History Behind the Walsh Name

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Walsh Coat of Arms.gif (24998 bytes)Only three surnames (Murphy, Kelly and Sullivan) exceed Walsh in numerical strength among the population of Ireland. It is found in every county and is particularly strong in Mayo, where it has first place, and also in Galway, Cork, Wexford, Waterford and Kilkenny. The last area is that most closely associated with the Walshes, where they have given their name to the Walsh Mountains in Co. Kilkenny. The name originated as a result of the Anglo- or, more properly, the Cambro-Norman, invasion, and simply means the Welshman, in Irish Breathnach, which was sometimes anglicized phonetically as Brannagh - not, however, as Brannock, a name of different though somewhat similar origin. The first to be so called is said to have been Haylen Brenach, alias Walsh, son of "Philip the Welshman", one of the invaders of 1172. Unlike many of the Anglo-Norman families such as Burke, Fitzgerald, Roche etc., which have since become exclusively identified with Ireland, the Walshes did not all spring from one or two known ancestors, but the name was given independently to many of the newcomers and, perhaps in consequence of this, no clearly defined Hiberno-Norman sept of Walsh was formed on the Gaelic Irish model, as happened with a number of those other families. Nevertheless the Walshes of the south-eastern part of Ireland are mostly descended from the Philip mentioned above and from his brother David, and the leading members of this family established themselves as landed gentry at Castlehowel (Co. Kilkenny), at Ballykileavan (Co. Leix), at Ballyrichmore (Co. Waterford) and also at Bray and Carrickmines near Dublin. References to men of the name are very numerous in both national and local records: they appear as sheriffs, judges, army officers etc., usually on the side of the King (which of course meant attainder in the seventeenth century) but not always - two for example were killed "in rebellion against Queen Elizabeth". The pedigrees of the Tirawley (Mayo) Walshes was compiled by Lawrence Walsh in 1588. He states that they are descended from Walynus, a Welshman who came to Ireland with Maurice Fitzgerald in 1169 and that this man's brother Barrett was the progenitor of the Barretts of Tirawley (q.v). The many famous bearers of the name include Rev. Peter Walsh (1618-1688), pro-Ormond opponent of Rinnuccini and author of "The Loyal Romonstrance", for which he was excommunicated and expelled from the Franciscan Order; John Walsh who in 1604 wrote the beautiful Gaelic "Lament for Oliver Grace"; Edward Walsh (1805-1850), and John Walsh, (1835-1881), both National School teachers and poets; Most Rev. William John Walsh (1841-1921), one of the most distinguished of all the Archbishops of Dublin. The Churches have had many other Walshes of note: among them Most Rev. Thomas Walsh (1580-1654), the much persecuted Archbishop of Cashel whose active career occupies many pages of the Wadding (Franciscan) papers; and Most Rev. John Walsh (1830-1898), Catholic Archbishop of Toronto, who promoted the Irish Race Commission after the Parnell Split, as well as several Protestant bishops, notably the Rt. Rev. Nicholas Walsh of Waterford, who was murdered in 1585 by a man whom he had rebuked, and is remembered as the man who introduced Irish type to the native printing press in connexion with his unfinished translation into Irish of the New Testament. The Walsh family of St. Malo and Nantes has had a distinguished history in France since its establishment there at the end of the seventeenth century, many of its members being notable in war, politics and literature. The first emigrant was Philip Walsh (1666-1708), shipbuilder and privateer, his father being the James Walsh, of Ballynacooly in the Walsh Mountains, Co. Kilkenny, who commanded the ship which brought James II to France after the Battle of the Boyne. Judge John Edwards Walsh (1816-1869), was the author of a well-known book Ireland Sixty Years Ago, published in 1847. Many Irish American Walshes have also made their mark, of whom the best known were Blanche Walshe (1873-1915), actress, and Henry Collins Walsh (1863-1927), explorer. The ubiquity of the Walshes in Ireland is illustrated by the place names Walshtown, Walshpark etc., of which there are twenty-four in thirteen counties as far apart as Down , Mayo and Cork, while the name, in more Irish guise, as Ballybrannagh and Ballinabrannagh, appears in Counties Carlow, Down, Cork and Kerry.   

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