Ireland & My Grogan Family History

One thing nice about the history of Ireland and it's early inhabitants is that you can get almost as many different stories as there are experts on the subject. There is a general consensus that a group called the Fomorians originally inhabited Ireland. At least that's as far back as anyone dares speculate at this time.

Human history has repeatedly demonstrated that you are only as indigenous as you are able to resist the next wave of invaders or mass migrations that followed your own invasion or migration. Invariably, the proto-history of historical peoples involves the clearing out of monsters (usually the existing local inhabitants) from a given territory and the establishment of that fantastical ideal someone is always arrogantly and self-servingly referring to as "civilization". The leaders of the invaders become gods and culture heroes, while the unfortunate former residents are relegated to the folkloric dust pile as mythical horrors which we are lucky to be rid of.

The currently accepted definition of indigenous peoples reflects our enlightened modern moral sensibilities in its suggestion that they are "living descendants of pre-invasion inhabitants of lands now dominated by others. They are culturally distinct groups that find themselves engulfed by other settler societies born of forces of empire and conquest" (Anaya, 2004, p3). Simply put, nobody is a native of anywhere. You are just the latest resident, and you established your residency the same way everyone else in history has-you took it from someone else. Sure, that someone else might have been an uncouth fellow or a Neanderthal, but someone was always there first. Now this can and has entailed varying degrees of oppression and outright extermination, and since we are collectively trying to improve our manners, we rightfully express chagrin (or horror, depending on how bad you actually feel about supplanting entire cultures through less than friendly means) about our ancestors' unpleasant behavior. But bear in mind, when I say "our ancestors", I'm not being rhetorical. I truly mean all our ancestors, both oppressors and oppressed.

Seventy thousand years ago, Homo sapiens (no doubt in search of places with fewer man-eating carnivores and improved dating opportunities) started spreading out from Africa, probably knocking a few Cro-Magnon on the head in the process when they were parked on a desirable piece of real estate. You see Homo erectus had moved out of Africa about a million years ago, and his descendants likely thought everything was copasetic until waves of hairless humans began appearing on the horizon. Round about 12,000 years ago there was the Neolithic Revolution (the transition from hunting-gathering to agriculture), an important aspect of which is the development of sedentary settlements. Everyone knows you can't have a bunch of hirsute nomads tromping across your farm seasonally and expect to be successful at farming, so even though bands of hunter-gatherers may have moved through the area for thousands of years, you're just not going to put up with that anymore. So you squat on a parcel of land, build walls, raise armies, and claim that your god bequeathed you your 20 acres and a mule.

Archaeologists have suggested that the Proto-Indo-European peoples living somewhere near the Caspian Sea around the 5th Century B.C. suddenly began spilling out into Anatolia, the Aegean, Western Europe and Central Asia, probably running roughshod over whoever happened to be living there already. There were Indo-Aryan migrations into the Indian subcontinent, followed by a series of invasions from Central Asia. From Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages, Germanic tribes from Scandinavia moved south. Romans moved north. Huns, Avars, Slavs, Bulgars and Alans pushed west. Arabs swept out of the Middle East into Africa and Europe. Everybody was heading somewhere else, fleeing from bad mojo, bad weather, bad hunting, bad farmland, or big bands of bad people. This leads us to the Irish.

The Irish were courteous enough to document a version of proto-historical things for us in appropriately named records such as the 11th Century A.D. Lebor Gabála Érenn ("The Book of the Taking of Ireland", or more colloquially, "The Book of Invasions"), which appeared to have been heavily influenced by earlier Medieval works for much of its source material (both Pagan and Christian). The Lebor Gabála Érenn makes one thing abundantly clear - the Gaels (a Celtic-speaking ethnic group that includes Scots, and whom we typically associate with the modern Irish), were relative latecomers to the Emerald Isle, mythologically preceded by the monstrous Fomorians, Cessair, Nemedians, Fir Bolg, Cinbin (Dogheads), and Tuatha Dé Danann, the earlier residents of an Ireland that had been occupied since roughly 8000 B.C. (archaeologists have found evidence of Mesolithic hunter-gatherer communities in Ireland at about the time the last Ice Age was beginning to recede). Those Mesolithic humans had terrible penmanship, thus we have to rely on those few clues we can dig up. This is true for most of Europe, until the Romans got a hankering for world domination. Lucky for the Irish, the Romans never really got around to seriously stomping Ireland beneath centurion boots, and the few references to Ireland by the Romans confirm that by about 50 B.C., Ireland was already firmly in the hands of Gaelic tribes. Unluckily for aficionados of ancient history, more extensive written records of the early history of Ireland had to await the arrival of Christianity (and monks with lots of free time). This is when folklore, steeped in oral traditions passed from one generation to the next comes in really handy.

Since the lion's share of our Irish proto-history comes to us through a Christian filter, the mythological timeline for Irish occupation starts with Noah's flood. It is said that around 2061 B.C., a gentleman named Partholón (son of Sera, son of Sru, a descendant of Magog, son of Japheth, son of Noah) and his followers decided that the Middle East was getting soggy and crowded and set out for Ireland, arriving on Erin's shores exactly Tuesday, May 15th (2520 years after the creation of the world, and 300 years after the Flood). To Partholón's surprise, a race called the Fomorians, led by a chieftain named Cíocal had already been there for 200 years. The 11th Century Leabhar na hUidhre ("The Book of the Dun Cow"), the earliest extant piece of literature we have in the Irish language traces the genealogy of the Fomorians to Shem (Noah's eldest son), commenting ""Behold, how it came about that Shem was the first man to be cursed after the Deluge. It is he that has begotten dwarfs, the Fomorians, men with goats' heads, and all deformed beings that are found among men. That is the reason the descendants of Shem were exterminated, and their country given over to the Children of Israel, because of the curse their father had put upon him. Shem is the ancestor of monsters" (Jubainville, 1903, p52). Some scholars argue that the Fomorians are a memory of the original indigenous inhabitants of Ireland or their gods, but the name itself may derive from Formoire, Old Irish for "From the Sea", which many have taken to suggest they were either "sea pirates" or monsters of the deep. Historians less inclined towards fantastic realism debate whether the Fomorians were actually African raiders preying on local settlements or Norsemen, while those with a little more lyrical edge argue over whether they were giants, half-goats, or mermen. Of course, when Partholón's gang arrived, battle ensued, but apparently the Fomorians were already busy bashing each other's heads, so this is not unexpected. Seathrún Céitinn (referred to in English as Geoffrey Keating) was a 16th Century Irish priest and historian, and references the presence of the Fomorians prior to Partholon, and seems to indicate that a few escaped after their defeat.

Some of the authors reckon another conquest of Erin before Partholon, viz., the conquest of Ciocal the son of Nel, the son of Garbh the son of Uthmhoir, from Sliabh Ughmhir and Lot Luaimhnioch his mother. They lived 2O0 years by fishing and fowling, till they met with Partholon in Erin, so that the battle of Magh Iotha was fought between them, in which fell Ciocal, and in which the Fomorians were destroyed by Partholon. In Inbhior Domhnann Ciocal with his people took harbour in Erin. Six ships their number: fifty men and fifty women the crew of each ship of them (Keating, 1904, p70-71).

A 9th Century A.D. Latin text called the Historia Brittonum attributed to Welsh monk Nennius mentions Partholon, as well as the fact that his attempted colonization of Ireland was an abysmal failure. Everybody apparently died from a plague rather quickly.

Long after this, the Scots arrived in Ireland from Spain. The first that came was Partholomus, with a thousand men and women; these increased to four thousand; but a mortality coming suddenly upon them, they all perished in one week (Nennius, 1819, p6-7).

Along come the Nemedians. Apparently, Partholon had not completely eradicated the Fomorians, as they were there again to meet Nemed and his entourage when they arrived in Ireland. Nemed was supposedly a Scythian (from the Caspian Sea area), and with a fleet of forty-four ships set sail for Ireland with the intention of settling down. Opinions vary, but this is dated in the literature sometime between 2350-1731 B.C. Of course, hostilities with the Fomorians were inevitable, and Nemed knocked some Fomorian heads together for a few years, killing a few Fomorian kings, and generally following in the grand tradition of Partholon, then died nine years after arriving on scene along with 3000 of his fellow Nemedians. The Fomorians, clearly sick of being bullied, decided to oppress the remaining Nemedians for the next 200 years, until Nemed's son Fergus Red-side (who would have had to have lived for an impossibly long time) led a revolt and fought the Fomorians in an apocalyptic battle, eventually abandoning Ireland entirely with the thirty remaining Nemedians in a single ship, rumored to be heading for Greece. Ireland was then said to be relatively empty for the next 200 years.

They tell us that the posterity of Nemheda dwelt nigh two hundred years in Ireland; that, from time to time, they like their predecessors, the followers of Partholan, were attacked by a sea-roving race, known at that remote period by the name Fomorians, which is a Keltic term, meaning sea-robber; that in consequence thousands of the settlers, near Cork, in the south of Ireland, perished from plague and pestilence ; that the Fomorians held strong towers of defence along Donegal and Deny, and chiefly in Tory Island, or the Island of Towers; that the native Nemedians made there one grand united attack on them, unlike not the effort made by the Irish in the eleventh century against the Danes at Clortarf: that the Fomorian forces were aided by the arrival of other pirate invaders; that in the battle thus renewed, and fought with savage fierceness on the strand of Tory Island, the Nemedians and their foes perished in thousands, either by the sword or in the rolling billows of the angry Atlantic, rushing in to appease, as it were, the fierce wrath of such merciless contending foes. The surviving Nemedians, after a time, forsook the Irish shore, and sailed, under three independent leaders, from the land of their fathers; some under Briotau Maol, to Britain; some to Scandinavia or Northern Europe; others under Simon Breac, or the Speckled, to South-eastern Europe. During a space of two hundred years, the Sea-robbers and a few Nemedians had the "Noble Island" completely to themselves (Bourke, 1887).

The final set of pre-Celtic Irish colonists were reputed to be the fearsome Fir Bolg. The Fir Bolg, assuming they existed, are actually believed to have been an immigrant Gallo-Germanic tribe called the Belgae from northern Gaul, or alternatively "a malevolent race of immortals" (Mac Neill, 1920, p88).

These "Fir Bolgs" are found in myth as the next colonizers of Ireland. Varying traditions say that they came from Greece, or from "Spain" - which was a post-Christian euphemism for the Celtic Hades. They consisted of three tribes, called the "Fir Domnann" or "Men of Domnu", the "Fir Gaillion" or "Men of Gaillion", and the "Fir Bolg" or " Men of Bolg"; but, in spite of the fact that the first-named tribe was the most important, they are usually called collectively after the last. Curious stories are told of their life in Greece, and how they came to Ireland; but these are somewhat factitious, and obviously do not belong to the earliest tradition (Squire, 1905, p68).

The Fir Bolg represent the last set of non-Celts in Ireland before the arrival of the Tuatha Dé Danann (People of the goddess Danu) around 1477 B.C., the heroes of which are thought to represent pre-Christian Celtic deities, the memory of which survived well into the establishment of Christianity in Ireland, when all of this was written down and the Tuatha Dé Danann became mythological, but mortal, kings and queens. Tuatha Dé Danann king Nuada defeated the Fir Bolg, lost an arm in the process, and couldn't be king anymore because kings must have two arms. Dynastic nuttiness followed.

Of special importance in this connection is the statement that the Fir Bolg were subdued, but not exterminated; indeed the chroniclers enumerate a number of places in the country where communities of Fir Bolg remained down to their own time. This can mean only that in the time of the chroniclers there were people in the country differing from the dominant race in appearance, and possibly also to some extent in religion and in language; and that these were rightly regarded as being survivors of an earlier population, who had been at some time conquered by the Celtic-speaking people to which the chroniclers themselves belonged. This is an ethnological datum of great importance, indicating the existence, in the early days of Christianity in the country, of a recognized strain of aboriginal blood (Fletcher, 1922, p77).

We have now to consider what happened in Ireland at the close of the De Danann period, and this brings us to the fifth and last settlement of the country, the coming of the Milesians and their arrival from the Iberian Peninsula. These were the Gaelic Celts and they are the race from which the present Irish people, if they belong to the old Irish race, and not to the Norman or English settlers, who came over afterwards, are descended. They fought a war with the Tuatha Dé Danann, and the Tuatha Dé Danann lost. The result being that Ireland was divided. The surface of the land went to the Milesians. Beneath the ground was given to the Tuatha Dé Danann, who became the daoine sídhe, or more familiarly, faeries.

The Milesians are supposed to have come from Scythia by way of Egypt, Crete and Spain. Wherever they came from, they seem to have had long wanderings, and to have been very glad to reach the shores of Ireland, which they called Inisfail, or the "Island of Destiny," because one of their prophets had foretold that they should inhabit it. It is just possible, as some legends relate, that they came over from Spain, with which in early times Ireland had friendly communication.

It is said in one story that there was a great famine in Spain, which forced the Milesians to leave; and they arrived in a large fleet of boats on the north coast of Ireland. But if the followers of Milesius really came from Spain, they would more likely have landed on the south coast, so that we cannot be sure if the old tradition of their origin is true. However this may be, they made inquiries about the rulers of the country to which they had come. They were told that three brothers ruled the land in turn (why is there always three!), that at present they were all gathered at Aileach, in Ulster, quarrelling over the division of a number of jewels which had belonged to their ancestors. Ith, the Milesian leader, entered the room while the dispute was going on, and they were so much struck by his appearance that they referred the question to him, and asked him to settle the dispute. This he did by dividing the jewels equally between them, and then he told them that he could not think how anyone, and especially princes, could spend their time in wrangling and quarrelling-, when they were so happy as to live in such a beautiful island as Inisfail. He said that he had never visited such a delightful land before, where it was neither too hot nor too cold, where fruits and plenty abounded, where the grass was green and the trees luxuriant, and the hills and soft valleys made the landscape beautiful. In such a land, he said, the people should always live in friendliness and harmony together. When he had said this, the princes felt shame at their quarrelling, and Ith bade them a gentle farewell (Hull, 1908, p20-21). After this pleasant encounter Ith and the Milesians decided to invade and wrench the isle from these undeserving occupants and relogate them to their present status.

Our Grogan family has one of the old Gaelic surnames, which originally had an "O" or a "Mac" before it, so we are of Milesian stock. Some of our ancestors also took part with a continual invasion force of Scandinavians (Vikings) that raided and eventually settled seaboard areas over a period of several hundred years in the early annals of written Irish history. These Scandinavians intermarried with the current population of Milesians and populated the countryside with their offspring.

During the time people usually had only one name, and that name was often given to them after they reached adulthood. The names often reflected what that person did for a living, or an unusual event occurring at the time, or an area where they lived.

This single name system began to break down during the eleventh century as the population grew, creating a need for a more sophisticated means of identification. The solution was to adopt a prefix such as Mac (Mc is an abbreviation of Mac), Ó, or Ua, to a name. Mac means 'son of' while Ó and Ua both mean 'grandson of'. Mac surnames are generally of a much later date than Ó and the vast majority of Gaelic Irish surnames were created during the eleventh and twelfth centuries.

Families began to include even extended family members thereby forming what would later come to be known as a Clan. These Clans then, over time, combined to some degree and became known as a Sept. Septs were headed by an original member of the clan and usually dominated a particular part of the countryside. In some instances it was not uncommon for Septs from the same clans to be found in completely different parts of the country.

The Sept system was an integral part of Gaelic society. It survived and was even propagated by the Norman invaders but the system did not survive the English invasion and colonization of the seventeenth century. It became a disadvantage to have a Gaelic sounding name.

Penal laws that were enforced by the colonists attempted to completely subjugate the Gaelic way of life. For a time there was even a bounty placed on Irishmen. It's about this time that many Gaelic names changed to their Anglo equivalent. This caused confusion as many of the names were misinterpreted or misspelled. These changes in spelling could occur even from father to son. Preferences for different spelling variations sometimes distinguished a branch of the family name, a religious preference or a national identity. Church officials and scribes spelled the name phonetically, sometimes from the Gaelic, sometimes several different ways in the lifetime of the same person. The name O'Graugain or O'Gruggane, the original form of Grogan, for example, has a number of variants including Croggan, Croghan, Grogan, Grogen, Groggan, Groggin, Groghan, Grogin, & O'Grogan just to name a few.

The revival of Gaelic consciousness in the eighteen hundreds saw many Irish families reassume the Mac, Mc, Ó or other Irish forms of their names although this was reduced in a number of cases depending on the sound of the name (Grogan is still much more prevalent than O'Grogan).

Grogan is derived from the native Gaelic O'Gruagain Sept that some say was initially located in County Roscommon. Others have said the name originated in the Connaught area. The name is from a Gaelic word meaning 'fierceness'.

The Grogan Clan was dispersed by the Anglo-Norman invasion of Strongbow in 1172. One branch of the clan settled in County Wexford at Johnstown and became strong allies of the Cromwellian English. Their family home was the Johnstown Castle. They were also seated at Myvore in County Westmeath. The last male heir of this line was Sir Edward Grogan. He was a member of Parliament for Dublin.

The first Grogans on record were a Roscommon family who were Erenaughs of Elphin. An Erenaugh was the lay manager of a monastery and monastic farm. A position which was hereditary within a family & they were usually tonsured. After deducting a stipend for his service he would give up the residue for the purpose intended - the support of the church or the relief of the poor. It was generally understood to be the duty of the erenach to keep the church clean and in proper repair, and the grounds in order. There were erenachs in connection with nearly all the monasteries and churches. This Grogan was Maelbrighde Ó Grugáin who died in Elphin in 1265 as recorded by The Four Masters.

In the 16th Century the Grogan name appears anglicized, as mentioned earlier, to O'Grogan, O'Gruggane, etc. At this time (1579) Molaghlin Mac-Ee MacCoin O'Graugan of County Limerick was fined 20 shillings, pardoned and ordered to post security for his good behavior. His name translates as Molaghlin, son of Ee, son of Coin, Grandson of Graugan.

The Grogan family is and was of such prominence that the name still appears on the maps of Ireland with places such as; Grogan, Kings County and Croghan Hill, Kings County.

As a testament and warrant to the bravery and heroism the forebears of the Grogan Family were granted a Coat of Arms that it might appeal to the pride of their descendants and remind them of the valiant deeds and self sacrificing acts of their ancestors. To incite them also to chivalry, honor and courage. Burke's General Armory describes the Grogan and Grogan - Morgan arms. Arms for the Grogan Sept are displayed on the home page of this Web site. Both Coats of Arms are displayed in the Arms section of these web pages.

Henry Grogan and his brothers (there are always three! Why is that?) were prompted to move to the colonies in ca. 1768 from letters received in Ireland sent from their uncle Maj. George Croghan. It's from Henry (one of these three) that my family descends. Arriving in Virginia, they remained in that area for sometime before venturing to N. Carolina where Bartholomew, a brother of Henry, received a land grant and founded the town of Groganville in Rockingham Co.

My Grogan family moved to Georgia during the Georgia Land Lotteries of the early 1800's. They settled and farmed in an area known as Broomtown Valley in Chattooga Co., GA. until the war between the states had ended. Life in this area was so difficult as a result of the effects of the war that Richard Grogan sold out and moved his entire family, with the exception of one daughter and one son, to Texas in about 1878 where they purchased farms in Kleburg, Dallas Co., TX.

In addition to farming the family operated a Saw Mill on the Trinity River about 10 miles from Kleburg. Richard's boys took turns operating the mill, they sat up tents so that it wouldn't be necessary to travel back and forth to their farms each day. They worked the mill on a rotation schedule. In August of 1905, Richard had gone to the mill to visit Frank and Myrtle. While there all three of them contracted "The Fever" and they all died within a week of each other. Richard was the first to go, then a week later Frank and lastly Myrtle a week after that. All three were buried in the Kleburg Cemetery. Wooden markers were used as headstones and have long since disappeared. Their graves are now lost.

Frank and his wife were survived by four small children. They must have been on the farm because none of them became ill. The oldest, William Payne was my Grandfather, 2nd was Clifford, 3rd was Bennie and the baby Olean.

Willie was taken in by his Uncle John who lived in Victor, Texas. It was said later that John wouldn't consider taking any of the other children because they weren't old enough to work in the fields.

Bennie was taken by his Uncle Richard Austin Payne, a mill owner in Rusk, Texas. and Olean was taken by her Aunt Renee (Grogan) Hampton in Whichita Co., Tx.

No one spoke up for Clifford and during this initial ordeal he went "pillar to post" for sometime, being shuttled from house to house. Many had said he was too old to be a baby and too young to work the fields. After some deliberation and seeing that no one was going to come to his rescue, John's wife, Laura, became very upset because of the way he was being treated by the family. She told John to hitch the wagon, that she was going to Kleburg and get that baby and that as long as she lived he would have a home.

Frank and Myrtle's children would be grown before they were all together again. Willie visited his sister Olene in Oklahoma and Bennie in Rusk when he could but distance kept them apart. During one of his visits to Olene he met Olene's best friend, Gertie Anderson. Gertie and Olene attended church together and insisted that Willie should go with them. They were married in Ardmore, he was 25 and she turned 16 a few days after their wedding! They were happily married for almst 50 years until Willie's death in 1966. From this union came three sons and more grandchildren than I can count that are scattered to the four winds.

~A portion of this history of Ireland and the Irish was taken from "Nobody is Native"

Anaya, S. James. Indigenous Peoples in International Law, 2nd ed., Oxford University press, 2004.
Arbois de Jubainville, H. d' 1827-1910. The Irish Mythological Cycle And Celtic Mythology. Dublin: O'Donoghue, 1903.
Hull, Eleanor, 1860-1935. Pagan Ireland: by Eleanor Hull. 2d ed. Dublin: M. H. Gill, 1908.
Keating, Geoffrey, 1570?-1644?. Keating's History of Ireland. Dublin: M.H. Gill & Son, Ltd., 1904.
Bourke, Ulick Joseph, 1829-1887. Pre-Christian Ireland. Dublin: Browne & Nolan, 1887.
Fletcher, George, b. 1862. Ireland. Cambridge [Eng.]: The University press, 1922.
Mac Neill, Eoin, 1867-1945. Phases of Irish History. Dublin: Gill, 1920.
Nennius, active 796. The "Historia Brittonum". London: Printed for J. and A. Arch, 1819.
Squire, Charles. Celtic Myth & Legend, Poetry & Romance. London: The Gresham publishing company limited, 1905.

Created & Maintained by Wayne Grogan