Niall History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The ancestors of the Niall family come from the ancient Scottish kingdom of Dalriada. Their surname comes from the personal name Neil. The Gaelic form Mac Neill translates as son of Neil.

Early Origins of the Niall family

The surname Niall was first found in on the islands of Barra, Gigha, Colonsay, and Oronsay. According to traditional records in 1049, Niall, a direct descendent of King Niall of the Nine Hostages, landed in Barra and founded the Clan MacNeill of Barra.

However, another kinsman, some believe to be the younger brother of Niall named Anrothan, married a Princess of the Dalriadans, an ancient race from which sprang most of the early Scottish Kings. Legend has it that Anrothan started the MacNeill house of Colonsay through his son Torquil of Taynish.

This latter branch acquired the lands of Gigha, Colonsay and Oronsay, beyond the Firth of Lorne. For the next two centuries it appears as though these two great houses were developing independently of one another.

Early History of the Niall family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Niall research. Another 361 words (26 lines of text) covering the years 1590, 1730, 1370, 1380, 1526, 1562, 1640, 1631, 1640, 1612, 1613, 1686 and are included under the topic Early Niall History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Niall Spelling Variations

Medieval spelling was at best an intuitive process, and translation between Gaelic and English was no more effective. These factors caused an enormous number of spelling variations in Dalriadan names. In fact, it was not uncommon to see a father and son who spelled their name differently. Over the years, Niall has been spelled MacNeil, MacNeill, MacNeal, MacNeilage, MacNeale, MacNeall, MacNeille, MacNeel, MacNiel, MacGreal, Mcneil, Mcneill, McNeal, Mcneal, Mcneall and many more.

Early Notables of the Niall family (pre 1700)

Notable amongst the Clan from early times was Nigel M'Nele, Laird of Blarekanne c. 1370-1380; Alexander Makneyll, a notary public in Edinburgh in 1526; Richard Neile (1562-1640) was an English churchman, Archbishop...
Another 32 words (2 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Niall Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ireland Migration of the Niall family to Ireland

Some of the Niall family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 85 words (6 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Migration of the Niall family

Settlers from Scotland put down roots in communities all along the east coast of North America. Some moved north from the American colonies to Canada as United Empire Loyalists during the American War of Independence. As Clan societies and highland games started in North America in the 20th century many Scots rediscovered parts of their heritage. Early North American records indicate many people bearing the name Niall were among those contributors: Daniel Macneil, who arrived in Boston in 1652; James Macneil, who arrived in Boston in 1652; Daniel Macneele, who arrived in Maryland in 1674; Hector MacNeale, who arrived in Virginia in 1700.


Contemporary Notables of the name Niall (post 1700) +

  • Mr. James Niall Doyle M.B.E., British Squadron Leader, recipient of Member of the Order of the British Empire on 8th June 2018 [1]
  • Mervyn Niall Wingfield (b. 1935), 10th Viscount Powerscourt
  • Mr. Niall Forbes Ross Dickson C.B.E., British Chief Executive for General Medical Council was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire on 17th June 2017, for services to Patient Safety
  • Niall Killoran (b. 1992), Japanese football player; he and his twin brother Colin were born to a Japanese mother and Irish father
  • Niall Hone (b. 1970), English musician, member of the UK space rock band Hawkwind from 2008 to 2017
  • Niall Fraser Wass (b. 1969), British senior vice president of Uber Technologies Inc.'s Europe, Middle East and Africa and Asia Pacific regions
  • Niall O'Gallagher, Irish political correspondent for the BBC's An Là News programme
  • Niall Sheehy, Irish former Gaelic footballer from Tralee, County Kerry
  • Niall Matter (b. 1980), Canadian actor, known for his roles in Eureka and Primeval: New World
  • Niall David Stephen Canavan (b. 1991), English footballer


The Niall Motto +

The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Vincere vel mori
Motto Translation: To conquer or die.


  1. ^ "Birthday and New Year Honours Lists (1940 to 2019)." Issue 62507, 28 December 2018 | London Gazette, The Gazette, Dec. 2018, www.thegazette.co.uk/honours-lists


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