The house of O'Neill boasts of royal descent, and deduces its pedigree from CONN O'NEILL, Prince of Tyrone, who, upon relinquishing his royalty, was created EARL OF TYRONE, by HENRY VIII, in 1542.PHELIM O'NEILL, Lord of Clanaboy, son of Niall Mor, dying in 1533, left two sons, of whom the eldest son,
(SIR) BRYAN O'NEILL, married Amy, daughter of Brian Carrach MacDonnell (he married an unnamed Scotswoman in 1568).
Sir Bryan, Captain or Lord of Clanaboy, was later obliged to repulse an invasion by Walter Devereux, Earl of Essex, who crossed the ford of Belfast and, though welcomed by Sir Bryan as a guest, arranged the massacre of 200 of Sir Bryan's people and took him and his wife in 1573.He died in 1574, and was succeeded by his son,
SHANE McBRYAN O'NEILL, of Shane's Castle, LAST LORD OF CLANABOY, who joined Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, in the war against ELIZABETH I, burned Carrickfergus, and submitted in 1586.
He married firstly, Rose, daughter of Sir Arthur Magennis, 1st Viscount Iveagh, and had issue, a son, HENRY, his heir; and secondly, Anne, daughter of Brian Carrach O'Neill, of Loughinsholin, by whom he had numerous issue.
He died ca 1616, he was succeeded by his eldest son,
SIR HENRY O'NEILL, Knight (c1600-38), of Shane's Castle, Lord of Clanaboy, and chief of his name, who married Martha, daughter of Sir Francis Stafford, governor of Ulster, and had issue, ROSE.
|The Lord O'Neill with a portrait of Rose, Marchioness of Antrim|
ROSE O'NEILL, of Shane's Castle, who espoused Randal, 1st Marquess of Antrim.
Lady Antrim died without issue in 1695, leaving her cousin, Colonel Con MacBryan O'Neill, of The Feeva, her heir male; but the estates devolved under the will of her father on her cousin, Colonel Cormac O'Neill, at whose death, without issue, 1707, they passed to his nephew,
COLONEL CHARLES O'NEILL, of Shane's Castle, who wedded the Lady Mary Paulet, eldest daughter of Charles, Duke of Bolton; but dying without issue in 1716, they came into the possession of
JOHN O'NEILL, "French John", of Shane's Castle, previously of Dunmore and Gortgole, son of Bryan, and grandson of Phelim Duff, half-brother to Sir Henry O'Neill.
He married Charity, daughter of Sir Richard Dixon, Knight, and had issue,
Catharine, m 7th Viscount Mountgarret;
Rachael; Eleanor; Rose; Anne; Mary.
CHARLES O'NEILL, of Shane's Castle, who acquired the estates, under settlement, executed by his father on his marriage, 1736.
He married Catherine, daughter of the Rt Hon St John Brodrick (eldest son of Alan, 1st Viscount Midleton, Lord Chancellor of Ireland) by Anne, only sister of Trevor, Viscount Hillsborough, father of 1st Marquess of Downshire.
He died in 1769, leaving issue by her,
JOHN, his heir;
Anne, m Rt Hon R Jackson.
THE RT HON JOHN O'NEILL (1740-98), of Shane's Castle, wedded the Hon Henrietta Boyle, daughter of Charles, Viscount Dungarvan, in 1777;
privy counsellor; MP for Randalstown, 1760-83; MP for County Antrim, 1783-93.This gentleman was elevated to the peerage, in 1793, as Baron O'Neill, of Shane's Castle; and advanced to a viscountcy, as Viscount O'Neill, in 1795.
His lordship was Governor of Antrim at the outbreak of an uprising, and was mortally wounded by an assailant in 1798, having received wounds from insurgent pikemen previously.
By his wife he had issue,
CHARLES HENRY ST JOHN, his successor;
John Bruce Richard, MP, major-general, and Constable of Dublin Castle.
CHARLES HENRY ST JOHN, (1779-1841), 2nd Viscount, KP, PC, of Shane's Castle.
This nobleman was further advanced to the dignities of Viscount Raymond and EARL O'NEILL, in 1800
Lord-Lieutenant of County Antrim, 1831–41; Colonel, Antrim Militia; Vice-Admiral of Ulster; Grand Master, Orange Order, 1801; Knight, Order of St. Patrick (KP), 1809; Privy Counsellor, 1809.When the 1st Earl died, unmarried, from a complication of gout and influenza at Shane's Castle in 1855, the earldom of O'Neill became extinct though the viscountcy passed to his brother,
JOHN BRUCE RICHARD (1780-1855), 3rd Viscount; MP for Antrim, 1802-41; Ensign Coldstream Captain, 1800; Captain, 18th Light Dragoons 1804; Major, 19th Light Dragoons 1807; Lt-Col, Chasseurs Britanniques, 1808; 19th Light Dragoons, 1810; and Coldstream Guards, 1816; Colonel, 1814; Major-General, 1825; Lieutenant-General, 1838.
The 3rd Viscount died unmarried, in 1855, when the titles expired.
In 1868, however, the family honours reverted to his second cousin twice removed, the Rev William Chichester, later O'Neill, who was created BARON O'NEILL.
SHANE'S CASTLE demesne lies at Lough Neagh, between the towns of Antrim and Randalstown in County Antrim.
The original Shane's Castle took its name from Shane McBrian O'Neill, last captain or lord of Clanaboy.
There were two principal branches of the House of O'Neill: Tyrone and Clanaboy.
After a long and turbulent history, JAMES I finally settled the O'Neill estates, in excess of 120,000 acres, on Shane McBrian O'Neill, who had made his peace with the Crown.
Charles also built Cleggan Lodge, originally a shooting lodge until taken over by Sir Hugh O'Neill, 1st Baron Rathcavan, in the early 1900s.
Charles's son John, 1st Viscount O'Neill (1740-98) was a highly respected parliamentarian and was tragically killed at the Battle of Antrim in 1798.
Charles Henry St John, 2nd Viscount, was further elevated to become 1st Earl O'Neill and Viscount Raymond (1779-1841), continued his father's tradition as a distinguished parliamentarian and, for his support of the Act of Union, was granted the earldom.
The 1st Earl's younger brother, John 1780-1855), succeeded to the titles as 2nd and last Earl O'Neill when the earldom became extinct.
However, his estates were inherited by his cousin, the Rev William Chichester, who assumed the surname of O'Neill in lieu of Chichester the same year.
In 1868, the barony was revived, when the Rev William was created 1st Baron O'Neill, of Shane's Castle in the County of Antrim.
This title is still extant today.
The 1st Baron was the great-great-great-grandson of John Chichester, younger brother of Arthur Chichester, 2nd Earl of Donegall. The latter two were both nephews of Arthur Chichester, 1st Earl of Donegall, and grandsons of Edward Chichester, 1st Viscount Chichester..
Lord O'Neill was succeeded by his eldest son, the 2nd Baron, who sat as MP for Antrim.
His eldest son and heir apparent, the Hon Arthur O'Neill, was Mid-Antrim MP from 1910 until 1914, when he was killed in action during the First World War the first MP to die in the conflict.
The 2nd Baron was consequently succeeded by his grandson, the 3rd Baron (the son of the Hon Arthur O'Neill), who was killed in action in Italy during the Second World War.
As of 2010 the title is held by his son, 4th and present Baron, who succeeded in 1944.
As a descendant of the 1st Viscount Chichester, he is in remainder to the barony and viscountcy of Chichester and, according to a special patent in the letters patent, the earldom of Donegall, titles held by his kinsman, the present Marquess of Donegall.Two other members of the O'Neill family have been elevated to the peerage: Hugh O'Neill, 1st Baron Rathcavan, youngest son of 2nd Baron O'Neill; and Terence O'Neill, Baron O'Neill of the Maine, Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, youngest brother of 3rd Baron.
The barony of the present creation really descends through marriage from the Chichester family, Earls and Marquesses of Donegall.
Shane's Castle remains one of the largest and finest private demesnes in Northern Ireland, extending to 2,700 acres.
It lies in a particularly scenic, not to say strategic, position on the north-east shore of Lough Neagh between Antrim and Randalstown.
Part of the Estate is a nature reserve.
The O'Neill family has had a hapless history with regard to the fate of their houses: the first Shane's Castle dated from the early 1600s and was utterly destroyed by an accidental fire in 1816.
The family moved to a small house adjoining the stables.
Its ruin was subsequently cleared away, and for the next 40 or so years the family lived once again in the stables.
The extensive and fine walled Shane's Castle demesne lies on the north shores of Lough Neagh.
It was established in the 17th century and surrounds a succession of houses on different sites.
There are ruins of the original dwelling on the shores of Lough Neagh and the 18th century house, with a lake-side terrace and a vault of 1722.
The attached and surviving camellia house, also by Nash, of 1815 is full of plants.
The present house (above) was built in 1958 in a pleasant spot to the north-west of the earlier house and south-west of the intermediate 1860s house (by Lanyon, Lynn and Lanyon), which was burnt by the IRA in the 1920s.
It is classical, well-proportioned, with a handsome fanlighted doorway.
The parkland is beautiful and contains many well distributed venerable trees.
There are substantial shelter belts, which once accommodated walks and rides. Clumps and plantations also grace the fields.
There has been a long history of ornamental gardens and productive gardens on the site.
It was visited, depicted and remarked upon by various commentators of the 18th and 19th centuries.
A portrait of the landscape gardener John Sutherland by Martin Creggan (1822), hangs in the house.
Early 20th century photographs show well maintained acres in the days when many gardeners were employed to keep up a high standard commensurate with the size of the demesne.
In 1933 the surroundings were described as,
‘… exceedingly pretty, with old oaks, lovely flowers and enchanting vistas of both river and lake, and with rockeries, water-lily ponds and ferneries in profusion.’
A large and impressive mid- 19th century rockery built in a quarry near the lough shores is not planted up but is kept clear.
At the present time there are beautifully maintained contemporary gardens at the house and adaptations of the walled garden planting for modern use.
Glasshouses have been removed.
The arboretum is being reinforced and much new planting has been added in the vicinity of the house.
There is a family graveyard, with a statue of a harpist by Victor Segoffin of 1923.
There are many well maintained and listed estate buildings such as Ballealy Cottage of ca 1835.
The surviving gate lodges by James Sands are very fine: Dunmore Lodge, ca 1850; Antrim Lodge, ca 1848; White or Ballygrooby Lodge, ca 1848; and Randalstown Gate Lodge, ca 1848, all listed.
The latter lodges belong to a period of enhancement on the demesne.
Two pre-1829 bridges are Dunmore Bridge and Deerpark Bridge.
The deer-park, on the western side of the River Maine, was sold to the Department of Agriculture before the last war and is known as Randalstown Forest.
First published in May, 2010. O'Neill arms courtesy of European Heraldry.