Welcome to the O'Cathainfestival web site.

  • This site is dedicated to the history and traditions of the O'Cathain/O'Kane clan.
  • To provide information and links to the forthcoming festival.
  • To remember the last chief.

 

What's in a name?

If your name is O'Cathain, O'Cahan, O'Kane, Kane, Cane, Keane, O'Mullan, O'Mellan, McCloskey, McCaughan this web site is for you.

If you live in the Roe valley and love and treasure its beauty and history this site is also for you.

 

Common variations on the name is O'Kane, Kane, Cane, Keane, O'Cahan, Ó Catháin, O'Cathain. Ó Catháin is the original Irish spelling which changed to O'Cahan then O'Kane and O'Keane and many other varients over the last 4 centuries. Today the vast majority of the diaspora are O'Kane.


History

The O'Cathain clan occupied an area in north east Ulster bounded by Lough Foyle in the north, the river Bann in the east and the Foyle in the west. Ancient records show that their lands extended to Lough Neagh in the south. The Roe valley was the heart of their territory and the castle by the Dogleap on the river Roe was their chief seat. This is located just downstream from the Dogleap Bridge in the Deer Park. This was a strategic  military position between Donegal in the west, Tyrone in the south, the Glens of Antrim to the east and to Scotland through Lough Foyle. There is a long and troublesome history of alliances and disputes between the clans in these regions.  

 

The origins of the clan can be traced to Niall of the Nine Hostages and his son Owen, the father of Clan Owen. It is through Clan Owen that the principal families of Ulster descend. These families included O'Neills, O'Donnell, McLaughlins, O'Cathains, O'Hagans, O'Mellons, O'Mullans and others.

 

The O'Cathain name first appeared in the Annals of Ulster in the early 12th century and played a prominent part in Ulster affairs for the next five  centuries. The O'Cathain clan was the chief sub clan to the O'Neills, Kings of Ulster. ''The O'Cathain'' was the chief ''urragh'' to ''The O'Neill'' and with O'Hagan inaugurated ''The O' Neill'' at Tullyhog. The chief of the O'Neills conferred on the ''O'Cathain'' the title ''Eriagh thee O'Cathain''or ''Chief of the O'Cathain.

 

The last chief of the O'Cathains was Donnell Ballagh who joined with O'Neill in the rebellion against England in the 9 years war. After the Flight of the Earls he was arrested  in 1608 and firstly imprisoned in Dublin Castle and then The Tower of London. Records show that he died in 1616 still in the Tower but there is no record of his burial site. The death of Donnell Ballagh brought to an end the line of the O'Cathain chiefs.

 

The Forthcoming festival is intended as an opportunity to examine and celebrate the history and traditions of the O'Cathain clan in Ireland and beyond. It is also an opportunity to reflect on the demise of the last chief and free his spirit after 400 years of imprisonment.