish service, was made a Lieutenant-General / Brigadier, and defeated the Portuguese before Chaves, in 1762.
After campaigning in the Spanish invasion of Portugal not only was Alexander O’Reilly / Alejandro O’Reilly viewed as a fighting soldier, but also as an expert in military strategy and his recommendations for the tactical restructuring of the Spanish armed forces were approved. He subsequently swore allegiance to Spain and rose to become a Brigadier General.
Alejandro O’Reilly stayed acting as Adjutant and second-in-command for the new Governor of Cuba Conde de Ricla. While in Havana (Havannah), Ricla and O’Reilly received the city back from the British forces that had besieged and occupied it at the end of the Seven Years’ War.
Alejandro O’Reilly analysed what had gone wrong with the defenses of Havannah during the successful British siege in 1762, and recommended sweeping reforms to completely reorganise the defense of the island, while also calling for the introduction of a new justice system, increasing agricultural production, with a guaranteed market in Spain, and beef production. His recommendations were quickly approved by the Spanish Crown.
In 1765 he saved the life of King Charles III (King Carlos III) in a popular tumult in Madrid and was awarded by being sent Alejandro O’Reilly to Puerto Rico to assess the state of the defenses of that colony. Alejandro O’Reilly, known today as the “father of the Puerto Rican militia,” took a very detailed census of the island and recommended numerous reforms, including the instilling of strict military discipline in the local troops. He insisted that the men serving the defense of the Spanish crown receive their pay regularly and directly, rather than indirectly from their commanding officers, an old practice that had led to abuses. Some of O’Reilly’s recommendations resulted in a massive 20-year program of building up the Castle of Old San World Heritage Site.
Returning to Cuba, Alejandro O’Reilly married into a prominent Cuban family. His wife, Dona Rosa de Las Casas, was the sister of Luis de Las Casas, who served as Governor of Cuba. Today there is a street in Old Havannah “Calle Orely”, which is still named for O’Reilly, marking the location where this he came ashore while the English were embarking to leave.
Captain General of Louisiana
Alejandro O’Reilly was appointed Governor and Captain-General of colonial Louisiana while in Spain in April 1769, with orders to put down the revolt in Louisiana, and re-establish order.
Arriving in New Orleans from Cuba in August 1769, O’Reilly took formal possession of Louisiana. O’Reilly then held trials and severely punished those French Creoles responsible for the expulsion of Spain’s first Governor Antonio de Ulloa from the colony.
He is still remembered in New Orleans as “‘Bloody’ O’Reilly” because he had six prominent rebel Frenchmen executed in October 1769.
Having crushed the ringleaders who had led the Rebellion of 1768, O’Reilly turned his attention on administratively getting Louisiana back on its feet, and stabilising the food supply.
O’Reilly reformed many French bureaucratic practices and his proclamations and rulings affected many aspects of life in Spanish Louisiana, including the ability of slaves to buy their freedom, and the ability for masters to more easily manumit slaves. He also banned the trade of Native American slaves.
He regularized the weights and measurements used in marketplaces, regulated doctors and surgeons, and improved public safety by funding bridge and levee maintenance.
The affront to the self-esteem of the Spanish Crown having been quickly dealt with, and good public order restored, O’Reilly efforts had firmly positioned Louisiana as a dependency of the military and political establishment in Cuba.
Return to Spain
Back in Spain after October 1770, the king honoured O’Reilly with the title ‘Conte’ O’Reilly. He resumed his duties as Inspector General of Infantry, and then was named Inspector-General of Infantry and Governor of Madrid, which gave him control of all civil and criminal administration.
In 1775, O’Reilly was given command of a major Spanish expedition to Algiers, and it is said that jealously amongst the Spanish officers resulted in the ill-fated attack which left 2,000 soldiers dead and thousands injured. Although this North African campaign was a national humiliation, Alejandro O’Reilly was still held in high esteem by the king, who in 1776 appointed him Captain General of Andalucía and Governor of Cadiz, the key port connecting Europe with the Americas. He was very much at home in the political ambience of the time that was enlightened absolutism, and tight control from the centre attempting to resolve old ills and reform introduce reform. When he resigned in 1786 most of the people he worked with in Andalucía were full of praise for his energetic and authoritarian character as well as his special talent for implementing change.
He died in Bonete, near Albacete, Spain, in 1794, aged 72, while on his way to take command of Spanish force in the Eastern Pyrenees that had been ordered to resist, on behalf of French royalists, invading French revolutionary forces, following the beheading of Louis XVI during the French Revolutionary wars.
1). “The O’Reillys of Templemills, Celbridge and a pedigree from the old Irish manuscripts brought up to dat, with a note on the history of the clann Ui Raighilligh in general”
By E. O’H.
Published 1942 by Compiled and printed for M. W. O’Reilly Moorefield, Dundrum Co. Dublin Ireland.
Number of pages: 40
ID Numbers Open Library OL17247067M
Only 4 editions
2). Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_O%27Reilly