Wednesday, 13 July 2011 13:13

The Strain (Ó Sruitheáin) family of north Donegal

Written by  Darren McGettigan
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The surname Strain, which is quite numerous in north County Donegal, has a distinguished family history which stretches way back to early medieval times.

The family (Ó Sruitheáin), were one of the leading families of the Clann Snedhgile branch of the Cenél Conaill. The Clann Snedhgile ruled the fertile territory which lay between the rivers Swilly and Leannan, until they were dispossessed by the O'Donnell lords of Tír Chonaill, who turned Clann Snedhgile into the Tánaiste's Portion of Tír Chonaill, which was ruled from Ramelton Castle. However, the O'Strain family held onto four quarters of land at the church of Conwal near Letterkenny, where they remained prominent in Tír Chonaill history and politics until the early 1600s.

The Annals of the Four Masters record that 'Sitric O'Strain, erenagh of Conwal, ie head of the Uí Murtele, and chief of Clann Snedhgile', died in the year 1204 and was buried in Conwal 'in the church which he himself founded'.

In the 1580s a man called Manus Óg O'Strain was prominent in the politics of north Donegal as a supporter of the lords of Tír Chonaill. In the year 1588 Manus Óg killed Calvagh Óg O'Donnell, having surprised him as he travelled near the River Finn. This was a highly dangerous thing to do as Calvagh Óg was a brother of the formidable Niall Garbh O'Donnell, the lord of Glenfinn, who led a rival branch of the O'Donnell dynasty to the ruling lords of Tír Chonaill. In February 1603 Manus Óg O'Strain and another family member, Tadhg O'Strain, were in Lower Connacht (Co. Sligo), as part of the army of Rory O'Donnell. They recieved a pardon as 'natural followers of said Rory O'Donnell'. However, within weeks of returning to Tír Chonaill Manus Óg O'Strain was murdered by Donal O'Donnell, a brother of Calvagh Óg. The Annals of the Four Masters state that Donal O'Donnell killed Manus Óg 'in revenge of his brother Calvagh, son of Conn, whom he had slain some time before'. (15 years before!). Family feuds had long memories in early modern Tír Chonaill. This was an important event in early seventeenth century Tír Chonaill and the Annals of the Four Masters add that 'It would have been better for him that he had not done this deed, for many evils redounded to them on account of it'. Donal O'Donnell and his brother Niall Garbh were soon after arrested by Rory O'Donnell and the English, and their followers starved after their cattle were taken from them.

Many members of the O'Strain or Strain family continue to live in north Donegal in the Conwal and Clann Snedhgile areas. Hugh Strain published a local history book 'In Kilmacrennan Long Ago' in the 1990s. Their family history is an intersting one, and members of the Strain family having been playing their part in the life of north Donegal for over eight hundred years now.

Because this weekend is a very special one for me my blog is a bit early this week. As the weekend is so special can I extend my congratulations to well know fashion model and swimmer, Emma, from Wicklow Town, who has been awarded best big sister in the world award recently.

Last modified on Wednesday, 13 July 2011 13:53
Darren McGettigan

Darren McGettigan

Darren is an historian, author and genealogist from County Wicklow, Ireland. He provides genealogy services to help you discover your family history in Ireland.