Hickey Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Hickey Meaning
Irish surname Hickey is an anglicization of the Gaelic O’hlcidhe from the word iceadh, meaning “healer.” The
name was the result of the Hickey clan’s position as hereditary
physicians to the O’Briens. The Hickey name is sometimes spelt

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Hickey Ancestry

The O’Hickeys
claim an ancient heritage
. They emerged first as a
clan in county Clare. They were court physicians to the powerful
O’Brien royal family of
Thomond, practicing what today might be called folk medicine.
They were known for their medical knowledge
and for their surgery, skills that were passed down from father to son.

“By tradition, the O’Hickeys were noted
for brain surgery, especially the art of trepanning with silver plates
the skull fractures and other head injuries sustained in battle.”

The O’Hickeys held the clan lands of Drim,
Ballyhickey, and other townlands in the vicinity of Quin in county
Clare. By the 14th century they had also branched out into
northern Tipperary and Limerick. They were generally known more
as being scholarly than for any warrior tendencies.

The English incursion threatened them as it did other Irish
landowners. The O’Hickey’s reputation as physicians saved them in
1602. But Cromwell’s confiscations in 1654 saw their lands at
Drim and Ballyhickey being taken.

William Hickie was able to re-establish one branch of the family at
Kilelton in county Kerry, where they remained for the next two hundred
years. The death of a later William Hickie was recorded as

“On September 23, 1847 at Killelton
House in county Kerry died William Hickie, aged 80 years. He was
one of the oldest Catholic magistrates of that county, having got a
commission of the peace on the first year that Catholics were eligible.”

The Ennis Hickeys, many of whom served in India during the 18th
century, also came from the Hickeys of Drim. Notable among the
family were two sons of a Dublin confectioner, John and Thomas Hickey,
who made their marks as a sculptor and as a portrait painter.

Not all Hickeys were well-off and many emigrated when times fot
hard. Today the Hickey name is common throughout Ireland but
strongest in Clare, Tipperary, and Limerick.

England. The Hickey name
is well-known in the prosperous London suburbs of Richmond and
Twickenham. Joseph Hickey was a lawyer who arrived from Ireland and
made a name for himself in London. He and his family moved to a
new house in Twickenham in 1757. His seventh child William Hickey
was a young tearaway who spent long years in India and lived to write
his Memoirs. Meanwhile,
the Hickey name is remembered in Richmond by the Hickey almshouses on
Sheen Road which the family had endowed.

Some Hickeys came to America in the 18th century,
such as the John Hickey who came to Virginia and his son Cornelius Hickey
who settled in Tennessee. The most famous (or infamous) of these
Hickeys was the Thomas Hickey who was a guard to George
Washington. In 1776 he was implicated in a plot to assassinate
the General, was tried by court martial, and promptly executed.

Larger Hickey numbers arrived in the 19th century. James Hickey
from Cork was a prominent saloon keeper in Boston. His daughter
Mary married into the Kennedy clan. Maurice and Thomas
Hickey came from Lough Gur in Limerick in the 1850’s to Chicago and
worked there as laborers.

And some Hickeys ventured further afield. Morris and Ann Hickey
came to Hudson, Wisconsin in the 1840’s to farm. James and
Hickey (later joined by James’s father Michael Hickey) were pioneers in
NE Iowa, arriving in Palo Alto county in 1856
and raising eleven children there. James died at his home in 1914
at the ripe old age of eighty seven.

Canada. The 1820’s and
1830’s saw an influx of Hickeys into Canada. Some appeared on the
McCabe List of 1829. Others came to Quebec or were to be found in
Fitzroy township just outside Ottawa. Denis and Ellen Hickey had
arrived in Quebec in 1832 and then settled in Raleigh township in Kent
county, Ontario.

Australia. Hickeys came
first as convicts and later as free settlers. Among these
arrivals were:

  • Patrick Hickey from Tipperary,
    who was transported for life in 1828. His large family came out
    with him
    to Australia. Daughter Ann married a sheep farmer Charles
    Walker in Braidwood, NSW who looked after the family. Patrick
    himself was released in 1844 and lived onto 1858.
  • another Patrick Hickey, this time from Wicklow, who came to South
    Australia on the Lord Raglan in
    1854. He worked as a laborer in Port Adelaide.
  • and Denis and Catherine Hickey
    from Cork, who arrived in Queensland on the Hannah More n 1865. Denis
    worked as a laborer in Queensland for several years before they bought
    land and moved to Coonabarabran, NSW. Denis lived onto



Hickey Miscellany

Hickey Pre-History.  In the genealogical article The
by Lt. Col. J. Hickey, it was stated that the Hickeys
were descended from Cormac Colchin, second son of Cathan Fionn 14th
King of Munster who was said to have converted to Christianity around
420 AD, having been personally baptized by St. Patrick.

His great grandson Aodh Caomh 17th King of Cashel and Munster was
recorded as having built the first Christian church in Ireland, in
Killaloe in county Clare.  And the home of the O’Hickeys, before
the invasion of the Anglo-Normans at the end of the 12th century, was near Killaloe in Clare.

The O’Hickeys of Drim.  From their position as hereditary physicians, the
O’Hickeys held clan lands at Drim and other townlands in the vicinity
of Quin in county Clare.  These were, however, lost in the
Cromwellian confiscations of 1654.  A decade later, many O’Hickeys
are shown to have been driven away to other places in Clare or across
the Shannon.  Loughlin O’Hickey later made a successful petition
to reclaim the lands and a major portion of the property remained with
his descendants until 1803.

Drim House gave refuge to the last friar of Quin Abbey,
the Rev. Father Hogan, who died in 1819.  He was buried in the
precincts of the Abbey, as were, for many generations, the O’Hickeys of
Drim.  The last of the line at Drim was Patrick Hickey who died
there in 1909. 

The Hickeys by Lough Gur.  Thomas and Ellen Hickey and their family lived in a small
stone house with a thatched roof by Lough Gur, the Enchanted Lake, in
Knockainy parish, Limerick.  Lough Gur is a flat, silvery lake,
four miles in circumference, which has two beautiful islands and the
ruins of a castle nearby.

The lake was called enchanted because it had its own
legends.  Gerald the Rhymer, the Earl of Desmond, who disappeared
in 1398 is said to sleep beneath its waters.  Every seventh year
he emerges to ride the moonlit ripples of the lake, on a horse with
silver shoes.  And there were also many local beliefs and
superstitions, usually associated with holidays (May-Eve was supposedly
a night when the evil powers were at their most powerful).

This was the tale that Tom Hickey, Thomas and Ellen’s son,

“‘Tis not the Good People I’d be
in dread of in the dark of night, but to hear the cry of the Ould
Kings. There’s them that thinks they’ll be on the move once more.

The last time was in 1848.
My father was on the top of Knockfennel tending the Bel-fire with a
score of the neighbors when the cry of the Ould Kings struck upon
them.  It came rolling like thunder over the mountains from south
to north, from east to west it rolled, from sea to sea!

And the ground heaved and broke;
and rising from the clay came the army of the dead.  Ould warriors
were there with their ould war-horses; foot soldiers and trumpeteers
and drummers and all, waiting for the word of command!  Up the
Shannon it came, along the rally and over Lough Gur, loud as Judgement
Day, so everyone, living and dead, must hear the cry of the Ould
Kings.  Then the army gave an answering shout, clashing their
shields and rattling their swords and letting out the ould war-cries of
the people.”

William Hickey as a Young Boy.  William Hickey’s powers of observation were with him from
a young age.  This was his description of a neighbor, Thomas
Hudson, at their home in Twickenham:

“His figure was rather grotesque, being uncommonly low in
stature with a prodigious belly and constantly wearing a large white
bushy periwig.  He was remarkably good tempered and one of my
first-rate favorites, notwithstanding that he often told me that I
should certainly be hanged.”

Hudson’s irascibility came about because William would
frequently play tricks on him.   One one occasion he kicked
the stick away from under him while Hudson was talking to his
father.  Down went poor Hudson on his fat paunch.  William
took to his heels and only escaped severe punishment because Hudson in
his fury had flung a heavy stick at him, missing him narrowly.

Some time later William borrowed a canoe from another
neighbor, a Mr. Hindley.  He then simulated drowning from the
canoe which caused short-term consternation.

William Hickey was sent away to India by his father at
the age of nineteen.

Cornelius Hickey’s Family Bible.  Cornelius Hickey had moved to Knox county, Tennessee in 1800 and his
family Bible was published in Philadelphia in 1814.  These were
the early birth records recorded in Cornelius’s handwriting:

Name Date
Cornelius Hickey  1772  October 15
Judy Hickey  1774  October 28
Jane Hickey  1796  May 10
Patsy Hickey  1798  September 8
George Hickey  1800  August 23
Sarah Hickey  1802  September 23
Baker Hickey  1804  November 20
James Hickey  1806  November 20
John Hickey  1809  July 10
Mary Hickey  1811  May 11
Nancy Hickey  1813  December 15
Amanda Hickey  1819  October 13

Michael Hickey’s Death in Iowa.  Folklore has it that Michael arrived in Iowa driving a mixed team of an
oxen and a horse pulling a wagon, possibly through Iowa City.  He
died in 1867 and was buried at Great Oak on the banks of the Des
Moines, along with two of his grandchildren.

At his death old Michael would have been 79 years old.
There was no priest yet resident in Palo Alto county.  Probably
his son James, who was familiar with funeral services, conducted a
brief burial service.  His wife Margaret was known to “lay-out the
dead” and that honor no doubt went to her.  A simple Irish wake
followed in the Hickey log cabin.

A team of horses and wagon provided for the short route to
the ancient Indian burial hill, only a couple of hundred feet to the
south of the Hickey Great Oak cabin.  Many of the healthy pioneer
members of the Irish “patch” attended the simple ceremony.
Margaret, known as “the good woman” by the local itinerant Sioux
Indians for her handouts, would have provided a lunch and refreshments
in her humble log cabin for the mourners.

James Hickey and Saddam Hussein’s Capture.  Colonel James Hickey of the US Army had been
educated at the Virginia Military Institute and John Hopkins
University.  Fluent in Russian, French and German, his
cnnunication skills helped him to work with local leaders in
Iraq.  His area of control lay within Salah El Din province which
included Saddam’s ancestral homeland of Tikrit.  During his tour
of duty there the provincial governor of Salal El Din gave Hickey an
Arabian falcon as a sign of respect.

It was he who led the dramatic raid on the farm near Tikrit which led
to Saddam’s capture.  Images of him congratulating his troops and
celebrating moments after the arrest were broadcast around the
world.  He was a reluctant media hero.  But he returned to a
“hero’s welcome” in his home town of Chicago.


Select Hickey Names

  • Nicholas O’Hickey was a transcriber of Greek medical tracts in the early 15th century. A portion of
    his manuscript has been preserved and is in the British Museum.
  • Thomas Hickey
    was a noted 18th century Irish portrait painter.
  • William Hickey wrote his Memoirs in the early 19th
    century.  They give a very vivid picture of life in late 18th century London, Calcutta, Madras, and Jamaica where he was posted. The Daily Express named their gossip
    column after him in 1933.

Select Hickey Numbers Today

  • 8,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Kent)
  • 10,000 in America (most numerous
    in New York)
  • 21,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland).


Select Hickey 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.

Munster in SW Ireland covers the counties of Clare, Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary, and Waterford.  Here are some of the Munster surnames that you can check out.



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