Monday, 11 January 2010

Some Lawlor history

The O'Lalors were one of the Seven Septs of Leix . Their crest is a Red Lion on a Gold Shield. Their territory was near the famous Rock of Dunamese , but they were driven out by the English during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I . The heads of each of the Seven Septs were sent to Co. Kerry but the peasants were allowed to remain . Even today in Leix , the names of LALOR , LAWLOR and LAWLER , are very common . In 1577 many members of this Sept were the victims of the massacre of Mullaghmat , by the treacherous O'Dempseys in conjunction with the English Planters .

I have been told that there are many Lalors and Lawlors living today in County Laoise , especially around Mountmellick and Port Laoise. Indeed , a research assistant at Joyce House Register Office told me that Lawlor is the commonest name in County Laoise - I don't know if that is true but I do know that most Lawlors in the world can trace their ancestors back to County Laois. 

Well known Lawlors in Irish history include Patrick Lalor, who was a member of Parliament from Tonnakill, Queens County and a contemporary of the great liberator Daniel O'Connell, and his son James Fintan Lalor who was prominent in the mid 1800s as one of the most powerful revolutionary writers of his day who campaigned against the exploitation of peasant farmers by the landlord class and organised rent strikes during the era of the great famine.

Other names in our family tree

The name Cushin occurs in the Irish Midlands but does not seem to be widely common around Ireland . The name is derived from the English name Cuttesome ( Colchester 1329 ) meaning 'Son of Cuthbert '.

Searching for the name Cushin in the various indexes at Joyce House in Dublin showed that entries under this name occur infrequently and also that there are several variations of the name including Cushion , Cushian , Cushen , Cussan and Cussen . Other derivatives include Cushing , Cusheon , Cusschon , Cusshoun , Cousen , Cussons , Cutt , Cutts, Cuzen and Cushinge .

The name Gorman ( or O'Gorman - the descendant of Gorman ) is derived from the Irish word 'gorm' meaning blue . The name Keogh may be derived from the earlier name Keown ( from Mackeown , MacOwen and MacEwen ) referring to the 'son of Ewen' .

The name Fennelly or Finnally is a variation of the more common name Findley , derived from the Gaelic 'Finn Laigh' ( Fair Hero ) . The name Delany was a name brought to Ireland by the Norman invaders and refers to a place name in France .

Cushen or Cushin ? Lawlor or Lalor ?

Our great grandparents were Catherine Cushen and Denis Lawlor who originated from Port Laoise ( formerly Maryborough ) in County Laoise ( formerly Queens ) . Catherine Cushen's surname has various spellings when it occurs in records ; in her birth entry she is known as Catherine Cushian , her marriage entry records her as Kate Cushion , on the birth certificate of her son James Christopher she is recorded as Catherine (nee.) Cushin and on his marriage certificate she was Catherine (nee. ) Cushen . Although there does not seem to be any one single spelling of Cushen that is consistently used in the old records , we can  put this down to accidental misspelling due to poor literacy at the end of the last century.

Similarly with the name Lawlor, on their Mass Cards it transpires that Pop is named Denis Lawlor whilst his wife Catherine is known as Lalor. We also now discover that Denis's father was known in records of the late 1800s as both Mick Lawlor and Mick Lalor , using the two variations of the name almost on an alternating basis . Further research reveals that it was general and widespread practice in Ireland to use variable spellings of most common surnames and we don't need to look very far for other examples ; Cushen ( already mentioned ) and Fennelly being two.

Find out more about the history of the O'Lalor clan in Ireland at this website run by Lawlors in America:


  1. Hello Peter - This is your uncle Dennis from Blackpool

    Wow what can I say? – The first thing is thank you for the story “A Brummie Family Tree” – but firstly I must say that have I have note read this article as I have only just printed it out

    I only received the link to this site today – But I can assure that I will be reading and printing out many more of your articles - about both the Lawlor and Millington Families

    Much Love

  2. Hello Dennis. I've just discovered your comment at quarter past midnight so excuse me for not going into great lengths, but thanks so much for your comment. Wonderful to hear from you and I am delighted you are enjoying it. The ifnormation I ma posting up most recently from the Whelans in Dublin is a complete revelation to me also, so keep visiting because that is changing on a daily basis at the moment.