Select Kelly Miscellany
accounts over the years:
- The O’Kellys of Ui Maine
- The O’Kellys of Breagh
- Kelly House in Devon
- Manx Kellys at Ballabrew
- The O’Kelleys in America
- Jack Kelly, Sculler and Businessman
The O’Kellys of Ui Maine
Ireland to a less populous area straddling the river Suck, a branch of the river Shannon.
participated in the great battle
of Clontarf in 1014 when Brian Boru defeated the Norsemen.
The O’Kelly, the chief of Ui Maine, was
slain in the conflict.
given by William Boy O’Kelly (bui here
meaning “golden haired”) at his castle at Galey on the shores
of Lough Ree. He invited all the poets, storytellers, musicians
and entertainers from all over the country to his castle. This party lasted for a
great, courteous welcome,
affectionate, charitable, just, proper, true hearted welcome,
A welcome and twenty, and I add,
Like the surge of the stream
is, my welcome to you.”
The decline of the O’Kelly fortunes began in the 17th
century. The failed rising of 1641, the
Cromwellian plantation following it, and the Penal Laws of the 18th
succeeded in making paupers of the previously affluent members of the
The O’Kellys of Breagh
O’Kellys of Breagh claimed an ancient
heritage. The Annals of
Clonmacnois reported that this family was descended from Ciolla-da-Chrioch, a prince of the royal
House of Heremon in the 4th century.
They controlled a large part of Meath (later the Meath and
counties) which stretched from the north of Dublin to the borders of
Cromwell’s arrival spelled trouble
for these O’Kellys, as it did for other Gaelic septs.
They lost their ancient lands and, under the
English penal laws, were prohibited as Catholics from the ownership of
land, livestock, or even a horse of any value.
this once mighty clan emerged the so-called O’Kellys O’The
Woods. These O’Kellys settled
in woods where they were not easily seen, cleared land for crops
houses out of the wood, well hidden from view from any road. They raised cattle along the grassy borders
of the woods and then herded their livestock to the fair where they
By keeping a low profile they avoided undo British suspicion.
the uprising of 1798, however, many of
these O’Kellys were hanged, apparently without much due cause, by the
Kelly House in Devon
House, located in the village of Kelly on the
Devon/Cornwall border, is reputed to have been the property of the
since approximately 1100. Parts of the original medieval manor house
hall are still standing, although they are obscured from view as this
the house was significantly remodelled in Tudor and Georgian times.
Today, Kelly House continues to be inhabited
by members of the Kelly family.
Manx Kellys at
McKelly was recorded as a tenant at Ballabrew in
Braddanin the Isle of Man as early as 1511.
The spelling soon became Kelly and various Kellys were reported
farmers there in the next century. John
Kelly owned Ballabrew for over 60 years until his death in 1723. Thefamily land ownership extended to Lonan in
1761 when a later John Kelly married the heiress Isabel Brew. The Ballabrew lands left the family when they
were sold by William Kelly in 1834.
1843 John Kelly of this family joined
the Mormon Church, sold his farm the next year, and left with his wife
for America where he now has numerous descendants.
The O’Kelleys in America
forebear of one
O’Kelley line in America is believed to have been an Irish Protestant
William Kelly who came to Virginia in 1746 and shortly afterwards
Elizabeth Dean from the Tidewater area.
son Thomas O’Kelley appeared as Thomas Killey in the 1771 militia tolls
Granville county, North Carolina. After
the War he and his descendants moved to Georgia and Arkansas. His brother Charles died in Virginia. But Charles’s descendants also ended up in
Arkansas. William O’Kelley was one of the
original founders of the First Christian Church in Fayetteville,
Arkansas. There were also five other
who were to be found at various points in the South.
Sculler and Businessman
Kelly (christened John) was one of 10 children
born to John Henry Kelly, an Irish immigrant from county Mayo who had
the United States in 1869.
In 1908 Jack
began bricklaying in Philadelphia and he also learned to row on the
Schuykill river. By 1916 Kelly was a
national champion and the
best sculler in the United States.
Between then and his competitive retirement in 1924 he won every
sculling title available to him, including the World Championship in
singles and doubles, the Olympics in singles and doubles, and many
titles in both boats. He was probably
the best sculler America ever produced.
addition to his sculling, he started
a brickwork contracting company in Philadelphia which was to make him a
fortune. A self-promoter, Kelly coined
the slogan, “Kelly for Brickwork,” which was often seen at local
fathered two very famous children – John Kelly Jr,
another Olympic rower who became President of the U.S. Olympic
Grace Kelly, the American movie star who became Princess Grace of
erected a prominent statue of Jack Kelly near the finish
line of the Schuyler river course that Kelly had rowed.
It is located just off of the scenic Kelly Drive which was named
for Kelly’s son Jack Jr. Every year, US Rowing bestows
the Jack Kelly Award
on an individual who represents the ideals that Jack Kelly exemplified,
including superior achievement in rowing, service to amateur athletics
success in their chosen profession.
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