Select Farrell Miscellany

Here are some Farrell stories and accounts over the years:

The Travails of GioUa O'Farrell

The following entry in The Annals of the Four Masters was for the year 1262.

"A great pillage was committed by the English of Meath on G-ioUa-na-Naomh O'Farrell (the Just), Lord of Annaly.  His own tribe also forsook him and placed themselves under the protection of the English. Afterwards they deposed him and bestowed the lordship on the son of Morogh Carragh O'Farrell.  In consequence of this, GioUa committed great devastations, depredations, spoliations, and pillages upon the English and fought several fierce battles with them in which he slew vast numbers.  He also defended vigorously the lordship of Annaly and expelled the son of Morogh Carragh O'Farrell from the country."

The Annals later reported his son Cathal and grandson Jeffry succeeding him as the Lord of Annaly.  But then the next Lord of this line, Moragh, was "treacherously slain by Seonnin (Little John) O'Farrell" in 1322.

Farrell in Longford

The Farrells had ruled the area now known as Longford for close on seven hundred years until the confiscations began under James I.  Although the sept was dispersed at that time, their mark remains today in Longford town and the surrounding area.

At the cathedral in the town, there is still the old baptismal font in the left hand entrance porch where so many Farrells had been baptized over the years.  On the right hand side the Bishop's list, dating back to St. Mel, contains many a Ferrell name.  A celebrated Farrell sculptor is credited with scuplting the statue of Our Lady on the main altar and he also made the beautiful creation on the front of the altar in the mortuary chapel (by the right of the main altar).

Farrell names and associations abound in the town.  The town newspaper, The Leader, was founded by the J.P. Farrell in 1897.  The bridge over the Camlin river is dedicated to a certain P.M. Farrell (a local solicitor and former council chairman).  And then there is Eamon Farrell's pub.

Some five miles outside of town is Moydow old cemetery where the headstones of the many Farrell chiefs over the years are to be found.   Their castle nearby, Mornin Castle, is now just a ruin. 

Reader Feedback - Farrall Spelling  

May I tell you that there are many thousands of us with the spelling variant Farrall.  My family come from Cheshire and the name is very prevalent around Cheshire and the Wirral.  The variant Farrall is also found in county Longford and we have no doubt that it originated there.

Chris Farrall (


Colonel Farrell and Whisky in the Jar

Whisky in the Jar is an old Irish folk song where a Colonel Farrell is the starting point of the story being told. The song originated in the 17th century, possibly in the Cork and Kerry mountains.  It was recently revived by the Dubliners.

The song goes as follows:

"As I was going over Gilgarry Mountain
I spied Colonel Farrell and the money he was countin'
First I drew me pistol and then I drew me rapier,
Sayin' stand and deliver for I am your bold receiver.

Well shirigim duradam da
Wock fall the daddy oh, wock fall the daddy oh,
There's whisky in the jar.

He counted out his money and it made a pretty penny,
I put it in me pocket to take home to darling Jenny.
She sighed and swore she loved me and never would deceive me
But the devil take the women for they always lie so easy.

I went into me chamber all for to take a slumber
To dream of gold and girls and of course it was no wonder.
Me Jenny took me charges and she filled them up with water,
Called on Colonel Farrell to get ready for the slaughter.

Next morning early before I rose to travel,
There came a band of footmen and likewise Colonel Farrell.
I goes to draw me pistol for she'd stolen away me rapier,
But a prisoner I was taken I couldn't shoot the water.

They put me into jail with a judge all a writin'
For robbing Colonel Farrell on Gilgarry Mountain.
But they didn't take me fists so I knocked the jailer down,
And bid a farewell to this tight-fisted town.

I'd like to find me brother the one that's in the army,
I don't know where he's stationed in Cork or in Killarney.
Together we'd go roving o'er the mountains of Killarney,
And I'd swear he'd treat me better than me darlin' sporting Jenny.

There's some takes delight in the carriages and rolling,
Some takes delight in the hurley or the bowlin',
But I take delight in the juice of the barley,
Courtin pretty maids in the morning oh so early."

O'Farrells Who Fled

The "Wild Geese" was the term used to describe the tens of thousands of Irish men who left to fight for foreign armies as their world in Ireland imploded in the 17th century.  These "Wild Geese" included many O'Farrells.

Ceadaigh O'Farrell who was killed at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 left three sons who all fled Ireland for Picardy in France.  A Captain O'Farrel who had fled there with the Jacobites at the same time married a French lady there.  Their son Francis Thurot O'Farrel, born in Burgundy, fought in the French navy until his death in America against the British in 1760. 

The lists of the Irish regiments which served in France in the early 18th century contained no fewer than 21 O'Farrell officers.  Ross O'Farrell from Longford, for example, served in Berwick's Irish regiment for 23 years until his death in 1768.  There was even an O'Farrell regiment in 1789.

Not all fared well during their service.  The experience of Daniel O'Farrell may have been typical of many.  He had been an officer in the Irish regiment in Flanders who complained that he lost everything after he had left Ireland for the Spanish service.  The reduction of his monthly pension by two-thirds forced his wife and three children in Brussels to sell their clothing in order to survive, while he himself went around the country begging.

William Farrell - An Eyewitness to 1798

William Farrell wrote an account of the 1798 Irish rebellion in Carlow.  As an eyewitness he gave a graphic description of the rebellion and the harrowing experiences following its suppression.  This story was in fact not actually written until Farrell was an old man, between the years of 1832 and 1845, and he directed that it should not be published until after his death.

He himself was only a reluctant participant in the rising.  He had advised Mick Haydon, the commander of the rebels in Carlow, to lay down his arms.  But Haydon had refused to do so.  Farrell's narrative described the unfortunate and tragic events of the battle of Carlow.  It told of the tragic fate that befell the rebels and the inhabitants of the town.  He recalled that orders had been issued "to spare no man that was not in regimentals."

William Farrell's account continued with details of arrests in the aftermath of the fray.  He himself was imprisoned and witnessed the horror of the executions of those accused, including that of Sir Edward Crosbie.  He recalled his own summons before the dreaded Major Dennis of the Ninth Dragoons.  He soon found himself faced with the choice of service in the West Indies or standing trial in a court martial.  When Farrell refused to enlist, he was court-martialed and had to write letters of appeal to both Major Dennis and Lieutenant Fitzmaurice.

Farrell recorded that he then underwent in the course of one day "four most extraordinary changes."  He was under sentence of death in the morning, received a respite, then later put under death sentence again, and then respited once more.  Finally, through the intervention of others and under the orders of General Henniker who had recently arrived in Ireland, he was granted a pardon.  Thus William Farrell lived to tell his story and that of his comrades and acquaintances.

His original manuscript was edited by Roger J. McHugh and published in 1949 with the title, Carlow in '98: The Autobiography of William Farrell of Carlow.  In the bicentennary year of 1998 another edition of Farrell's autobiography, entitled Voice of Rebellion, was published by Wolfhound Press.

Farrells in Griffiths Valuation

Griffiths Valuation was a survey of property owners in Ireland undertaken between 1848 and 1864.  The table below lists the number of Farrells and O'Farrells recorded there in Longford and in neighboring counties.


O'Farrell had pretty much given way to Farrell as a surname by this time.

Reader Feedback: Farrills in the Caribbean  

Richard Farrill of Longford, Glyn and Killindowde seems to have been the progenitor of this line.  His name can be found on an immigrant indenture servantís index, appearing as being indentured in Montserrat sometime before 1678.  He was shown elsewhere as a Sergeant Major.   He married and had six sons, with the descendants spreading all over the Leeward Islands.  

They did well out of the sugar boom and returned to England, marrying into the aristocracy and the gentry - when not being chased for debt.  Records are patchy partly due to the destruction of records following earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.  But we have been able to put together some interesting stories, some good and some not so good.  There is the Cuban line complete with a grand duchess and a Che Guevara connection. 

Is there anyone who has some West Indies Farrill expertise?  

Best regards

Patricia Morley Brown from Melbourne, Australia (

Lydia Farrell in Australia

Lydia Farrell was caught stealing shawls from a shop in the Midlands in 1790.  Whilst in jail, she had a child.  She was transported to Australia on the Pitt and was assigned as a servant to Sergeant Robert Higgins of the New South Wales Corp.  She accompanied him to Norfolk Island in 1793 and they returned to Sydney in 1794.  Their first child Mary was born a year later (they were to have four more).

They were not officially married until the service at St. Philip's Church in Sydney in 1810 (it was one of the first marriages in the new church which had just been completed that year).   Two years later the family was living at a property granted to them by Governor Macquarie east of Camden on the Nepean river.  Lydia died in 1823.

Can't Help Singing - The Life of Eileen Farrell

Can't Help Singing, Eileen Farrell's autobiography written with Brian Kellow, might as well be entitled Memoirs of the Anti-Diva.  She was just a strapping Irish girl with an incredible set of pipes and no tolerance for pretension.  As she stalked through the world of professional music, singing recitals and concerts, opera and pop, she juggled the demands of her singing career with the demands of running a family.

She was the daughter of a couple who'd had a vaudeville turn as "The Singing O'Farrells."  Born and raised in Connecticut, she came to New York to study singing when she was about 20, equipped with a stadium-sized natural soprano that needed just a little polishing.

She began to get radio work, first a $50-per-week gig in the CBS chorus and then, once her extravagant gift was noticed, she was handed Eileen Farrell Sings, a half-hour show.  Her radio show was a hit and it made her famous overnight, so much so that none other than Cole Porter saluted the Farrell phenomenon in a lyric for Big Town from his 1944 show Seven Lively Arts.

She mixed popular music, hymns, jazz and blues with 'serious' and operatic material.  Later, the balance changed but she remained comfortable in multiple arenas.  Many opera singers 'cross over' to pop or jazz (and vice versa, Aretha Franklin singing Nessun Dorma).  Few did it well and none had Farrell's flexibility.

What made her book so engaging was Farrell's no-nonsense attitude combined with her sense of humor.  She didn't sing opera until mid-career, she claimed, because "the stage direction, lighting, costumes, and cues all sounded like too much trouble and I didn't exactly think I had the figure for the opera stage."  She knew what she wanted from a singing career - to earn a living making music with people she respected. When it got more complicated than that, she just couldn't be bothered.  The point, after all, was the singing.


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