Select Dorsey Miscellany

Here are some Dorsey/Darcy stories and accounts over the years:


O’Dorchaidhe/Darcy Origins in Connacht

Edward MacLysaght in his 1957 book Irish Families said of the O’Dorchaidhe sept:

“There is no justification for the Darcys of Munster and Connacht (with very few exceptions) using the form D’Arcy, because they were of native Irish stock and their name is a corruption of the Gaelic O’Dorchaidhe which was first anglicized as O’Dorcey.

There were two minor septs so called: one in county Mayo was located around Partry near Lough Mask; the other in east
Galway was a branch of the Ui Maine.  In the Annals of Loch Ce the name MacDarcy appeared as that of a county Leitrim chieftain in the years 1384 and 1403.

O’Donovan in his notes to Annals of the Four Masters under the date 1310 placed the MacDarcy sept in the parish of Oughteragh in county Leitrim.  This source alone suggested three possible origins of the Dorsey surname in Ireland – one in Galway, one in Mayo and one in Leitrim, all in the province of Connacht – though no one can say if they share unrecorded origins further back in time.“ 

The most prominent of these Darcys were the Darcys in Galway who formed one of the “fourteen tribes of Galway.”  DNA analysis has shown that these Darcys were not related to the Anglo-Norman Darcy family based in Meath.  Nor does the DNA connect to the Irish modal haplotype which goes all the way back to Niall of the Nine Hostages.

The Irish genealogist MacFerbis maintained that James Riabhach Darcy of Galway was descended from Walter Riabbach O’Dorchaidhe, the first man of the family who came to Galway. However, DNA analysis suggests that his origin might instead have been from a branch of the Ui Maine that was found in east Galway.


Thomas Darcy of Temple Hurst and His Downfall

The Darcys had held their estate at Temple Hurst near Selby in Yorkshire since the mid-14th century.  Born in 1467, Thomas Darcy rose to prominence during the reign of Henry VII, mainly because of his military prowess.  He was knighted in 1489 and was later
appointed Warden of the Marches along the border with Scotland.  He remained active on the border with Scotland during the early years of Henry VIII.

However, as the King’s rift with the Catholic church widened and he embarked upon a policy of dissolving the monasteries, Darcy began to turn against him and become a rebel.  The dissolution policy had been particularly unpopular in Yorkshire .  A rebellion broke out  there in 1536, which became known as the Pilgrimage of Grace.

Darcy, who held Pontefract castle against the rebels, was caught in a bind.  He secretly sympathized with the rebels, but was required to hold the castle for the King.  In the end Darcy, on the pretense that his supplies were running out, yielded up the castle.

Initially the King seemed to have accepted Darcy’s explanation.   But in early 1537 Darcy was arrested, brought to London and lodged at the Tower of London, as were several of the leaders of the northern uprising.  Darcy was convicted of conspiring with these rebels and he was beheaded for treason on Tower Hill on June 30, 1537.


The Ancestry of William Knox D’Arcy

Around 1660 John D’Arcy, a grandson of James Riveagh D’Arcy, settled at Gorteen, a rural boggy townland west of Charlestown in northeast county Mayo.

Three generations later, Francis D’Arcy of this branch married Lucy Knox, daughter of William Knox of Cartron Rath in Roscommon.   Francis and Lucy were the great-grandparents of William Knox D’Arcy, who was born in Newton Abbot in England and grew up in Australia.  He was the man who discovered oil in Persia in 1908.


Darcys and Dorseys in America

Passenger information on ship arrivals in America show that most arrived as Darcy:

Numbers from – Darcy Dorsey
Ireland    518    128
England    181     67
Elsewhere     25      3
Total    724    200

But they generally changed their name in America to Dorsey. Dorsey outnumbers Darcy in America today by seven to one.


Samuel and Sarah Dorsey

Samuel Worthington Dorsey was forty two when he married the young Sarah Ellis in Mississippi in 1852.  Born into a distinguished Maryland jurist family, Dorsey had been a struggling Vicksburg attorney before he became the manager of the Dorsey plantation in Tensas parish, Louisiana.  He was no intellectual; instead a man of business, popular with his hunting and fishing neighbors.

Sarah Ellis, by contrast, was just twenty four at the time of her marriage.Her father Thomas was a member of an aristocratic southern Percy family who were not only wealthy planters but also contributed notable politicians, lawyers and writers in the South.  Sarah inherited much of that sparkle. But in the South of that era, she could scarcely have found a male with comparable talents to her own.Even so, her family was disappointed at her choice of husband.

In the years before the Civil War Samuel prospered as a plantation owner and had large land holdings.He was a Louisiana state senator for many years and a member of the State Convention that passed the ordinance of secession in 1861.Both he and his wife upheld the institution of slavery, although Sarah did devote much of her time and energy to the condition and education of the slaves at their plantation.

After the war Samuel lost his plantation and much of his land holdings.Grant’s Mississippi campaign had swept through the Dorsey lands and he and his wife were forced to leave for western Louisiana and later Texas, living often in tents. Samuel died in 1875.

Sarah blossomed as a writer at this time.Her first novel Agnes Graham derived much from her war experiences.Her later novels would provide a romanticized view of the antebellum South.After her husband died she befriended Jefferson Davis,the former Confederate leader, who had fallen on hard times.Their relationship developed into something of a scandal. Sarah herself died in 1878 and she  bequeathed her property to Jefferson Davis.


Les Darcy, Australia’s Greatest Boxer

Generally regarded as Australia’s best ever boxer, Les Darcy was one of the finest middleweights ever to grace the sport.  The Maitland Wonder contested all of his fifty pro fights Down Under. Although he never fought outside of his homeland, this was not for the want of trying.

He left school at the age of 12 and worked hard to help support his parents and nine siblings.  He became apprenticed to a blacksmith. But it was in the boxing ring that Darcy made his name and his fortune.

His first fight was in 1910 in an illegal boxing match.  Darcy won fifteen shillings and attracted the attention of several promoters. In 1915 he moved to Sydney to focus on his boxing career. A few early losses under contentious circumstances did nothing to harm his reputation and, in 1915-16, he won 22 consecutive fights and earned enough money to pay out his apprenticeship and buy his parents a house. Darcy became a national hero.

The precocious Aussie’s emergence coincided with that of World War One.  With his family to provide for, Darcy naively decided to evade his country’s military draft in order to secure lucrative bouts in the USA.  However, fights for Les were not forthcoming as promoters there looked disapprovingly upon his failure to enlist in the Australian army.

He never held the official world middleweight title (only the Australian version), but he was widely considered as the best in the division from around 1915-1916, with his innovative boxing style being well ahead of its time.

After suffering from blood poisoning and subsequently developing pneumonia, he died in the USA in 1917.  Australia mourned the loss of a native hero, who remains a national sporting icon to this day. A locket containing his photograph and a lock of his hair, the possession of Winnie O’Sullivan his first love, is now with the National Museum of Australia.


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