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a History of the Gaelic Family Names

Lyons, O'Lyne, Lehane, Lane:

The four surnames given above are the anglicized forms of two distinct Gaelic surnames. Lehane is peculiar to Co. Cork, while Lyne today is found chiefly in Co. Kerry, though formerly well known in Co. Galway where Lyons has superseded it. Lyons is the most numerous: 210 births are recorded by Matheson as being registered in a year, of which 85 were in the Cork-Kerry-Limerick area and 71 in Co. Galway. Over seventy percent of the Lane births were on Counties Cork and Limerick. Lyons, it should be added, is quite distinct from the Scottish name Lyon. It will thus be seen that much confusion arises in connection with these names.

The two Gaelic surnames referred to above are O' Liathain and O'Laighin. O' Liatain, said to be originally of the Ui Fidhgheinte of the modern Co. Limerick, were settled in the barony of Barrymore, Co. Cork, but are more closely associated with the country north of Youghal, called Ui Lithain by the Four Masters, wherin lies the village of Castle Lyons. The same Gaelic name , anglicized Lehane, is found in the Courtmacsherry area. O' Laighin belongs to Co. Galway. They were centred around Kilconnell, but though dwelling in the Hy Many country they were, according to O'Flaherty's Ogygia, not of it, but of Firbolg origin. O'Donovan states that the Lanes of Trughanacmy (Co. Kerry) are of a different origin again, their name in Irish being O'Laoghain.

Among notable Irishmen called Lyons we may mention Rev. John Lyons (1708-1790) and John Charles Lyons (1792-1874), two distinguished antiquarians, and Dr. Robert Lyons (1826-1886), Professor of Medicine in the Catholic University medical school, Dublin. We may also include Matthew Lyon (1746-1822), a Co. Wicklow man who from being a poor emigrant to the U.S.A. became a colnel in the American Army in the War of Independence and a member of Congress much in the public eye. Sir Hugh Lane (1875-1917), the famous collector of pictures, who was drowned in the torpedoing of the "Lusitania", is the best known Irishman of that form of the name. Some Kerry families, especially around Dingle, spell the name Leyne, and are particular about this. Father Matthew O'Leyn (d. 1599) was one of the many Irish Franciscan martyrs.

Source: an e-mail from (Tom Stevenson) to the Lyons Family list taken from

Lyons History
From "Irish Families"
By Edward MacLysaght
Crown Publishers, 1957 repr. 1972


Updated   6:10 PM 1/26/2013
Mark S. Carroll