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Walsh, Welsh, Welch, Brannagh

Arms of Walsh of Kilkenny
and the various branches of the family descended from Philip, who was called by the Irish, Brannagh (or the "Welshman")

Arms of Walsh of Dublin, Meath and Westmeath

Arms of Welch or Welsh of Ireland

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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. This territory was confiscated during the Cromwellian period and in the reign of William III.; after which members of the elder branch migrated to France, and Austria, and took military service in those countries. In France, the title of "Count Serrant," was conferred on the representative of the elder branch.

In Ulster Walsh has also been made Welsh and Welch and occasionally Wallace, though this last name is more usually imported from Scotland.

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 anglicised 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 Philip, who was called by the Irish, Brannagh (or the "Welshman") 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. In 1174, Philip distinguished himself in a naval engagement against the Danes, at Cork, by boarding the ship of their commander and slaying his son. The son of Philip (by Eleanor, his wife, daughter of Sir Maurice De Burgh,) was Hayle Walsh, who built the castle in the Walsh Mountains, above mentioned, called after him "Castle Hayle," or "Castlehoel." His wife was Catherine, daughter of Raymond Le Gros, one of Strongbow's companions, and the ancestor of Grace.

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".

In 1976, when land was no longer synonymous with gentry, one Walsh and one Walshe were recorded in Burke's Irish Family Records. Many articles on this extensive family were published in the Genealogist magazine at the beginning of this century. Books and articles have been published about the Walshes of Austria and France. In France they are represented today by the Count de Serrant.

In 1588, Lawrence Walsh compiled a pedigree of the Mayo Walshes, showing them to be descended from Walynus, who accompanied Maurice FitzGerald to Ireland in 1169. Walynus had a brother, Barrett, from whom descend the Barrett family of Mayo, where they were lords of the territory known as Tirawley.

While the Roches, who also came to Ireland via Wales, were essentially businessmen, the Walshes consistently entered the Church. William Walsh was appointed Bishop of Meath in 1554. When Queen Elizabeth I asked him to conform to the Anglican rite, he refused and was imprisoned. After a long time he managed to escape to France. The Pope ordered him to return to Ireland but, finding his priestly duties there untenable, he went to Spain where he became suffragan Archbishop of Toledo and probably met the young painter El Greco. He died in Spain in 1577.

Nicholas Walsh, Bishop of Ossory, the son of the Protestant Bishop of Waterford, was consecrated in 1567. He introduced Irish type so that church services could be printed in Irish which, he believed, "proved an instrument of conversion to many of the ignorant sort of Papists". His translation of the New Testament was cut short when he was stabbed to death by a man he had publicly accused of adultery. He was buried in St Canice's Cathedral at Kilkenny.

In very troubled times, Thomas Walsh (1580-1654), a Franciscan, was Archbishop of Cashel in County Tipperary, once the seat of the Munster kings.

Peter Walsh (1618-88) of County Kildare studied at Louvain. He returned to Ireland having taken his vows as a Franciscan. He joined the Ormonds (Butler) in opposing the Papal Nuncio, Rinuccini, and the Catholic Confederates. He was expelled by the Franciscans when he published his "Loyal Remonstrance", addressed to Charles II, promising the allegiance of Irish Catholics to the English Crown and repudiating papal infallibility. He argued that he was trying to alleviate the suffering of the Catholics, but the Pope excommunicated him. He went to London where he lived on the pension awarded him by his friend, James Butler, Earl of Ormond and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.

John Walsh of County Tipperary was Legal Adviser to Cromwell and Agent to the Duke of Ormond. Not surprisingly, he was the only Walsh left alive in Clonmel, County Tipperary, after the siege by Cromwell's soldiers in 1650.

Thomas Walsh, born at Limerick in 1730, was a schoolteacher at the age of 18. At the time, Wesley, the founder of Methodism, was touring Ireland on horseback. Thomas was inspired to join him and, following his methods, developed into a rousing preacher in both English and Irish. His excessive zeal wore him out and he died at the early age of 28.

Antoine Vincent Walsh (1703-65), son of a Waterford shipbuilder who had emigrated to Saint-Malo in France, was in charge of the Doutelle, the ship that landed Charles Stuart, the "Young Pretender", in Scotland in 1745. He was knighted for this enterprise. He went to Austria and became yet another Irishman to find favour with the Empress Maria Theresa and was appointed her Chamberlain. It was the eldest of Antoine's seven sons, Count Walsh de Serrant, who founded the family that is still in France. The first Count was instrumental in having him appointed Superior of the Irish College in Paris, which had a bad time during the Revolution, especially as its superior was a royalist appointment.

Captain Oliver Walsh, the tenth and youngest son of John Walsh (1720-85) of Ballymountain, County Kilkenny, served in the British navy and was at the battles of Copenhagen, the Nile and Trafalgar. He was one of Nelson's youngest officers. In 1813, when he was only 36, he died from yellow fever.

Robert Walsh (1772-1852) came from a distinguished County Waterford family. A graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, he was both a clergyman and an author. He was chaplain to the British Embassy at Constantinople (now Istanbul), which inspired his many travel books. He travelled in Turkey and further afield in Asia, as well as studying for a medical degree. For a brief period he was a chaplain at St Petersburg. Following a visit to Rio de Janeiro, he sat on a committee of the Society for the Abolition of Slavery. He returned to Ireland and was rector at Finglas vicarage in Dublin. He developed his interests as historian, physician, botanist and antiquarian, and collaborated in writing the book, History of the City of Dublin.

His son, John Edward Walsh (1816-69), was also a writer, Attorney-General for Ireland and Master of the Polls. Walter Hoyle Walsh (1812-92) of Kilkenny, who was a professor at London University, was the first to describe the condition known as floating kidney.

The poet Edward Walsh, 1805-50, was born in Derry. He became something of a cause celebre when he lost his job as a national school teacher for writing for the Fenian newspaper The Nation. He then got a job as a teacher in the detention centre on Spike Island, but lost this for waving goodbye to the Fenian John Mitchel as he passed through Cork harbour on a transportation ship. He ended his days teaching in Cork Workhouse.

In the 1920s and 30s, one of the most popular Irish novelists was Maurice Walsh (1879-1964). He was Kerry born and worked for twenty years in the Customs and Excise service in the highlands of Scotland and northern England. This experience provided him with a connoisseur's palate for whiskey and a rich narrative source. With the granting of self-government he transferred to the Irish service and wrote a novel, which was first rejected and then accepted by another publisher for £100. "The Key Above the Door" sold hundreds of thousands of copies and was the beginning of a stream of very popular novels, culminating in "The Quiet Man", which was made into a successful film. Despite being criticised as too stage-Irish, it helped promote tourism in the west of Ireland.

Like so many Irish families, the Famine in the 1840s drove the Walshes to seek the hospitality and opportunities of America. Robert Walsh (1784-1859) went earlier than most others. He was born in Baltimore, County Cork, the son of an aristocratic family who, it is believed, had connections with France. He read law and worked for a while in journalism. In the War of Independence he fought on the Federalist side. Afterwards he settled in Paris. He was a man of some wealth and it was he who opened the first of the American literary salons there.

Michael Walsh (1815-59) was born near Cork and was taken to America by his parents. He worked as a reporter in New York City and attempted unsuccessfully to publish his own newspaper. He got the working men of New York city to join the Spartan Association, aiming to break the hold of Tammany Hall by demonstrating the principles of democracy. He was imprisoned twice for his anti-establishment oratory and wrote bitingly of the squalor and poverty he saw in New York. He was described as "a maverick Irish-American politician".

John Walsh (1830-98), formerly of Mooncoin, County Kilkenny, went to Toronto, Canada, where he was ordained and became its first Catholic archbishop. He kept in close touch with Ireland and suggested holding the Irish Race Convention in Dublin, with the idea of healing the political rift caused by Parnell's liaison with Katherine O Shea.

William John Walsh (1841-1921) was appointed Archbishop of Dublin in 1885. A distinguished scholar, he was the first chancellor of the National University of Ireland.

Thomas James Walsh (1859-1933), a Senator from Montana, was the son of Irish parents. He followed a legal career and made his reputation in copper litigation.

Thomas Walsh (1871-1928), the son of gentry in County Longford, went to Brooklyn. A man of many parts, he was an accomplished pianist, painter, writer and lecturer. His main interest was literature, particularly that of Spain. He could afford to be philanthropic and he is esteemed for his enhancement of Catholic culture in America.

Blanche Walsh (1873-1915) was the daughter of an Irish saloon-keeper who was also a Tammany Hall politician. She was one of the most popular actresses of her time and played most of the leading roles in the contemporary theatre including Little Billy in Trilby.

In the 1940s, David L Walsh, a Boston man of Irish ancestry, was the first Catholic Governor of Massachusetts.

Dr Tom Walsh (d. 1988) was a scientist of international standing whose work for the rural community led to his being described as "the father of modern Irish agriculture".

Dr T.J. Walsh of Wexford, who also died in 1988, graduated in medicine but later followed a musical vocation. In 1951, he was one of the founders of the Wexford Opera Festival, an annual event which has gone on to achieve an excellent reputation in the musical world. A fine scholar, Dr Walsh wrote a number of important books on the history of opera.