Established in 1985, the O’Neill Country Historical Society is one of the foremost historical societies in Ireland. Its main aim is to research, record and publish the history of that area along the valley of the River Blackwater which straddles the border between counties Armagh and Tyrone. It promotes knowledge and understanding of this area’s heritage and folklore through publications, lectures and seminars and interacts with other local historical groups and bodies with a view to promoting interest in our history. Since 1985 it has awakened a new interest in historical study and has brought together people of different traditions and backgrounds to interpret, understand and mutually appreciate our diverse past.
Many of the defining political events and movements of Irish history have their origins within this geographical area, from the Battle of the Yellow Ford (Cath Bhéal-an-Átha-Buí) in 1598 to the formation of the Orange Order in 1795 at Loughgall to the early Civil Rights protests of 1969 at Dungannon and Caledon. The area also has a rich industrial heritage, having once been a major centre for the Ulster linen industry, while it has also experienced its share of 19th century sectarian conflict and economic deprivation. Throughout volumes of our journal Dúiche Néill, can be found a rich source of scholarly articles covering almost every aspect of the social, political and economic history of this region.
Under the successive editorships of Dr Proinsias Ó Conluain, Dr Charles Dillon, Professor John Mc Gurk, and presently Brian Gilmore Dúiche Néill has won acclaim among not only the local population, but among academics and professional historians throughout Ireland and abroad. Just recently, the executive committee has decided, that in order to promote the Irish language, we should publish at least one article in Irish, preferably with a translation. To achieve this objective, we have appointed an Irish scholar, Dr Malachy Ó Néill as our Irish language editor.
Since its formation, the society has each year committed itself to organising a series of talks on matters of local and general history, which are open to members and non members alike. It has also during this period organised one-off seminars, conferences, exhibitions, book launches etc on a wide range of subjects related to the history of the O Neill Country.
The ONCHS, has invited and entertained other historical societies to our area. We have provided guided tours and hospitality for our guests, which have created close permanent relations with other historical societies throughout Ireland. These include societies in Crossmolina in Co Mayo, Kinsale and Knockraha in County Cork, Donegal in County Donegal, and Castlecomer in County Kilkenny. We have also provided similar services for individuals from locally and abroad and also small groups.
In the preservation of our local heritage sites, we have played a pro-active and significant role. Over the years we have been active in the fight to preserve the ancient townland names. This movement has had some considerable success, as today the ancient name is shown on all the modern road signs in our area.
Some years ago we were successful in preventing an ancient ” Royal ” ring fort in the area from being destroyed and thankfully the modern day owner is a prominent conservationist and has provided an access road to the site. In recent times we have provided positive input into the development of ” The Hill of The O’Neill ” at Dungannon and the ancient inauguration site of The Ó Néill at Tulach Óg (Tullaghoge), near Cookstown. We are still lobbying to have proper signage erected at such significant heritage locations as the battle of the yellow ford and the battle of Benburb sites and to have such important local historical personages such as Arthur O’Neill, the blind itinerant harpist/ bard commemorated in the O’Neill Country.
Membership is open to all who subscribe to its aims. Members are entitled to attend the lecture programme and other events organised by the society, and to participate in elections to the executive committee. Society newsletters and a free copy of our journal are additional benefits of membership. We welcome new members and information about joining the Society is available by clicking on Membership.
There is a complete listing of the 21 Dúiche Néill journals that the Society has published since 1985, with a short summary of each article. In addition, there is a list of all the authors and contributors with a complete index of titles. Although many are out of print they are available to purchase on this Website under Publications.
We hope you enjoy browsing through our website. If you wish to leave comments about any aspects of the O’Neill Country Historical Society or this website, please feel free to contact us either by e-mail or by leaving a message under Contact.
This website has been re-developed in 2012 with the support of Website NI. We are very grateful for their assistance and we hope that you will find the site useful and informative.