Start My Family Tree Welcome to Geni, home of the world's largest family tree.
There are already 727 genealogy profiles with the O'Neil surname on Geni. Join now to find your relatives.

O'Neil Genealogy and O'Neil Family History Information

‹ Back to Surnames Index

Share

view all 727

Profiles

About the O'Neil surname

Red Hand of Ulster

The Red Hand of Ulster (in Irish: Lámh Dhearg Uladh) is a symbol used in heraldry[1] to denote the Irish province of Ulster. It is less commonly known as the Red Hand of O'Neill[2]. Its origins are said to be attributed to the mythical Irish figure Labraid Lámh Dhearg[1] (Labraid of the Red Hand), and appear in other mythical tales passed down from generation to generation in the oral tradition. The symbol is rooted in Irish Gaelic culture and is particularly associated with the Uí Néill clan of Ulster. In some versions, a left hand is used and/or the thumb is opened (such as Tyrone GAA's crest).

Mythical origins

It is generally accepted that this Irish Gaelic symbol originated in pagan times and was first associated with the mythical figure Labraid Lámh Dhearg or Labraid Lámderg (Labraid of the Red Hand).[1] According to one myth, the kingdom of Ulster had at one time no rightful heir. Because of this it was agreed that a boat race should take place (possibly in Strangford Lough) and that "whosoever's hand is the first to touch the shore of Ulster, so shall he be made the king". One potential king so desired the kingship that, upon seeing that he was losing the race, he cut off his hand and threw it to the shore — thus winning the kingship. The hand is most likely red to represent the fact that it would have been covered in blood. According to some versions of the story, the king who cut off his hand belonged to the Uí Néill clan, which apparently explains its association with them. Another variation of this story concludes that it was none other than Niall of the Nine Hostages who severed his own hand in order to win his crown from his brother, the contest was initiated by their Viking father who could not chose between his two sons. Another story concerns two giants engaged in battle, one of whom had his hand cut off by the other, and a red imprint of the hand was left on the rocks.