The town of Galway has a history quite different from the surrounding county. This is because it was taken over by the Anglo-Normans very early in their conquest of Connacht. The small Irish town then at the mouth of the Corrib, and known as Ballinsruthaun (Streamstown would be the best translation) was taken immediately, and it's name changed to Galvia (Latin); Gaillimh (Irish ) or Galway (English). It became a very powerful & wealthy city, and its citizens became rich from their trade links with the European continent. For hundreds of years, it was an isolated Norman outpost within a hostile countryside, and when the town built it's medieval walls, it had inscribed over it's west gate the words "from the ferocious O'Flaherties, Good Lord deliver us". Galway corporation also passed a bye-law prohibiting the native Irish from settling within its walls, stating that "neither O nor Mac shall strut nor swagger through the streets of Galway". In time, of course, in common with most of the other Norman families, the Norman families of Galway became more Irish than the Irish themselves. By the time Cromwell put an end to their power, he was able to refer to the clannish ways of the 14 main families as the "Tribes of Galway".
The O and Mac is a most interesting reference, worthy of explanation, and they were employed because they indicated Gaelic names. When surnames became the way to go, around a thousand years ago, most Gaelic families would use the term Mac. This is the Gaelic word meaning Son; so that Donal Mac Padraig, for example, would actually mean Donald, the son of Patrick. In time, perhaps a family had a more distinguished grandfather or other elder, whom they wished to remember. So they introducted the term Ó, which means from, or descended from. (The Gaelic Ó should be written with an accent over the letter O, and not an apostrophe. This has the effect of having the letter pronounced as a long Oh, instead of a short Uh!) Thus if our Donald above had a son called John, John might wish to commemorate his grandfather by referring to himself as Sean Mac Donal Ó Phádraic. His children might then become Mac Sean or Ó Donal; and because this can lead to so much confusion, the earlier Ó and Mac were settled upon, without having to change every generation.
And so it was for the Larkin families. The name was originally Ó Lorcáin in Gaelic, and the surname Lorcan persisted in common use in County Galway until the middle of the 19th century. Indeed, the Larkin name in East Galway is still pronounced Lorcan. The Gaelic name Ó Lorcáin would have derived from an adjective such as Lorc, meaning "the fierce one." This suggests a fierce warrior clan in pre-medieval times. The Ó Lorcáin families of East Galway are actually descendants of the princes of the Uí Máine and Síol Anmhchada area of County Galway. The territory they occuppied was known as Uí Máine in the old Gaelic days; named for Máine, a son of Niall of the Nine Hostages, an heroic medieval figure of the Gaelic days. This is the area still referred to as Hy Many. The remainder of the area (Síol Anmhchada) was named for Ambrose Ó Madden, leader of the Madden Clan, who were kith & kin of the Larkins. Indeed the Gaelic name for the town of Lawrencetown in East Galway is still Baile Mór Síol Anmhchada. In time, with increasing anglicisation of the surnames, the O Maddens became the Maddens, and the Ó Lorcáins became first Lorcans, then Larkins. The first of the Ó Lorcáin clan so named seems to have been Lorcán Mac Morán, who flourished about 905 AD. His son was called Donal MacLorcáin, and became lord of Aidhne in south west county Galway. Donal died at the royal monastery of Clonmacnois in 937 A.D.  His grandson was names Raigan MacFinnerty Ó Lorcáin, and was a warrior in the service of the king of Connacht Seán Fergal Ó Ruairc, in 955 AD.  The Larkin clan were considered kith & kin to the Ó Maddens, the Ó Kelly's, the Mac Cosgair (Cosgrave) the Ó Fionnachta (Finnerty) Clan and Ó Mooney clans.  All shared a common lineage going back to the princes of Hy Many. The Ó Lorcáin branch were descended specifically from Forbasach Ó Madden, the 3rd son of Anmchadh Ó Madden (Ambrose Madden, named above). The Larkin name is now found in all the provinces of Ireland, but still most numerously in Connacht; and most specifically, in East County Galway. The Galway branch is genetically free-standing i.e. there is no genetic or family connection to the other Irish or English families who bear the same name. This is because the names were anglicised separately & independently, and actually applied to several separate, distinct and unconnected clans or families.
The story of Irish emigration is now well known, and fast being consigned to history; suffice to say that it is no longer necessary, and those who go today do so to gain experience or adventure. As often as not, they come back. But those who left in the darker times between 1850 and 1950 have left thousands of descendants in countries far and wide; Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia, France, Spain, Austria, Germany, Russia, the Ukraine and Argentina. So, lets start talking.

Copyright © 2008 Pádraic Ó Lorcáin. All rights reserved.
Revised: 08 Jun 2008 11:14:27.

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