O'Neill Family History - ONeill Genealogy Ulster Ireland to Ohio
Henry O'Neill & Nancy Lee O'Neill Immigrants from Ulster Ireland
Henry & Nancy O'Neill Story Henry & Nancy O'Neill Genealogy O'Neill Irish Kings of Ireland O'Neill Family Coat of Arms
The coat of arms of the Uí Néills of Ulster were white with a red left hand cut off below the wrist, and it is because of this prominence that the red hand (though a right hand is often found used mistakenly, rather than the left used originally) has also become a symbol of Ireland, Ulster, Tyrone and other places associated with the ruling family of Uí Néills. The red hand by itself has become a symbol of the O'Neill name, such that when other O'Neill family branches were granted or assumed a heraldic achievement, this red hand was often incorporated into the new coat of arms to the point of being a cliché.
The red hand is explained by several slightly differing legends, but which tend to have a common theme that begins with a promise of land to the first man that is able to sail or swim across the sea and touch the shores of Ireland. Many contenders arrive, including a man named O'Neill, who begins to fall behind the other. Using his cunning, O'Neill cuts off his left hand and throws it onto the beach before the other challengers are able to reach shore, thus technically becoming the first of them to touch land and wins all of Ireland as his prize. However, the legends seem to originate in the seventeenth century, several many centuries after the red hand was already borne by the O'Neill families. The Red Hand of Ulster (in Irish: Lámh Dhearg Uladh) is a symbol used in heraldry to denote the Irish province of Ulster. It is less commonly known as the Red Hand of O'Neill and the Red Hand of Ireland. Its origins are said to be attributed to the mythical Irish figure Labraid Lámh Dhearg (Labraid of the Red Hand), and appear in other mythical tales passed down from generation to generation in the oral tradition. The symbol is strongly rooted in Irish Gaelic culture and is particularly associated with the Uí Néill clan of Ulster.
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 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 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.