The O'Dorans have been justly described as "the great brehon family of Leinster," but they are probably better known as traditional antiquarians who kept in their possession from generation to generation one of the three manuscript copies of the "Tripartite Life of St. Patrick." Originally one of the Seven Septs of Laois, whose leading members were transplanted to Kerry in 1609, they are still found in con≠siderable numbers in Leinster, but rather in Co. Wexford than in their original territory.

In 1540 they were seated at Chappell, Co. Wexford, now a well farmed area but then almost a wilderness, with the Blackstairs Mountain in the background.

At that time the English accused them of "succouring rebellious plunderers in their judicial [brehon] capacity." A generation later, however, they were actually consulted by the Lord Deputy on a question of government administration; and in 1608 they are listed as among the principal gentlemen of Co. Wexford. The place name Doransland emphasises their association with that county. They were formerly called O'Deoran in English, the Irish form of the name being ” Deorain, itself a contraction of the earlier ” Deoradhain, which is possibly derived from deoradh (an exile). Dorans are also fairly numerous today in counties Armagh and Down, in which counties a sept of the name was early established.

A variant of the name found in that area is Dorrian, e.g. Most Rev. Patrick Dorrian (1814-1885), for many years a Bishop of Down and Connor. A century earlier the see was held by Edward O'Doran. From Oriel, too, came Dr. John Doran (1807-1878), the poet and historian; while from the main sept in Laois came Maurice Doran, the Bishop of Leighlin, who in 1523 was murdered by his archdeacon, one of the Kavanaghs. Also of the main sept was Charles Guilfoyle Doran (1835-1909), Fenian and book collector, whose voluminous writings, as well as long residence, closely identified him with Cork.

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