This family, like the Barons O'Neill, claimed descent from the princes of Ireland; and also lineally descended from the last king of Ulster.
HUGH BOY O'NEILL,
from whom the territories called the Claneboys, in the counties of Down and Antrim, received their name, grandson of HUGH MEYTH, king of Ulster in 1122, recovered those lands from the English (which had been wrested from his family at the invasion during the reign of HENRY II), and his descendants enjoyed them until the reign of JAMES I.When a portion was conquered by force of arms from the O'Neills, more purchased from King James by them, and some part left in their possession, which has descended to the O'Neills of Shane's Castle.
JAMES I, when he instituted the order of Baronets, had chiefly in view the subduing of the clan O'Neill in Ulster, and the Ulster hand ~ the Red Hand of O'Neill ~ was given as a badge to the order.
BRYAN O'NEILL, in consideration of his gallant services at the battle of Edgehill, was created a baronet by CHARLES I, in 1643.
Sir Bryan married Jane Finch, of the family of the Earl of Nottingham, and dying in 1670, was succeeded by his son,
SIR BRYAN O'NEILL, 2nd Baronet, one of the judges of the court of king's bench, in Ireland, in the reign of JAMES II.
He married Mary Plunket, sister of Christopher, 10th Lord Dunsany; and dying in 1694, was succeeded by his eldest son,
SIR HENRY O'NEILL (c1674-1759), 3rd Baronet, who married firstly, Mary, daughter of Mark Bagot, of Mount Arran, County Carlow, by whom he had an only son,
RANDALL, his heir;He wedded secondly, Rose, daughter of Captain James Brabazon, and by that lady had two other sons,
Brabazon;He was succeeded at his decease by his eldest son,
SIR RANDALL O'NEILL, 4th Baronet, of Upper Claneboys, County Down, who married Mrs Margaret Tompkins, by whom he had a son, William, and a daughter, Rachel; and thus terminates any recorded account of the family.
The baronetcy was presumed to be extinct; but a person emerged calling himself
SIR FRANCIS O'NEILL (c1730-99),
who lived a very poor man on the estate of Lord Netterville at Dowth, near Drogheda, from whom he rented a small farm at a quarter of its value; but, even unable to pay that, he was dispossessed. This unfortunate descendant of royalty had the patent of baronetcy in his possession, but whether he was in the line of descent does not appear.
Baronetcies have been frequently assumed in Ireland by parties who had no claim whatsoever, but being collateral relations of a deceased and extinct baronet, may have discovered the patent among his papers.
One of the sons of Sir Francis was employed at a small inn near Duleck, in the capacity of "boots and ostler" - sic transit gloria mundi.
AS TO aristocratic kinsmen abandoning such claimants, again we may cite Burke's account of the support, moral and financial, given to the above mentioned Sir Francis O'Neill by his distant Protestant kinsman John, 1st Viscount O'Neill:
In that humble cottage the aged and poverty stricken baronet was visited in May, 1798 by John, the first Viscount O'Neill, and his two sons, Charles and John, the late Earl and the last Viscount ... for John, the first Lord O'Neill, princely in mind and he was exalted in station, never turned his face from a poor relation.
BACKWESTON HOUSE was once the residence of Sir Bryan O'Neill, 1st Baronet.
He was a descendant of the Chiefs of Claneboy, and proved himself a gallant soldier, first in Holland and afterwards on the royalist side in the Civil War in England.
He was educated as a lawyer at Gray's Inn, which he entered in 1664, and, as stated in the history of Stillorgan, was appointed by James II in 1687 as one of the justices of the King's Bench in Ireland. He died in 1694.
- Sir Bryan O'Neill, 1st Baronet (d. 1670)
- Sir Bryan O'Neill, 2nd Baronet (d. 1694)
- Sir Henry O'Neill, 3rd Baronet (c. 1674-1759)
- Sir Randall O'Neill, 4th Baronet (d. 1779)
- Sir William O'Neill, 5th Baronet (c. 1754-1784)
- Sir Francis O'Neill, 6th Baronet (c. 1730-1799)