Sei sulla pagina 1di 1


The map shows
families in the 1992
telephone directories
whose surnames are
derivatives of
Ó Cnáimhsighe. The
green dots represent 680
families who have the
anglicised form, Bonner,
which is a pseudo-
translation of µcnámh¶,
the Irish for µbone¶,
adopted from the
seventeenth century. It
appears in four spellings,
but in Donegal the name
is always pronounced
The red dots are
Kneafsey families, of
various spellings.
Adjusting for phone
ownership means there
are about 60 families
derivative is Crampsie
(black dots), of whom
there are about 30
families. The difference
is because Gaelic µmh¶ is
not everywhere
pronounced as µv¶, and in
Donegal µcn¶ is normally pronounced µcr¶.
Ó Cnáimhsighe was first recorded in 1095. Cnáimhsighe is a plural of which the singular is
Cnáimhseach. This was sometimes used as a personal name for a woman, and sometimes as a byname
for midwife. The ultimate origin appears to be the bearberry, a mountain heather, cnaimhseag in
Scottish Gaelic. In Ireland, the plant is found in much the same area as the surnames derived from
Cnáimhsighe - north Antrim through Donegal to the Burren. It is oxytocic, and oxytocin is a drug
given today to women in childbirth.
The Kneafseys of Connaught are likely to have left Donegal before the adoption of Bonner
began, and all the clan¶s families on the east coast are there probably as a result of internal migration
in relatively recent times. Some Bonners in Ireland are not of Cnáimhsighe origin. Scots whose
Anglo-Norman name means µcourteous¶ came from the seventeenth century, mainly to Ulster; and
Rhineland Germans with a name recalling the city of Bonn moved to Limerick in the early eighteenth
century. Neither of these has left a discernible imprint on the map.
The legend of the bones is found in Manus O¶Donnell¶s Irish language µLife of St Columba¶,
1532. St Columba raises Connla, 80 years dead, to finish a task set for him by St Patrick of carving a
reliquary casket. I put all this together in µOf the Children of Kneafsey and the Shrine at the Pictish
Fort¶, which is on my site at Scribd.

Edward Neafcy