Ireland’s oldest pub and New York’s first Irish tavern will be offering DNA testing on Father’s Day to identify relatives of the marauding Irish King Niall of the Nine Hostages. Research has found that one in 12 Irish men could be descended from the 5th-century warlord, with the highest concentration in the north-west. My family comes from the southeast of Ireland, so I doubt I come from a line of marauders.
The Y chromosome, which is passed on from fathers to sons, has turned up in 2% of all male New Yorker Irishmen. On Sunday, patrons in Sean’s Bar in Athlone, Co Westmeath, and McSorley’s in Manhattan, can give a simple cheek swab which will be sent to the ancestral DNA-testing company Oxford Ancestors at the University of Oxford.
Tests will reveal the men carry the unique Y-line signature believed to be that of wild king Niall who founded the Uí Néill (O’Neil, from O’Niall) dynasty which ruled Ireland from the 7th to the 9th century. Timmy Donovan of Sean’s Bar, which has been documented back to the year 900, said he plans to take the test. “It is a busy pub right next to the River Shannon. We have a huge amount of tourists coming through so it is possible we will get a lot of them to do the test too,” he said. Irish surnames are among the oldest in Europe, widespread from the 10th century AD.
Several of these surnames belong to the Uí Néill/O’Neill clan, meaning son of Neill. Among them: Boyle, (O’)Gallacher, O’Doherty, O’Connor, Cannon, Bradley, O’Reilly, Flynn, (Mc)Kee, Devlin, Donnelly, Egan, Gormley, Hynes, McCaul, McGovern, McLoughlin, McManus, McMenamin, Molloy, Quinn, O’Kane, and O’Rourke. It has been estimated that, worldwide, three million men carry the Uí Néill Y-chromosome.
Niall was one of the legendary High Kings of Ireland and reigned in the late 4th and early 5th century. He was the great-great grandfather of St Columba, and famously imprisoned St Patrick. Customers revealed to be a descendant of Niall — who scientists suggest is second only to Genghis Khan in fecundity — will get complimentary drinks.