Cumann na gClann Ui Thighearnaigh

The Tierney Clans Society

Welcome Page         Forms       Clan Rally       Newsletter       Archives     Y-DNA Project     Links


            A Brief History           


    Coat of Arms, Motto and Plant Badge
    Orgins of the Tierney Name
    Notable Bearers of the Tierney Name
    Foundations of the Tierney Clan and Membership
    The Tierney Clan today
    Contact us


The Coat of Arms, Motto and Plant Badge

The Coat of Arms of the O’Tierney Clan is; “Argent a chevron sable, a chief gules with a crest, an oak tree proper.”


The crest is of an Oak Tree above the shield.

The gules/red chief across the top of the shield is usually a third of the shield area. The colour gules/red can denote warrior or martyr: military strength or magnanimity.

The sable/black chevron is said to be derived from the bow shaped war saddle or a bridge. The colour sable/black can denote constancy or grief.

The background colour is argent/silver and is usually shown in white (easier for the artist). The colour argent/silver can denote peace or serenity.


Our motto is “Victory” or in Irish "Bua" and this seems to be the most popular of those attributed to the Tierney surname. However, another also attributed to the Clan is  “Ag Friotháil Rialaim” – “By Serving I Govern” or in Latin “Serviendo Guberno”.


This Tierney Armorial was confirmed to a County Limerick man Michael Tierney in 1748 by the Ulster King of Arms, The Chief Herald of Ireland. The patent of confirmation issued by The Office of Arms stated that this Michael Tierney’s family had “long use thereof”.



The Plant Badge of the O’Tierney Chief is the Holly. A Clan Plant Badge is believed to be a charm or ‘magic’ plant that is carried beside the

Clan Standard, into battle or on ceremonial occasions. It may also be fixed to a staff or spear. It was used as a form of identification and is what

distinguished clans in battle and was carried or worn by each clansman. The plant was believed to be indigenous, or exclusive, to the Clan territory.

Clans people can wear a sprig of the Holly pinned behind a badge on their bonnet or sash.


Back to Top                                                                                                 

Origins of The Tierney Name

Both O’Tierney, Tierney, Tierny (O’Tighearnaigh), and the synonym O’Tiernan, Tiernan (O’Tighearnáin) are derived from the Gaelic word tighearnach meaning “lord” or “lordly”.  Tighearnach, sometimes spelt Tigernaich or Tigernach or even Tignarach was a popular given name in ancient Ireland. Some of these Tighearnachs were of famous lineage, as we shall see later, and it is from some of these Tighearnachs that the surname Tierney has been handed down. The proper surname should be Ó Tighearnaigh, with the Ó [or UÍ or uíbh] translating as 'descendant of' - hence the surname Ó Tighearnaigh translates as 'the descendant of Tighearnach'.

The Rev. Patrick Woulfe, an eminent historian and genealogist and a recognized authority on Irish names in his book “Irish Names and Surnames” states that there were three main septs of the name. 

The first were a branch of the Cinel Eoghain or Uí Néill Thuaidh or Hy-Néill (descendants of Eoghan, son of Niall of the Nine Hostages) who, according to Woulfe, were anciently Chiefs of Fearnmaigh. The Rev. Woulfe contends that this territory is an area in the present County Donegal adjacent to the County Fermanagh border. However more recent studies of the Annals of the Four Masters would suggest that the territory of Fearnmuigh or Fearnmaigh [which means 'the territory of the plain'] is an area in South Monaghan/South Armagh and is in fact the present Barony of Farney, whose principal town is Carrickmacross.

The second was a branch of the Uí Fiachrach (descendants of Fiachrach, son of Eochaidh Muighmheadhoin, King of Ireland, and brother of Niall of the Nine Hostages), who were formerly Lords of Ceara, now the Barony of Carra in County Mayo. These were believed to have been the most powerful of the septs in their day. They stem from the fourth century King Daithí the last pagan monarch of Ireland. In the Book of Lecan [c. 1450] the Tierneys are described as "a stout race of men, very proud of their descent whose ancestors long ago had estates in Carra and were very strong men and very courageous fighters and known by their great coats". Most of the leaders of the clan, including the Clann Ceann-fine (Chieftain), Flann O'Tighearnaigh, were slain in 1273 during the course of a gathering between themselves and a neighbouring O'Murray clan. Apparently there was a dispute over the Kingship of Ceara between the two rival clans and a meeting was called to negotiate the position. However, with the aid of Hugh O'Connor, the son of Felim O'Connors King of Connaught, the O'Murray's contrived to murder all the Tierney clan present. Some survived but their power diminished. 

The third family was a branch of the Uí Néill Theas (Southern Uí Néill) and were based in Meath/Westmeath since 1100s. These are believed to be descended from King Tighearnach who ruled the Kingdom of Bréaga, a territory that lay between the Rivers Liffey and Boyne, in the present day County Meath/ Westmeath. The Kingdom is said to have stretched from Birr in Co. Offaly to the Hill of Uishneach in Westmeath. Tighearnach resided at the Great Crannóg of Lagore, which is situated near Ratoath in County Meath, not far from Dublin. Tighearnach led the Irish to a great victory over the Norse in 848 A.D.. 

There was also a fourth great family of the name. It is unsure as to whether this family is a branch of the Uí Néill Theas, who were moved or transplanted from their territory in Meath/Westmeath in the twelfth century with the expansion westwards of the English, or if they were a branch of the Uí Fiachrach who came south from Galway and East Clare with their O'Kennedy overlords. It was also assumed in certain quarters that the Tierneys of Tipperary may have been part of O'Neill's army and settled in Tipperary after the Battle of Kinsale. It may be that some Tierneys did, but it is certain that for many generations prior to Kinsale there was a large and important Tierney presence in the County. There is evidence to show that a Tierney family were Chieftains of, and ruled a kingdom in, an area within the present day Civil Parish of Lisbony (or Lisbunny), an area about one mile South/East of the town of Nenagh. It is for this reason that the initial view is thought to be the more likely. Their territory straddled the Baronies of Upper and Lower Ormond in the present day North County Tipperary. This area is referred to on a number of occasions in the Ormond Deeds or Papers of the 16th and 17th Centuries, as in those deeds there are references to “fearnan O’Tyernie”, i.e., O’Tierney Country. Extracts from the Ormond Deeds are included in the Clan Archives.                                    


Back to Top                                                                                                      

Notable Bearers of the Tierney name

Tighearnach a Royal Gaelic Chief or King, son of Muireadach, son of Eoghan, who lived about 480 AD. Muireadach was the ninetieth ruler after Heremon, who was one of the sons of Milesius of Spain [further details are contained in the Clan Archives]. Tighearnach was the ancestor of the Cineal Tighearnach and it was from this King Tighearnach that the name O'Tighearnaigh derived. The O' meaning from, or descended from-Tighearnach, and anglicized Tierney.

Tighearnach, was King of Southern Bréaga about 845 AD. Bréaga was a powerful kingdom situated in present day counties of Meath and Westmeath in an area between the River Boyne and the River Liffey. He lived in a fortified Crannog in Lagore [or Lough Gower]. It is mentioned in the ancient Annals that in 848 A.D. he and his forces won a great victory over the Norse. 

In 1273 Florence O’Tierney was Bishop of Kilfenora and in 1372 Cornelius O’Tierney became Bishop of Kerry. Near Clones in County Monaghan there is both a cemetery, a ruined church and a round tower dedicated to Saint Tighearnach. St. Tighearnach, was an Abbot and Bishop of Clones and died on 4th. April 548/9.

Near Banbridge in County Down is a ‘Lisnatierny’, or in English, Tierny's Fort. This is a ‘ring fort’, an ancient hilltop fortification. Also in the same area is a Tierny Road, proof that the Clan had some significant attachment with the place.   

Teigh O'Tierna of Kilconane, Lisboney, 'Captain of his Nation' [the English name for Chieftain] is listed in the 'Irish Fiants' for pardons 1601 to 1603.  This would have been on account of the part played by him in leading his troops in the wars of the period against the English Crown. His request for pardon must have been relatively successful because in the Civil Survey of 1654 for the Parish of Lisbony there is listed a Murogh Tierney, albeit with vastly reduced property. 

The best-known Tierney was an English Statesman, George Tierney M.P. (1761-1830), whose father was a Limerick man. In 1802 in Addington’s ministry he was     made Treasurer of The Navy. In 1806 he was made President of the Board of Control. He once fought a duel with The British Prime Minister Pitt, who had accused him of obstruction. Most remarkable were the brothers Matthew Tierney (1776-1845), and Edward Tierney (1780-1856). They were sons of a small County Limerick farmer and both attained astonishing success in their respective careers. Sir Matthew rose from being an apothecary’s apprentice at Rathkeale, Co. Limerick, to become one of the leading doctors in England and ‘Physician in Ordinary’ to the Kings of England, George IV and William IV. He was created a Baronet in 1818. The armorial depicted on the left is that awarded to Sir Matthew upon his creation as Baronet. Sir Edward, who inherited his brother’s baronetcy by special patent, remained in Ireland where he became the Crown Solicitor for Ulster. Upon the death of Lord Egmont, whose agent he was, Sir Edward, under the terms of the will acquired the extensive Egmont Estates in County Cork. However some years after Sir Edwards’s death the Lord Egmont will in his favour was challenged and as a result the estates eventually reverted to the Egmont family. The Arms on the right are those of Sir Edward.

Mark Aloysius Tierney (1795-1862) was a R.C. Priest and historian. He was ordained in 1818 and became Chaplain to the 12th. Duke of Norfold. He opposed Cardinal Wiseman and Papal domination. He edited Dodd’s Church History of England (1839-1843).

Very Rev. Dr. Michael Tierney (1839-1908) was born in Ballylooly, Cahir, County Tipperary. In 1866 he was ordained a R.C. Priest and was appointed as rector of Hartford Cathedral. He was consecrated Bishop of Hartford in 1894. Rev. Dr. Tierney was a dedicated apostle of the church and during his time as Bishop he was responsible for the building of St. Thomas’s Seminary, Bloomfield and for several schools and hospitals. 

Father Richard Henry Tierney S.J. (1870-1928) belonged to a County Tipperary family and was the editor of ‘America’.

 Dr. Michael Tierney [1894 to 1975] was born in Ballymacward, County Galway. He was a renowned academic, scholar, politician, historian and was President of University College Dublin.


Back to Top                                                                                                      

Foundations of The Tierney Clan and Membership

 The Tierney Clan was formed by Dr. Margaret Tierney in 1990. In 2003 it was decided to change the name to Cumann na gClann Uí Thighearnaigh - The Tierney Clans Society. This was done to reflect the fact that there are a number of separate and distinct Tierney clans as are mentioned in the brief history section above. The aim of the Society is the uniting of all of Tierney descent worldwide.  Clan members in many countries maintain contact with one another via our quarterly Tierney Clans Society Newsletter, and also as pen friends. Members assist one another with family history research.  Tierney Clan Gatherings are regularly held in Ireland.

The Clan has members in most counties of Ireland, as well as in, England, Scotland, France, Australia, New Zealand and U.S.A. The annual membership subscription is €10.00 (this equates to U.S.$12, or Stg. £8.00, or Australian $20) and is to cover the cost of producing and posting the quarterly Tierney Clans Society Newsletters to members. The fee also covers the cost of entry to the Tierney Clans Society Archives, (see the Archives Welcome Page for details of contents etc.). It would be much appreciated if remittances were sent by means of a Prime Bankers Cheque/Draft on Dublin, expressed in Euros.

When a new member joins the Clan, their name and address are immediately entered in the Clan Register. These details together with brief ancestry details, when supplied, are featured in the next issue of the Tierney Clans Society Newsletter. This is done so that other Clan members may correspond with the new members as pen friends.

New members are forwarded a copy of the most recent Tierney Clans Society Newsletter, together with a copy of the basic Tierney history, featuring our Coat of Arms and a Membership Certificate.

Members are also encouraged to forward their own family history details to the Clan Organizer for cross-checking with those of other members, to see if there are any ‘links’ in their ancestry and thus to locate some previously-unknown relatives. At present our website contains a Tierney Archive database which is available to society members using a password. The archives contain information from various Irish archives, such as Griffiths Valuation of Ireland and also a list of Tierney's who fought in the Union Army during the American Civil War. More files are being added to the archives constantly. For a more complete list why not take a look in the Archives Introduction Page. It is hoped to shortly include Tierney records from the Records of the General Registry of Births, Marriages and Deaths.  This information will eventually be available to members free of charge.

To join please complete the Registration Form which appears on the Forms page and mail it, together with the appropriate remittance to; Cahir Tierney, Naomh Antoine, 53 Ard Aoibhinn, Athenry, Co. Galway, Ireland.

Please remember that clans are non-profit making organisations and people work on a voluntary basis. Please include an International Reply Coupon for a speedy response.


Back to Top                                                                                                     

The Tierney Clan today

In November 2000, Cahir Tierney replaced Dr. Margaret Tierney as Clann Eagraí or Clan Organiser.  His main aim is to carry on Dr. Tierney’s work in uniting and expanding The Tierney Clan Membership. Cahir also hopes to vastly expand the Clan database through researching all available Irish archives and extracting all records pertaining to the name Tierney. This Clan database will be made available to all Tierney Clan Members free of charge, thanks to the donations of Clan members. 


Contact us

Do you have any queries relating to The Tierney Clan?

Do you have any information relating to The Tierney Clan?

Do you have any interesting news, views, stories, photographs or queries that could be included in The Tierney Clan Newsletter?

If you do please send your contribution to us at:

By Post; - Cahir Tierney, Naomh Antoine, 53 Ard Aoibhinn, Athenry, Co. Galway,  Ireland.

By E-mail; -
Back to top

Welcome Page         Forms       Clan Rally      Newsletter       Archives     Y-DNA Project     Links


All material contained in this website is the property of The Tierney Clan Society and is subject to copyright ©2000

Cumann na gClann Uí Thighearnaigh – The Tierney Clans Society.

For problems or questions regarding this site, and especially if a link does not work, please contact

Last updated Eanáir 2007.