The O’Neill Dynasty was according to legend founded by Niall of the Nine Hostages who ruled from Tara in the late 4th or early 5th century. Myth has it that he was descended from ‘Conn of the Hundred Battles’ who, in the 2nd century was reputedly the first High King of Ireland. Niall’s ‘modus operandi’ for achieving dominance was to take important members of the leading families as hostages until he eventually became a self crowned King. He led successful raids in Ulster, Roman Britain and in Scotland and it is suggested that one of his hostages may have been St Patrick himself! There are two stories to identify Niall’s nine hostages. The less well-known story has it that they were taken from the Airgialla, a once powerful people who controlled an area loosely centred on present-day Armagh and Tyrone and the second, and probably less reliable, story is that Niall took a hostage from each of Ireland’s five provinces (Connaught, Munster, Leinster, Ulster and Meath) and also captured a Briton, a Gaul, a Saxon and a Scot. After his Niall’s death, his descendants continued to dominate much of Ireland for most the next six centuries. Niall’s legendary military skill was on a par with his sexual prowess (as this was expected of someone of his status at the time) and legend has it that he had at least 12 sons. Modern DNA shows that 21% of males in the North West and 8.2% of Irish males in the entire country have his genetic fingerprints. It has also been proven that 2% of European males in New York also have his bloodline reflecting 3 centuries of Irish emigration this making up a total of between 2 -3 million off spring! Some of the modern surnames associated with the Ui Neill include (with or without the O prefix) Neill, Boyle, Bradley, Campbell, Cannon, Coleman, Connor, Devlin, Doherty, Donnell, Donnelly, Egan, Flynn, Gallagher, Gormley, Hynes, Kane, McGovern, McLoughlin, McManus, Molloy, Reilly, Rourke and Quinn. Famous descendants include Niall’s great-great grandson Saint Columba, Saint Máel Ruba, the Kings of Ailech, the Kings of Tir Eogain, and the Kings of Tír Conaill. What a man!