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The story of the sept originates in the myths of prehistory.
The ancient clan historians trace the family back to Heremon, son of Milesius and Celtic conqueror of Ireland.
Thence the line continues through many generations to through Conn Ceadcathach (Conn of the Hundred Battles), second century High King and on to Niall Naoi Ghiallach or Niall of the Nine Hostages, High King of Ireland from 377 to 404 AD.
As High King of Ireland, Niall reigned from the ancient Irish royal seat at Tara, in modern Co. During his reign he conquered all of Ireland and Scotland and much of Britain and Wales.
He took a royal hostage from each of the nine kingdoms he subjugated, hence his famous nickname.
The families that descend from Niall are collectively known as the U Neill, meaning descendants of Niall, and not to be confused with the sept of O Neill.He had twelve sons, of whom four moved into Ulster to establish the dynasty there.Eoghan, son of Niall gave his name to Tir Eoghain (in English Tyrone) and twelve generations later we find his descendant, Niall Glandubh (Niall of the Black Knee) as High King in 890 A. He was killed in battle against the Norsemen near Dublin in 919. 943) who adopted the surname O Neill, meaning grandson of Niall.From the fifth to the eleventh century, and from the twelfth century to the death of Red Hugh O Neill in 1608, this dominant family were monarchs of all Ireland, kings of Ulster, earls and princes of Tyrone, statesmen and soldiers.The O Neills are the oldest family in Europe with unbroken descent in the male line.The descent of the original Tyrone family has continued unbroken, down to the present holder of the title of O Neill Mr.