Walsh Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Walsh Meaning

Walsh is a semi-translation of the early Gaelic Breatnach, meaning Welsh or Briton, which became Brenach, Waleys, Walensis, and finally anglicized as Walsh.

Walsh Resources on

Select Walsh Ancestry

England. While the Walsh name is generally considered to
be Irish, there were some English antecedents. The family name le
(meaning from Wales and an early form of Walsh) was to be found in west
and other records by the 13th century. Henry le Waleys was Lord
Mayor of
London in 1273. The Walshes of Cathanger in Somerset
and the Walshes of Little
Sodbury in Gloucestershire were prominent local gentry in their areas
in the
16th century.

Later Walshes in England may have been of Irish or English origin. John Walsh, the London-based music publisher
of the 1690’s, was Irish. The origin of
Enoch Walsh who went out to India around 1688 is uncertain. His career there with the East India Company
was inglorious:

“Enoch Walsh was removed from the company’s service in 1700
debt and inattention to the company’s affairs.
He fought a duel with Ralph Hartley in 1702.
He subsequently died aboard the Tavistock.”

But his grandson John Walsh
was secretary to Lord Clive and returned to England a rich man. He acquired the Warfield Park estate in

Ireland. The name Walsh was used to describe the
Welsh who had arrived in Ireland in the wake of Strongbow’s
invasion of 1170. The name appeared in early records as Breatnach, as
and then as Waleys. The Annals
of the Four Masters
recorded in
1208: “David Breatnach, Bishop of Waterford, was slain by O’Faelan of

These Walshes for many years were regarded as English by the Irish and
Irish by the English.

Walshes in Mayo
were particularly numerous. It was the most common surname in the
county in 1890. In 1588 Lawrence Walsh had
compiled a pedigree of
the Mayo Walshes, showing them to have been descended from Haylen
Brenach or
Walensis, the son of Philip the Welshman, who had arrived in Ireland in

Kilkenny there were the Walshes of the Mountains and the Walshes of

  • the
    forebear of the Walshes of the Mountains was likewise said to have been
    descended from Walensis in 1170. Their stronghold was
    Castlehale and the Walsh mountains in Kilkenny was named after them.
  • the Walshes
    of Balynacooly were a subsidiary branch which began in the late 1500’s.

these Walshes lost out heavily during the Cromwellian
James Walsh of Balynacooly commanded the ship which brought James II to
after the defeat at the Battle of the Boyne.

Another early Walsh pedigree, this
time in Rathronan in Tipperary, began with William Walensis in the 13th
century. And the Walshes were also established in the 14th
century at
in county Waterford.

Generally the Walsh name arose independently
in many different places, one reason for its profusion as a surname
today. Outside of Dublin, the name is particularly prevalent in
Kilkenny, Waterford, and Wexford.

. Some Irish Walshes emigrated
to France during
the penal times in Ireland. Antoine
Walsh, the son of a Waterford shipbuilder, went to St Malo. He was in charge of the Doutelle,
the ship that landed Bonnie Prince Charlie in Scotland in
1745. His eldest son, Count Walsh de
Serrant, founded a family that still prevails in France.

Robert Walsh from Cork
fought on the American side in their War of Independence and later
settled in
Paris, opening the first of the American literary salons there.

America. Master Andrew Walsh came to
North Carolina
from Ireland around the year 1800. He
was a teacher and one of the few people at the time there who could
read and
write. He moved his family around Wilkes
county, among the many townships, living in homes of people who had
hired him
to educate their children. He has left
many descendants in North Carolina.

In the 19th century, many Walshes headed for the big cities such as New
York and Boston.

The Walshes were one of the Irish
gangs of New York in the 1850’s. Michael Walsh from Cork, who had
come to New York with his parents, worked as a newspaper reporter and
campaigned against the squalor and poverty that he saw on the
streets. Meanwhile Blanche Walsh, the daughter of an Irish saloon
keeper, was one of the most popular New York actresses of the late 19th

Three Boston sons of immigrant parents made good:

  • David
    was once Governor and four times US Senator for
  • Father
    Edmund Walsh
    was a Jesuit priest who made his mark in
    international relations
  • while, more recently, Marty
    Walsh became the
    Boston mayor
    in 2014.

Canada. There
was a Walsh family from Wexford who came to
Newfoundland in 1786 and settled with other Irish arrivals at Cape
. John and Ellen Walsh
were recorded
there in
the 1800 census. Walshes are still to be
found in the area.

In 1873 James
Walsh, the son of Irish immigrants, joined the Canadian Royal Mounted
Police. He was deemed to have failed in
his dealings
with Sitting Bull and the Sioux Indians on behalf of the Canadian
government. However, he later turned up
at the Yukon at the time of the gold rush there. Fort
Walsh and Mount Walsh in Yukon were
named after him.



Walsh Miscellany

Walsh in Somerset.  The history of the Walsh family at Cathanger in Somerset seems to have begun with a Richard le Waleys who was lord of nearby Stowey in 1255.

His descendant John
Walsh was first reported as the master of the Cathanger estate around
the year
1500.  His father Thomas and his wife
Jane Broke died there.  The story goes
that after his wife died, he took holy orders at the nearby abbey of
and was subsequently expelled for raping Mary Clause there.  He then married her as his second
wife and she gave him another son and two daughters.

John, his son by his first wife, became Judge
John Walsh, Justice of the Common Pleas in Henry VIII’s time.  It was Judge John’s daughter Jane who married
Sir Edward Seymour, a son of the Lord Protector the Duke of Somerset.  John Walsh, the last male of the line, died
in 1572 and Cathanger was sold around that time.

Walsh in Mayo.  A pedigree of the Walshes of Tirawley in county Mayo “from whom most of
the Walshes of Mayo seem to spring” was compiled in 1588 by Lawrence
Walsh.  He showed them to have been descended from Haylen Brenach
or Walensis, the son of Philip the Welshman, who had arrived in Ireland

While the Walsh surname
was widespread throughout the county, the
greatest concentrations were in the central plain in which the Normans
settled.   Griffiths Valuation in the
19th century in fact showed a strong concentration there and
particularly in
the civil parish of Killedan near Walshpool.

About ninety per cent of
the bearers of the surname in Mayo now spell
the surname as Walsh.  A further nine
presently use the form Walshe, while an anglicized version of
Breathnach –
Brannick – is borne by some families.  The
pronunciation of the surname is more akin to ‘Welch’ (or ‘Welsh’)
than ‘Walsh’ in the Mayo accent.

The Walshes of Balygunner.  A Walsh family was said to have been established by the 14th century at Ballygunner in county Waterford.  They held an estate of
near 2,000 acres a few miles southeast of Waterford City.
The townlands of Ballgunner More,
Ballygunner Temple and Ballygunner Castle marked their location.  They were known as Walsh “of the
Island,” as having come originally from “the Great Island” in
county Wexford east of the Waterford City across the bay.

There seems to have been a succession of
knights in the family beginning with Sir Patrick Walsh around 1550.  There was a Sir Robert in 1614 and a Sir
James an MP in 1634.  A later Sir Robert
lost the property as an Irish Catholic in Cromwell’s time, but had it
when Charles II came back.  However,
after the Jacobite loss in 1690, the estates were all confiscated.

The Walshes of Cape Broyle.  John and Ellen Walsh, natives of Wexford, came to Newfoundland in the late spring of 1785.
The Arctic ice had forced their vessel into Petty Harbour where
John hauled his wife ashore on a home-made sled and they were made welcome.

their home at Cape Broyle.  Mary Walsh,
who was born at Cape Broyle in 1796, lived onto 1890, dying in her 94th
year.  Many in the family were involved
in seal fishing.  Sadly Thomas and
Richard Walsh were lost in 1818 when the schooner they were in departed
Aquaforte in the spring and never returned.

the 19th century it might be
said that everyone living at Cape Broyle were in some way related to
the Walsh
family.  The family counted at least five
priests, also many nuns, and three Christian brothers.

are still descendants of the Walsh
family living in Cape Broyle today.
Patrick Walsh, who died in 1932, passed his 1869-built home onto
his son
James and it has since been passed through successive generations of
Walshes until the present time.

The Career of David Ignatius Walsh.  David Walsh was born in 1872, one of nine children of Irish
immigrant parents.  The Walsh family was relatively poor and more so after
the untimely death of David’s father, a comb maker.
His widow helped to keep the family afloat by
operating a boarding house.

David was a bright lad.  He was able to
earn a law degree from Boston
University’s law school.  From there the
path opened to politics.

demonstrated from an early time an astonishing
ability to win the votes of Republicans.
In a state where it was said “the Cabots speak only to the
Lodges and
the Lodges only speak to God,” this Irish Catholic’s success in winning
elections was nothing short of incredible.
He served as Governor of Massachusetts once and Senator no fewer
four times.

anti-British Irishness never left him.  In
1919 he relished the opportunity to
introduce Eamon de Valera, the President of the Irish Republic, at a
attended by thousands at Boston’s Fenway Park.

was apparently gay.  In 1942 the New York Post published a report about “Senator X” (later
identified as Walsh) being discovered in a male brothel in Brooklyn
frequented by German agents.   Was
it the British who had planted this story because of his hostility to
British war effort?  In any event, this
scandal effectively ended Walsh’s political career.

Father Edmund Walsh.  Edmund Aloysius Walsh came from Irish immigrant stock in Boston.  Born in 1885, he was the last of six children of John Walsh, a Boston police officer, and his wife Catherine.  A bright child, he won a
scholarship to a Jesuit school in Maryland where he trained as a priest.  He travelled in the years before the First
World War and therein found his true metier, the world of international

In 1919 he founded in
Washington the School of Foreign Service, recognizing the need for a
school to
prepare Americans for future roles as diplomats and business
professionals.  The school predated the
US Foreign Service by six years and is now named the Edmund A. Walsh
School of
Foreign Service.

Walsh’s international
services extended over the next thirty years and were undertaken on
behalf of the
Vatican and, after World War Two, for the US Government.
Strongly anti-Communist, he was a supporter
of Senator Joe McCarthy in his later years.




Select Walsh Names

  • Thomas FitzAnthony Walsh from Kilkenny was Governor of Leinster in the 13th century.
  • Rev. Thomas Walsh was the much
    persecuted 17th century Archbishop of Cashel.
  • David Walsh was the first Irish Catholic Governor of Massachusetts in 1914.
  • Bill Walsh was the highly successful football coach of the San Francisco 49ers.
  • Courtney Walsh was one of the great fast bowlers in the West Indies cricket team of the 1980’s and 1990’s.

Select Walsh Numbers Today

  • 73,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 43,000 in America (most numerous in Massachusetts)
  • 103,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)

Walsh is the #4 ranked surname in Ireland.


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