This interesting Irish surname is an Anglicized form of the Gaelic "O'Donnghaile", "O" meaning male descendant of, and "Donnghal", a personal name composed of the elements "donn" brown, plus "gal" valour. It is claimed that most bearers of this surname descend from Donnghal O'Neill, 17th in descent from Niall of the Nine Hostages. Their territory lay first in County Donegal, and later further eastwards, centered around the place called Ballydonnelly, County Tyrone, which was named from them. The placename Ballydonnelly also occurs twice in that part of Antrim which ajoins County Tyrone. This area is still the part of Ireland in which they are most numerous. Patrick Madardha (O) Donnelly captured the castle of Ballydonnelly from Lord Caulfield in 1641, it was subsequently renamed Castle Caulfield. In modern times prominent Donnelly's are connected with America, such as, Ignatius Donnelly (1831 - 1901), a politician and reformer, and his sister Eleanor Cecilia Donnelly (1838 - 1917), author of many religious works. A Coat of Arms granted to the Donnelly family depicts two red lions rampant combatant supporting a right hand, in base there is a salmon swimming in the sea. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Donnell O'Donnelly, which was dated 1603, recorded at the Battle of Kinsale, County Cork, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, known as "Good Queen Bess", 1558 - 1603. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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