Brophy Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Brophy Meaning
The Brophy
name was derived from the Irish Ui
or O’Broithe sept of
uncertain meaning. The ancestral seat of
this family was Ballybrophy in present-day Laois in the Irish midlands

Brophy Resources on

Brophy Ancestry

Brophy sept had its roots in the ancient kingdom
of Osraige in Leinster. In the Brophy early history, this
sept were
driven north by the Anglo-Norman invasion in the late 12th century from
Kilkenny to the territory of Upper Ossory in present-day Laois. They made their family seat at
Ballybrophy. The territory was held by
the Fitzpatricks who had ingratiated themselves with the English during
16th century but then had their lands forfeited after the Jacobite
defeat in

Griffith’s mid-19th century Valuation of Ireland, the
two leading counties of Brophy households
were Kilkenny and Laois. Significant
numbers also existed in Dublin and Tipperary.

One Brophy family traces itself
back to the Roscrea area in Tipperary around the time of the Great
Famine. Some of these Brophys departed for
England or
America. Catherine Brophy was a young
orphan girl who was sent to Australia in 1856.
Dublin descendants have included the Brophy Brothers Ceili Band.

England. John Brophy came to Liverpool from Ireland
with his wife Agnes sometime in the 1890’s.
He worked on the docks and was later an earthenware dealer. His son John escaped his dull adolescence in
that city in 1914.

the age of fourteen (lying about his age), he managed to
join the British army at the outbreak of war.
His lie was never detected and he went on to serve four years in
infantry. In 1919 he was just eighteen
when he was demobilized and walked out with a limp brought about by

He became a writer. He was the
author of some forty books, many of which were based on his experiences
the war. His daughter Brigid Brophy was
an even more well-known writer and social critic.

William Brophy, a plasterer, and his wife
Mary from Tipperary came to England in 1887 and eventually settled in
Liverpool. Their son Francis Brophy enlisted in the
War, but did not survive it.

Brophy arrivals in America
during the 19th century included:

  • Michael
    Brophy from Carlow who arrived in New
    York on the Dublin Packet in 1816.
  • James
    Brophy from Kilkenny who came on the Caledonia
    in 1843 and made his home in Wilmington, Delaware
  • Thomas
    Brophy from Dublin who
    arrived a year later and worked for the New York Central Railroad
    Company for
    close on fifty years.
  • Mathew
    Brophy who arrived from Ireland on the Albert Gallatin
    in 1850 and settled in
    Davenport, Iowa
  • Patrick
    Brophy from Carlow who came in 1877 and moved out to
    Butte, Montana four years later. There
    he started a successful wholesale and retail grocery business.
  • James
    Brophy from
    Laios who came to Iowa in 1883 before later moving to Colorado where he
    his home in Yuma county.
  • and,
    the best known, John Brophy from a family of
    miners in Lancashire, who came with his family as a young boy to the
    Pennsylvania coal mines in 1892. He
    started work there at the age of eleven and rose through the union
    ranks to run
    as President of the United Mine Workers of America by 1926.

Arizona. Michael Brophy from Kilkenny had taken part
in the Irish uprising of 1798 and been executed by the British. His descendants, however, ventured into the
American southwest. The first record of
them there was in 1851 when Francis Brophy, who had enlisted in the US
Army in
Mexico, died at Cebolleta in New Mexico.
Other Brophys followed from the 1860’s onward.
Hank Brophy was a member of the John Kinney
cattle rustling gang in southern New Mexico in the 1870’s.

William Brophy
arrived in Arizona in 1881 and joined his brother James at a ranch in
Sulfur Springs Valley. He was later
successfully involved in a number of mining and banking ventures in
before departing for France in 1917 to serve with the Red Cross during
War One. After his death in 1922 his
widow Ellen founded Brophy College Preparatory, a Jesuit
high school, in Phoenix.

William’s son Frank was a banker and rancher who
acquired in 1935 the Babacomari

in southern Arizona where he bred and trained racehorses and raised

Canada. Brophy is a well-known name in
Maritime provinces of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.
William Brophy was a local Newfoundland Assembly
politician in the 1920’s. Brophy
and Brophy Place in
St. John’s were named in
his honor. More recently, Father Ed
Brophy from St. John’s has become known for his short-story writing.

earlier, around 1818, there were Brophys attached to the Newfoundland
Regiment. Thomas Brophy later moved to
Halifax, Nova Scotia. John Brophy, the well-known
ice hockey
coach, was born in Halifax in 1933.

Australia and New
Zealand. Some
early Brophys were
forcibly transported to Australia:

  • William
    was convicted for pig stealing
    in Limerick in 1828 and transported to Australia on the Governor
    the following year. He received
    his certificate of pardon in 1835, but died in
    Sydney in
  • while
    Hugh Brophy, a leading Fenian agitator in Dublin, was transported
    for political reasons to Western Australia in 1868, the last year for
    shipment. Brophy was pardoned the
    following year. But he never returned to
    Ireland and died in Melbourne in 1919 at the grand age of 90 years.

about the gold boom, Kyran Brophy left the
family farm in Laois and departed for Melbourne on the Constantine
in 1859. He was unsuccessful at the Ballarat
goldfields, but more successful two years later at the Otago goldfields
in New
Zealand where his party cleared £800 per man in twelve months. He settled to farm in Pleasant Valley, South

Daniel Brophy
Kilkenny also made it to the Ballarat goldfields, in his case in 1855,
and he
stayed. He turned out to be a shrewd
investor in local mining ventures and soon prospered.
As a sincere Catholic and Irish nationalist,
Brophy won high repute among his fellow Catholics.
In 1868 he played a leading part in raising a
fund to relieve the Irish political prisoners sent to Western Australia


Select Brophy Miscellany

Brophy Early History.  The
Annals of the Four Masters

recorded the death of Gilla Molua O’Brophy of Rath
Tamnaighe in Kilkenny
in 1069; while The
Annals of Ulster
noted that Connor O’Brophy, King of Ceann
Chaille, was
slain by the O’Moore’s in 1165.

Giolla na Naomh O’hUidhrin wrote
in the 14th century that the earliest ancestor
of the Brophys was Sedna, the great-grandson of the semi-legendary
pre-Christian founder of the Kingdom of Ossory.
Their territory comprised the level portion of the barony of
Galmoy in
the county of Kilkenny.  They were driven
from the plain of Magh Sedna into Upper Ossory after the Norman
of Ireland.  Their chief settled at
Ballybrophy near Borris-in-Ossory in county Laois.

William O’Brothe was
appointed the prior of the Augustinian monastery of St. Tigernacius of
Aghamacart in Upper Ossory in 1481. William
is likely to have been the illegitimate son of Philip O’Brothe, abbot of Kilcooly Abbey in Tipperary,
whom Pope
Pius II had legitimized and instructed to be taken on as a monk at the
after his father’s death.

When Florence Fitzpatrick, 3rd Baron Upper Ossory, the
son of the last person to have claim to the kingship of Osraige, was
by Queen Elizabeth in
1601, his
kinsmen, the Brophys and other “old tribesman of Upper Ossory,” were
also mentioned in the pardon.

Francis Brophy in the Great War.  During a trench raiding party on November 9, 1916, Francis Brophy received
gunshot wounds to the abdomen and died the
same day.   A report on his death
appeared in the Liverpool Evening Express on
December 19.

“Sergeant Francis William Brophy, K.L.R. Signallers, aged 25 of 9 Carver Street, Liverpool, has been killed in action.
Previous to the war he had been employed at Messrs. Nicholls,
glass bevellers on Seel Street.   He had been a
member of the 8th Territorials for a period of eight years.After
the outbreak of hostilities he joined up and during the two years he was in France
he rose
from the rank of private to sergeant.
Three days before his death he gained the Military Medal for
service in
the field.  He was a member of St.Francis
Xavier’s School and Boys Brigade.  He
leaves a widow and child.” 

Daniel Brophy’s Early Life.  Daniel Brophy was born in 1832 at Castlecomer, county
Kilkenny, the youngest son of William Brophy, farmer, and his wife
Margaret. In
the Irish rebellion of 1798 the family estates had been confiscated.  His father escaped to Newfoundland but
returned after fourteen years and regained some of his property.

Daniel was
educated in local schools including one run by Quakers. At 15 he went
with his
family to Quebec in a migrant ship whose passengers were decimated by
fever.  His mother died on the voyage and
his father soon after landing.  Daniel found work in a shipyard
but did
not like
it and entered a grocery warehouse.

Attracted by the Victorian gold discoveries,
he arrived at Melbourne in 1853.  With
four Irish friends he set off for Bendigo on foot.
The party was credited with the first
discovery of payable gold at Taradale.
But by 1855 they had moved to Ballarat.
There Brophy proved himself a shrewd investor in many successful mining ventures.

Frank Brophy and the Babacomari Ranch.  When Frank Brophy acquired the
Babacomari ranch in southern Arizona in 1935, he became the third owner
of this historic ranch since the King of Spain, four hundred years earlier.

The Upper
Pimas and their ancestors had lived there from prehistoric days until
marauding Apaches drove them into the interior during the 18th century.
the Elias family took possession and built the old fort-like hacienda
1833.  They too had to contend with the
dread Apaches and in time were forced to withdraw into safer territory.  After the Americans established themselves in
Arizona, Dr. Perrin and his brother arrived on the scene.
But it took a legal battle that lasted for
more than a quarter century before he was assured of its ownership.

In 1935,
when the Brophys took over, some fifty years of uncontrolled open range
operation in the area had led to serious overgrazing.
As the grass disappeared and the water holes
dried up, cattle died in the severe drought in such numbers that one
described the skeletons and carcasses extending over miles of country.

For decades a quiet war was waged against this erosion of the land.  Dikes and furrows were placed like companies
of soldiers to stop or divert the attacking waters after the summer downpour
sets in.  New grass varieties were seeded
year after year.  Gullies were plugged
and arroyos dammed.  Seeps were turned
into water holes.  New wells were dug and
drainage basins changed from millraces into ponds.

After years of conservation
warfare, peace came again to San Ignacio del Babacomari.
Frank Brophy
was able to breed and train race horses
there and raise Hereford cattle.

Reader Feedback – William Brophy from Limerick to Australia.  The William Brophy you mention was my great great great grandfather.  Research has shown that his original surname was
Broggy and that he was tried in Limerick.  I’ve
been trying to trace his origins by following back a Broggy family who have
lived around Derrymore, Clare for many years.  I’ve
traced them back to a Daniel Broggy and
Bridget Finucane.  Daniel was married
prior to 1832 and could have kinown William.

Addendum: William Brophy
was tried in 1828 and arrived in Australia aboard the Governor Ready and
died in 1844.  Further research has
produced new information.

Around 1840 there were at least two William Brophys in
Sydney.  The death record of William
Brophy dying in 1844 and said to have arrived on the Governor Ready was
in fact a William Brophy who had arrived on the ship Larkins 2. He was
involved in a fight in Sydney and seriously injured and taken to

The Superintendent wrote a letter asking who was going to pay for his treatment.  He
had obviously tried to connect how he arrived in the colony and on the correspondence recorded that he had arrived on the Governor Ready.
When William Brophy died from the wounds it would appear that he has used that
information to record his death certificate.  There was no William Brophy on
board the Governor Ready but a William Broggy.

I thought this death
record in 1844 had provided me with the answer why my forebear Mary
White, who
had been in a de-facto relationship with a William Brophy, had
remarried in
1846 to a John Callinan in Maitland.

But Trove has now produced articles
which show that Mary White and William Brophy were still in a de-facto
in 1845 in Sydney, as there was a court case in which they were
having had a house invasion.  I believe this William Brophy was a constable in
Sydney around 1837-38.  But I can’t find
what happened to him.

So Mary White
remarried in 1846.  She was married in her maiden name.  Mary
had two
children to William Brophy and then three children to John
Callinan.  I have followed their story right through.

Merv Webster (

John Brophy, Hockey Coach.  John Brophy
is widely regarded as the inspiration for Paul Newman’s character Reg Dunlop in
the popular 1977 film Slap Shot.

Born in 1933 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, he fought, clawed, brawled, stick
fought, and
bled with the toughest of his era in minor league hockey.
In the almost twenty years that he played, he
was suspended or fined more than seven times for physically and verbally
abusing referees both as a player and as a coach.  He
incited bench-clearing brawls, was
arrested for assault and fought security guards.  When
asked about assaulting officials, Brophy
responded by saying that the incident was “nothing, just a load of bull.”

Brophy launched his lengthy coaching career initially with Long Island Ducks in
1967.   He will be remembered for guiding
the Hampton Roads Admirals to three league championships and transforming the
franchise into one of the most successful teams in the history of the East
Coast Hockey League.

In 1984 Brophy joined the ranks of the National Hockey
League as an assistant coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs and succeeded Dan
Maloney as head coach in 1986.  He guided
the Maple Leafs to two playoff berths in 1987 and 1988.
When is career was done he ranked second only to Scotty Bowman in his victories as a
ice hockey coach.


Select Brophy Names

  • William O’Brothe was appointed Prior of the Augustinian monastery of Aghamacart in Ireland in 1481. 
  • John Brophy was a leading American trade unionist, first
    with the United Mine Workers of America in the 1920’s and then with the CIO
    the 1930’s and 1940’s. 
  • John Brophy was a well-known Canadian
    ice hockey player and coach, supposedly the inspiration for the Paul
    Newman ice
    hockey movie Slap Shot in 1977. 
  • Brigid Brophy was a 20th century British novelist, critic and campaigner for social reforms.

Select Brophy Numbers Today

  • 2,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 3,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 6,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)


Select Brophy and Like Surnames 

The Irish clan or sept names come through the mists of time until they were found in Irish records such as The Annals of the Four Masters.  The names were Gaelic and this Gaelic order was preserved until it was battered down by the English in the 1600’s.

Some made peace with the English.  “Wild geese” fled to fight abroad.  But most stayed and suffered, losing land and even the use of their language.  Irish names became anglicized, although sometimes in a mishmash of spellings.  Mass emigration happened after the potato famine of the 1840’s.

Some surnames – such as Kelly, Murphy and O’Connor – span all parts of Ireland.  But most will have a territorial focus in one of the four Irish provinces – Leinster, Munster, Ulster, and Connacht.

Leinster in SE Ireland covers the counties of Carlow, Dublin, Kilkenny, Offaly, Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, West Meath, Wexford, and Wicklow.  Here are some of the Leinster surnames that you can check out.




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