Clan: Dillon of Loughlynn
Other branches of the clan: Dilleen, O’Dilleen, Dillane, O’Dillane, Denning, Dunion, Durnion.
Irish Clan Name: Ó Diolun
Arms: “Argent a lion passant between three crescents gules”.
A silver shield with a red walking lion on it. Surrounding the lion are three red crescents.
Crest: “A demi-lion rampant gules holding in the paws an estoile wavy or.”
The front part of a red lion holding a gold star in its paws.
The name Dillon was originally a Norman/French personal name coming from the old teutonic name Dill.
A Robert Le Dillon came to Ireland with the Normans at the invitation of Diarmuid MacMurrough, 1169 approximately. He laid claim to the territory of Cuircneach which had belonged to his ancestor and after many conflicts with O’ Mealaghlín King of Meath and with the help and mediation of O’Molloy and MacGeoghagan he eventually secured the territory and possessed it until the Cromwellian confiscations.
According to the “Book of Armagh” Lochan Dilmhain or Dilionn was the ancestor of “Dillon” of Dillons country in County Westmeath. In Irish, this area was known as Cuircneach. Lochan was, according to some genealogists a brother of Colman Mór, King of Meath and a great grandson of Niall of the Nine Hostages who brought St. Patrick to Ireland as a slave.
Lochan, we are told, fled to France after killing his brother Colman Mór. He and his descendants remained in France and in the 7th Century Dillon was made the Duke of Acquitane and many of that family became Counts and Generals in both French and Austrian armies.
In the reign of King John 1199-1216, a Dillon was granted land in County Westmeath and became Lord of Drumrany in the Barony of Kilkenny West. Robert Le Dillon was known as Robert the Sasenach or Robert the Englishman.
At least 20 generations had passed between this Robert the Englishman and his ancestor Lochan Dilmhain.
A grandson of Robert Le Dillon was first to drop the “Le” from the name. This was William Dillon whose son, Sir Henry Dillon, built the Abbey or Convent of St. Francis in Athlone, reportedly in the reign of King John.
Among Sir Henry’s descendants were Thomas Maol Dillon and his son Sir Theobald Dillon who became first Lord Viscount Dillon of Costelloe and Gallen, County Mayo.
A second strand of the Dillon family were the Earls of Roscommon. Starting with James Dillon who was raised to the Peerage of Ireland on 24th January, 1619 as Lord Dillon Baron of Kilkenny West and was later created Earl of Roscommon on August 5th, 1622.
Michael James Robert Dillon was 12th Earl of Roscommon and was son of Captain Michael Dillon of the Dublin Militia who was killed at the Battle of Ross in 1798. His wife was Mary Griffith, daughter of Rev. Richard Griffith of Kilbrittain in County Cork.
The Earldom of Roscommon became dormant in the 19th Century with the death of the Earl and it seems that the John Dillon living in Montreal, Canada in 1886 was the rightful heir. This John Dillon’s father had sent proof of his claim to Henry Gouldburn House Secretary in 1839-40 when the last Earl was dying. However, at that time the Earl recovered and in fact John Dillon’s father pre-desceased him.
We note that a Thomas Dillon Chief Justice of the Province of Connaught and Thomond was with others appointed on July 6th 1583 by Elizabeth I to “survey all the Counties in the said Province and divide them into Counties, Baronies and hundreds”.
Elizabeth Dillon, a daughter of James Dillon of Dublin, married Dudley Byrne son of John Byrne Merchant of Dublin. Dudley Byrne’s brother was a well know Wine Merchant in Bordeaux and was known as Le Chevalier Byrne of Macon le Hourauge.
However, a notable political family included the Young Irelander John Blake Dillon (1814-1866). In Ballyghaderrin, County Mayo, a young man of tenant farmer class destined for the priesthood and a student at Maynooth College, found that he had no vocation and made the unusual transition to study in Trinity College. There he met Thomas Davis a southern protestant, and together with the Northern Catholic Journalist Charles Gavan Duffy, the trio became founders of “The Nation” Newspaper and “The Young Ireland” movement. His son John Dillon, M.P. (1851-1927) and his grandson James Dillon, was a Minister in the Government of The Republic of Ireland and a Leader of the Opposition. With O’Brien, John Blake Dillon attempted to raise support through the Confederation of Connacht for a rising in Munster. A troop of a few hundred peasantry with few arms attacked a small force of police who had taken possession of a farmhouse in Ballingarry, County Tipperary. Two of the attackers were killed and several wounded. O’Brien refused to allow the farmhouse to be set alight and the attackers dispersed. O’Brien was arrested a few days after the attack, but Dillon succeeded in escaping to America.
The Irish Patriot John Dillon accompanied Charles Stewart Parnell to America in 1879 and they raised over £50,000 to be used to assist those in Ireland who were starving, and to aid The Land League. Back in Ireland, they distributed food, clothes and money to the poor. John Dillon was imprisoned in Kilmainham Jail, Dublin with Parnell and other members of The Land League. Together with Parnell and Michael Davitt, John Dillon in 1882 signed a manifesto condemning the murder of Viceroy Lord Frederick Cavendish and his Under Secretary Mr. Burke in Phoenix Park, Dublin. These murders outraged many Irish patriots.
Later, in 1891, when Parnell had become a figure of controversy and his power was in decline, John Dillon and O’Brien went to see him in Boulogne, France to negotiate with him a solution to the problem of Home Rule. Sadly, they failed and Parnell died later that year.
James Dillon grandson of John Blake Dillon and son of the previous chairman of the Old Irish Parliamentary Party entered Dáil Éireann in 1932 at the age of 30 as an Independant T.D. He formed a new party which eventually became Fine Gael. He split from this party on the issue of neutrality but became Minister for Agriculture in a later Coalition Government. He regained Fine Gael and became Party Leader. He resigned from Politics in 1965.
Great houses associated with the Dillion Family were Loughlynn, Co. Roscommon.