The clan name Walsh is the 4th most used family name in Ireland. It is now found across the globe as Irish have left the country over time.
The surname Walsh speaks to the Welsh origins of the clan. The Gaelic word for Welsh is Breathnach. This is why some early members of the clan were referred to with that name. Brannick, Breathnach, Brannagh, Welsh, and Walshe all come from the same clan.
WALSH CLAN HISTORY
In the 12th century, when English and Welsh Normans arrived in Ireland, the native Irish called them Breathnach. It was a generic name for any Breathnachs/Welshmen that were local. The Walsh’s are adventurous and spread widely hence the popularity of the name.
In the coastal counties of Wexford, Kilkenny, Waterford, and inland to Tipperary in the South East of Ireland, the Walsh name is quite common. The Normans first landed in Wexford around the year 1169. It was a short journey from Wales. This explains the popularity of the name in the countries. In counties Kerry, Meath, Dublin, Mayo, and Kildare, the Walsh name is also linked historically.
Walsh of the Mountains were the first families to be identified as Walsh in the South East. The founder was Philip ‘Walensis’ also known as Philip ‘Brannagh’ both meaning Welshman. He was one of the bands of Normans who arrived in the 1100s. He is said to have come from Cornwall or Wales.
Philip rose to prominence during a battle in Cork in 1174 when he vanquished the leader of the opposing army. He married a member of the McCarthy clan and settled in South Kilkenny when granting lands there – in the area around Kilmoganny, in the barony of Iverk. His brother David was granted lands in Carrickmines in Dublin.
Philip’s descendants intermarried with locals and invaders and spread across the country including Waterford, Kilkenny, Wexford, Kildare, Dublin, and Kerry. Much of the land in the possession of the Kilkenny Walsh’s was confiscated by Cromwell in the 1600s. Family members fled to Europe and are cited as having lived in France and Tenerife. Descendants of the Carrickmines family fled to Austria.
The Mayo Walsh are said to be descended from Walynus, a Welshman who was in the army of Maurice Fitzgerald. The name Walsh in Kildare and Meath is connected to Walynus and also the Kilkenny Walsh’s of the Mountains. In parts of the country, the name Walsh is pronounced Welsh – which causes annoyance to some of those of the clan, who perhaps don’t want to be reminded of the Welsh forbearers!
The names Breathnach and Walsh and variations of them have been used through the years interchangeably. An example of this is a Thomas Walsh who was a bailiff in Cork in 1405 was also listed as Thomas Brenaghe.
WALSHES OF IRISH HISTORY
Walsh’s have been prevalent throughout Irish history. The 1798 Rising records show a number of Walsh’s were active in the rebellion in Wexford including Davy Walsh of Ballygow, Edmund Walsh of Sutton’s parish, John Walsh of Effernogue and Nicholas Walsh, a captain from Enniscorthy who was hanged in 1800.
Brothers James and Thomas Walshe were involved in the Easter 1916 Rising where they were based in Clanwilliam House. There is a story that as they fled the scene, in their attempts to cover their uniforms, they acquired some clothing from an unoccupied house. One draped a lady’s coat over his shoulders and the other pulled on an overcoat as disguises to aid their escape.
Walsh’s have been writers and journalists too. John J Welsh was a travel writer who took up walking as an exercise on the recommendation of his doctor. He was based in New York and traveled from there to Cobh in 1929 where he undertook a walking tour of Cork and Kerry. He wrote Ireland Afoot in 1931 describing his travels. Andrew Walsh, a Limerick printer founded the Limerick Journal in 1739. The Munster Express newspaper was founded in 1860 in Waterford by the Walsh family and continues to today. It is a good source for local activities.
FAMOUS WALSHES OF TODAY
Sir Kenneth Branagh (b. 1960) is a British actor, movie director, and television producer. He played Hamlet. He has directed and acted in many Shakespeare adaptations. He has acted alongside popular actors including Emma Thompson, Keanu Reeves, Michael Keaton, Maggie Smith, and Alan Rickman. Since Richard Attenborough’s death in August 2014, Branagh has been the president of the Royal Academy of the Dramatic Arts in London.
John Walsh (b. 1945) is an American television personality, criminal investigator, human rights and victim rights advocate, and the host/creator of America’s Most Wanted. Walsh is known for his anti-crime activism, with which he became involved following the murder of his son, Adam, in 1981; in 2008, the late serial killer Ottis Toole was named as the killer of Walsh’s son. Walsh was part owner of the now defunct Museum of Crime & Punishment in Washington, D.C. He also anchors an investigative documentary series, The Hunt with John Walsh, which debuted on CNN in 2014.
Maria Elena Walsh (1930 – 2011) was an Argentine poet, novelist, musician, playwright, writer, and composer, mainly known for her songs and books for children, who has been considered a “living legend, cultural hero (and) crest of nearly every childhood.” What was written by María Elena configures the most important work of all time in its genre, comparable to Lewis Carroll’s Alice or Pinocchio, a work that revolutionized the way to understand the relationship between poetry and childhood.
Kathleen Erin Walsh (b. 1967) is an American actress and businesswoman. Her roles include Dr. Addison Montgomery on the ABC television dramas Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice, Rebecca Wright on the short-lived NBC sitcom Bad Judge, and Olivia Baker on the Netflix drama series 13 Reasons Why.
Kimberly Walsh (b. 1981) is an English singer-songwriter, model, television presenter, actress, and dancer. She rose to fame in late 2002 when she auditioned for the reality television show Popstars: The Rivals on ITV. The programme announced that Walsh had won a place as a member of the girl group Girls Aloud. The group has achieved massive success, having twenty consecutive top ten singles (including four number ones) in the UK, six studio albums have all been certified platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), two of which went to number one in the UK, and accumulating a total of five BRIT Award nominations. In 2009, Girls Aloud won “Best Single” with their song “The Promise”.
Norman Walsh (1932 – 2010) was a senior officer in the Rhodesian Air Force and the first commander of the Air Force of Zimbabwe. Norman Walsh was born in 1932 or 33 and attended Queen’s College in South Africa where he completed his education in 1949. Walsh then moved to the neighboring British colony of Southern Rhodesia and joined the Southern Rhodesian Air Force as an officer cadet.