A Surname that grew from an ancient Irish fairy Mound

In the heart of Ireland lies Rathcroghan, an ancient site steeped in myth and legend and an Irish fairy mound.

Now Reading:

A Surname that grew from an ancient Irish fairy Mound

Céad Míle Fáilte  and welcome to your Letter from Ireland. We’re just over Storm Kathleen here in Ireland but although the winds were high, there was little damage or injury caused. Hopefully that’s the end of these seemingly more frequent storms for a while! How are things in your part of the world today?

I’m sipping on a cup of herbal tea as I write – and hope you’ll join me with a cup of whatever you fancy as we start into today’s letter.

This coming June, we look forward to travelling to County Roscommon to walk in the footsteps of the many families who left the area during the Great Famine for a new life in North America. Perhaps you’ll follow us along the way – either here on the letter or in The Green Room? I’ll explain more about this trip at the end of this letter.

But for now, I wish to focus on the place where we will start our journey. It’s an ancient Irish site located in the heart of Ireland called “Rathcroghan” – and it’s this magical place that we will chat about in today’s Letter from Ireland.


When we visit Roscommon, we’ll be joined by a couple from The Green Room – Elizabeth and Mike Fitzpatrick from New York. You see, Mike’s “Fitzpatrick” and “Croghan” ancestors emigrated from Ireland in the late 1840s and we will use the history and emigration of his ancestors to help us focus on what life was like at that time for our own ancestors in Ireland.

For today, however, I want to focus on one of Mike’s ancestral names. The surname “Croghan” is an unusual Irish name and has a connection to the “Rathcroghan” placename I mentioned above. To explain this connection a little more, I want to share an ancient Irish story of fairies, spurned lovers, faithful servants and Irish warrior queens. I hope you will stay with me and enjoy the tale – so much of Irish history has grown out of these ancient myths and legends.


The place we call “Rathcroghan” comes from the Irish “Ráth Cruachan” which means “Fort of Cruachan”. So, who is this “Cruachan” and what is the connection with the “Croghan” surname? Mythical tales tell us that “Cruachan” (or Crochen) was the handmaiden of Édaín (pronounced “Aideen”). Édaín was a member of the “Tuatha Dé Dannan” tribe – believed to be the occupants of ancient Ireland. Upon the arrival of the Celts, legends say that they went underground to a magical place – to become the “fairies” that we hear so much about today.

Well, at some point Édaín was reborn as a mortal – but her lover, Midir, remained in the fairy otherworld and was unable to accept that she was gone. So, Midir tracks Édaín to the mortal world and she agrees to accompany him back to her original home. However, her handmaiden Cruchan is mortal and cannot accompany them back. On their final night together, they spend time on a fairy mound that is now known as “Rathcroghan”. Cruchan is so taken by the beauty of this location that Midir grants it to her for her service to Édaín and also names it in her honour – “Ráth Cruachan” – meaning the “Fort of Cruachan”. Cruachan stays in this place and goes on to marry and give birth to Meadbh (Maeve) who goes on to become the famous warrior queen of the Connachta tribe.

Over the following centuries, the local Kings of Connacht who were led by the O’Connors – had a special connection and veneration for the site at Rathcroghan and it was used as the place where their kings were inaugurated up until the 1500s. As a result, there are many mentions of Rathcroghan in ancient Irish literature but it is quite hard to figure out which of the associated myths have a kernel of truth in them.

Rathcroghan now has over sixty national monuments within its four square miles – dating from 2,000 BC to the 1300s. They include burial mounds, ringforts, earthworks and other enclosures.

One of the legacies of Rathcroghan is that it provided the surname of “Croghan” to a group of families who lived in the area. Although this surname is almost totally limited to the Rathcroghan area in Ireland, it has spread far around the world since the 1800s. Places like New York – where Mike Fitzpatricks’ Irish ancestors settled in the late 1840s. Their names were Daniel Fitzpatrick and Elizabeth Croghan from County Roscommon.

So, join us over the coming months as we follow the emigration trail of the Fitzpatricks and Croghans – from Roscommon to Dublin and then from Dublin to Liverpool. From Liverpool onward to Grosse Ile in Canada and then to New York. This is just one example of the emigration trail that many of our shared Irish ancestors followed. It will be a trip to remember and we are so looking forward to sharing great stories, photos and videos that we gather along the way!

That’s it for this week. As always, feel free to share the surnames and stories in your own Irish family tree.

Slán for now,

Plus Member Comments

Only Plus Members can comment - Join Now

If you already have an account sign in here.