Irish derivation: Ó Breathnach
Name meaning: "Breton," "Welshman," or "Foreigner"
Counties associated with the name: Cork, Dublin, Kerry, Kilkenny, Limerick, Mayo, Offaly, Sligo, Tipperary, Waterford, Westmeath, Wicklow,
Coat of arms motto: Transfixed, but not dead.
Interesting Facts: 1. Fourth most common surname in Ireland 2. The French government distinguished an Irish immigrant Walsh family in the 1700s for their efforts in the French army. 3. The name was used in particular to denote the Welshmen who arrived in Ireland in the wake of Strongbow’s Anglo-Norman invasion of 1170.
Famous Walshes/Branaghs: Kenneth Branagh (1960) Northern Irish actor; John Walsh (1945) host of "America's Most Wanted," Maria Elena Walsh (1930-2011) Argentine singer and writer; Kate Walsh, American actress; Kimberly Walsh (19841) British singer; Norman Walsh (1932-2010) Rhodesian/Zimbabwean air marshal
The name Walsh or Welsh is one of the most numerous of the Norman associated names found in Ireland. It seems to have been the name used independently by the many different groups of Welsh people who arrived in Ireland with the Normans during the 12th century. The name simply means Welshman and its early Norman form was "Le Waleys" but this became gradually anglicized to Walsh. The "Walsh" form is the one most exclusively used in Ireland.
American ancestor-searchers would therefore be well advised to check the "Walsh" spelling-form when consulting Irish records since it is more likely to be listed in this way as opposed to Welsh. While the Norman name given to these Welsh people was Walsh, the Gaelic inhabitants of Ireland named them by the Gaelic word "Breathnach" meaning Welshman, and this name, in the subsequent centuries, was to become anglicized to the form "Brannagh" or, less commonly, Brennagh or Brannick.
In some parts of Ireland both names exist together and at least some individuals seem to have referred to themselves by the two different forms on different occasions. For instance, Thomas Walsh, a Bailiff of Cork in 1405, was listed in one reference as Thomas Brenaghe. In the U.S., Mike Walsh (1815-1859), who was born in Cork, Ireland, became the famous political leader of the New York Irish. He was a journalist and founded the Subterranean newspaper which espoused the cause of the lower classes. He was an exceptional orator, hailed as "America's answer to Daniel O'Connell", and this talent inevitably led him from journalism into representative politics. The activities of Walsh and his supporters marked the first involvement of the Irish in Tammany Hall politics, and by the end of his career, during which he became a congressman, the Irish were firmly established as an integral part of the Democratic Party machine in New York.
Among those for whom Mike Walsh paved the political way was his kinsman and Democratic senator from Montana, Thomas James Walsh (1859-1933), who was born in Wisconsin of Irish parents. He was an unsuccessful presidential nominee in 1932 and was offered the vice-presidential candidacy but declined it. In 1933 he was chosen by President-elect Roosevelt as Attorney General, but died on his way to the inauguration in Washington.
Among the soldiers of America's revolutionary army, there were 201 Walshes and Welshes. Two Walshes, David and John, captained ships in the Pennsylvania Navy, and there were no less than 12 lieutenants of the name Walsh or Welsh in the various infantry regiments of the rebel army. Other rebel officers included Major Patrick Welsh of the South Carolina Dragoons, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Welsh of Trasnk's New Hampshire Regiment, and Captain Edward Welsh of the 5th Regiment of the South Carolina Line.
Among the significant contributors to the rebel cause were the two regiments of the French-Irish Brigade, one of which was the Regiment de Walsh whose Captain was Chevalier Charles Walsh. The officers of these regiments, the other being the Regiment de Dillon, demanded the right and privilege to be the first to meet the British forces on the American battleground, in line with their tradition of "being the first to march against the English in all countries where France has been at war against them."
Neither were Walshes absent from revolutionary armies of Ireland. The Army of King James II of 1689 included many Walshes, including the two Captains, Valentine and Piers Walsh, of the Earl of Tyrone's Infantry. Among the many famous literary Walshes is the novelist Maurice Walsh (1879-1964). Born in County Kerry, Ireland, his novels, still popular today, included Blackcock's Feather, The Key Above the Door, and The Quiet Man, which was subsequently made into the famous film of the same name and starred Maureen O'Hara.
Edward Walsh (1805-1850) was born in Derry, Ireland. He was educated at hedge schools and later became a hedge schoolmaster. He was active in nationalist causes and a writer for the Nation and other influential Irish newspapers. He was an authority on Irish folklore, especially the popular mythology about the fairies, and is perhaps best remembered for his poetry, and for his translation into English of Gaelic poetry.
Another Walsh poet and translator was Thomas Walsh (1871-1928), born in Brooklyn, New York, who wrote several volumes of poetry and translated several other volumes from the Spanish. In the newspaper world, Andrew Walsh, a Limerick printer, founded the Limerick Journal in 1739. The Munster Express, a current Irish newspaper founded in 1860, is still controlled by the Walsh family of Waterford and has been successively owned by Edward Walsh and his son, J.J. Walsh.