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Kennedy, O'Kennedy, Ó Cinnéide

Kennedy Family Crest

Sable three helmets in
profile proper.
Crest: An arm embowed
vested azure holding a
scymitar all proper.

O'Kennedy or Kennedy is a name widely spread throughout the country. The name may be said to be of Dalcassian origin and is derived from the noteable figure of Cinnéide who was a nephew of Brian Boru and whose name was perpetuated by his own people as Chief of the Clan Ui Cinnéide.

The compound Irish word "cinneadach" meaning "head-dressed" or "helmeted" may also be of some significance since the sept's coat of arms depict "three helmets in profile.

This surname is listed as coming into use in the 11th century as Ó Cinnéide and later-on anglicized to O'Kennedy. The prefix "O" appears to have been dropped during the periods of Gaelic suppression but is has been noted as coming back into favour once again.

The Ó Cinnéide Clan are known to have settled for a period in the Glenomra valley near Killaloe and we have a reminder of their long association with this district when it was recognised as the parish of Cill Ui Cinneide (Killokennedy) which together with Kilseily now forms the modern R.C. parish of Broadford.

Most historians record the spread of the Ó Cinnéide Clan across the Shannon and their acquisition of extensive new territory which comprised much of the Baronies of Upper and Lower Ormond, a district once named in state documents as "the land of the three O'Kennedys." This is an allusion to the three branches of the Clan which evolved here since their chiefs became known by the epithets O'Kennedy Donn (brown), O'Kennedy Fionn (fair) and O'Kennedy Rua (red).

There are other references to members of the family in the 'Annals of the Four Masters' describing them in 1300 as "the undisputed Lords of Ormond". Neither were they without influence in ecclesiastical affairs since the MSS. List of the Bishops of Killaloe reveals the name of Domhnall O Cinnedigh who ruled the Diocese from 1231 to 1252.

Placenames such as Coolkennedy and Garrykennedy in Upper Ormond are another indication of their long standing and the prominent position held from the 11th to the 15th century.

The late decline of the O'Kennedy prestige arose mainly from their loyalty to the Jacobite cause. Several members were officers in the army of James II and fought at the Battle of the Boyne and subsequent engagements of the Williamite War. They, like many other members of the Gaelic ascendancy, were forced to take passage to France where their names today may be found in the Army Lists as having served with distinction in the Irish Regiments of Generals Clare, Dillon and O'Brien.

Further Reading:
Gleeson, Dermot F., "The Last Lords of Ormond". Dublin, Sheed & Ward, 1938.
Gleeson, John, "History of the Ely O'Carroll Territory". Kilkenny, Roberts' Books, 1982.

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Learned Families of Thomond