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Whether there are one or two septs of Gormley in Ireland is a matter of some uncertainty. There is no doubt that the main sept originated in the north western county of Donegal and the modern barony of Raphoe, in that county, was formerly known by their tribal name of Cinel Moen. The common ancestor and progenitor of these Gormleys was Moen son of Muireadach, son of Eoghan (who gave his name to Tyrone), son of Niall of the Nine Hostages.
Niall was High King of Ireland from 377 to 404 AD. His father was Eochaidh Muigh-Medon, of the Celtic line of Erimhon and his mother was Carthann Cas Dubh, daughter of the king of Britain. Niall's ancestry can be traced back to Miledh or Milesius of Esbain, King of Spain, whose wife was the daughter of the Egyptian Pharaoh Nectonibus and who was the ancestor of all the Celts in Ireland. From there the line goes back fifteen generations to Niul (from whom the river Nile got its name) who was married to the daughter of Pharaoh Cingris (who drowned in the Red Sea when Moses rejoined the parted waters after the Israelites had made good their escape). As High King of Ireland, Niall reigned from the ancient Irish royal seat at Tara, in modern Co. Meath. During his reign he conquered all of Ireland and Scotland as well as much of Britain and Wales. He took a royal hostage from each of the nine kingdoms he subjugated, hence his famous nickname. Niall had twelve sons, eight of whom founded septs: - Eoghan (from whom the Gormlys descend), Laeghaire (or Leary), Conall Crimthann, Conall Gulban, Fiacha, Main, Cairbre and Fergus. The collective descendants of Niall are known as the Uí Néill.
The Gormley sept ruled their original territory from the time of Moen until, in the fourteenth century, they were driven by the O'Donnells, their kinsmen. But their survival in their new country on the other side of the Foyle, between Derry and Strabane, whence they continued to fight the O'Donnells, is evidenced by the frequent mention of their chiefs in the "Annals of the Four Masters" up to the end of the sixteenth century. Like many of the similar independent septs of northwest Ulster the Gormleys sank into obscurity after the Plantation of Ulster about the year 1609. Reeves states that their chiefs were usually styled taoiseach or capitanus.
In the "The Annals of the Four Masters" and in the "Topographical Poems" of O'Dugan and O'Heerin, the name is spelt Ó Goirmleadhaigh; the "Annals of Loch Ce" write it Ó Gormshuil and Ó Gormshuiligh: the editor (William Hennessy) writing in 1871 states that the latter was then anglicised O'Gormooly, but Gormley is universal today. The name in means blue spearman.
In the Partry Mountains of county Mayo is found a sept also called Gormley, Gormaly and Gormilly. The Irish form of this family's name is Ó Goirmghialla or possibly Ó Gormghaille, both Irish forms meaning blue hostage. They were chiefs of this area along with the Darcy or Dorcey family. The present parish of Ballyovey, also called the parish of Party shows the location of this ancient territory in Mayo. In the area of Lough Key, county Roscommon, we find families of the name (O') Gormaly or Gormally. O'Donovan says that these are quite distinct from the O'Gormleys of Co. Tyrone and that the Irish form of this name is Ó Garmghaile. It is likely that this family is of the same stock as the Mayo sept, but it is unclear of both are related to the main sept of Ulster.
In seventeenth century records they are found both as O'Gormley and Mac Gormley, located chiefly in counties Armagh and Derry, but also in Roscommon and Westmeath. Gormleys today are chiefly found in Co. Tyrone and surrounding areas. In modern times some families of Gormley in Counties Cavan and Longford have changed their name to Gorman, others in Co. Tyrone, nearer to their homeland, have become Grimes. Grimes, however, is also used as the anglicised form of several other Gaelic surnames particularly Ó Greachain in Munster, which is Grehan and even Graham elsewhere. It has also become Grimley, for instance, in the Keady district of Co. Armagh, and Graham in many areas. It has also become Grimley, for instance, in the Keady district of Co. Armagh, and Graham in many areas. In 1659 Gormley was already a principal name of Dublin. By the time of the 1890 index, Gormley had forty four recorded births, in Antrim and Tyrone.
Or three martlets Gules. Crest: A martlet Azure. No motto is recorded.