Families of this name O'FEELY which was derived from the Irish MacFithcheallaigh, are to be found mainly in northern County Roscommon and the adjacent counties of Leitrim and Mayo. Families in Munster will most likely descend from the West Cork sept O'Fithcheallaigh, and are found predominantly still in County Cork. The name has many variant spellings which include Feeley, Feehely and Feehily. The maritime county of Cork, in Munster, is bounded by the sea on the south-west, the south and the south-east. To the east it has land boundaries with the counties of Waterford and Tipperary, and to the north with Limerick and to the west with Kerry. Anciently the county formed part of the kingdom of Desmond. After the Anglo-Norman Invasion the whole of the present county, save the City of Cork (which had been founded by the Vikings) and its surroundings, was granted in 1177 by Henry II to Anglo-Norman knights who brought over their followers and established a military colony. Ireland was one of the earliest countries to evolve a system of hereditary surnames. They came into being fairly generally in the 11th century, and indeed a few were formed before the year 1000. When the sparse Irish population began to increase it became necessary to broaden the base of personal identification by moving from single names to a more definite nomenclature. The prefix MAC was given to the father's christian name, or O to that of a grandfather or even earlier ancestor. At first the coat of arms was a practical matter which served a function on the battlefield and in tournaments. With his helmet covering his face and armour encasing the knight from head to foot, the only means of identification for his followers, was the insignia painted on his shield and embroidered on his surcoat, the draped and flowing garment worn over the armour. The famous Archbishop of Tuam, Maurice O'FIHILY (died 1516), called Maurice de Portu, professor at Padua and editor of the works of John Scotus, was born in Baltimore in the heart of the original habitat of the sept. John Arthur FIHELLY (died 1930) 'the stormy petrol of the Queensland Labour Party' was a pioneer in workmen's compensation legislation.
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