A Letter from Ireland:
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One Man and 35 Irish Surnames

Ballydehob Pier

Many Irish surnames have spread throughout the world over the last number of centuries. Here is just one example of so many surnames (Irish and otherwise) coming from a single husband and wife.

I was chatting with my father a few days back—he’s of an age where childhood memories spring up unexpectedly into the conversation. He talked about the great time he had with his brothers ‘lepping’ and pushing each other off the end of the pier in Foilnamuck while his father worked on a boat nearby. As children ourselves, we went swimming off the end of this same pier on many the endless summer day—not another person in sight for miles around.

John Collins.

In 1880, John Collins, my great grandfather, left the townland of Arduramore in West Cork and travelled all of 10 miles to marry Catherine Sullivan. They then built a house in the townland of Foilnamuck on the shores of Roaringwater Bay where John could build his boats on the nearby pier.

John was a skilled shipwright and was responsible for both designing and building the sand boat fleet of Ballydehob. In the days before artificial fertiliser, it was essential to feed the land with both kelp and nutrient-rich sand from the bottom of local inlets. The sand boats dredged the inlets and carried this sand to the local quays. The local farmers either had sand boats of their own for this purpose or hired local boat owners to keep their lands supplied.

Twelve Arch Bridge

The 12 Arch Bridge – A View from the Quay

Ballydehob Quay was the central hive of sandboat activity, boats came in by day and night and discharged their load of sand and kelp for the local farmers to collect by horse and cart. It was a centre of commerce, chat and entertainment. John Collins ran his operation from Foilnamuck Pier, a couple of miles from the village. It was constantly busy with apprentices and visitors dropping by for repairs and a general chat. While John was relatively successful with his boatbuilding business. Most of his own brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews had to look elsewhere for a living. Always overseas.

My great-grandfather died in 1916 and his son, Mike, took over the business. However, by the end of the second world war the demand for sand as a fertiliser had dropped away. My own father and his brothers were in line to apprentice as boat-builders. But there was now no point, so they served their time as carpenters instead. Each in turn headed towards the building boom that was London in the 1950s.

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The Old Boats in a modern West Cork Regatta

I wonder how John Collins would feel if he could cast an eye over what became of his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren? Of all of his descendants, only one in four remain in Ireland today. The following surnames from his family tree give an indication of the many corners of the world where the rest ended up:

Balfour, Barry, Bosley, Britton, Burke, Cannon, Collins, Cornette, Deutscher, Doering, Donovan, Fennell, Flores, Freeman, Glazek, Goff, Halliday, Hervey, Kreger, Laster, Lien, McEwan, Mroczka, Nelson, O’BrienO’Donovan, O’Neill, Pilarski, Richardsen, Ryan, Rybinski, Stypula, Valentine, Whetstone, Whitford,

So, today Carina and myself might take a trip down to Foilnamuck and sit on the edge of the pier and maybe even dip our toes into the still-chilly water. We’ll think of John Collins, if we catch a boat sailing by, and the many hundreds of our cousins who spread all over the world from this very spot.

Do feel free to leave a comment or ask a question.

  • Mary Leidner says:

    Mike , I see you have an O’Neill in your surnames. Do you know anything about that particular line? God help us we could be cousins! Ha… Ron and I have enjoyed some Boxty in honor of St. Bridget’s feast day. Unfortunately we are out of Barry’s Tea. have a great day

    • Mike Collins says:

      Yep – thats right, Mary – the West Cork O’Neills would be all a fairly close bunch! One of my O’Neill cousins just contacted me through the letter last week – turns out we are 2nd cousins. Mike.

  • Patty Howe Willey says:

    Mike I love reading the weekly newsletter. I have learned so much about Ireland since receiving it. I am wondering if the books available have some history of the Northern Irish who emigrated to Eastern Canada in the 1800s. It appears my ancestors were likely the Scotch Irish I see mentioned from time to time. I much appreciate the opportunity to learn more about all of Ireland. Keep up the good work! Patience Howe Willey
    .

    • Mike Collins says:

      Thanks Patience – I’m glad you enjoy them. The best thing to do is to contact your local historical society or library – they will put you right. We have a lot of Scotch Irish descendents on the letter. Mike.

  • George Sliney says:

    Mike,
    I am so grateful I found this web site and your blog. The emailks are looked forward to with great expectation of discovering another Irish gem. I have been to Ireland twice. The first time my wife and I visited Cork as that is where I was told the family came from before emigrating to the US. We actually came to the US via Canada. I have one of those unusual Irish names, but I was so happy when I was in Cork and checked the phone book and found many Sliney names.

  • Faye says:

    My maiden name is Collins! I’m Irish on both sides of my family. Mothers last name was Mulcahy.

  • Mary Tweed says:

    What an interesting potpourri of names, Mike! I enjoyed reading about your great-grandpa–thx for sharing!

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  • Lavin says:

    I’m trying to find my roots can anyone help me? All I know is something about a prince that no one knows his name. I feel lost!

  • karen Linstrom says:

    I have Irish and Swedish heritage- I’m trying to trace my Irish connections. My grandmother was Agnes Ruth Flaherty ( or all the derivations). She was born in South Boston in 1896 father Michael and mother Maggie (nee Coyne). The trail runs cold here. Any suggestions?

  • kathy helms says:

    I enjoyed the article of 35 surnames. I see that both of my surnames are in there. It would be interesting to see if there is any way to find a connection. I am lost as to how to find out any info before my grandparents. They were born in the USa.

  • John Mahoney says:

    My great-grandfather Jeremiah Mahoney was born in 1841 in Ballydehob.
    My great-grandmother Margaret Hennessey was born in 1841 In Skibereen.
    They were married in 1963 in London, England.

    Their son, John/Jack, married Ellen/Lena Clarke, of Cork, in London.
    Her father Michael Patrick Clarke of Garryowen, Limerick, was active in the Brotherhood, and had a price on his head.
    The family story is that my Grandfather Jack, a London dockie, and his brother Jim raised money for guns for the Easter Rising.

    My father, Jeremiah Patrick, left London at age 18 in 1923 for Canada, thence to the U.S.
    He was a career U.S. military man, and took part in the liberation of Paris in 1944 and later, in 1948, in the Berlin Airlift when we were stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany.
    He married Gertrude Marquis in 1934 in Newport, Vermont. My mother French Canadian, Irish, and Iroquois Indian.

  • John Mahoney says:

    CORRECTION: JOHN MAHONEY’S POST
    My great-grandmother Margaret Hennessey CALLAGHAN was born in 1841 In Skibereen.

    • Jeannette Sauntry says:

      John Mahoney there are Mahoneys and Callaghan’s in Miramachi,, New Brunswick and they date to the early 1800’s

  • Sandy Clothier says:

    Hi again MIke!
    Just got back on the mailing list for Your Letter From Ireland, recently – a bit ironic – as I also just found a record indicating my G.G. Grandmother was a Callahan, in the US!.

    Not sure what to think, this is the first clue in several years and there was a James Callannon, also born in Ireland (BIL to the head of household-her husband Edward Cummings/Commons) visiting in 1875.

    I am wondering if Callahan may be an Anglicization of Callannon/Calanon/Callanon, etc.? Started my Irish Genes longing for information again!!!!

    I am quite jealous that you and Carina are moving to a building where your Grandfather actually worked. Ireland and the rest of Europe seem to revere old buildings and their Heritage! Here in the States we seem to tear down the old for the new – resulting in nothing left of my Grandparents Home and Work – except very fond memories.

    Good wishes for great Joy and prosperity in your new location and endeavors.

  • Laura McGinley says:

    My .maternal grandfather came to America from Lussinpiccola, Austria (now Croatia) and built scooters in Mississippi. His father and brother came, also. My grandfather died, at a young age, from axfixiation on a boat.

  • Jan Boyle says:

    Oh Mike, thanks for sharing that wonderful story, and the move sounds like a great idea. I’ve always liked living by the sea, and as I get closer to finding my family I see that they did too.

    Good luck with the moving,

    Jan

  • I love reading your newsletters. Even though you are from a different Co than my ancestors, your newsletters give me a sense of what it was and is like in Ireland. Your writings paint a good picture. Thank You.

    My paternal 6th great grandfather, Hugh McCrory was born about 1705 & died about 1773 in Larga, County Antrim, Ulster Ireland. He married Elizabeth Jane Elmore about 1729.

    Thomas I, William and John McCrory (3 of the sons of Hugh & Elizabeth) moved to South Carolina with their wives and children via Belfast Ireland. They were on the Pennsylvania Farmer (one of Reverend Martin’s ships). The ship they were on was caught in a storm and blown off course. They actually landed 1 July 1775 in Baltimore Ireland. They went from Baltimore to (Waxhaw area) Lancaster South Carolina by land.

    My 5th great grandfather, Thomas I McCrory (born about 1735 Larga, Co Antrim, Ulster IR & d 1777 from injuries sustained at the battle of Brandywine Creek during the American Revolution) was a Captain in the American Infantry. He married Hannah Sarah Crawford (b 22 Dec 1734 IR d 26 Jan 1815 Mecklenburg, North Carolina, USA) in 1750 Co Antrim, Ulster Ireland.

    My 4th great grandfather, Thomas I McCrory II (b 15 May 1758 Larga, Co Antrim, Ulster IR d 1822 Lancaster, Lancaster Co, South Carolina USA) and his brother James Ira McCrory wintered with Gen George Washington at Valley Forge PA from Dec 1777-Feb 1778. James was one of Gen Washington’s body guards. He had been promoted to Ensign. Thomas had been promoted to Captain.

    All my mother’s ancestors were from the same area in Ireland as my Father’s family. The sir names I hare are: McCrory, Tyll (Basel Switzerland) Elmore, Crawford, McCall, Mackey, King, Lewis, Finney, Jackson, Maness, Moore, Pierson, Miller, Wiley & Doten. McCrory, McCall & Mackey are Scotch/Irish but the rest are Irish unless otherwise noted.

  • Jeannette Sauntry says:

    I enjoyed todays letter and have shared it with the Sauntry family and those who are of Irish origin. Todays history of Skiberreen in 1848 gives me shivers thinking about the living conditions at that time. I think of the ancestor William Sauntry who died in 1848 and left his wife and six children to survive in those terrible times, the family immigrated to Miramichi New Brunswick about 1854 and thrived there.

  • Mary Tweed says:

    Hello, Mike & Carina! Best wishes on your move to Skibbereen! (spelling?) Mike, your ancestors’ spirits are calling you home, I believe!

  • sheila brennan says:

    Thank you Mike for sharing your wonderful story about your great grandfather and father, you really do bring something very special each time in our weekly letters from Ireland. Hope you and Carina enjoy your move to Skibbereen, i’m sure you will.

  • Rob Lee says:

    Mike,
    My grandfather Gerald Lee’s maternal grandfather Eugene McCarthy came from somewhere between Cork and Kerry. His parents were Florence and Julia Reidy McCarthy. Eugene left Ireland as a 16 year old in 1847 and came to America.
    When Eugene came over he went with the railroad workers to Western New York and there he stayed. Eugene married Mary Magner, her parents were from Fermoy in County Cork.
    My great aunt said Mary spoke of Ireland constantly, but poor Eugene never ever spoke of his home land. His memories were of only pain and sorry.

  • […] 1: One Man and 35 Irish Surnames. In this letter, Mike talks about his great-grandfather – who was a boat-builder near […]

  • John Bennane says:

    Do you know who built the pier and to whom did it belong, and who
    or what org. owns it now and by what means was it transferred or
    registered under the claiming “owner” ?

  • Clydene says:

    Hello and Thank You for all you do in Irish Genealogy. My husband is Charles F. Cannon and very much Irish from his DNA. I’ve researched his ancestors back to a David C. Cannon who lived in South Carolina, USA a ship building seaboard in America. David C. Cannon was born in 1810 in SC but I can’t seem to identify his father who is probably the Irish immigrant to America. Where are your Cannons located in your Genealogy? How can I find out more about the Irish Cannon Families in Ireland?

  • Virginia Barry Parker says:

    WOW!!! My grandfather was a “Barry” and my grandmother was a “Burke”, so my Dad was John Burke Barry. So glad you posted this!!! Wish I could find heir ancestors but too many “John & Mary Barry’s to figure out my ancestors!!

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