Garveys in County Kerry


County Kerry

Basically if you are a Garvey from Kerry, then you are from the Dingle Peninsula. This is the group of Garveys that the historical account describes as "of the same stock as the O'Moriartys". (The Moriartys held land at the end of the bay south of the Dingle Peninsula). The account claims that the original Irish name of this group was O'Garbhain - which is Garvan in the original Anglised version.

A name by name compilation of records from the early to mid-1800's for five civil parishes at the tip of the Dingle Peninsula: Dunquin, Dunurlin, Marhin, and Kilquane (all in Ballyferriter Catholic Parish) in County Kerry is available online here. This transcription was an incredible effort for which we all owe a hearty thanks to W. J. Mansfield.

A summary of what is known about the origins of the Co Kerry Garveys appears beneath the map below.


A map of Garveys in the 1852 Griffith Valuation of County Kerry


Ó Garbháin - (O) Garvey or Garvan - Co Cork/Kerry - same stock as O'Moriarty

The Dingle Peninsula in 600 AD

NEWSFLASH: Garbhan assumes throne as King of Muma after the untimely death of his brother King Amhalgach.

Recorded history in Ireland had just began. Those early records contain details like that this was an Ireland in which every Irishman was very aware of "racial/ethnic" differences among them. These were probably due to different waves of Celtic language speaking invaders/overlords in the last few centuries BC. Some from Britain, some from France, and some possibly from as far away as Spain. They may very well have looked recognizably different from each other.

The story of the Dingle Peninsula in 600AD concerns two of those "races/ethnicities". One was called the Goidels. The specific branch of Goidels present in this area in the 600s was called Eoganacht Loch Lein and they were centered in Killarney. They seemed to be considered a kind of "black sheep" branch by their Eoganachta brethren (located farther east and farther south from the Dingle area). The name of the Eoghanacht tribe specific to the Dingle area was Caipre Luachra. Also part of the Caipre Luachra were the Aos Aiste (or "Aes Aisde" who were located in Tuosist, and whose chiefs were the O'Hinnesvan sept), Aos Alla (in Dhallow, Co Cork), and the Aos Greine (at Pallasgreen, Co. Limerick). Luachra is the name for the area north and east of the Dingle peninsula, so the name Caipre Luchra may originally have meant something like "the people who went west over Luachair Deadhaid (Slieveloughra)". The kingdom of the Eoghanacht Loch Lein was called Iarmumu (West Munster). It was from this group that the Kerry Garveys (and the Moriartys) descend. Other surnames associated with the Eoghanacht Loch Lein are O'Carroll, O'Cahill, and Ua Flainn (O'Flynn?).

The O'Garbhains and O'Moriartys were said to be allied septs, with the O'Garhain sept probably in a subject role to the ruling O'Moriarty sept. As a minor sept, a detailed genealogy of O'Garbhain sept may or may not exist, but I have been able to find very little information about the early Kerry Garveys. All I have now are these two names: There was a Cathasach O'Garbhain, lector of Clomacnoise, died in 1022 AD. And Tuathal O'Garbhain, bishop of Cill-Chuilinn, died in 1030AD.

The full genealogy for the Moriartys (O'Muircheartaigh) is available:

Domhnall, son of Muircheartaigh, son of Domhnall, son of Domhnall, son of Eoghan, son of Eoghan, son of Maolduin, son of Eoghan, son of Tadhg, son of Muireadhach, son of Maolduin, son of Fionnsuileach, son of Muircheartach (from whom the family are named), son of Murchadh, son of Cathan, son of Cobhthach (833 AD), son of Maolduin (786 AD), son of Aodh (734 AD), son of Conaing, son of Cummine, son of Aodh Beaunan (619 AD), son of Criomthann, son of Cobhtach, son of Duach Iarliathe, son of Maine, son of Cairbre Luachra, son of Corc.

The Moriartys shown in the mid-1800's Griffith Valuation seemed to be located mostly on the Iveragh Peninsula (The Ring of Kerry), while the Garveys werely mostly concentrated more on the Dingle Peninsula. This may or may not reflect the locations of their original homelands back in the 600's. There are some indictions that the Moriarty sept may have previously been in Templenoe parish area. It is also said that they absorbed the lands of the O'Hinnesvan sept (the Aos Aisde)in neighboring Tuosist parish. Records say that political upheavals in the area in the mid-1100s caused many of the Eoghanacht Loch Lein to flee to the Tipperary and Kilkenny areas. According to Rosemary Garvey's book " Kilkenny to Murrisk" the Archbishop John Garvey branch of the Garveys cannot be traced any further back than the city of Kilkenny in the 1400-1500s. No descendent of Archbishop John Garvey has yet been DNA tested (as of May 2010). It's not impossible that they may turn out be to Kerry Garveys who moved to Kilkenny as part of that mid-1100s migration of some Eoghanacht Loch Lein fleeing the O'Donaghue invasion. It is not known what fraction fled Co Kerry and how many stayed, but in the 1850's there were almost ten tims as many Moriartys as Garveys (495 vs 53) in Co Kerry.

It may or may not be of any significance to the Kerry Garveys that there is a civil parish in the southeast corner of Co Kerry named Kilgarvan that is just east of where the proposed original territory of the O'Moriartys in Templenoe civil parish. Irish placename dictionaries just say that Kilgarvan means "church of St. Garbhan". This St. Garbhan likely had nothing to do with the king who assumed the throne of Muma in about 600AD - though he may have been a contemporary). Garbhan was a common enough name at the time that Kilgarvan may also not be named after the St. Garbhan who was a friend of St. Kevin of Glendalough (though that St. Garbham may also have been a centemporary of King Garbhan). So the identity of the Garbhan eponymous ancestor of the o"Garbhain sept is still an open question.

Another comment should be made about early Irish lineages like those for the O'Garbhain and O'Moriartys shown above. Irish record keeping really didn't start until the 500's - so anything before that should be considered suspect as far as historical validity. In Medeival Ireland if a new sept came into power they needed to be backed up by a genealogy that verified their right to govern. For that reason any names in the genealogies from pre-500's should be considered probably fictional (or the names of that sept's pagan gods rehabilitated as g-g-g-grandfathers, etc). I suspect that the O'Garbhain and O'Moriartys had been long time allied families, but are unlikely to share Y-chromosomes. It looks like the O'Garbhains may have been powerful in the Eoghanacht Loch Lein before the O'Moriartys, but were then eclipsed by the O'Moriartys and O'Carrolls. But thier genealogical connection with the O'Moriartys is listed as far enough back in mythological times that they were probably likely not any kind of deep ancestry more than with any other Eoghanachta. As of May 2010 no Moriartys have yet been Y DNA tested - but I would not expect a match with the Kerry Garvey DNA for the reasons just described.

The most famous saint to come from the Eoghancht Loch Lein was St. Ailbhe of Emly. (Ailbhe is the root of the name "Elvis"). Available details are sketchy, but he may have begun preaching in Ireland before St. Patrick (and is often referred to as the St. Patrick of Munster). A church in Killalee may have been dedicated to St. Ailbhe. St. Ailbhe's feast day is September 12. Another version of St. Ailbhe's life can be found here.

The "racial/ethnic" group to which the Eoghanachta belonged was the Goidels (who are sometimes referred to as the Spanish Milesians). The Goidels could have been one of the most recent waves of Celtic language speaking invaders/overlords (and there may have been 3-4 waves of invaders/overlords in the thousand years before Christ). They are the ones who claimed to have come from Spain (but they also claimed they d come to Spain by way of Scythia and Eygpt - so who knows...). Some believe that the Goidels may have come from the Aquitaine region of France rather than Spain. Earlier waves of Celtic invaders/overlords had all spoken a different kind of Celtic language (Brythonic or "P-Celtic"). The Goidelic language was the "other kind" of Celtic - called Q-Celtic, and it quickly became the language of all politics, commerce (and life) soon after the Goidelic/Milesian invasion. The P and Q refer to the different sounds used in the languages for certain words. For example the P/B sound in the word "Britain/Pritani" which may have been the name used in P-Celtic for the original non-Celtic language speaking inhabitants of the British Isles.

Nowadays you hear people talk about the "Black Irish" - but nobody seems to be quite sure what that term means. There's often a guess attached to that term that it may have had something to do with the Spanish Armada crashing on Irish shores in the late 1500's and the dark colored "genes" from those sailors still being seen in that area. If Black Irish does refer to some characteristic difference in skin color/hair etc then that difference may go back to an Armada of Spanish overlords that happened a couple of thousand years earlier: the Goidels - the ancestors of the Kerry Garveys (and Moriartys). As always, Wikipedia is a wonderful source for unfounded speculations of all kinds. More unfounded speculation on the Black Irish topic can be found here, and here, and here, and here.

The other "race/ethnicity" in the Dingle Peninsula area in 600AD was called the Erainn, and the part of that group present in the area were called the Muscraige, and those specifically on the Dingle Peninsula in 600AD were called the Corcu Duibne. The name may have meant "the people who worship the goddess Dobinn". The Erainn were also known by the name Fir Bolg. Like the Goidels, groups of Erainn were present all over Ireland. The Erainn are thought to have come from the continent, through Britain, to Ireland as part of an earlier (if not the earliest) of the waves of Celtic invaders. The name of their main god was Bolg. The tribe of the Belgae in Britain mentioned by the Romans may have been their kindred. Likewise the source of the country name Belgium may represent earlier connections on the continent. No one has a firm guess about when the proposed Erainn invasion would have happened (maybe towards the beginning of the last millenium BC?).

By 600AD the Erainn had been driven from their original lands by the Goidels. Historians say "the relationship between the Eoghanacht Loch Lein and Corcu Duibne is poorly understood". However the Corcu Duibne seemed to be a tributary kingdom of the Eoghanachta in general - i.e. they paid their "protection money" ("boruma") regularly to the local Eoghanacht thugs. But I think it's not understood whether that protection money went to the local Eoghanacht Loch Lein or to the Eoghanacht ruler of all Munster (based out of Cashel). A beautiful map of the main Corcu Duibne ruling families by Dr. Patrick M O'Shea can be seen here.

The Corcu Duibne were both on the Dingle Peninsula and the more southernly Ivearagh Peninsula. The O'Falveys are the modern descendants of the Dingle Peninsula Corcu Duibne. That northern section of the Corcu Duibne are also referred to as the " Aos Iorruis Tuiscirt". The O'Sheas are the descendants of the Ivereagh Peninsula Corcu Duibne and had their seat of power at Ballycarberry. That southern section of the Corcu Duibne are also referred to as the " Aos Iorruis Deiscirt". The O'Connells are also associated with the Corcu Duibne (the O'Connells from which Daniel O'Connell descended). While the Eogonacht Loch Lein may have been the "black sheep" among the Eoganachta, the Corcu Duibne (and the rest of the Muscraiges) had the dubious distinction of having their only genealogical connection to the rest of the Erainn through a son conceived in incest. But even more interesting was the reported name of the sister involved in the incest: Dobinn - the name of the pagan Corcu Duibne goddess!

F.J. Byrne writes that "Mother goddesses predominate in Munster mythology". So presumably the Corcu Duibne had previously had a much higher opinion of Dobinn, their mother goddess. Common threads in local early myths indicate that the Corcu Duibne probably believed that Dobinn often went around in the form of an old hag. The ughly hag would appear and ask "a hero" to sleep with her. If the hero agrees to sleep with the old hag, she then transforms into a beautiful woman - and he is rewarded. Dobinn herself was probably believed to live on Bere Island off the Beara Peninsula (just south of the Iveragh and Dingle Peninsulas). It may not have been just the female deities that the Erainn thought walked among them. A Munster folk hero was known as Cu Roi is sometimes thought to be an incarnation of the god Bolg. More than one Cu Roi story involves him appearing to "heroes" while disguised as an old man. Another story current among the Corcu Duibne was that somewhere in their territory was "Gleann na nGealt" - a valley filled with "wild men". Another version saw the valley as a place where the insane could come to be cured.

The Corcu Duibne had their own homegrown saint in St. Fionan Cam ("Cam" means "the squint-eyed"). St. Fionan the Squint-Eyed is not to be confused with St. Fionan the Leper (Lobhar) who founded the monastery Innisfallen on an island in Loch Lein a couple of generations later (and was not of the Corcu Duibne). St. Fionan the Squint-Eyed seems to have played a visionary role in the wave of monasticism and religious hermits that swept the Dingle and Iveragh Peninsulas in the late 500's and early 600's. These were the Irish hermits we associate with bee hive like stone huts - and that early Irish manifestation of Christianity seems to have been centered among the Corcu Duibne themselves. St. Fionan Cam is said to have founded Skillig Michel and his name is associated with many early Christian buildings in the area. He eventually founded and was abbot of a monastery at Ceann-Eitigh (Kinitty, Co Offaly). He is also described as being from Sliabh-Bladhma. He was said to have been a student of St. Brendan ("the Navigator" who may have discovered North America long before the Vikings - and a Kerryman from the Ciarraighe to the north). Fionan's mother was Becnat, and she was the daughter of Cian. St. Fionan Cam's feast day is April 7th. Compilations of the lives of the Irish saints show that there may have been 7-9 different St. Fionans.

The Dingle Peninsula has one of the greatest concentrations in Ireland of Ogham stones. Ogham is an early form of Irish writing that took the form of variously spaced scratches on the corners of a vertical stone. Many Ogham stones have been found in parts of Wales/southern Britain colonized by the Irish in the 300's-500's (about the time the Romans pulled out of Britain). It is commonly belived that the Deisi tribe of SE Ireland were the ones who colonized Britain's SW coast - but it is not impossible that some people from the Kerry side of Ireland were also part of that colonization. F.J. Byrne points out the unusual number of monasteries across Ireland founded by saints of west Munster orgin. He theorizes that the combination seagoing might of the Muscraige tribes along the coast from Co Cork to Clare could have given rise to "a maritime federation... [that] could well have controlled the Shannon estuary with the access the river provided to the midlands and Connacht". They definitely seemed to be a seagoing people. It may therefore be ungenerous to think of St. Fionan the Squint-Eyed as ending his mass prayers with a simple "Amen". Something closer to the truth may be that St. Fionan Cam ended his mass prayers by saying "Arrrrgh!!...... aye mateys!!" to the gathered congregation.

St. Fionan Cam seems to have founded most of his monasteries on the Ivereagh Peninsula, while a contemporary of his named St Maolceadair/Malkedar was active on the Dingle Peninsula. St. Maolceadair (died 636AD) was a prince (son of King Ronan) among the group of Erainn in the kingdom of Dal Fiatach in western County Down. The Muscraige (and therefore the Corcu Duibne) are thought to have migrated to Co Kerry from the northern kingdom of Breg. St. Maolceadair's presence on the Dingle Peninsula in about 600AD was a result of the continuing connections between the Muscraige and the Dal Fiatach and Dal Riata in Ulster. Little more is known about St. Maolceadair beyond the fact that his main monastic community was Kilmalkedar. The Griffith Valuation showed that the largest group of Kerry Garveys found in any townland on the Dingle Peninsula was in the townland containing Kilmalkedar (Ballinknockane townland in the civil parish of Kilquane). Locations at the Kilmalkedar site later became mistakenly renamed "St. Brendan's Well" and "St. Brendan's Oratory". The reason for the renaming was the mountain on which Kilmalkedar lay: Mount Brandon (also known as Sliabh Daidche). St. Brendan was said to have been motivated to take his fantastic voyage to the new world by a brief sighting of that "magical island" from the top of Mount Brandon. St. Brendan's monastic community was to the north at Ardfert, and he is not normally associated with the Dingle Peninsula.

The importance of Mount Brandon went much farther back in time than those 500's AD stories of St. Brendan. Mount Brandon is the second highest peak in Ireland. And as in all countries and cultures, mountain tops were considered special places. Both Croagh Patrick and Mount Brandon seem to have been pilgrimage sites in pagan times. The pagan shrine and rituals of Mount Brandon seemed to be associated with the god Lughnasa and went far back into prehistory. Therefore in addition to being one of the first monastic sites in Ireland, it may be guessed that Kilmalkedar's earliest form must have been something like a Christianity "facelift" applied to a very old spiritual site. St. Maolceadair seems to have been the main architect of that circa 600AD spiritual facelift. A strange mixture of Christian and pagan monuments can still be seen at Kilmalkedar. Steve MacDonogh writes "In Corca Dhuibhne the crust of Christianity over early pagan religions seems especially thin". He tells the story of how at Kilmalkedar on Easter Sundays the parishioners would make nine circuits of the churchyard in a clockwise direction. They would mark each time around by throwing pebbles at one particular grave as they passed. He guesses that this is a holdover of an earlier pagan ritual at that site. It's verey likely that Kerry Garveys participated in that Easter Sunday ritual for many, many generations.

Ballinknockane townland is long and thin in shape so it is difficult to know for sure exactly where the Kerry Garveys listed in the Griffith Valuation resided. However almost all the farmable land is in the western section of that townland, so they likely lived somewhere in this view. That map view has a black menu at the rightside that offers the option "Historic". The historic view shows Ordnance Survey (OS) maps from the mid-1800's. Those OS maps show a couple of interesting features with which the Kerry Garveys would have been very familar. For example, choosing the "Historic" option in this view will show the ruins of several ring forts and ancient huts (cloghauns). These are believed to have been the residences of local powerful families in about 600AD (and the centuries before). Kerry Garvey children would have explored the underground passages (souterrains) often found in those ruins. The Kilquane Kerry Garveys would also have known of the calluragh burial ground visible in this view using the "Historic" option. Such burial grounds were used for burying babies who died unbaptised. They were usually located on the sites of long disused churches. Children were still being buried at this one as late as the 1800's - and it may well contain Garvey babies.

The other large group of Garveys is found on the opposite side of the peninsula from the group in Ballinknockane (Kilquane). The location of the other Garveys could roughly be describe as just east from the town of Dingle. These Kerry Garveys were seen in the Griffith Valuation in the townlands of Ardamore, Churchfield, Garrynadur, Lisdargan, Lugnagappul, and Reenboy (civil parishes of Cloghane, Kinard, and Minard). Churchfield townland contains another calluragh burial ground which can be seen using the "Historic" option in this view. Babies were still being buried there until the first part of the 1900's. The burial ground is near the ruins of St. Martins Church (built sometime before the 1200's). Another calluragh burial ground is located in Lisdargan townland and can be seen in this view using the "Historic" option. Burials continued here until sometime in the 1800's. Until 1960 this old church site was also the location for a Good Friday pilgrimage ritual ("turas") involving parishioners walking around the churchyard and saying certain prayers in certain places. The ritual also included a visit to the holy well located about 200 northeast of the burial ground. Another local sight with which these Kerry Garveys may have been familar was an alignment of three ancient standing stones in this field. They are aligned such that they point to the place on the horizon where the sun sets on the Winter Solstice. Each of the stones are about 1.5 meters tall. About 60 meters to the northeast is another standing stone about 3 meters high engraved with rock art. Most of the art is in the form of lines, or a cup shaped depressions surrounded by circles.

The third sizable group of Kerry Garveys was across Dingle Bay on the north coast of the Ivereagh Peninsula near the town of Cahersiveen. The Griffith Valuation shows these Garveys in the civil parish of Caher in the townlands of Castlequin, Cloghanelinaghan, Kimego East, Kimego West, and Laharan North. A holy well existed in their neighborhood in this field called the Holy Well of Ahachoora. This well was said to be of benefit in curing eye diseases.

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