Supported by the Probus Club, Ballycastle, County Antrim.
Images of the manuscript courtesy of Frank Boyd.
Count Alexander O’Reilly's grandfather like so many of the Gaelic nobility, had fled Ireland at the time of the Wild Geese after the catastrophic defeat of the Jacobite armies in 1691. He and his descendants were made welcome in the Spanish court and many of them served the Catholic cause with distinction in Europe, while proudly holding onto their Gaelic identity and aspirations despite the loss of their Irish estates.
Alexander himself was born in 1722 in County Meath and enrolled in the Hibernia
regiment in Spain fighting alongside his exiled countrymen. His military excellence earned him the rank of Field-Marshal and he he set out to remodel
the Spanish army,
As second in command he served in the Spanish crown in Havanna and Louisiana earning him the title of Condé de O’Reilly (Count O’Reilly), the Governorship of Madrid and Cadiz and Captain-General of Andalusia.
In order to establish his aristocratic credentials and secure his daughter's marriage he commissioned Chevalier Thomas O’Gorman to research the pedigree of the O’Reilly clan and preserve its history and mark its eminence. The Genealogy of the House of O’Reilly is the product.
Chevalier Tomas O’Gorman
was one of the foremost genealogist of his day and a collector of Irish manuscripts. He was responsible for the
acquisition of the Book of Lecan by the Royal Irish Academy and he also donated the Book of Ballymote to the RIA. Thus he was in a position to draw upon a considerable range of sources
The genealogy covers almost 1,000 years of the House of O’Reilly, the ruling family of Bréifne. The territory they occupied was known as Bréifne now anglicised as ‘Breffny’ and ‘Brefnie’, incorporating County Leitrim and Cavan and beyond and where the name is still widely found.
His account is much more than a record of births, deaths and marriages. It is very much a document of its place and time, and goes beyond enumerating military exploits and political alliances. It describes how the family acquired a reputation as astute financiers, coining their own money, which was suppressed by the English Crown.It gives valuable insights into the the political expectations and attitudes of the exiled Irish nobility whose experience and loyalties are evidenced in comments on military and political leadership, particularly as it applied to Ireland and its fraught relationship with is colonising neighbour. The result is more much more than a table of generations and events and should prove of considerable interest to Irish genealogists and historians alike.
The name O’Reilly is intimately associated with Breifne, County Cavan. To this day its people and landscape proudly proclaim the name and bear witness to the significance of the O’Reillys.Cloughoughter Castle. Rising from an island in Lough Oughter are the magnificent remains of the great O’Reilly stronghold.
Both editions contain an introduction by Frank Rogers and two pieces written by Nikolaus Grüger outlining the manuscript's background and history.
Parts of the manuscript in Medieval Latin have been translated; we think for the first time.
These are of considerable interest regarding: