Adrigole, near where MacDermott located the sept of O,Cronin

origins of the sept

Most writers seem to agree Cronin is an old Irish tribal name from West Cork but not all agree as to the exact origin.

The most popular version has it that Cronin is one of the Eóghanacht septs. The Eóghanacht were a very broad group from which were drawn the kings of Munster. Eochu son of Corc (the king of Munster) lead his followers, known as Eóghanacht Raithlind1,2, from Tipperary to Cork between 450 and 475 where they established themselves in the neighbourhood of Bandon. Laoghaire, a grandson of Eochu, founded the tribe Cineal Laoghaire (Leary's people) and moved west, about 500 years later they assumed the name O'Donoghue. In the 8th century Cineal Laoghaire expanded is territory further west including land between Bandon and Dunmanway which became known as Coill t Sealbaig or the "forest of Sealbaig".

In 1703 the Rev. Eugene O'Keefe3, parish priest of Doneraile, wrote 'Eoghanacht Genealogies from the Book of Munster'. When he comes to Cineal Laoghaire he includes the genealogical information from poem of Cathan O'Duinnin, written in A.D., 1320:

Sealbhach, son of Clairneach, had four sons: Slat, Elathach, MacIodhar, and Cochlan. The descendants of Slat and Elathach fell into obscurity.

Cochlan, son of Sealbhach, had four sons: Aodh, from whom is Ui Aodha (O'Hea); Cochlan from whom Ui Chochlain (O'Cohalane, O'Coughlan); Ceanndubh, from whom Ui Cheannduibh (O'Cannifee); Airchinneach, from whom Ui Airchinnigh; Maicthrialla, from whom the Ui Mhaicthrialla; and Maolbhrighde, who died without issue.

Maolodhar, son of Sealbhach, had five sons: Elathach, from whom the Mac Elathaigh family; Buadhach, from whom the Ui Buadaigh (O'Bogue); Cathalan, from whom Ui Chathalain (Cahalane); Maoilin, from whom Ui Mhaoilin; and Croinin, from whom the Ui Chroinin family (O'Cronin).

Following the battle of Clontarf in 1014 there was a long period of instability with constant bickering between the various Eoghanacht septs. The Ó Donoghue sept was forced north into Kerry between 1120 and 1130.

Taking a slightly different view is one of the most well known authorities on Irish surnames, Edward MacLysaght4, he states that O'Cronin was of Corca Laoidhe, an earlier tribe which occupied South Carbery. On his map the sept is located between Bandon and Dunmanway (approximately where the Eóghanacht sept of Coill t Sealbaig was located). He also states that the name is derived from the word cron, meaning saffron coloured. Another well known authority, Michael C O'Laughlin5, does not say which tribe the sept was of but locates it 'west of Clonakilty'. An earlier view comes from Philip MacDermott, he published a sept map to accompany the first edition of Owen Connellan's translation of the Annals of the Four Masters (Dublin: 1846) which was reproduced in the Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society vol 14 no.99 (July-Sep 1913). The map locates the sept of O'Cronin north-west of Glengariff on both sides of the Cork-Kerry border.

It is worth mentioning at this point that these septs were not a family of blood relatives but a clan (or subdivision of a tribe) the members of which may or may not have been related. Surnames were not in common usage at the time but when they did become more common in the eleventh century the sept name of an individual's ancestor was a popular choice.

branching out

Wherever the exact origin of the sept may have been Cronins soon started to spread across Munster. Two early O'Cronins include the erenaghs of a church near Gougane Barra (near the Cork-Kerry border between Macroom and Bantry) and Father Donogh O’Cronin, teacher of O’Sullivan Beare, who was hanged at Cork in 1601. In 1659 it was recorded as a principle name in Co. Limerick (barony of Connello) and Co. Kerry (barony of Mugunihy) as well as in the north and east of Co. Cork. Townlands bearing the name include Ballycroneen (barony of Imokilly), Cooscroneen (barony of West Carbery), Lissacroneen (barony of East Carbery), and Curraghcroneen (barony of Clanmaurice, co. Kerry). By the 1850s Cronin was most numerous in the north of county Cork.

Variations of the name include Cronan, Cronyn Cronine and Croning but most common in the middle of the eighteenth century was Croneen with more than 50 being returned in the 1766 religious census of Cloyne. In 1890 176 Cronin births were registered of which 102 were in county Cork.

Although the majority of Cronins remained Roman Catholic after the reformation there were a small number of Protestants, in 1709 there was a marriage recorded between one of the Palitinate Protestants6 and a Cronin woman, and in 1766 there was one Protestant Cronin family returned for the parish of Kildorrery. Among the more prominent Cronins were J. L. Cronin, a Resident Magistrate during the famine years; and Richard Cronin, Lord Mayor of Cork in 1907. Among the less well off were 47 Cronins sentenced to transportation7 between 1788 and 1868.


  1. Thomas M. Donahue The History of the Eóghanacht Ó Donoghue.
  2. Dennis Walsh Ireland History in Maps. Ancient Mumhan, Province of Munster.
  3. Rev. Eugene O'Keefe Eoghanacht Genealogies from the Book of Munster.
  4. Edward MacLysaght More Irish Families (Dublin: 1982)
  5. Michael C O'Laughlin The Families of Co Cork, Ireland (Kansas City, MO: 1996)
  6. The Palatines in Ireland, an Interesting Bicentenary
  7. National Library of Ireland Transportation Database.
Cronin Families of Cork - Origins
© 2002,3 Michael Cronin
Last revision: 1 July 2003