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Walsh of County Kilkenny - a historical perspective
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Walsh of County Kilkenny

A.D. 1150
Prior to the Invasion of Ireland (1169-1171), the lands later held by the Walshs of Kilkenny were likely in the hands of the Gaelic sept of MacBraoin or (Mac)Breen, who were centered in the cantred of Knocktopher, and of the ancient sept of Uibh Eirc, descendants of Erc, whose name was given to the medieval cantred of Overk (now the baronies of Ida and Iverk).

A.D. 1250
The Welsh, Normans and Flemish began to migrate into southern Ireland in the wake of the Cambro-Norman campaign of the late twelfth century. Among these adventurers are the ancestors of the Walsh families. In Gaelic Ireland they are first referred to as Breathnach, le Waleys, Wallensis, Brenagh; and during the fourteenth century, become to be called Walshe, Welsh and Walsh. It is speculated that they were from the leading houses of Wales, and that Ririd, Philip Fitz-Rhys, Howell ap Grono, Philip "the Welshman" (nephew of Rhys ap Griffith), William Wallensis (le Waleys), Haylen Brenagh, Stephen Howel, and David Walensis (nephew of Raymond le Gros) were among the earliest progenitors. In County Kilkenny about the year A.D. 1200, the chief lords in the territory in which later the Walshs are most numerous included "Griffin fitz William" of Knocktopher, "Milo fitz David" of Overke, and "Geoffrey fitz Robert" of Kells. (also see descendants of Nesta). Large sections of the modern baronies of Knocktopher and Iverk were later to become the homeland of "Walsh of the Mountain," as the leading family of the Kilkenny Walshs came to be known. Their main stronghold was at Castlehale, said to originally have been built in the 13th century.

A.D. 1400
"On Thursday next after the feast of St. John the Baptist, in the year 1374, Geoffrey, son of Thomas, son of Nicholas, son of Howel Walsh, appointed ... to deliver to James le Botiller, Earl of Ormond, the lands and buildings of his manor and town of Melagh and Cannderstown in Iverk." This passage from the deed by which Geoffrey Walsh made over to the Ormond Butlers so large a share of the patrimony of Iverk is a mystery. Yet the Walsh family fortunes seem to have been in the ascendant from that time. Richard, son (or perhaps grandson) of Geoffrey lived through exciting times ... and after the Butlers defeated the Kavanaghs, the descendants of the Kings of Leinster, Richard appeared in 1410 as one of the Keepers of the Peace for the County Kilkenny. Richard is described in the genealogies [Burke] as "chief captain of his nation," probably not the first to be so called, as he certainly was not the last. On March 9, 1446, Richard made a grant to the Abbey of Jerpoint of his lands of Clone, in the barony of Kells, and Ballycheskin in Knocktopher, thereby enabling the Cisternian monks to build the tower of the Abbey, which remains in a good state of preservation, and beneath which certain of his immediate descendants are buried.

In commemoration of the gifts of Richard fitz Geoffrey Walsh and his faimly, an effigy of a knight in armour was carved from stone and placed between the window lights in Jerpoint Abbey. Although the slab was removed and is now lost, Canon Carrigan had a chance to describe it in the twilight of the 20th century at a church in Piltown. Carigan described it thus:
"It is exactly similar to those slabs at Jerpoint and Inistioge, formerly used to separate the window lights in the cloister. On each face is a well carved effigy of a warrior in complete armor, the shield in one instance being charged with ermine, a chevron as on one of the sculpture stones in Fiddown churchyard; the other shield has the ordinary Walsh coat of arms, viz., a chevron between three pheons."
An old illustration of the latter side of the slab is found in Sheffield Grace's Memoirs of the Family of Grace (1823), on a plate entitled "Tomb Stones of the Walsh Family in Jepoint Abbey." The knight is shown wearing a type of helmet known as a bascinet, and has a ridge running down the front from the apex of the helmet to the center of the forehead. Around his neck he wears a pisane of mail which falls in a gentle curve, and does not taper to a point like those of 16th century effigies elsewhere in the county. The shield bearing the coat of arms is of the heater-shaped variety, common on effigies of the 13th and 14th centuries. The knight's body is largely covered by a jupon or surcoat, under the somehwat irregular hem of which a coat of mail can be seen descending to a few inches above the knees. A belt hangs loosely, with one end falling limply from a buckle in the center.
Attached to this belt at the knight's right hip is a dagger with an upward-cruving cross, and with a grip protruding from one side of the end of the handle. The daggers blade runs from the belt to the bottom of the coat of mail just above the knees. The legs are protected by plate armour, the poleyns falling to acute points at the knees. On the feet are pointed shoes, and spur-straps can also be seen. Leaning against the half-column to the right of the figure is a tall slendar spear.

Richard's son was Edmund and ... in the old Abbey of Jerpoint, ... there is a coffin shaped slab in one of the sepulchral niches in the chancel, to which it was removed from its original position beneath the tower. It bears a raised eight pointed cross, a shield bearing the arms of the Passion, and another with the arms of Walsh of Castle Hale. There is rich foliage ornamentation. Some of the letters of the inscription are obliterated. It reads, in old English character:
(Here lies Edmund Walsh and Johanna Butler
his wife. On whose souls God have mercy. A.D. 1476).
Other monuments include that of Robert Walsh, who died December 8, 1501, and his wife Katherine Power, as well as that of Walter Brenagh (Walsh) chief captain of his nation, and Katherine Bulter, his wife. The position of these monuments bears testimony to the gratitude of the monks for the munificent gifts of Richard Walsh, and the tombs themselves, the most notable on the Abbey except two effigial monuments bearing the figures of Bishop Felix O'Dulany and William, Bishop of Cork, indicate past all misunderstanding the importance of the Castle Hale family of Walsh in the Barony of Knocktopher at the end of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth century.
Source: Walsh 1170-1690

A.D. 1640
In the southern mountain regions of County Kilkenny, the complex hierarchical territories of the Walsh family (the Lords of the Mountain) extend right across the county from Tibberaghny in the west to near Rosbercon in the east. Here Robert Walsh alone held over 10,000 acres. Other key centres in this upland region were manned by members of the extended kingroup of the Walshes. This kinship strategy was also characteristic of all the major families in Tipperary, Kilkenny and elsewhere, revealing the interweaving of 'Gaelic' and 'feudal' strategies of land management and social control. The remainder of the south is dominated by long established landed families: the Forstalls dominate in the parishes of Ballygurrim and Kilmakevoge; the Fitzgeralds are lords of Brownsford and Gurteen, William Gaule holds 1,631 acres around Dunkitt and Gaulskill; Edmund Dalton, near Piltown, controls 2,179 acres; while the families like the Denns and the Freneys are also strongly represented.

Prior to the confiscation of Catholic lands during Oliver Cromwell's campaign into Ireland from 1649 to 1652, the Walsh families controlled over 19,000 acres in southern County Kilkenny. The major share was held by Robert Walsh, with smaller sections held by Thomas Walsh, Piers Walsh, William Walsh, Richard Walsh and Philip Walsh. In the 1660's Robert Walsh possessed about 5,300 acres by having some of his lands restored. By 1703, the Williamite confiscations took the last 1,675 acres held by Robert Walsh. The map above represents some of the Walsh land holdings. For a more detailed listing, see Confiscations.
Source: Kilkenny History and Society

A.D. 1835
The most extensive dairies are in the barony of Iverk and principally around the Walsh mountains: this tract has a good depth of soil, much inclined to grass. As late as the close of the last century, the principal family residing in it consisted of five branches, holding among them more than 2,000 acres; they retained a remarkable degree of clanship, and were very comfortable and hospitable. But from the practice of subdividing the land amongst their descendants, the farms have become very small and the occupiers poor. The land, however, is much improved: the chief crops are oats and potatoes, and great numbers of cattle and pigs are bred here. The milch cows are principally fed on potatoes during the summer, and the butter is of a superior quality, and brings a good price both at Waterford and Kilkenny, whence it is exported to England. The pigs are mostly fed with buttermilk and potatoes and grow to a large size: vast numbers are annually shipped for England, and during the season the provision merchants of Kilkenny and Waterford obtain a large supply from the barony of Iverk. Throughout the whole of that part of the barony which is not immediately adjacent to the city of Waterford, the population is more or less connected by ties of consanguinity, rarely marrying out of their own district.
Source: Topographical Dictionary of Ireland

Further history on the Walsh families in Co. Kilkenny is presented by Rev. William Carrigan in The History and Antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory

Two of the principal families of Walsh in County Kilkenny included:
Walsh of the Mountain and Walsh of Ballynacooly.

The preceding article was compiled by Dennis J. Walsh, � 2009

Further Reference:
Walshs in the Early Irish Counties
List of 1653 Confiscations
The Legacy of Castlehale
Mountain Pedigree - descendants of Philip Bretnagh
Historical Placenames of the family of Walsh
Early Walsh Land Holdings
County Kilkenny Genealogy - Ireland GenWeb

Walsh of County Kilkenny

Monday, 24-Aug-2009 20:21:42 MDT