Descendants of the Celtic Tribes of Ireland

Ptolemy of Alexandria wrote his geography of Ireland in the 2nd century A.D., but it may be based on a lost work of some centuries earlier.  T.F. O'Rahilly believed that Pytheas of Massalia might have been the original source.  Pytheas was a geographer who voyaged to the 'Pretanic Isles' (i.e., the 'British Isles') about 325 B.C.  Either way, Ptolemy's geography includes a short list of Celtic tribes in Ireland whose names appear to be represented in the P-Celtic language of Gaul or Britain rather than the Q-Celtic of Ireland. Of these, the following have identifiable descendants.




Ptolemy reported that a tribe called the Dairini was located in northeast Ireland. 


These are obviously the Dáirfhine or 'Race of (the god) Dáire,' a name for the Érna or Érainn who include not only the Érainn of Munster (including the Dál gCais and their Ó Briain kings) but the Ulaid of the northeast of Ireland.  The primary kinship amongst the Ulaid is the Dál Fiatach.              


Ptolemy reported that a tribe called the Voluntii was located in the north of Ireland.  These appear to be the Ulaid, whose capital was at Emain Macha (called 'Navan Fort' in English) in what is now Co. Armagh.  At about the 5th century A.D., they were driven eastward into Down by the Uí Néill and their Airghialla allies.




Ptolemy reported that a tribe called the Iverni was located in the south of Ireland, approximately in what is now Co. Cork.  These have long been recognized as the Íarni of Munster, whose name is also spelled Íarna, Érna, and Érainn.  Many of the families of Munster are descended from the Érainn, including the Corcu Loígde.    The ancestors of the Dál gCais were also classified as Érainn in the ancient genealogies.




Ptolemy reported that a tribe called the Auteini was located in the west of Ireland, approximately in what is now Co. Galway.  These are apparently the Uaithni or Uaithne of what is now northeast Co. Limerick and northern Tipperary.  They gave their name to the Barony of Owneybeg in Co. Limerick and the Barony of Owney and Arra in Co. Tipperary.  By tradition, they were earlier located west of the Shannon, closer to the location reported by Ptolemy. 


Manapii of the Belgae


Ptolemy reported that the Manapii were located in the east of Ireland, approximately in what is now Co. Wicklow.  Although we don't have absolute proof, these have long been recognized by a number of scholars as a branch of the Menapii, a tribe of the Belgae of northern Gaul located about the mouth of the Rhine who fiercely resisted Caesar until 54 B.C.  The Menapii also produced Marcus Aurelius Mausaeus Carausius, a prominent military commander of the Roman Empire who declared himself Emperor in 286 A.D.    As would be expected as they switched from speaking Gaulish P-Celtic to Irish Q-Celtic, they are known in Ireland in the early historic period as the Manaig, with Monaig and Monach being variations in spelling. 


Over time, the Manapii or Manaig of Ireland trekked north from Leinster (in which Cúigiú or 'Fifth' of Ireland we find Co. Wicklow), leaving their name on Druim Monach ('Drumanagh') and on a ford called Scenmenn Monach in the north of Co. Dublin.  They eventually became the Monaig/Manaig in Uí Echach Ulad (west Co. Down) and also in the neighborhood of Loch Éirne ('Lough Erne') in what is now Co. Fermanagh.  Later they became known as the Fir Manach.  Co. Fermanagh is named after them. 


In Irish seanchas, the Manappi or Manaig are classified as a branch of the Fir Bolg, just as the Menapii were a branch of the Belgae on the Continent.   In my opinion, this traditional classification, this traditional association of Manappi and Bolg, defies mere coincidence.  In other words, I believe that this classification positively identifies the Manaig of Ireland as Menapii, and the Fir Bolg or Bolg of Ireland as Belgae.




Ptolemy reported that a branch of the Brigantes was located in the southeast of Ireland.  The Brigantes were named for their goddess, Brigantia, whose name means 'High Queen.'  Settlements of people calling themselves Brigantes can be traced across Europe by placenames such as Brigantium (now called Bregenz on the western border of Austria), Brigantium (now called Briançon on the southeast border of France), Brigantion (now called Bragança on the northwest border of Portugal), and Brigantium (now called La Coruna in Galicia on the northwest coast of Spain).  In Celtic and Roman Britain, the Brigantes held the most territory among the Celtic tribes, including almost all land south of Hadrian's Wall to a line running from about Blackpool on the west coast to about Bridlington on the east coast. 


The possibility exists that these are separate tribal groups who recognized no relationship amongst themselves while happening to like the same name.  But the purpose of a name is identification, a purpose which is defeated if people go around choosing the same name as someone else.  (Imagine having two New York States!) Therefore, I think it's pretty unlikely that these groups didn't identify with one another to some extent, especially those in close proximity to one another.    


As pointed out by T.F. O'Rahilly based on location, linguistic evidence, and historical evidence, it is reasonable to accept that the Uí Bairrche ['Descendants of the High-One' or 'Descendants of (the goddess) Brigid'] are a branch of the Brigantes of Britain and the descendants of the Brigantes in Ireland reported by Ptolemy.  The Uí Bairrche were located in south Leinster, on the coast about Carrick, Co. Wexford, and also inland northeast of Kilkenny Town in Co. Kilkenny.  The Barony of Bargy (Bairrche) in Co. Wexford takes its name from them as does the Barony of Slievemargy (Sliabh mBairrche or 'Mountain of the Bairrche') in Co. Laois. 




I don't remember having met any descendants of the Uaithne (Ptolemy's Auteini).  However, my wonderful wife's Dál gCais ancestors were classified in our Seanchas as Érainn (Ptolemy's Iverni), a branch of the Dáirfhine (Ptolemy's Dairini).  I had the pleasure of doing research on behalf of a descendant of the royal dynasty of the Ulaid (Ptolemy's Voluntii) last Fall.  Over the winter, I was also delighted to research the Seanchas of a person whose ancestors were classified as a branch of the Fir Bolg and who, based on several bits and pieces of surviving evidence, were probably a branch of the Manaig (Ptolemy's Manapii).  This would make this individual a

direct descendant of the Belgae in Ireland.  Completing the circle, my very nice next-door neighbors are descendants of the royal dynasty of the Uí Bairrche, reasonably postulated to be the Irish branch of the Brigantes.       


To sum up, I know lots of descendants of Ptolemy's Celtic tribes of Ireland.  I'm sure you do, too.  



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