The Hoy Family

The Dál Fiatach, La Tène and M222

'The Book of Invasions of Ireland' (Lebor Gabála Érenn). Between 500 AD (the era of Niall of the 9 Hostages) and 1000 AD (their defeat by Brian Boru), the Northern and Southern O'Neill were the rising and eventually, the dominant forces in Ireland. To justify their conquest and show that every tribe in Ireland owed them alliance, they fabricated the 'Book of Invasions of Ireland' and then expanded it as they subjugated more peoples until almost all Irish peoples were included. It is not considered useful in the study of Irish History by modern professional scholars (except that it is useful to study the O'Neill themselves).

La Tène. The maps at the right show the overlap of the La Tène artifacts and M222 (from the Trinity study of 2006). This culture and the language associated with it are what we know as Celtic, although this term is properly applied only to the language. La Tène is an Iron Age culture as iron had replaced bronze as the metal of choice.

So what do we know about La Tène? The La Tène artwork (Book of Kells and Ardagh Chalice) are what we think of as Celtic, but most of the artifacts are more prosaic, weapons and work tools. In the first case, these are generally long swords, for use by mounted men, and associated horse objects. These objects were made in Ireland in the La Tène style, but were still made in bronze. This is not unique to Ireland though, as it is found among the British and throughout the Atlantic Facade (the Atlantic coast from Spain to Ireland/Scotland).

The second case is more interesting. It is made up of querns for grinding grain which are called Beehive Querns. These are always found in the same area as the weapons, but not the same exact area. The weapons and horse implements are found in the best ground while the querns are found on poorer land. It is believed that this shows a class distinction.

An important fact is that these are only known in one other area, that is, Scotland and northern Britain.

A Beehive quern

Beehive quern


The area of Scotland called Argyll was, called Dál Riada in the era that we are considering. Archeologists have always said, and continue to do so, that there is no evidence of a movement of people from Ireland to Scotland in the centuries before St. Patrick. There is however, a lot of evidence of movements from the south of Ireland (and back) to Wales and Cornwall in this era, so the lack of evidence for Dál Riada is telling. Dál Riada at that time spanned both sides of the sea between Scotland and Ireland, but were based in Ireland north of Belfast. It was considered an Irish kingdom and were part of the Uladh alliance.

Accepted history tells us that during the entire 6th century, the Northern O'Neill, based in what we now call Donegal, were pushing east into the area which would later be called Tyrone and Derry. The rulers of that area were the Dál nAraide (sometimes called Cruithin) who were part of the Uladh alliance, but not the dominant part.

In the late 6th century, the Dál nAraide were pushed back into the area later known as Antrim and were based near the modern Antrim Town near Belfast. Under their pressure, the ruling family of the Dál Riada moved to Scotland and were based there in the future so that they became a Scottish kingdom and no longer controlled any part of Ireland. At the Convention of Druim Cett in 575, the question of the Dál Riada fleet was settled. The Dairfhine could rule from Scotland, but their fleet was to be at the service of the King of Tara, i.e. an O'Neill.

The Convention of Druim Cett in 575 was sponsored by the O'Neill and the church and St. Colm Cille was a leader at the Convention. He was also a member of the Cenél Chonaill Dairfhine and they were a prominent part of the Northern O'Neill. He founded the great monastery of Iona off the coast of Scotland.

The one missing group from the Convention was the most prominent part of the Uladh alliance, the Dál Fiatach who were excluded by the O'Neill and as a result of this, the Dál Riada (in Scotland) became an O'Neill ally for some centuries instead of being subordinate to the Dál Fiatach in Ireland.

Note: the Dairfhine was the 'Ruling family' sometimes called a second-cousinage used by kings in ancient Ireland. (A smaller group called a Fine which comprised just first cousins, was used by most others.) They chose the king and the next king came from them. Members were sometimes murdered or blinded by the king, but they were also his important allies against the world. The members were determined as follows. Take a king of a Tuath (petty kingdom) and look at his great-grandfather. Any male descended from that grandfather down to the king's second cousins (but not beyond) was in the Dairfhine. When a king died, his grandfather was the determiner of the next Dairfhine which meant the dead king's second cousins (and their descendants) had lost a lot of power.

Beehive querns

The Royal Sites of Ireland. These are the locations of the Dairfhine of the three populations spoken about in the Irish epic literature, especially the 'Táin Bó Cúailnge' ('The Cattle driving of Cooley' - Cooley is a peninsula in County Louth). These groups were the Connachta, the Uladh and the Laigin.

Archeology has located these site and while they are not as impressive as described in the epics, they are unique in Europe. They have been carbon dated and more accurately (when possible), dated by dendrochronology to 4th century BC - late 2nd century/early 1st century BC.

This map to the right shows the Royal sites. It also show the names, in bold, from Ptolemy's Map of Ireland from about 150 AD.

The dashed line, labeled The Black Pigs Dyke was a hardened peat and oak wall across the Uladh (Ulster) border. Parts of it still exist.

Note that Dún Ailinne of the Laighin is in the modern Kildare and also that they controlled the rich plain of Meath to its north and west. It was only later that the Southern O'Neill pushed the Laighin south into the area we now call Leinster after them.

A very old law tract has this statement: "There were three principal kinships in Ireland: the Féini, the Ulaidh, and the Gáilni, i.e., the Laighin.".

Féini was the proper name for the Connachta (from whom the O'Neill descend), until the term was applied to all free people in Ireland as the O'Neill extended their hegemony over the island.

The law tracts are considered very reliable because the O'Neill revisionists didn't bother to change them.

Iron Age Ireland

Archeology of the Royal Sites.

There are two types of buildings built during the first three centuries BC in each of the tribal areas. They are found nowhere else in Europe. They are called Figure of Eight and 40 Meter structures.

Figure of Eight structures. These were the first constructed around 300 BC. Navan Fort (Emhain Macha) and Knockaulin (Dún Ailinne) are the best examples, but a new Geophys shows a possible one at Cruachain (below). They have no parallel anywhere in Europe.


Figure of Eight Navan

40 Meter Structures.

About 100 BC, the Figure-of-Eight Structures were destroyed and replaced by '40 Meter' structures at all 4 sites. They have no parallel anywhere in Europe.

At Emhain Macha. the 40 meter structure and the enclosing wall around the whole site have been dated by dendrochronology to 94 BC.   

The Dorsey is about 20 Km south of Navan and is considered part of the Black Pig's Dyke across southern Ulster. It has also been dated by dendrochronology to 94 BC.

The Ráith na Rig at Tara has also been dated by dendrochronology to 94 BC.

The La Tène artifact at Navan Fort

Emhain Macha, is about 260 m across. It is 2 Km west of the city of Armagh. The site marked B is the location of the Figure-of-Eight and 40-Meter structures.
Navan Fort




At the upper right is a small lake called Loughnashade in which four bronze La Tène style trumpets were found in 1798. Only one of these survives and Chris Lynn dates it to the first century BC.

Celtic horn

All of the photographs and information about the three generations of the Hoy family on these pages has been gathered by Bob Hoy of Arlington, VA. The information for the book "Story of the Hoy Family" was compiled by Bob Hoy and the artwork was done by Lou Smull. Bob is the son of Frank Hoy from the second generation born in this country and Lou is the grandson of Frank's brother Tom.