My O'Kane Connections

My O'Kane Connections

By Michael W. Caughey

Annie O'Kane is my eldest daughter's mother-in-law. She married John Mc Bride, author of 'Walking in the Glens'. They are buried together in Cushendall, Co. Antrim, Ireland. She is one of the north Antrim O'Kanes.


The O'Kanes, earlier O'Cahans, Gaelic )'Cathain, were, with the O'Carolans, O'Duffys, and O'Mullans, collectively known as the Clann Conchuir Magh Ithe, a branch of the Cenel Eoghain. the four septs all descend from Muirceartach Mor Mac Earca, son of Muireadach, son of Eoghan, son of Niall of the nine hostages, the fifth-century founder of the Ui Neill dynasty.
Magh Ithe was what is now the Laggan district of east Donegall and from there the O'Cathans came in the twelfth century and drove out the O'Connors of Glengiven (now Dungiven, Co. Derry). The O'Cahan was one of the inaugurators of O'Neill and, as Lords of Keenagh and Co. Coleraine (now Co. Derry), they remained a powerful sept until the Plantation.
The last chief, Donnell Ballagh O'Cahan, was inaugurated in 1598 and joined O'Neill against the English in the Nine Years War, 1594-1603.
Later he submitted, was granted back a small proportion of his original lands, and was knighted by James 1. None the less, he spent the last twenty years of his life imprisoned without trial in the Tower of London. He died in 1628.
A branch of the O'Cahans in north Antrim was first based at Dunseverick and then, after the 1641 Rising, six miles away at Ballinlea. And many of their descendants still inhabit the same region. Some of the MacCaughans, Gaelic Mac Eachain, of Antrim and north Derry believe they are originally O'Cahans.
The most common form of the name is Kane but O'Kane is common and increasingly popular. Keane in Ulster is a variant. However, MacKane and MacKain are variants of the Scottish MacKean, itself found in counties Dery and Donegall.
Kane is among the seventy-five most common names in Ireland and is most numerous in Ulster. It is among the fifteen most common names in its homeland, Co. Derry, and is also particularly common in Co. Antrim.
(Source 'The Book of Ulster Surnames').

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