Custom Irish Family Crest Cufflinks, handcrafted in our workshopAfter the Cromwell era, the Tribes briefly enjoyed a return to power of sorts under the reign of King Charles II and his successor, James II. The city suffered another defeat in the War of the Two Kings in 1691. This time they never truly bounced back. Their power was gradually transferred to the Protestant population of the city. By the 19th century, the once-great tribes were all but gone from the city. The 14 families The 14 families, or ‘Tribes’, were diverse in many ways, not just their backgrounds. Here is a brief summary of each, how they achieved their success and what they did with it. Athy: The Athy family was of Anglo-Norman descent, rising to prominence under Gerard de Athee, a Norman knight who fought for Richard the Lionhearted, King of England. His descendants migrated to Ireland in the early 1300s, already very wealthy. The name changed from Athee to Athy. This family was credited with erecting Galway’s first stone building. They went on to build several castles and great houses and survived in Galway until the mid-20th century. The surname is no longer very common in Ireland, and ‘Athy’ is better known as a town in County Kildare (which funnily enough has no connection to the family!). Blake: The Blake family of Galway descended from Richard Caddell, who was of British extraction and involved in the Norman invasion of Ireland. He gave his successors the title of Blake, meaning ‘dark-haired’, and made a name for himself as sheriff of Connaught. His successors went on to hold many important seats in the region, building their primary seat at Menlo near Galway. They were considered to be one of the most powerful of the Galway Tribes, and the Blake name is still very common in the city and surrounding areas. D’Arcy: The D’Arcy family is was thought to have descended from a powerful French family in Charlemagne, who named themselves after their seat 30 miles from Paris, Castle D’Arcie. A member of this family, Richard, travelled to England with William the Conqueror and was appointed to powerful positions in Ireland in the 14th century. However, recent DNA evidence has shown that the D'Arcys are in fact ancient Irish. Deane: The origins of the Deane Tribe is somewhat ambiguous. Some sources say they are descendants from William Allen, who came to Ireland from Bristol during the reign of Henry VI. Allen was later elected Provost. There are also records of the Deanes having Gaelic origins, specifically the Mac an Deaganaigh or O Deaghain names, both of which mean ‘son of the deacon’. Either way, the Deanes gained high status by their involvement in politics and had a long history of holding official positions such as mayors and chief magistrates of Galway city. Ffont: The Ffont family is one of the lesser-known Galway Tribes, and since the last surviving Ffont died in 1814 (at the ripe old age of 105), their history seems to have been blurred or lost. It is known that they settled in Galway at the beginning of the 15th century and that they originated from an ancient English family in Leicestershire. The first significant branch of the family settled in Athenry and eventually made their way to Galway. They most likely became powerful largely through their connections to the other Tribes. Ffrench: The Ffrench family is another tribe with Norman origins. The first known Ffrench was Maximilian, whose descendants went to England to serve William the Conqueror. When they arrived in Ireland they initially settled in county Wexford, and gradually spread out across the country. Walter Ffrench was the first of the family to settle in Galway around the year 1425. Although somewhat of a rarity nowadays, there are still small clusters of Ffrench families in the area, including some of the original line who still hold their seat at Castle Ffrench near Ballinasloe. Joyce: Joyce is still one of the most common names in the west of Ireland, and the original Joyce tribe once owned so much land in the region that it was known as ‘Joyce country’. The origins of the family are Welsh and British, starting with Thomas Joyes who sailed to Ireland under the reign of King Edward I. Arriving in Munster, he affirmed his power to the natives by marrying Onorah O’Brien, daughter of the King of Munster. Next, he sailed to Connaught, claiming territory as he went. The family later became known in the church, with some of them becoming archbishops and cardinals. Kirwan: The Kirwan tribe is the oldest of all the 14, and the only proven 100% Irish Gaelic tribe too. They have successfully traced their ancestors all the way back to one of the original Gaels to inhabit Ireland, Milesius. They appear to have first settled in Galway during Henry VI’s time, although it’s very possible that they were already there long before just under a different variation of the name. They were one of the most respected of the Tribes given their long lineage and consistent success in all areas. Lynch: The Lynch family was by far the most powerful of the Galway Tribes. Over the course of 169 years, a staggering 84 Lynches held the office of Mayor of Galway. They effectively had a monopoly on the politics of the city and were highly regarded amongst everyone, including the rest of the tribes. The original Lynch ancestor was John de Lynch, whose grandfather William le Petit was an associate of the well known and powerful Sir Hugh de Lacy. There are still a small number of Lynch noblemen today, including a branch who have settled and become involved in the politics of Bordeaux.
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