I have two Irish attorneys in my suspense novel, VENGEANCE IS MINE. The older one's name is Leo Sullivan, changed from another name that didn't suit. He's a wonderful guy, intelligent, law-abiding and grand.......... The other is Devlin O'Hara. I just adore most Irishmen..........
Irish Family Surnames - O’Sullivan family History and origins
Sullivan is an Irish surname and is actually the same as O’Sullivan. In Irish both names Ó Súilleabháin.
Variations on the name are many. Sullivant, Sillivant, Silliphant, and Sillifant.
The actual meaning of the same name is not clear. The root of the name is the word Suil – eye, but whether the full name means one-eyed or indeed hawk-eyed is still disputed.
The O’Sullivan clan are descendants, like so many of the Irish clans, of Milesius who were the first Celts to colonize Ireland. The Milesians were originally settled in North West Spain where they had a city Brigantia. The migrated to Ireland about 800 B.C and indeed after the fall of Gaelic Ireland to foreign conquest the O’Neil fled to Spain where he saw many ruins associated with Milesius over 2400 years earlier. The Milesians conquered the people that lived in Ireland at that time, the Firbolg and the Tuatha de Dannan. Irish mythology is full of the stories about this this period.
The O’Sullivans are descended from Eoghan (Owen) Mor, the father of the famous Oilioll Olum, they were, with the O’Callaghans, the MacCarthys and the O’Keeffe, one of the leading families of the Munster Eoghanacht. Suilleabhain himself was a direct descendant of Finghin who was a king of Munster in the year 620 A.D. Suilleabhain was born 8 generations later which would place him in the year 862.
The name O’Sullivan is the most common name in the province of Munster and the third most common name in Ireland. Today almost 80% of all Sullivans live in Munster, their original area of rule.
In 1169 the Normans launched their first invasion of Ireland, the beginning of just over 800 years of foreign invasion and occupation. The O’Sullivan clan was driven southwards from their original territory of Tipperary in 1193. They moved to west Cork and south Kerry. Soon after, they divided into two groups - O’Sullivan Mor (Mor indicating larger or greater) in south Kerry, with their principal castle at Dunkerron on the shore of Kenmare Bay and O’Sullivan Beare in west Cork. The Beare suffix came from the Beare peninsula that was named for the Spanish princess Bera, the wife of the first King of Munster. The war with the Normans continued and a notable victory was achieved by the clan, with their O’Donahue and McCarthy allies in 1261 at the battle of Caisglin near Kilgarvan and just north of Kenmare, Kerry.
The O’Sullivan Beare clan was further divided in 1592. When Donal O’Sullivan, the chieftain, was slain in 1563 his son of the same name was but a child two years of age. The Irish succession laws of Tanistry required that the title of chieftain be passed on to the most capable of the dead chief’s family. As a result the clan decided that Owen, one of the brothers of the dead chief, would take over control of the clan and become Lord of Beare and Bantry. Owen acknowledged the English crown and was made a knight by Queen Elizabeth. In 1587 young Donal, now twenty-six years old, decided to claim leadership of the clan. He petitioned the authorities in Dublin, using as the basis for his claim English lineal law, whereby the oldest son should inherit his father’s title regardless of his age at the time of his father’s death. The English Commission wished to see English law implemented across Ireland and sensing the opportunity to divide the O’Sullivans approved his claim.
Owen O’Sullivan had also lost influence due to his partaking in the Desmond rebellion. The O’Sullivans and other clans provided shelter to 12 year old Gerald FitzGerald when Henry’s troops sought to capture him, the last member of his family and the heir to the Earlship of Desmond. The war of the Munster allies continued through the reign of Elizabeth. In the late 1590s, it was the O’Sullivan Mor clan and their close allies the McSweenys that bore the brunt of the fighting with the English forces. Donal O’Sullivan, now chieftain of the O’Sullivan Beare clan, held back from the fighting until the O’Donnells and O’Neills, the great clans of Ulster and those who would have claimed the title of High King of Ireland except for the invasion, entered the campaign.
Munster was in 1600 was a land at war. The Munster clans were being evicted from their lands which were being handed over to colonists.
King Philip III of Spain agreed to send help to the Irish under the command of Don Juan D’Aquilla. Rather than landing in Ulster, as suggested by O’Neill, the Spanish forces landed at Kinsale in County Cork to avoid encountering the English warships in the Irish Sea. The war weary and decimated Munster clans had difficulty mustering an army to join the Ulster and Spanish forces. Donal O’Sullivan Beare was given command of the Munster forces which consisted mainly of soldiers of his clan and those of the O’Driscolls, McSweeneys, and O’Connor Kerry. Daniel O’Sullivan Mor could only contribute token support because of the losses he sustained in the previous years.
The Spanish soldiers were given the responsibility of forming the garrisons for the castles of the O’Driscolls and the O’Sullivans so as to free the Irish troops for the battles to come. The rest of the four thousand Spanish soldiers remained at Kinsale to await the arrival of the Ulster forces. Donal marched to Kinsale with an army of one thousand men. He sent a letter to King Philip swearing allegiance to him as his sovereign. The letter was intercepted by English agents and was later used as reason for denying him pardon.
On December 24, 1601 at the coming of dawn the battle began. It was over in a matter of hours. It was a resounding defeat for the Irish forces. This was due in large part to the reluctance of the Spanish troops to leave the protection of the walled city of Kinsale and join the battle until it was over. O’Neill retreated back to Tyrone with his battered troops. O’Donnell handed over command of his soldiers to his brother and embarked for Spain to plead for more help from King Philip. General Aquila sued for peace and Lord Mountjoy, commander of the English, was only too happy to accept his request. Aquila agreed to surrender the castles his troops were defending. This meant that the O’Sullivans and the O’Driscolls had to fight the Spanish to regain their castles. Donal O’Sullivan wrote to King Philip complaining about the behavior of Aquila. When Aquila returned to Spain he was held in contempt by King Philip and put under house arrest.
Many of the O’Sullivan clan’s non-combatants were sent to the island of Dursey to keep them out of harms way. An English force led by a John Bostock attacked the small garrison guarding the island. They butchered the entire population of the island, women, children, and the garrison. They cast their bodies, some while they were still alive, onto the rocks below the cliff overlooking the sea. It was a dreadful omen of Ireland’s future.
The Lord President of Munster, George Carew, now moved to destroy Dunboy castle, the O’Sullivan Beare principle fortress. After two days of cannon fire the castle was almost destroyed but still the gallant defenders fought on, though only 143 in number. It was now the last rebel stronghold to hold out against the English. Meanwhile Donal was waiting at Ardea for reinforcements and weapons, and gold to pay his troops. He had been promised money and supplies by the Spanish. After two more days of fighting the remaining defenders, having retreated to the cellar of the castle, attempted to surrender. It was accepted but they were treacherously hanged the next day.
Donal O’Sullivan now realized that the Spanish reinforcements were not coming. It was obvious that all was lost in Munster. Famine conditions now existed and though he had considerable Spanish gold, there was little food available. With one thousand followers consisting of soldiers and civilians they began a long journey to Leitrim to the castle of his ally the Ó Ruairc (O’Rourke). He believed that he could hold out longer amongst his northern allies, the O’Donnells and O’Neills. . Throughout the 300-mile (480 km) trek they were attacked by English forces and treasonous Irish that were loyal to Elizabeth. The country-side had been ravaged by war and famine; the people along the way were trying to stay alive themselves. They could ill afford to provide any aid or food. Of the 1000 odd who set out only 30 odd made it. It had been an unusually cruel winter and the conditions are described in detail by Philip O’Sullivan Beare, a cousin of Donal O’Sullivan.