Special Feature brought to you by ARALTAS.COM

O'Hea, McHugh, Hayes, Hughes

Arms of the sept of Ó hAodha of Munster, anglicised as O Hea and Hayes.

Arms of the sept of Mac Aodha, a branch of O Flaherty of Galway, anglicised as MacHugh, McHugh and Hughes.

Arms of the sept of Mac Aodha, a branch of Quinn of Munster, anglicised as MacHugh, McHugh and Hughes.

Arms of Sir Samuel Hercules Hayes, Baronet, of Drumboe Castle, County Donegal.

Arms of Hayes of Stratford, Rathgar, Dublin.

Arms of Hay or Hayes of Wexford.

Arms of Hughes of Ireland (no further family details recorded).

Arms of Hughes of Tipperary. Note the similarity to the symbolism in the arms of Hayes of Drumboe Castle.

Arms of Hughes of Wexford. Note the similarity to the symbolism in the arms of Hayes of Drumboe Castle.

Arms of Hewes of Dublin. Note the shared features with Hayes of Rathgar.

Arms of Hugh (no location recorded). Again note the shared features with Hayes of Rathgar.

Arms of Hewson or Hughson of Dublin.

The personal name Aodh was, and still is, a popular and common one among the people of the Gaels and has been largely anglicised as Hugh. It is not surprising therefore that as surnames started to come into being from the tenth century onward, that patronymics based on Aodh should arise separately in several place and thus the names Mac Aodha, Mac Aoidh and O hAodha (meaning 'son' of and 'grandson of' Hugh) arose in Ireland and Scotland. The "Mac" form of this name has become McHugh, McKay, McCoy, McCay, etc. and sometimes Hewson. Of these only McHugh has become Hughes in more recent times.

The "Ó" form, in Ireland, has become O'Hea, Hughes and Hayes, which in turn gave rise to variant modern forms like Hay, Haze and so on. All of these names, with the exception of O'Hea, have also arisen outside Ireland and doubtless many Irish families of the name Hayes, Hughes and Hay, with their variants, are originally of English, Welsh or Scottish stock.

Dealing with the native Irish name first, O'Hea is one of the anglicised forms of the very common Gaelic surname O hAodha, which has at least a dozen different and distinct origins in Ireland and is also anglicised Hayes. In Ulster where it has become Hughes. O hAodha simply means descendant of Aodh, anglice Hugh.

The O hAodha sept located in Corca Laoidhe - i.e. the south-western part of Co. Cork - is the only one which is called O'Hea in English and this form is invariable in that area. The O'Heas were chiefs of Pobble O'Hea in Carbery, Co. Cork who were seated at Aghamilla (Aghimilly) in Kilgarriff parish. There was an inquisition in April of 1639 into the lands of Thaddeus O'Hea (The O'Hea), of Aghimilly, where he held castle, mill and lands. He also held lands of Ballydurane, Carhue, Creague, Derryduff and Kilruane. He died in 1637. Thaddeus O'Hea was his son and heir.
O'Heerin mentions the O'Heas, thus:

O'Hea, the bestower of cattle,
Enjoys the wide-extending Muscraighe-Luachra;
The clan of the land of sweet songs,
Inhabit along the stream famed for salmon.

Various annals record that Brian O'Hea, erenagh of the Egles Beg of Clonmacnoise, died, 986. Murray O'Hea, lord of Muscry-Luachra, died, 1009. Flan O'Hea, successor of St. Enda of Ara, died, 1110. Felix O'Hea, a Cistercian monk, was appointed to the See of Lismore, on the death of Giolla-Chriost (or Christian) O'Conarchy, in 1179; he died in 1217, and was interred in the church of St. Carthach, at Lismore.

Timoleague is the burial place of the Carbery O'Heas, where a monument has been erected over their tomb. The confiscations of the 17th century led to the loss of lands and power of this Irish family as they did elsewhere. The 1659 census finds several of the name, with John O'Hea and his son as tituladoes in Timeleague. The family is found with several of the name in Kilbrittain, East & West Carbery, Barrymore, and in Orrery and Kilmore in that census. The branch of the family at Kilkeran held lands and title as Protestants when other lines of the family had lost all holdings.

Murrough O'Hea was Bishop of Cork in 1205, and Maurice O'Hea was Bishop of Ross in 1559. In Co. Cork only is the name found in directories today (apart from a few migrants to Dublin). John Fergus O'Hea (1850-1912), artist and cartoonist, was a Cork man, and Captain William O'Hea, an officer in Nicholas Browne's infantry in King James the Second's army, was of Aghamilly Castle in Pobble O'Hea, a district retained by the sept under the overlordship of the Barrys.

Even in this area the name is also found anglicised as Heas, which is pronounced as Hayes and in recent centuries many families have adopted the more familiar latter spelling. However, most families of the name Hayes belong to the Dalcassian sept of Thomond, now chiefly associated with Counties Limerick and Tipperary. Cormac Cas was King of Thomond around the fifth century and he spawned a tribal grouping known as the Dál gCais or Dalcassians which dominated Munster until the final suppression of the old Gaelic order in the seventeenth century. Keating states "O'Haodha, O'Hea or Hayes" was found as chief of Musgraidhe Luachra, which lay between Kilmallock and Ardpatrick, in the barony of Coshlee in Co. Limerick". O'Hart and other claim that the O'Heas of Cork are a branch of the Limerick family.

Of this family came Catherine Hayes (1825-1861), singer, and the two painters Edward Hayes (1797-1864) and Michael Angelo Hayes (1820-1887).

In the seventeenth century the form O'Hea, not Hayes, was used in Co. Clare as is evidenced by the number of O'Heas in Petty's census of 1659, however, the older form is rarely found there nowadays.

Further east "O'hAodha, supposed to be Hughes or O'Hea, chief of Olba (probably Odra or Oddor), in the barony of Skrine near Tara" is one family of the name.

In Kildare "O'Hugh or O'Hea" was recorded as a chief of Ui Mella.

There are at least twelve distinct septs of O hAodha, including, as well as those mentioned above, others located around Ardstraw (Co. Tyrone), Ballyshannon (Co. Donegal), Farney (Co. Monaghan), Gorey (Co. Wexford), Ballintobber and Templemurray (Co. Mayo), Dromard (Co. Sligo), and one of the Ui Maine. Many of the name Hughes, especially in Ulster will be of one of these septs, the detailed history of which remains to be fully uncovered. Of one of the Ulster septs was Most Reverence John Hughes (1797-1864), born at Annaloghlan in County Tyrone. He was the first Catholic Archbishop of New York and founder of Fordham University.

Moving on to McHugh there is a Connacht sept, which is of the same stock as the O'Flahertys: who were chiefs of the territory known as the barony of Clare in Co. Galway. In 1585, the date of the "Composition Book of Connacht", the MacHughs were not only there but in the barony of Athlone, Co. Roscommon, also. Nearly a century later the records of the Cromwellian settlement show that they were landowners in Co. Galway. Today they are found all around that area and even beyond it - as far north as Leitrim and Fermanagh. Of the Galway branch, one record calls them "Mac Aedha, or Mac Hugh, also called Hughes". Malachy MacHugh, Archbishop of Tuam (1313-1348), was of this sept. He is called Molassie MacHugh in the "Annals of Clonmacnoise", and in the "Annals of Loch Cé" we find an interesting entry indicating that he only became Bishop of Elphin in opposition to the nominee of the diocesan chapter.

In Munster a branch of the O'Quinns also adopted the name MacHugh and also became known as Hughes. Modern statistics relating to the distribution of the surname would appear to suggest that this family is now extinct or nearly so, neither McHugh nor Hughes being regularly encountered in the area. A family of the name Hughs appears in Limerick in 1659 as tituladoes on Costlea barony. Mary Hughes "alias Hurd", a "transplanted papist", is recorded as assuming the lands of Coolmeen in the parish of Kilfiddane, County Clare also in 1659. Edward Hughes is recorded in an 1851 census of the Union of Kilworth in County Cork.

Finally there was a branch of the Maguires who took their name from Aodh (or Hugh), grandson of Donn Carrach Maguire, Prince of Fermanagh. These became McHugh and Hughes in English, but interestingly many families who has been known as McHugh or Hughes adopted the forms MacGee and Magee in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

As to the non-native origins of these names in Ireland, Hayes may come from de la Haye, and Hayes is given as one of the chief Anglo-Norman families in Wexford. This is likely, for Hayes is a common English name, and de la Haye is a Norman name found early in Ireland. Having said that, the Hay or Hayes family of Wexford shares its coat of arms with the Scottish family of Hay. Among the Scots there is a legend surrounding the origin of the arms, recounted by Douglas as follows. "In the reign of Kenneth III, about 980, the Danes having invaded Scotland, were encountered by that king near Lonarchy, in Perthshire. The Scots at first gave way and fled through a narrow pass where they were stopped by a countryman, of great strength and courage, and his two sons, with no other weapons than the yokes of their ploughs. Upbraiding the fugitives for their cowardice, he succeeded in rallying them. The battle was renewed and the Danes totally discomfited. It is said that after the victory was obtained, the old man, lying on the ground, wounded and fatigued, cried 'Hay, Hay', which word became the surname of his posterity. The king, as reward of that signal service, gave him as much land in the Carse of Gowrie as a falcon should fly over before it settled and a falcon being accordingly let off, flew over an extent of ground six miles in length, afterwards called Errol, and lighted on a stone, still called falcon-stone. The king also assigned three shields or escutcheons as arms for the family, to intimate that the father and the two sons had been the three fortunate shields of Scotland." The Hay coat of arms is indeed an ancient one being known since at least 1292, but most historians agree that the name is more likely to be of Norman origin, de la Haye, and therefore unlikely to have been seen in Britain before the conquest of 1066. But a good story is still a good story! The family held the hereditary Scottish title of Earl of Errol. In 1946 the Countess of Errol married Sir Iain Moncrieffe of that Ilk and their eldest son succeeded to the earldom of Errol in 1978 and the baronetcy of Moncrieffe in 1985.

As an English name, Hayes is derived from the old English "haes" or the old French word "heis" both meaning "brushwood". Variant forms include Hease and Heyes. Hugh de la Heise is recorded in Oxfordshire in 1197, Robert de Hese in Norfolk in 1209, Henry Heyse in Cambridgeshire in 1240 and Michael atte Hese in Sussex in 1296 (atte Hese mean "dweller by the brushwood"). So the name arose when surnames first started to come into general use. The name may also have other derivations from the old English words "haeg" or "heye" meaning an enclosure or an area of forest fenced off for hunting. In addition the old English word "heah" means "high" and may be another origin. Finally, as in Ireland, the name may also be derived from the personal name Hugh. From these alternate origins we find the name as Hay, Haye, Hayes, Hays, Hey, Heyes, Highes, etc., often with prefixes such at de, le, de la and atte. There is little doubt that some Irish Hayes families are of one of these English origins.

A family of Huguenot settlers of the name Hays or DeHays relocated to Youghal, County Cork immediately after the accession of William of Orange. Youghal being a protestant enclave welcomed them with open arms. Many families of that area who bore the name Hayes were, of course, members of the native O'Hea sept which adds to the confusion of any researcher of the name in that area.

A number of Hughes families in Ireland are of Welsh origin. Though Hugh was not a native Welsh forename, the mere fact of its use inevitably led to the formation of a surname. Moreover, it was considered to equate to the Welsh Hywel, and this interchangeability produced an abundant surname (HOWELLS arose in a similar fashion). Modern bearers of the surname often choose to spell it Huws. As a medieval name in wide use in England, Hugh evolved many diminutive forms. HULLIN is one such name with a significant history in Wales. Hughes is very much a name of north Wales and especially Anglesey where (at over ten percent) it occurs at more than ten times the frequency found generally in south Wales.