Hickey Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Hickey Surname Meaning

The 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 Hickie.

Hickey Surname Resources on The Internet

Hickey Surname Ancestry

  • from Ireland (Clare)
  • to England, America, Canada and Australia

Ireland.  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 follows:  “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 got hard. Today the Hickey name is common throughout Ireland but remains strongest in Clare, Tipperary, and Limerick.  Hickey’s Pharmacy was started in Dublin by Paddy Hickey in 1995 and is now found all over Ireland.

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.

America. 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 Margaret 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 1925.

Hickey Surname Miscellany

Hickey Pre-History.  In the genealogical article The O’Hickeys 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, about 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, recounted:

“‘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.”

Reader Feedback – Hickey and Hickie.  I wonder at what stage Hickey became Hickie. My records handed down shows Thomas Hickie as being mentioned spelt this way and not with “ey.”  I have been to Ireland and met another David Hickie at county Clare who is related to me.  Where is the crossover and why? I would appreciate some comments from the Hickey contingent.

David Michael Hickie (david@securece.net)

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.

Reader Feedback – Hickeys in Wisconsin.  I am a descendant of James and Mary Hickey who immigrated to Menasha, Wisconsin.

James and Mary had six children – Leo, Vincent, Morris, Eugene, Joan, Geneveive (Sis) and Rita. Their son Leo and Statia Hickey also had six children – Patricia, Bernard, Joseph (deceased at birth), Robert, Kathleen, and Maureen.

I am descended from Bernard.  I have heard many stories of our lineage.

Mary Fischer (maryj4567@aol.com).

Reader Feedback – Hickeys in Arkansas.  My grandfather John Hickey was an Arkansas sharecropper. His family consisted of his wife Nettie, one girl and six sons and they lived in England, Arkansas.

I remember many of my Hickey cousins, but since my cousins were much older than I was, I never got to know them.  I would love to find them.  But I only know a few and those who are female have likely changed their names via marriage – Nettie, James (Jimmy) and David.  Their father was Fred Hickey, married to Fanny, a war bride from Germany.  These cousins grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas.  One of them owned a burger and ice cream business on Asher Avenue.

Jan Meins-Grey (meins3@gmail.com).

Reader Feedback – Hickey to Nova Scotia.  My grandfather Thomas Hickey came to Nova Scotia in the late 1800’s.  He was from county Cork and studied engineering in London.  He worked for CN Rail until retirement.

Roberta Niemann (roberta11@telus.net).

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 cnnunciation 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.

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.

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).

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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Written by Colin Shelley

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