Sunday, 2 January 2011

Bobby Farrell’s ( Boney M fame ) Irish Connections

News image
 Bobby Farrell (October 6, 1949 – December 30, 2010)


     When I come across anyone with the surname Farrell my curiosity is always on full alert as to what the family connections might be. Bobby Farrell, if you don’t know, was a member of the seventies group Boney M, popular worldwide, unusually bringing gospel songs to the disco scene, Rivers of Babylon and Mary’s Boy Child being examples. Bobby is from Aruba, a Caribbean Island; his real name is Alfonso Farrell. Aruba is a tiny, tiny island, desert like, off the coast of South America with a population of about 100,000. So what on earth is the Irish connection?

 A little online research on the Farrell homepage is a good place to start:

     The O'Fearghails were one of the four chief clans of the Conmacne {race of Conmac (son of legendary Fergus MacRoigh and Queen Maedhbh (Maeve)}. They were the princes of Annaly (roughly the Irish midlands); their chief seat of power was Longphort Ui' Fearghail (O'Farrell's fortress) (present-day Longford town). (source: "Farrell Clan - a brief history" by Hugh Farrell).

     There are many ways and variations of spelling both Farrell and Medb, understandable since writing has not been around half as long as humans, and those that did write things down did not have the formalities of spelling and grammar that we do today. Pre-Christian Irish history was conveyed orally, and early church scribes took on the task of writing down some of the mighty epics that describe momentous events and characters that formed the landscape and culture we know today.

     The Yellow Book of Lecan is written on vellum in Middle Irish, dated 1391and contains a partial version of The Táin Bó Cúailnge, roughly translated as the ‘The Cattle Raid of Cooley.’ This epic tells of how Queen Medb made an attack on Ulster to obtain a prize bull. She needed this to maintain her superior position in her marriage as chief spouse. At that time it was wealth, and not gender that decided who was boss. If you are interested in reading The Táin you will find it starts off with Medb and her husband arguing who is the most wealthy. Enter Fergus MacRoigh, an exile from Ulster, Medb’s guide and director of the expedition to acquire the prize bull. Her reputed lover, and begetter of Farrells. Who knows, there is no smoke without fire.

     This is the link, possibly between Bobby Farrell, Queen Medb and me. These little scraps of history contained in illuminated manuscripts written by monks, preserved in Trinity College Dublin, are a bridge between pre-history and the present day, it shows the evolution of clans and clan names. Ancient peoples, like us, valued information about who they were, who they were descended from, what they owned and what they achieved. The Farrell Clan page claims decent from the son of Queen Medb and Fergus MacRoigh, and also tells us that the Farrells are associated with Longford town in the mid lands of Ireland.

     Enter ‘Francis Fergus O’Farrell (1650-1708) 3rd Colonel of the Royal Scots Fusiliers (July 29, 1686-Nov 13, 1695) Fergus (as he was generally known) was the son of Richard O’Farrell and Amy, daughter of John O’Farrell. He was born in 1650, probably in County Longford, Ireland. With the fluidity of spelling in those days, he referred to himself in various documents as De O’Farrell, D’O’Farrell, and even O’Ferel. Also, in many official documents and State papers he was called Francis. He married Elizabeth Van Nispen, a girl from the Low Countries.’ (From the website of the Royal Highland Fusiliers

     Interesting, or so what? Our latter day Fergus was in the service of the Dutch King William of Orange. He served as a Colonel in the Low Countries and all his children were born there. He also famously tried to re-acquire some of the Longford land belonging to his ancestors forfeited to the English James 1st . Aruba is a Dutch Colony and here I will make a leap of imagination that connects our disco pop star Bobby to the O’Farrells of Longford and their claimed lineage to Queen Medb and Fergus MacRoigh.

     It is within the realms of possibility some descendant of Fergus O’Farrell remained in Holland and served during the Dutch colonisation of Aruba, and Bobby Farrell’s ancestors either adapted the name or have Dutch/Irish blood.

     All I need is the resources of the BBC to check out these links. Unfortunately I am not a celeb and therefore do not expect to get funded for the next series of Who Do You Think You Are? However if any of Bobby Farrell’s family chance to read this blog, please email me, your Irish cousin Susan Farrell, we have a lot to talk about.


  1. I'd like to thank Bobby for all he gave us and keep on dancing wherever you are Bobby.

  2. Heart felt wishes from the Irish cousins too.