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Report on the The O Long of Garranelongy Chiefship


        Previous researches established that the Genealogical Office/Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland granted courtesy recognition to a number of bogus and questionable Gaelic Chiefs, including Mac Carthy Mór and Maguire of Fermanagh, and there are many unanswered questions concerning the way in which recognitions were issued in the period 1989-95. While the recognition of Terence MacCarthy as Mac Carthy Mór was declared null and void, no decisive action was taken in relation to the Maguire and other debatable chiefships, and the Office of the Chief Herald simply abandoned its role in recognising chiefs in 2003. There now follows a report on the claim to the chiefship of O Long of Garranelongy.


Chief Herald's certificate of recognition of O Long of Garranelongy 1989
(from Bord Fáilte/Irish Tourist Board brochure,
Tracing Your Ancestors Ireland)

In August 1989 then Chief Herald Donal Begley issued the above illustrated certificate granting courtesy recognition to Mr Denis C Long as 'The O Long of Garranelongy' (the version pasted into the Register of Chiefs contains the Chief Herald's signature). Once again serious discrepancies, want of documentary evidence and indeed crude forgery have been discovered in relation to the proffered pedigree of O Long, which are detailed in the present report.

        Pedigree of O Long
        The most substantial available published pedigree of the currently recognised O Long is from the pen of Terence MacCarthy, the now 'abdicated' Mac Carthy Mór, and this alone is a sufficient cause for concern. The claimant to the O Long Chiefship was a member of MacCarthy's 'Niadh Nask' Order, and is reported to have presented to 'our unquestioned Prince' a replica 'Crown of Munster' during a ceremony in Cashel in 1996 (Cashel '96, pages 41-42). MacCarthy's article on O Long, in a collection of essays entitled An Irish Miscellany, lists a total of 50 generations of chiefly descent, from Eoghan Mór, died circa 192 AD, through Longadh, who lived about 640 and from whom the surname Ó Longaidh is said to derive, down to the claimed current Chief, Denis Long. The piece is a typically Terentine production, fluently and, to non-experts at least, persuasively written, citing sources in an apparently scholarly way, but on closer analysis it is found to be seriously flawed. In the first place, attention has been drawn to the fact that there are12 generations between Cathal, died 1063, and John, died 1653, which gives an implausibly long average generational gap of about 50 years, whereas the expected figure would be 30-35 years (message on Newsgroup rec.heraldry, 27 January 2000).
        The sources cited by MacCarthy in general simply do not support the pedigree he presents, and it is suspected that he started by expanding imaginatively on information found in one of the sources in particular, an article by Collins in the Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society for 1946. Thus MacCarthy casually refers to John O'Long, Chief of His Name, and his son Darby (Miscellany, page 199), but on checking the cited page of Collins, we find that the latter makes no mention of chiefly status and states that the 'precise relationship' of Darby and John to previous O'Longs 'is not known'. Again, MacCarthy claims that during the Penal Era the O'Longs 'remained in Canovee and Garranelongy enduring all and surviving all' (Miscellany, page 201), whereas Collins merely notes that their lands passed from their possession during this time, and that 'owing to the paucity of records . . . little is known of their vicissitudes'.
        This is a pattern with which we are well familiar as a result of investigations into the Mac Carthy Mór and Maguire Chiefships: a veneer of pseudo-scholarship masks persistent fabrication and distortion of genealogical and historical data. In examining the work of bona fide authorities, one is struck by the lack of substantial surviving sources relating to the O'Longs of County Cork. Thus Diarmuid Ó Murchadha states that there is little to indicate the origin of the family, as the eponymous Longadh's father was the 'mythical Corc' (Family Names of County Cork, page 224). Neither Collins or Ó Murchadha, or MacLysaght in an article on the surname in More Irish Families, make any reference to a documented chiefly succession of O'Longs into our time, which adds to scepticism concerning the pedigree put forward by MacCarthy. Following a hunch and a tip-off, I checked that great resource of 'clans' fabricators, O'Hart's Irish Pedigrees, and found that nearly all the names in generations 7-40 of MacCarthy's O Long pedigree appear simply to have been lifted from lineages of O Donoghue Mór and O Donoghue of the Glen (volume 1, pages 194-95).
        Turning to the more modern portion of the pedigree, using conventional records of birth and marriage I succeeded in documenting the ancestry of Denis C Long back to William Long who lived in the mid-nineteenth century. No doubt the pedigree could be  traced further back, but I could not locate any sources connecting the current claimant with the last recorded chief in the seventeenth century.  It was therefore necessary to try and establish what if any testing of evidence was conducted by the Office of the Chief Herald before granting recognition to an O Long chief. Following some fairly insistent enquiries, Deputy Chief Herald Gillespie eventually provided the following startlingly negative information in April 2000: ‘There is no registered pedigree of O Long at this office. O Long has never had arms granted or confirmed to him by any Chief Herald.' Chief Herald O Donoghue himself responded even more dramatically in May of the same year: ‘I am advised that no documents relating to the grant of courtesy recognition to O Long can be traced in the Genealogical Office.' Of course I communicated my concerns also in April 2000 to Denis C Long, and he replied that he was not in possession of relevant documents but would seek information on same, since which time there has been no contact. Surely there must have been a file in the Office of the Chief Herald containing correspondence, copy certificates, receipts for fees and other documents relating to the O Long case? What has happened to this file and its contents?  

        Arms of O Long
        As before noted, the Office of the Chief Herald has neither granted nor confirmed O Long arms officially, although it can be seen that arms do feature on the certificate of chiefly recognition. It has not been possible to authenticate the illustrated arms, which would be blazoned thus, 'Vert, three lions rampant or (gold)'. Ó Longaidh, pronounced 'oh-longy', is one of a significant number of Gaelic surnames whose anglicisation took the form of a similar sounding English surname, in this case Long. The entries for the arms of Long families in Burke's General Armory nearly all feature a single lion rampant argent (silver) as the central charge, with the exception of the very last entry which is identical to the arms in the certificate, reading 'Vert three lions ramp. or.' (page 621, column 1). O'Hart gives the exact same blazon for Longan, Gaelic Ó Longáin, a sept unrelated to the O'Longs but also sometimes Anglicised as Long (Irish Pedigrees, 1, page 517).  It is therefore reasonable to ask whether the arms of O Long were merely assumed.

        A copy of the original version of the present report was sent to the Chief Herald of Ireland on 1 May 2000, but it was not acknowledged. There was no significant development in the case until former MacCarthy supporter Peter Berresford Ellis stated in 2002 that documents in Mr Long's possession showed that professional genealogists Eileen O'Byrne and Eilish Ellis had prepared pedigrees on behalf of the Genealogical Office in the 1980s and 1990s, and furthermore that Paul Gorry had now been employed by Mr Long to review his case (Erin's Blood Royal, New York 2002 Edition, page 157). The exposure of Terence MacCarthy's hoax in 1999 of course meant that his 'research' in support of Mr Long's claim to chiefship was worthless, and the above mentioned 'missing' file in the Office of the Chief Herald adds to an impression of utter irregularity.
        The next development of note occurred in November 2005, when Mr Thomas Sweeney, claimant to the title of Mac Sweeney Doe, stated on his website at that a 'professional genealogist' and an 'internationally recognized scholar' had confirmed that Mr Long was O Long of Garranelongy. In the latter part of 2006 Mr Sweeney confirmed the identities of the individuals in question:

Mr [Paul] Gorry's painstaking work confirmed Denis O Long's descent from the last recorded Chief of the Name of O Long of Garranelongy in the seventeenth century.  Nevertheless, Denis O Long then went a step further and obtained a second professional opinion, this time from Dr Kenneth Nicholls, an internationally acclaimed medievalist, lecturer and author. Dr Nicholls' findings agreed with Mr Gorry's. Mr Gorry is a full-time consultant genealogist and member of the Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland, and is recognized as a chiefly pedigree expert.

On a point of accuracy, while Kenneth Nicholls is a justly acclaimed scholar, he does not in fact hold a doctorate. In view of Mr Sweeney's attacks on my scholarly credentials, which he has described as 'self-proclaimed' and 'unexceptional', it is perhaps remiss of him to fail to point out that Mr Gorry holds no degree and has no published scholarship on the subject of Irish chiefs (I have now placed my own curriculum vitae online).
        Mr Long was requested by letter on 28 November 2005 to provide details of any new documentary evidence available, so that I could review same fairly, but no reply has been received. The reported validation of Mr Long's claim to chiefship by Mr Nicholls places the present writer in the difficult position of appearing to challenge the authority of a superior scholar. Furthermore, it is a fact that in the aftermath of the Mac Carthy Mór scandal a respected Cork scholarly journal  effectively endorsed Mr Long's claim to chiefly status by publishing an article on Irish chiefship by him under the style 'The O'Long' (Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, Volume 105, 2000, pages 240-41; the same journal also uncritically publicised the claims of the bogus Duc de Clancarthy-Blarney in 1907, Volume 13, pages 166-68). However, I would be most surprised if a scholar of the calibre of Mr Nicholls or the learned editor of the Cork journal really believes that Mr Long is descended from the last recorded Chief of the Name, in that I doubt strongly that any documentation exists to prove this. If I am wrong, this can easily be demonstrated by publishing the full text of Mr Gorry's report and Mr Nicholl's alleged endorsement.
        The O Long case has also been tied up in a complicated series of Freedom of Information applications and appeals by the present writer relating to bogus and questionable chiefs, which process is now in its seventh year. In March 2006 the Office of the Information Commissioner felt obliged to criticise the National Library for its handling of another case, FOI/2001/18, on the grounds that its decision 'fell well short of the requirement placed on it by section 8(2)(D)' of the FOI Act, which refers to the provision of clear reasons for refusal of information. Encouraged by this finding, the writer persevered and in May 2006 at last received from the National Library a significant quantity of records relating to the O Long chiefship. A fair proportion of the released records are copies of the present writer's report and associated correspondence. It is clear that Mr Long supplied copies of older documents missing from the Chief Herald's files, but these are not included in the release, as they predate the coming into operation of the FOI Act in April 1998. There are also references in the released records to the research carried out on Mr Long's behalf by Paul Gorry and Mr Kenneth Nicholls, but aside from a copy of a preliminary and therefore limited report of Mr Gorry dated July 2000, no substantial reports in support of Mr Long's claim to chiefship are included or cited. Additionally there is a memorandum of Chief Herald Brendan O Donoghue dated 12 August 2003 recording details of a meeting with Mr Long, which notes that he had been informed that it was 'entirely a matter for himself to decide whether to submit the produce of his research work', but that 'anything so submitted might have to be disclosed in the event of an FOI request'. There are no further relevant records on file after that date.
        Attached to the last mentioned memorandum was a single-page, minimally sourced pedigree, clearly presented by Mr Long to Chief Herald O Donoghue on 12 August 2003. This pedigree is interesting in that it differs significantly from the pedigree reproduced above and accepted by Chief Herald Begley. In the first place, it is no longer claimed that there is direct descent from John fitzDermot O'Long, Chief of the Name, who died before 1654, in that John Long, who died before 1686, is now described as the latter's 'nephew' rather than 'son' (but he is also stated to be a grandson of a Thomas rather than a Dermot). Secondly, a generation has been added between the two Darby Longs, namely a John Long of Killorum House. Thus it is tacitly accepted that the pedigree which appears on the 1989 certificate of chiefship above is erroneous. While not the most legible document, this newly found pedigree is now reproduced below, as representing the best available statement of the current genealogical basis to the claim of Mr Denis Long to be a Gaelic chief.

        For the revised pedigree reproduced above to be taken seriously, the reasons for the alteration of the previously claimed pedigree would need to be clearly stated, the relationship to John fitzDermot O'Long would need to be explained properly and adequate sources would have to be cited. As in the Mac Sweeney Doe case, it is unfortunate that it is claimed or implied that there exist full genealogical reports compiled by prominent genealogists, but there is a refusal to publish these so that they can be properly evaluated. It is clear that the certificate issued by Chief Herald Begley in 1989 was irregular because based on false genealogy and doubtful heraldry, while the pedigree advanced by Terence MacCarthy was of course riddled with forgery. On the basis of the findings laid out in the present report, the writer has to stand over his view that the claim to the O Long chiefship has not been validated, and would indeed appear to be spurious. Finally, the O Long case is not the only one where documentation was removed from the Office of the Chief Herald, and the affair strengthens the case for an official enquiry into the administration of the place.


Sean J Murphy
Centre for Irish Genealogical and Historical Studies
Commenced 29 April 2000, last updated 16 April 2007