Dal gCais

Dal gCais

Noonans are a ‘Dalcassian’ sept. In his 1876 Irish Pedigrees, or the Origin and Stem of the Irish Nation, John O’Hart recorded that “the ancestor of O’Noonan [branch] of Thomond and South Connaught [modern County Clare]” was Congall the second son of Aodh Caoimh, the first Christian king of all Munster (born c.570). Aodh Caoimh was crowned by St. Brendan the Navigator, who also consecrated the church of Tullylease. Aodh was a descendant of Cas Mac Connal (c.347-387) whose progeny are the Dál gCais.

Eocho Inmaine was sixth in descent from Congall. His surname Inmaine appears to be cognate with Ionmháinen. Eochu Inmaine would have lived about 725-750 A.D., about the time that Noonans are alleged to have become the erenaghs of Tullylease church.

In Family Names of County Cork Diarmuíd Ómurchadha confirms a Dál gCais heritage: “The only family of Uí Ionmhainéin mentioned in the genealogies were the descendants of Ionmhainén son of Faélchad [Faelchú] who belonged to a segment of the Dál Cais, according to An Leabhar Muimhneach [The Book of Munster].”

According to the Irish genealogies the  Dál gCais ultimately descended from Eber Finn, the son of Milesius that took the southern half of Ireland in the Gaelach invasion of c.1115 B.C. A millenium later the Eberians lost the rule of Munster to invading Erimónian Deagades for two hundred years, until Mogh Nuadat of Bruree overcame them and forced Conn of the Hundred Battles to redivide Ireland north and south c.167. Mogh Nuadat’s son Ailill Ollamh followed him as king over southern Ireland. Ailill Ollamh split Eber’s royal inheritance among his three sons Eoghan, Cian and Cormac Cas. All three were killed in battle c.239. Cian left no  progeny, leaving the Dál gCais and the Eoghanacht McCarthys to contend the Munster throne:

The descendants of Fiachaidh Muilleathan gave sureties and guarantees that they would allow the sovereignty of Munster to pass on the death of Corc to Conall Eachluaith or to his son should Conall himself be not living, as Oilill Olom ordained that it should belong to these two families in alternate generations, that is, the family of Fiachaidh Muilleathan and that of Cormac Cas.          Foras Feasa ar Éirinn Geoffrey Keating

Samhaoir the daughter of Finn McCool was Cormac Cas’ second wife (after Oriund of Denmark); his mother was Sabh daughter of Conn of the Hundred Battles. Cas Mac Connal was the great-great-great grandson of Cormac Cas and the great-great-great-great-grandfather of Congall.

The Nemhnainn association with Tulach Léis occurred contemporary with Cormac Cas, at a time of turmoil in Ireland and the region, with invading clans taking swordlands far away from their ancestral homes.

“From ancient times to about the middle of the seventeenth century there was a parcel of land in the parish of Drumcolliher, Co. Limerick, which was known as Muskreenonaine, the anglicised form of Muscraighe Ui Nunain, which, if translated freely, means O’Nunan or O’Noonan’s territory.”      Murphy


Muskery Nownan belonged to the Nunan family, supporters of the Geraldines, until Donough Nunan was slain in the Desmond rebellion, and his lands and castle, Gardenfield West Castle, or Muskery Nownan, were granted to Robert Stroud.”     Spellissy

The place-name name Muscraighe Ui Nunain might preserve clues to its own history. Muscraighe, anglicized Muskerry, elsewhere (and literally) meant “kingdom of Carbri Musc”. Carbri Musc was contemporary with the reign of Art the Lonely. He was a son of the previous High King Conaire the Great and grandson of Mogh Lama, the last Deagades king of Munster.

The Erimónian Deagades had carved out swordlands in western Munster in the first century B.C. They lost control of Munster to Mogh Nuadat and the reemergent Eberians after the death of Mogh Lama, but his grandson Carbri Musc retained Erimónian control over swaths of eastern Kerry, western Cork and Limerick. The placename Muscraighe Ui Nunain appears to preserve the territorial legacies of both Carbri Musc and the Ua Nemhnainn that replaced him.

Modernly the O’Brien genealogy tracing their origins back to Cormac Cas has been viewed with scepticism, but Y-DNA analysis clearly shows that there is a real relationship between the Dál gCais septs and confirms that the Noonans are a Dál gCais sept. My Noonan family’s Y-DNA fits within a subgroup of the R1B1c Irish Type III “Dál gCais” cluster that includes the Hogans, Caseys, McGraths, Kennedys, O’Briens and Noonans. Based on the available data the Irish Type III DNA signature deviation is tentatively dated to about A.D. 600-900, although otherwise-presumed rates of mutation would push its origins back further in time.