County Tyrone (Tír Eoghain, Eoghan's land)


The county gets its name from the ancient division of the north-west of the country between the two sons of Niall of the Nine Hostages, Conall and Eoghan. Most of what is now Donegal became Tír Conaill, Conall's land, while the remainder went to Eoghan. The present Co. Tyrone represents only the core of these lands.

The region is inextricably linked with the O'Neills, who claimed descent from Eoghan, and ruled here for more than a thousand years. It was the defeat in 1603 of the rebellion led by Hugh O'Neill, the second earl of Tyrone, that marked the final collapse of the old Gaelic order. His lands were confiscated and the Plantation of Ulster began 10 years later. Many of the Scottish Presbyterians who settled here were forced to migrate again in the eighteenth century, this time to the American colonies, where they played a great part in the War of Independence and in the political life of the U.S., Ulysses S. Grant and Woodrow Wilson, for example, claimed Tyrone Scots-Irish blood.

Under the organizational reforms carried out in Northern Ireland in 1973, the county ceased to exist and was divided into various smaller administrative units. Local identification with the county remains strong, however.

Given the history of the county, a wide variety of English, Scottish and Irish surnames are associated with it, including Cochrane, Crawford, Laverty, Ferguson, McAleer, O'Neill, Quinn, Rafferty, Stewart, Sharkey, Watters and Wilson.