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Ó Cóileáin- anglicised widely as Collins, earlier O'Collaine etc. Possibly derived from 'coilean', a whelp.
Ó Cuileáin- added by Woulfe in 'Sloinnte Gaedheal is Gall' (1923), not a different name etymologically from the above, but a variant, also anglicised as Collins, as well as Cullen and Quillan etc.
However, he adds that several distinct septs of Ó Cuileáin once inhabited Cos Galway, Tyrone, Tipperary and Cork, and possibly also Clare and Sligo.
Collins is also a well known English name, and possibly a few will have this origin, as Cromwellian soldiers for example. This would not affect its status as a Gaelic Irish name in the top 50 in the country.
The Ó Coileáin sept were lords of Uí Conail Gabra, that is the baronies of Connello in Co Limerick. Pressure from the Geraldines at the in the 13th century caused them to move to West Cork, near their kin, the O' Donovans. The picture becomes complicated because the Ó Cuileáin sept of the Corca Laoidhe, according to MacLysaght ('Irish Families' series, 1980, 1982) already inhabited this area!
The picture becomes more complex still: according to Woulfe, a number of Ó Coileáin had earlier moved to West Cork in 1178.
In the 1659 'Census' of William Petty, we find the following among the 'Principal Irish Names' of that document:
Small County, Cullane 10; Connologh barony, O Cullane & O Collane 35, O Colleane 6.
Ibawne and Barrymore barony, O Cullane 12; Killbrittaine, Cullane & O Cullane 24; Barrymore, O Cullane 28.
Returns for Cos Galway and Tyrone are missing. I found none in Co Tipperary.
Griffith's 'Valuation' of households in the mid 19th century has the following (top 5 counties listed here) for Collins: Cork 1014, and city 63, Limerick 285 and city 18, Galway 195, Kerry 172, Clare 157.
In the Registrar's Report on surnames in 1890, most Collins births were in Cork, Limerick, Dublin, Galway and Antrim.
An early emigrant, a Collins from Offaly, was a governor of Tasmania and a founder of Sydney. There have been comparatively few Irish explorers but a Collins has been recorded in the Arctic. In America there is a family of Collins that were ship-owners; they left Ireland in 1635.
The most well known of the Collins family was none other than Cork man, ‘The Big Fella’, Michael Collins, a leader of the 1921 guerrilla war against British Crown Forces, and founder of the famous 'Squad' which neutralized British Intelligence operations in Dublin. He was killed, aged 32, in an ambush of his Free State Army motorised convoy at Béal na mBláth in Co Cork, by an anti-Treaty force of his former comrades.
Béal na mBláth
22nd August 1922
All in the Mouth of Flowers,
And in the month of flowers,
In the deepening shades of evening,
died Mícheál, Ireland's darling.
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