Larkin Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Larkin Meaning
There are two very different origins of the name Larkin, one Irish and
the other English.
Irish Larkin is an anglicization of the Gaelic Lorcan, a personal name meaning
“rough” or “fierce.” The progression to Larkin from
the original Ui Lorcain or O’Lorcain name began after the Norman
invasion. Under the English influence the O was discarded to
leave the name Lorcan or Lorkin. By the 18th century the name had
become anglicized to the more common Larkin.
The English version of Larkin is a diminutive of Lawrence, to
which has been added the suffix “kin,” meaning “relative of.” Its
first appearance as a surname was in 1250 in the village of
Chiddingstone in Kent where Theobald and Barthomew Lovekyn paid rents
for Lovekynesgardyn (or what was to become known as Larkins farm).

Resources on

Larkin Ancestry

The O’Lorcain name (followers of Lorcan) was in early times spread
across Ireland. Five distinct groups, for each of the five
provinces of Ireland at that time, had adopted the surname by the 10th
century, namely:

  • the O’Lorcain of Leinster.
    Their base was SE Wexford. They were dispossessed of their
    original lands at the time of the Anglo-Norman invasion but remained in
    Wexford and nearby Kilkenny.
  • the O’Lorcain of Oriel. This sept was based in county
    Armagh and Larkins are still numerous there.
  • the
    O’Lorcain of Ui Maine.
    Their original lands were on
    the borders of Munster, Tipperary and Meath. However, Cromwell’s policy
    of dispersal drove many west to Galway.
  • the O’Lorcain of Meath.
    This has always been a small sept in numerical numbers, due perhaps to
    its proximity to the capital city Dublin.
  • and the O’Lorcain of
    Tipperary. This was an ecclesiastical family in Tipperary.

The O’Lorcain of Ui Maine have been the most numerous. At the
time of Griffith’s Valuation in the 1850’s, more than half the Larkin
population in Ireland belonged or were connected with this sept.
By that time, these Larkins were mainly to be found in Galway.
The Larkins of Meelick date back to the mid 17th century; and there was
also a cluster of Larkins at Ballinastoe, a market town on the main
road between Galway and Dublin.

Larkin emigration from Ireland began in the 18th century and picked up
pace in the second half of the 19th. Among those who left at that time
was Edward Larkin from Roscommon.

“Edward was never going to inherit the
family farm at Shanderry. So at the age of twenty he left for
America. His younger sister Anne never saw him again.
In a letter she wrote in 1912 fifty years later, she recalled the small
bible he had given her as a going away present.”

The English surname “Larkin” and the variant “Larkins” have been mainly
concentrated in the county of Kent. “Larkin” stretched a bit into
east Sussex and “Larkins” into East Anglia. But the numbers in
Kent were larger.

Chiddingstone on the Kent/Surrey border was an early place for Larkin
(Larkins brewery is located there now). But the main sightings
have been further east, along the Medway. The name appeared in
title deeds in Chatham and Gillingham in the late 16th and early 17th
centuries. Charles Larkin from Gillingham was honored by the Larkin
for his stand on parliamentary reform in
1832. And there was a well-known Larkin family among the
stall-holders in Canning Town in the early 1900’s.

However, the
most famous Larkin family in Kent was the one
was completely fictitious, the Larkin family that was created by
the writer
H.E. Bates and made into a TV series as The Darling Buds of May.

Lancashire By
the late 19th century, the largest number of Larkins in England was
to be found in industrial Lancashire. This was undoubtedly due to
the influx of Irish Larkins crossing to England in search of
jobs. But for many Ireland was never far away.

Michael Larkin was one of the Manchester martyrs
hanged in 1867 for seeking
to free the Fenian leader. Big Jim Larkin was born in Liverpool
of Irish parents from Armagh in 1876. He later returned to
Ireland and
threw himself into trade union organizing there.

Edward Larkin was an early settler in Massachusetts Bay colony, with
his name to be found in Charlestown records from 1634. John
Larkin, a tea merchant in Charleston at the time of the American
Revolution, is said to have lent the horse for Paul Revere’s ride. A
later descendant, Thomas Larkin, was one of the founding fathers of the
state of California.

“New England-born Thomas Larkin was
among the first Americans to pursue the California dream. In
1832, as a young man without a formal education, he travelled to
desolate Mexican California in search of his fortune. First as a
merchant in Monterrey, then as the American consul to California, and
later as a land speculator in booming San Francisco, he became an
extremely wealthy man.”

Another Edward Larkin was to be found in Newport, Rhode Island by
1655. A descendant, W.H. Larkin, traced the family history in
1935 in Chronicle of the Larkin
. A more modern undertaking has been Elizabeth
Larkin’s 2004 book Edward Larkin of
Rhode Island.

Clarence Larkin was a noted Biblical scholar and writer of the early
20th century. Genealogically, he came from a long line of Larkins
in eastern Pennsylvania. Some have attributed the line to Quaker
immigrants from England in the 1600’s. Others have said that the
line came to Pennsylvania from Maryland and that a John Larkin,
innkeeper in 1644 in Ann Arundel county, was the progenitor of this

Irish Larkins
However, if you are a Larkin in America, there is a 70/30
chance that
your forebears would have come from Ireland (that is, on the basis of
the country of
origin when they arrived in America). By 1920 the largest
number of Larkins were to be found in New York, Massachusetts, and
Pennsylvania – points of immigration for Irish Larkins in the second
half of the 19th century.

Among those who travelled further afield were:

  • Michael and Mary Larkin from Galway, who arrived in upstate New
    York in the 1850’s and then went onto Rock Island, Illinois.
    Michael was a blacksmith. His son Charles became a prominent
    local builder.
  • William Larkins, also from
    Galway, who came to Boston in the 1850’s. He and his family later
    headed west to San Francisco where William established his
    carriage-building business, Larkins & Co.

Canada. One Larkin family
from Massachusetts were Loyalists who moved to Pubnico, Nova Scotia
after the Revolutionary War. Larkins still live there
today. Later came Larkins from Ireland. John Larkin and his
family arrived in 1825 and were pioneer settlers in the Ottawa area.

Australia and New Zealand.
For many Irish, their first experience of Australia was as a
convict. No fewer than fourteen Larkins from Galway were
transported to that country. Tom Keneally vividly described their
treatment in his book The Great Shame,
an account of Hugh Larkin his great grandfather-in-law.

The Rev. Patrick Larkin from Wexford was an Augustinian priest during
the pioneering days of North Queensland. He drowned in the Gulf
of Carpentaria in 1902. The Rev. James Larkin, another
Augustinian, stayed and built churches there.

William Larkin was an Irish priest who arrived in Queensland in 1862
and then moved onto New Zealand four years later. There he
started up The New Zealand Celt,
where his advocacy of the Irish cause got him into trouble.

“The trouble which arose during his
ministry in New Zealand highlighted the intensity of nationalism among
small groups of Irish colonists. It also revealed the persistence
of prejudice against the Irish among some English migrants.”

Leon Uris’s Redemption is a
fictional account of an Irish revolutionary Conor Larkin who migrates
to New Zealand to pursue the nationalist cause from there.


Larkin Miscellany

The O’Lorcain of Leinster.  Lorcan Mac Cellach was a provincial King of Leinster of the Ui
Ceinnsellaigh line in Wexford in the 9th century.  This was the
earliest reference to the name in Leinster and it appears that many
families of Leinster used the name after this.  By the eleventh
century it was found both as a personal as well as an hereditary

First to bear the surname was Tadg O’Lorcain, the king of Ceinselaig
who died in Wicklow in 1030.  The O’Lorcain were originally seated
in Kildare and county Wexford and initially welcomed the Norman
intrusion in 1169.  This was rewarded by almost immediate
dispossession of their lands.

By 1420 the family was recorded as the chief of Foharta Cairn (Carnsore
Point, the most southeasterly point of Wexford).  They remained
numerous in the barony of Bargy.  Larkinstown near Wexford,
Ballylarkin in north Wexford, and Larkin’s Cross at Barntown all take
their name from this family.  The family also spread to Kilkenny
where the town and parish of Ballylarkin near Freshford was named for

The O’Lorcain of Ui Maine.  This family descends from the princes of Ui Maine and Siol nAnmchadha
and takes its name from Lorcan, son of Moran, who flourished about
905.  The earliest chief recorded was UaLorcain, abbot of Killeigh
in Offaly, who died in 1059.  Muirgheas O’Lorcain was slain in
1121 at the Termon of Lismore, Waterford, while accompanying Turlogh
O’Conor, King of Connacht, and Hugh O’Heyne, lord of Aidhne.
Nimeas macMahoun O’Lorcain died at Clonfert in 1363.

Their lands were on the borders of Munster, Tipperary and Meath and by
all accounts the majority of these O’Lorcain were native to the diocese
of Clonfert.  However, Cromwell’s policy of dispersal drove many
west to Galway.  A number of the family are mentioned in the 1653
transplantations and 1659 census in east Galway parishes and in the
west Offaly parish of Lusmagh, which once belonged to Galway.

The Progression in the Spelling of Larkin in Ireland.  The table below shows the progression – from O’Lorcain to Larkin – between the 11th and 18th century.

1024      O’Lorcain  Mael Mordha, king of
Ceinnselaigh, slain at Wexford

1363      I Lorcain Nimeas macMahoun, died at
Clonfert, Galway

1490      Lorcan Peter, rector of St.
Michael’s, Waterford

1519      Lorkan Nicholas, curate of Drogheda,

1565      O’Lorcayne John, vicar of Kilquain,

1659      O’Lurkane families in O’Neilland,

1665      Larkane Loughlin, Lorrha, Tipperary

1706      Larkin John, Tanariffe, Cork.

Michael Larkin, the Manchester Martyr.  William Allen, Michael Larkin, and William O’Brien were
hanged in 1847 for their role in seeking to free the Fenian leader
Thomas Kelly who was under arrest in Manchester.  A policeman had
been killed in the attempt to free him and the three men were quickly
hanged, despite the fact that none of the three had killed the

Larkin testified in the trial as follows:

“As my friend here said, no one could regret the man’s
death as much as I do.  With regard to the charge of pistols and
revolvers and mu using them, I call my God as wetness that I neither
used pistols, revolvers, nor any instrument on that day that would
deprive the life of a child, let alone a man.  Nor did I go there
on purpose to take life away.”

Their mass funerals and events with the Land League
focused the minds of the popular masses on the injustice of English
rule in Ireland.  Public outrage at the executions, as well as
agitation for an amnesty for Fenian prisoners, succeeded in mobilizing
nationalist opinion to an extent that the rising itself failed to
achieve and provided a basis for the launching of the home rule

John Larkin and Paul Revere’s Ride.  The following excerpt comes from the genealogy of the Larkin family, published in 1930.

“Samuel Larkin, born 1701, died 1784 aged 83; he was a
chairmaker, then a fisherman, and had horses and a stable.  He was
the owner of Brown Beauty,
the mare of Paul Revere’s ride made famous by the Longfellow
poem.  The mare was loaned at the request of Samuel’s son, deacon
John Larkin, and was never returned to the owner.”

to this source, the famous horse was owned not by Deacon John, but by
his father.  If true, this would mean that not only did Revere
ride a
borrowed horse but a borrowed borrowed horse.  That it had a name
difficult to prove in the absence of corroborating evidence.

Larkin’s estate inventory lists only one horse, unnamed, value of sixty
dollars.  The inventory does reveal that Larkin was a wealthy man,
possessions valued at over $86,000.  He was probably a friend of
patriot cause in Charlestown and it would seem natural that the
patriots would have depended on someone in his position to provide an
expensive item such as a horse if it were needed.  But the horse
may not have had a name.

The Larkin Monument.  The Larkin Monument stands on Telegraph Hill at the
highest point in Higham in Kent, in memory of Charles Larkin a
Rochester auctioneer for his work in promoting the Parliamentary Reform
Bill of 1832.

The inscription on the monument reads as follows:

“The Friends of Freedom in Kent erected this Monument to
the memory of
Charles Larkin,
In grateful testimony to his fearless and long
Advocation of
Civil and Religious Liberty
And in his zealous exertions in promoting the
Ever Memorable Measure of
Parliamentary Reform,
AD 1832.”

The Darling Buds of May.  The most famous Larkin family is fictitious, that
created by the writer H.E. Bates in his five books about the Larkins,
starting with The Darling Buds of May
in 1958.  These books was made into a TV series in the early
1990’s which proved very popular with the British viewing public.
The program described an idyllic rural 1950’s Kent and was filmed in
the Kent village of Pluckley and in nearby locations.

The key characters were Sidney Charles “Pop” Larkin (David Jason), Ma
Larkin (Pam Ferris), who were unmarried, their eldest daughter Mariette
(Catherine Zeta-Jones), and tax-collector Cedric Charlton (Philip
Franks), who was re-christened Charley by the Larkins.

Charley arrived at the beginning of the first episode to get Pop Larkin
to fill in his tax forms.  He was distracted from this when he
fell in love with Mariette Larkin at first sight and the Larkins
distracted him even further by attempting to teach him to play crib and
getting him drunk.  In spite of his terrible hangover the next
day, he became captivated by the idyllic country life led by the
Larkins, and ended up as a member of the family.

Tom Keneally’s The Great Shame.  Tom Keneally’s The Great Shame
tells of Ireland’s familiar form of exile – one that was forced.

The book opens in a townland outside Ballinasloe in Galway where a
farmer Hugh Larkin finds himself accused of a form of radical
nationalism known as Ribbonism.  He is dragged away from his young
wife and family to Galway jail, then tried, convicted, and transported
for life to Australia.  After three months at sea, the ship docks
in Australia and the reader lives and feels the life of an Irish
convict in that massive country.

Intermingled with this, the book revisits Ireland and the Young Ireland
movement.  We are given in some detail the run-up, failure and
aftermath of the bungled 1848 attempted rising and later the rise and
fall of the Fenian movement.  Meanwhile in Australia we follow the
trials and tribulations of the Larkin family and the commercial
endeavors of Hugh’s children as they seek to make their way in
Australian life.

All the time the reader is conscious that Hugh Larkin is in fact Thomas
Keneally’s great grandfather-in-law.

Larkins in the Backwoods of Canada.  In 1825, John Larkin and his wife Margaret set out from
county Longford in Ireland for the forbidding shores of Canada.
Their fourth child, John, made his first unsteady steps on that
boat.  No doubt, they came by way of the Ottawa river, then called
the Grand, to Richmond Landing at the Chaudiere; then on through the
forest on the road to Richmond where they applied to the Land Board for
a 200 acre lot of land.

It was poor land, sandy and full of stones.  But little
by little they cleared the land, built a shanty and struggled to
survive.  Two more children were added to the family.  It was
too much for the young wife and mother and, like many other pioneer
women, she died before her time.  In those times, it was
impossible for a father to carry on alone, so John married Catherine
McCormack, either a cousin or sister to his first wife. Seven more
children were added to the family.  Today a plaque to this John
Larkin lies flat on the ground in Richmond cemetery.

In 1851 the three eldest Larkin boys – Matt, John and Michael
– trekked some 10 miles through the bush to the Rideau river.  On
arrival they all set to work.  They slashed the underbrush, cut
down trees, and pulled stumps with levers until they had a clearing for
the first log shanty.  Then on they went to the brothers’ lots,
for time was precious. The first shanties had to be built before the
winter came.

They would work the land with only a spade and scattered the
seed by hand.  The precious grain was harvested and carefully
ground into flour in a hollow tree stump.  How well off they felt
when they got their first oxen and some sheep.  Then they could
make moccasins from the untanned leather and clothes from the coarse
homespun wool.  The oxen would pull their stumps.


Select Larkin Names

  • Ua Lorcain, abbot of Killeigh in the 11th century, was the first recorded chief of the O’Lorcain of Ui Maine sept.
  • Thomas Larkin arrived in
    California in 1832 and was one of the founding fathers of the state.
  • Big Jim Larkin, born into the
    slums of Liverpool, was an Irish trade union leader and activist of the early 1900’s.
  • Peter Larkin was a Canadian businessman and political patron of the early 1900’s.
  • George Larkin was a star of
    silent movies in the 1920’s who lost out when sound arrived.
  • Philip Larkin is widely regarded as the greatest English poet of the second half of the 20th century.

Select Larkin Numbers Today

  • 12,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 9,000 in America (most numerous
    in New York).
  • 12,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland).




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