Leabhar  Luasaigh
Chapter 1: THE NAME LUCEY

 

Capital A ll Irish Luceys are of Gaelic origin; their name developed in Munster, the south-western province of Ireland, and is derived from the archaic Mac Cluasaigh; the name also appears as the slightly more recent Ó Luasaigh  :
It may be written with modern Irish spelling as Ó Luasa, rather than the older and more traditional Irish form of Ó Luasaigh. In recent English, the name has been written both as Lucey or Lucy, although there were more fanciful semi-phonetic spellings common in earlier centuries.

Mac Cluasaigh quite simply means the son of Cluasach, or the son of the person with large ears. An English equivalent name might be Ears-ey's-son. It is not possible to know if this literally referred to a person with large ears, or tongue-in-cheek to some one with small ears, or to one with acute hearing, or with the habit of eaves-dropping. 

The name Mac Cluasaigh, also arose in the north-east of Ireland province of Ulster. Although the identical name, it most certainly had its' origin with a different individual or group of individuals named Cluasach ~ their name became anglicised as Close. 

Normans named de Lucy did enter Ireland, but they and their name, died out long ago. More recent English Lucys (of Norman descent) have since settled in Ulster. Ó Murchadha (see below) says that he has never come across ref(erence)s to the Norman (name) de Lucy in Co. Cork.

My search for early occurrences of the surname in Ireland included browsing through The Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland by the Four Masters, which collated the information available to the authors from manuscripts at the time of its' compilation (1632 -1636). The translation of John O'Donovan has a comprehensive index. Although poetic licence and melding of myths and history occurs in The Four Masters, any mention of the name would deserve careful consideration; but neither the name Lucey nor any of its' known variants is listed in the alphabetical index of people mentioned.

However, the name was initially a description or a nick-name. Brian Ó Cuív most helpfully wrote in Aspects of Irish Personal Names:

The most common of all qualifying elements is, of course, the adjective . . . . To begin with a distinction can be made between epithets applied to an individual, as Aodh Ruadh Ó Domhnaill, and those applied to a family such as Diarmaid Mac Carthaigh Cluasach. It is noted below (see Thirteenth Century) that Dermot (or Diarmuid) Mac Carthaigh who was king over the Eóganacht Caisil from 1209 until his death at Dún Draighnein in 1229 (he was known for that place after his death) had the agnomen Cluasach applied to him in the Annals of Connacht and elsewhere. The Four Masters has an entry for Dermot Mac Carthy Cluasach who died in 1418 (sensibly listed in the index under the name Mac Carthy). Both are members of the family referred to by Ó Cuív. 

An article on Co Cork which appeared in Family History Monthly No 6 for March 1996 had the following to say:

In the western part of Cork there was a strong tradition of giving 'nicknames' or secondary names to members of the same family.... So for example, among the MacCarthys there were branches named Mor, Muskerry and Reagh..... The west Cork surname Whooley is an example of an O'Driscoll 'nickname' that established itself as a surname in its own right. This is the method which created the name under study.

Before looking at history's various Dermot (and several other) MacCarthys and their relationship to the name Lucey, the writings of others who sought to examine the origins of the name Lucey will be examined so that the significance of what has been written on this page can be appreciated.

  • Thoughts of Rev. Patrick Woulfe, Edward MacLysaght and Diarmuid Ó Murchadha
  • A Dictionary of Surnames by Hanks and Hodges (O.U.P., 1988)
  • Family Names of County Cork by Diarmuid Ó Murchadha
  • Dr. Albert Eugene Casey
Then continue to read of early references to the name
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September, 1999
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