history of quinn
Quinn is the anglicized form of the Gaelic O'Cuinn, the name for a number of distinct septs or clans to be found around Ireland. O'Cuinn itself comes from the Irish word conn, meaning "counsel" and generally describing a wise man or a man of high intelligence. Niall O'Cuinn, who died at the battle of Clondarf in 1014, was the first in the Quinn clans to use the surname.
It has been said in Ireland that Catholics generally spell their name "Quinn," while Protestants spell it "Quin."
Ireland. The O'Quinns of Loughinsholin were based primarily in Tyrone. They were close to the O'Niells, acting at times as their hereditary physicians and foster parents to their sons. They held good land and prospered. However, the English encroachments into Tyrone were beginning in Elizabethan times. An English commander boasted in 1600:
"The last service was upon Patrick O'Quinn, one of the chief men of Tyrone, dwelling within four miles of Dungannon and fearing nothing, but we lighted upon him and killed him, his wife, sons, daughters, servants and followers being many and burnt all to the ground."
It was Cromwell who dealt the fatal blow forty years later, routing an army led by Owen and Neil O'Quinn and confiscating land for Protestant planters. The O'Quinns remained within the barony of Dungannon.
Another O'Quinn clan, of Clanndeboy, claimed descent from Congalagh O'Cuinn who had been killed by the English in 1219. They were based further east in the Glens of Antrim. The English and Scottish planters were also arriving there. Neil Oge O'Quinn, a tenant of an English lord at Lissan, led a revolt in 1614, but this too was put down.
The Quins that were descended from the Hy Ifearnan clan had originally been in county Clare, but were driven out from there into Limerick by the O'Briens. Valentine Quin built the first Quin Manor at Adare on the river Maigue in 1730. His family converted from Catholicism to Protestantism in 1739 and it was no coincidence that they subsequently became one of the few families of Gaelic origin to ascend, as the Earls of Dunraven, into the Irish peerage. Perhaps the most flamboyant of these Quins was Wyndham Quin, the fourth Earl. Adare Manor was sold by the family in 1984 and now operates as one of Ireland's prestige hotels.
There has been a more modern Quinn dynasty from county Armagh:
"The first supermarket in Newry was Quinn’s the Milestone on Hill Street, founded by John Quinn from Lisnacree. His family included Ruairi Quinn, former leader of the Irish Labour Party and Irish Finance Minister, as well as Fearghal Quinn, head of the Superquinn chain, and the late Dr Padraig Quinn who fought in the Irish War of Independence."
Today Quinns are found throughout Ireland, but the greater numbers are in Tyrone (where it is the most common name today) and in Antrim.
England. An early arrival in London was the Dublin-born poet Walter Quin who became the tutor and lifelong friend of the monarch Charles I. His son James was expelled from Oxford for his royalist views, but then was reinstated after he had apparently charmed the uncharming Oliver Cromwell with his "fine singing voice." However, his grandson Mark Quin had a less happy outcome. A century later another James Quin of this family graced the London stage with his performances of Falstaff, if "graced" is the appropriate word