It has been incorrectly claimed that DEVINE is of French extraction. That is not correct – DEVINE, DAVIN, DAVINE, O’DEVINE, DAIMAN, Ó DAIMHÍN and Ó DUIBHÍN is Irish.

Taking the latter two Gaelic names first:

Ó DAIMHÍN—I—O Davine, O Dovine, O’Devine, Davine, Devine, Davin, Devin, Deven, Devon, Devins, (Davy, Davis); ‘descendant of Daimhín’ (diminutive of damh, bard, poet); the name of an Oriel family, of the same stock as the Maguires, chiefs of Tirkennedy, in the east of County Fermanagh. It is now generally anglicised Devine in Ulster, and Davin in Munster and Connacht. In West Galway, where it is not uncommon, it is sometimes made Davy and Davis. It is to be distinguished from Ó Duibhin D.

Ó DUIBHÍN—I—O Dovine, O’Devine, Devine, Deveen, Devon, (Devany, Devaney); ‘descendant of Duibhín’ (diminutive of dubh, black); a scattered surname; often an alias for Ó Dubhain. It is not possible always to distinguish its anglicised forms from those of Ó Daimhin Ó. Though the etymology of the name has been questioned, the scholar O’Donovan1 attests that it is, in Irish, O’DAIMHIN. This is also Anglicised as DAVIN, which is not a common name, but it is to be found in and around County Tipperary. The DAVIN’s of the midlands are probably a branch of the O’DEVINE’s of Fermanagh and so ultimately an offshoot of the MAGUIRE’s.

To be precise there is nothing foreign nor French about the Ó DAIMHÍN (DEVINE) sept (clan or tribe)2. This rare Christian name occurs in the early genealogies of the Airghialla people, who inhabited Fermanagh, Monaghan and Armagh in early historic times. The mainline of the family were aristocrats of the Airghialla and kings of one section of that people, the Fir Manach, who give their name to modern Fermanagh. The name DEVINE is mainly found in Ireland today in the counties of Tyrone and Fermanagh. The Annalists 3 tell us of the race of DAIMENs being settled in Fermanagh along the river Erne. The Four Masters4 mention one O’DEVINE (Dunchadh Ua Daimhene who died in 1066), as coarb (hereditary possessor of church land) of Derry. A descendant may have been the Domhnall Ua Daimhíne slain at the church door of the monastery of Derry in 1212. As well there were several who were chiefs of Tirkennedy at various dates up to 1427. The sept gave Clogher in County Tyrone its original name Clochar Mac nDaimhín.

The annals also record the obituary of Flaithbertach Ua Daimhíne, king of Fir Manach in 1278. Soon after this family were superseded in the kingship by their distant relatives, the MAGUIRE sept, and confined to the sub-kingship of the smaller territory of Tir Cennfota, now the barony of Tirkennedy in mid-Fermanagh. The obituaries of two Ó DAIMHÍN kings of this territory are recorded, that of Donn Ua Daimhíne in 1349 and of Brian Ua Daimhíne in 1427. It is related that in the thirteenth century in an election held for the chieftaincy, the DEVINE’s were defeated by the McGUIRE’s, after which the DEVINE’s seem never to have regained their supremacy in Fermanagh.

An entry of 1447, which records the slaying of a MAGUIRE claimant to Fermanagh by ‘the sons of Ua DAIMHIN’ in the service of a rival MAGUIRE, suggest that the sept were still powerful in Fermanagh then. We know that in the period that followed however, the MAGUIRE’s ramified to the extent of dispossessing most of their under-kings and giving their lands to their own younger sons, so that within a few decades the MAGUIRE clan owned virtually the whole of Fermanagh.

Up to the fifteenth century the chief of the DEVINE sept was Lord of Tirkennedy in County Fermanagh. This branch is descended from “DAIMHIN” who died in 966, son of Cairbre Dam Argait, King of Oriel. The name DAIMHIN stems from daimh, meaning fox. A brother of DAIMHIN called Cormac was ancestor of the MAGUIRE’s and the O’DEVINE’s, of Tirkennedy. The family was a leading County Fermanagh sept up until and including, the fifteenth century. Later the power of the Leading Family was broken by pressure from the O’NEILLs, in the north, and the MAGUIRE’s in the south.

After this we hear no more of noble DEVINE’s, rather of such men as Cuconnacht and Jenkin O’DEVANE who, after the conquest of Ulster in the early seventeenth century, conformed to the Protestant religion and were awarded lands under the Plantation of Ulster. This was around Dungannon in County Tyrone, which was still, in the mid-nineteenth century, the county with the greatest number of DEVINE households in Ireland, with nearly 100 of a total of around 550. Derry Londonderry came in next, with 60, while only 3 DEVINE households in Fermanagh. The remaining households were well scattered throughout Ulster, Leinster and Connacht.

The clan seems to have scattered out seeking settlements in the neighboring counties, especially Tyrone, where they settled in the district of Donaghady, north of Strabane, becoming active and firm supporters of the O’NEIL’s. Many DEVINE’s are found in Sligo, Mayo and Donegal. There are also quite a few of the name in County Derry in the district adjoining Tyrone. There is a town land along Burndennet in Donaghady, Co Tyrone called Lisdivin, translated as Devine’s Castle or Fort. This would confirm the tradition of the DEVINE’s owning the district of Donaghady from the Ferry at Donelong on the Foyle to the Butter Lox above Donaghmana. In the district or country above and around Donananna, the name is still very plentiful. There are also many of the name to be found in the Southern part of County Derry, Altahoney and Fir Glen district.

During the long centuries of English domination the Irish Gaelic language was proscribed and surnames were Anglicised phonetically or by translation. At its mildest, the prefixes Mac and O’ were abandoned, so that O’GORMAN became GORMAN and Mac an FHAILGHIGH became McNALLY and then NALLY. Some Irish surnames were distorted beyond recognition. O’DAIMHINS became DEVINE. Often when the Irish migrated to British colonies such as Australia they Anglicised their names to fit in; they were after all described as British subjects. Since Irish independence in 1921 a reversal set in and some Irish people are now adopting Gaelicised forms of their names, even though they may not have a proficiency in the Irish Gaelic language. For some the gaelicisation of a surname has become a statement of national and political identity regardless of whether those names are of Norman, French or English origin they nevertheless create Gaelic versions of them.

  1. John O’Donovan (Seán Ó Donnabháin)(, 25 July 1806 – 10 December 1861) recognized as one of Ireland’s greatest Irish scholars.

  2. The description sept was not used in Ireland until the 19th century and is more commonly so called in Scotland; the Irish think of themselves in terms of clan and family

  3. The annalists or annals were the recorders of history dating from Roman times; not historians who might offer a commentary or opinion but rather a recorder of events.

  4. The Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland (Annála Ríoghachta Éireann) or the Annals of the Four Masters (Annála na gCeithre Máistrí) are a chronicle of medieval Irish history. The entries span from the deluge dated as 2,242 after creation to AD 1616. The annals are mainly a compilation of earlier annals, although there is some original work. They were compiled between 1632 and 1636 in the Franciscan monastery in Donegal Town and along the banks of the river Drowes. The entries for the 12th century and before are sourced from medieval monastic annals. The later entries come from the records of the Irish aristocracy (such as the Annals of Ulster), and the seventeenth century entries are based on personal recollection and observation. The chief compiler of the annals was Micheal O’ Cleirigh. Even though only one of the authors was an actual Franciscan Mícheál Ó Cléirigh, they became known as ‘The Four Friars’ or in the original ‘Irish’: The Anglicised version of this was ‘The Four Masters’, a name which then became attached to the annals themselves. The patron of the project was ‘Fearghal Ó Gadhra’ a lord in ‘County Sligo’. The annals are written in ‘Irish’. There are several manuscript copies in existence, which are kept in Trinity College Dublin, the Royal Irish Academy and University College Dublin. They also can be found in the National Library of Ireland.