Primi et ultimi in bello, First and last in war.
Az. a lion pass. betw. three swords erect ar.
An arm embowed in armour, grasping in the hand a sword, blade wavy, all ppr.
his name is of particular interest philologically because although it is (with rare exceptions) really a Mac name it is almost always found today - when not plain Gorman - as O'Gorman. This can be accounted for by the fact that in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when the native Irish were in complete subjection, the Gaelic prefixes Mac and O were universally allowed to fall into disuse, particularly in the case of some names like Gorman; then, when the spirit of the nation revived, these prefixes were gradually restored, but so completely had the form MacGorman fallen into oblivion that its rightful bearers when resuming a prefix assumed the wrong one and became O'Gorman, with the result that MacGormans are hardly to be found at all in Ireland today except in Co. Monaghan. O'Gormans are found chiefly in Co. Clare, while plain Gorman is more usual in Co. Tipperary. The Irish form is Mac Gormain (derived from gorm, blue). Originally this sept inhabited the barony of Slievemargy in Co. Leix near the town of Carlow, of which their chief was lord, but they were driven out at the Norman invasion and settled in Ibrickan, West Clare, and in Co. Monaghan. In the former they attained considerable influence and the head of the sept became hereditary marshal to O'Brien of Thomond. The MacGormans of Ibrickan were noted especially in the fifteenth century for their wealth, hospitality and for their patronage of the Gaelic poets.
There are ten townlands called Gormanstown lying in Counties Kildare, Meath, Westmeath, Wicklow, Limerick and Tipperary and two called Gormanston in Counties Dublin and Meath. Gormanston in the parish Stamullen, Co. Meath, appears as Villa Macgorman in a cartulary of Llanthony of c. 1200. Probably the man chiefly responsible for the substitution of O for Mac in the name was the celebrated gigantic Chevalier Thomas O'Gorman (1725-1808), exile vineyard owner in France, who, after being ruined by the French Revolution, became a constructor of Irish pedigrees. Several O'Gormans were prominently associated with Irish politics, notably Nicholas Purcell O'Gorman (1778-1857), secretary of the Catholic Association, and Richard O'Gorman (1820-1895), the Young Irelander. The original name has a place in the roll of distinguished Irishmen, in the early days before the prefix was dropped, in the person of Finn MacGorman who was bishop of Kildare 1148-1160 and is famous as the compiler of "The book of Leinster.
Gorman is a relatively common name in England, where it is derived from the Middle English personal name Gormund, from gar, meaning 'spear', and mund, meaning 'protection'. A few Irish Gormans may be of this connection, but in the vast majority of cases in Ireland the surname comes from the original Irish Mac Gormain, from a diminutive of gorm, meaning 'blue'. The original homeland was in Co. Laois, in Slievmargy, but they were dispossessed by the Prestons, a Norman family, and removed to counties Clare and Monaghan. The Clare branch became well known in later years for the extent of their wealth and hospitality, and for their patronage of poetry. From Clare they spread also into the adjoining county of Tipperary. When the native Irish began to resume the old O and Mac prefixes to their names in the nineteenth century, the Clare family mistakenly became "O'Gorman", probably following the error of the then best known bearer of the surname, Chevalier Thomas O'Gorman (1725-1808), an Irish exile in France. In Tipperary, the name has generally remained 'Gorman', while in Monaghan the original MacGorman still exists, along with the other two versions.
The Ui Bairrche (Hy Bairrche) was the generic name for the O'Gormans and related families. The Ui Bairrche ruled the tuath or territory of now known as the barony of Slievmargy in Southeast Queens County (Southeast County Leix) adjoining Carlow. An early king of Leinster (Laigin) was M—enach macMuiredach Sn’the O'Bairrche, King of Leinster.
Through Cathair Mor's son, Daire Barrach, is claimed to descend the U’ Bairrche (e.g. O'Gorman). The original U’ Bairrche are said to be related to the Brigantes tribe of northern Britain, and that they ruled southern Leinster from the earliest centuries A.D. until their power was broken by the U’ Cheinnselaig. At that time they were split into at least two major grougs, the U’ Bairrche of northern Carlow (Ui Bairrche Maighe) and those of southern Wexford (Ui Bairrche Tire).
Gorman is a common name in all of the provinces of Ireland and in Ulster it is most common in counties Monaghan and Antrim. In Ireland generally it is one of the names that has responded to the Gaelic revivals by resuming the 'O' prefix. Whereas in 1890 O'Gorman was outnumbered by six to one by Gorman, the name with the prefix is now in the majority. However, in Gaelic Ireland Gorman was a "Mac" name, Mac Gormain (from gorm, meaning 'blue'). It is thought the mistake began in the eighteenth century when Chevalier Thomas O'Gorman, 1725-1808, who, as an expert on Irish pedigrees should have known better, assumed the "O". The original sept was from Slievemargy, near Carlow, but was driven out by the Norman Preston family and settled in counties Clare and Monaghan.
The form MacGorman is still found in Co. Monaghan and the importance of the name there is remembered in the placenames Fartagorman near Bellatrain, Killygorman in Killeevan, and Lisdungorman in Clontibret. There is also a Rathgorman in Co. Down. Peadar Livingstone, in The Fermanagh Story, claims that the Gormans who were erenaghs of Callowhill in that county were originally O Gormain and so a few at least of the present-day O'Gormans may be correctly named. Some Gormans in Ulster were originally Gormleys, an entirely separate name.
Most Gormans are thought to have originally spelled the name as Mac Gorman, but the Mac prefix has been widely dropped from the name. Many MacGormans who became simply "Gorman", later added an "O" back onto the name instead of the "Mac", thus becoming O'Gorman. The two names may be one in the same! The family is anciently found in the barony of Slievemargy, near Carlow in Leix (Queens County). Forced from their homeland with the coming of the Norman invasions, they moved into Monaghan where the "MacGorman" spelling was often used. They were also in Clare, in the barony of Ibracken, where most O'Gormans are found today. Keating's History gives the family as chiefs of territory comprising parts of the baronies of Moyarta and Ibracken in Clare. This branch of the family served as hereditary marshals to the O'Briens and held considerable lands in Clare. The place name of Gormanstown or Gormanston, is common, for it can be found in Meath, Westmeath, Wicklow, Limerick, Tipperary and Dublin. O'Dugan and O'Heerin give O'Gorman or MacGorman as chiefs in Queens County (Leix) and speak thus of them: "MacGorman of great valour, Rules over the fair U’ Barchi... of the melodious race of Dari Barach, O'Gorman took possession of the lands, A chief who actively rushed to battle" In the 17th century Gorman was a principal name in Clare, and found in Dublin, and O'Gorman was a principal name of Armagh. McGormon was as a principal of Monaghan, and in Louth. In 1890, "O'Gorman" is found mainly in Clare.
The MacGorman (MacGormain) were lords of the Ui Bairrche, who were originally from South Wexford, in the baronies of Forth and Bargy, but they were driven from this territory by the Laigin of Ui Ceinnsealaigh (Kinsella?), and the main body settled among their allies among the northern Laigin, mainly in the area of the barony of Slievemargy in the southeastern corner of Leix and the adjoining portions of Carlow and Kilkenny.
Probably in the 9th century, they were driven from this territory, most likely because of the Viking (Norman) invasions, which began around 795 A.D. Until this time, Irish society was largely decentralized - there were no cities to speak of, and even Tara would have been considered a small town by today's standards. Trading was done at fairs, generally held on regularly scheduled days at major crossroads or the like. The Christian church was also largely decentralized as well, being centered around various monasteries scattered throughout the countryside. Perhaps this explains why we have so many chiefs (or lords) in our history. Most of the early Irish cities were the ports established by the Vikings, who used them as bases for raids inland: Dublin, Waterford, Wexford, Limerick, to name a few. In this era, the Gorman clan or sept split into two groups, and the main group settled in Monaghan and Clare. The Clare branch became very numerous, and their chiefs became the hereditary field marshalls of the O'Briens. Another group made their way to Meath where, in later years, they built Caislean MacGormain from which Gormanstown takes its' name.
The Vikings would later be driven out when the Irish, united under Brien Boru (from whom the O'Briens are descended), defeated them at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. Boru died in this battle, no doubt with many MacGormans at his side. Ireland enjoyed a brief period of relative peace before the next invasion. During this era, one of the Clare branch, Finn MacGorman, was Bishop of Kildare from 1148 to 1160, and directed the compilation of the Book of Leinster, one of the most valuable ancient Irish historical manuscripts surviving today. The Meath branch of the sept produced the celebrated martyrologist Maelmuire (Marian) O'Gorman, who was Abbot of Knock (Cnoc-na-napstol), near Louth, and in 1171 composed a calendar generally known as the Calendar of Marianus.
Name Variations: Gorman, MacGorman, O'Gorman, Gormund, Garmund, Gormain, Gore, Goreman, Gourman, Goroman, Gorrman, Goorman, Ghorman, Gormann, Goraman,, Goerman, Gorhman, Goriman, Gormane, Goorman.
References:One or more of the following publications has been referenced for this article.The General Armory; Sir Bernard Burke - 1842.
A Handbook of Mottoes; C.N. Elvin - 1860.
Irish Families, Their Names, Arms & Origins; Edward MacLysaght - 1957.
The Surnames of Ireland; Edward MacLynsaght - 1957.
The Book of Irish Families Great and Small.
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