A Message to All Brabazons from Michael Brabazon
22 October 2003

Shortly after the Reunion at Killruddery I made an earth-shattering discovery whilst further researching our history.

We have all been working on the assumption that all Brabazons of that name are descended from the one common source, viz. Jacques le Brabanzon to Sir William Brabazon in the time of Henry VIII. The latter - as we know - had two sons, Edward and Anthony, the progenitors of the wider family. However, I have just recently found reference to a one-liner apparently from the History of Ireland by the Rev. Geoffrey Keating in the early 1600s and translated into English (from Irish) in 1853 which states that a part of an Ulster Clan by the name of (variously) O Brollachain/O Brolchain/O Brolchan moved from Derry to Cavan and changed its name to ………BRABAZON!

I was shocked to read this as it demolishes the clear-cut history of our Family in one fell swoop.

Why would a Gaelic Clan change its name to that of Norman-English overlords?

The pre-Tudor to early Tudor history of the area in what is now Co Cavan and Co Leitrim is one of fierce resistance to English influence, only succumbing in the 1570s. Indeed, the English administration created these two counties after taking full control of this O'Reilly fiefdom in the 1580s. The scenario may well have been a group of the defeated Gaelic Irish from the North converting to an English identity and moving to a newly conquered area to improve their standing with Ireland's new rulers. But why the name change to Brabazon?

Cavan would have been close to Brabazon lands - and who knows, maybe there were some family estates in that county - and Sir William's name would have been well known in Ulster after his campaigns there. Coupled with this, the Irishised form of Brabazon is - phonetically - o-broo-la-han! Although accents can add variations one way or another, the translation of Brabazon to Irish is - by coincidence - the same as this Ulster-based clan. My father's name was changed on his school register at the time of Independence from Brabazon to O Brollaghain to which he violently objected. (The decision was reversed as he refused to answer to his 'new' name.) Paul Brabazon from Dublin decided to Irishise his name some years ago and arrived at the same version as was given to my father.

The mainstay of the O Brollachain Clan that remained in the North had its name anglicised by later bureaucrats to Bradly as that was the closest they could get to an existing Anglo name in the region. This will have obscured the fact that the minority in Cavan had gone through a different name change

Others apart from myself have noted the historical preponderance of Brabazons in the area of Westmeath, which borders Cavan. What clouds the issue is that there are/were descendants in Westmeath of Anthony Brabazon of Ballinasloe and his wife Margaret Malone, so we may in fact have a mingling there of genetic Brabazons and Gaelic Clansmen. Also, if the O Brollachains had converted (even in part) to the Established Church the confusion would have been intensified

To add to this picture, the incidents of Brabazon-like names recorded in pre-Tudor Ireland - which have been a mystery to us - may actually be English translations of o-broo-la-han sounding names.

I quote from elsewhere:

Rev. Woulfe in his definitive study of Irish names and surnames states that Brabazon has sometimes been pseudo-translated from the Irish surname O Brollaghan and…O Bradagain.

All in all, we no longer have the Brabazon Clan we thought we had. The composition may well be weighted in the direction of the O Brollachain lineage: we just don't know. The DNA of the male lineages will record the telltale signs on the Y chromosome (viz. father to son lines can be traced through the Y chromosome), but that wouldn't say anything about the origins of female Brabazon lines.

I know that you will be feeling the same shock as myself when I made my discovery. I have dwelt on its implications for me personally - having devoted a large chunk of my life to the study of Brabazon history - and for the Family as a whole. I sincerely believe that we have the opportunity to expand our understanding of who we are and how we can develop a greater vision for the future.

My talk at the recent Reunion was entitled A Tale of Two Brothers - Diversity and Unity, using as its theme how the differing traits in the family have come to be reconciled and the need for the Family to be an inclusive body by virtue of ever-expanding parameters of race, religion and politics. Surely we are looking at an extended scenario of the one I envisioned at the time of the Reunion? We can either retreat from a greater inclusivity or redraw ourselves as a Clan on the lines of the Gaelic ones in which individuals share a common identity but not necessarily a blood link. We can celebrate both our Anglo-Norman and Gaelic roots, and everything that that entails. I have already emotionally embraced this alternative view and am excited at the possibilities and new vistas this opens up. Perhaps my next talk will be Two Cultures, One Clan.

However, I am just one of a large group. Please think the whole matter over and send me your thoughts - either to me personally or for the attention of the wider audience to be placed on the website Notice Board

My very best wishes to you all.

 

Footnote

Few Irish surnames have been more barbarously maltreated as a result of the introduction of the English language into Ireland than O'Brollachain, which for some extraordinary reason was generally given as its anglicised form the common English name of Bradley, though in a few places, notably in Co. Derry, it is quite rationally called in English O'Brallaghan.

No doubt a proportion of the Bradleys in Ireland are descendants of English settlers, but those who bear the name in the counties adjacent to Co. Derry and also in Co. Cork have justification for believing that they are really O'Brallaghans, because it was in those areas that the sept originated, the Cork line being a branch which in early times migrated southwards. Actually they are first heard of in Co. Tyrone, the county adjacent to Co. Derry on its southern border.

It is interesting to note that modern statistics show that Counties Derry, Tyrone and Donegal are still the homeland of most Irish Bradleys, with Cork their main stronghold in the south. (O) Brolloghan is a cognate from of (O) Bralloghan. According to Mr. W. Maxwell-Brodie, the O'Brologhans of the Western Highlands of Scotland were of the same stock as the O'Brologhans of Derry whose name has been anglicised as Brodie in modern times.

A remarkable number of O'Brallaghans (or rather O'Brollachain for the English language was then unknown in Ireland) distinguished themselves in the eleventh and twelfth centuries: maelbrighde O'Brollachain (d. 1029) builder; his sons Aedh (d. 1095), professor, and Maelbrighde, bishop of Kildare (1097-1100); another , Donal O'Brollachain (d. 1202), was Abbot of Deny: while Flaibhertach O'Brollachain (d. 1175) rebuilt the Cathedral at Derry in 1164. The only Irishman of special note called Bradley was Most Rev. Denis Mary Bradley (1846-1903), a Kerryman popular with all denominations in his diocese of Manchester (New England).