A Letter From Ireland

Golding/Golden on Facebook

November 25th, 1997

I received the following email letter, from Aaron Golden of Galway University in Ireland, that you may find of interest if your Goldens are English or Irish:

Hi Bill.

Interesting website – good to see that there are plenty of Golden’s across the pond, so to speak! I came across your website quite by accident, and had a look through it. Your knowledge of Golden’s from the ‘Old Country’ is essentially on the right track – except for the bit regarding Jewish Ancestory. There are two principal provenances of Goldens if you like, one Irish, the other English.

The Irish (that is the original celtic language still quite well spoken here) equivalent for Golden is Mac Ualgairg, or to give it its full equivalent, Mac Ualgairg Ui Ruairc. The name derives from a chief of the Ui Ruairc (or O’Rourke) sept, who were, with the O’Reilly’s, the traditional rulers of the Kingdom of Breffni, a kingdom encompassing some 3 counties in the North West of the island, on the border (and a very sensitive border at that, even then) between the Provinces of Connaught and Ulster. In the 13th century, according to the Annals of the Four Masters (an ancient historical manuscript documenting the history of pre-Norman and early Norman Ireland), Ualgairg Ui Ruairc (in English, Ulric O’Rourke), King of Breffni, travelled to Jerusalem on pilgrimage, and died either there or in Israel. To die on pilgrimage was considered an extremely honoured way to bow out, so to speak, and in honour of him, all his descendants had the right to refer to themselves as Son of, or Daughter of, Ulric – Mac Ualgairg or Ni Ualgairg in the Irish tongue.

With the continuing domination of the English, and the loss of the original Hiberno-Norman society, lets just say it became practical to attempt to anglicise the names.. and so, dropping the Ui Ruairc, the name went from Mac Ualgairg to Mac Goldrick, and then in some cases to Golden… What makes things interesting is that around the time the English were instituting essentially a colonial order here, English and Scots were encouraged to come over and settle the land – the Plantation its called. The vast majority of the lands that were earmarked for plantation were those in the Province of Ulster (and we are all reaping the consequences of that) and so there were English settlers called Goulding that settled, many of which altered their names to Golden. Although the first records of Jews in Ireland actually pre-dates the Norman invasion, they never settled here (bar several small communities in the port cities) for many practical reasons, and their offspring were more likely to travel to England and onto Europe. Thus Jewish origins are highly unlikely.

There are still a reasonable number of Golden’s in Ireland today, with the vast majority hailing from the north west of the country. Ironically enough, the town of Manorhamilton in county Leitrim, whose name in Irish is linked to the O’Rourkes has quite a number of Golden’s, but I gather that they are all of plantation stock…

Well there you go, apologies for blathering away like that… One last thing – the Golden’s that are of celtic stock, and as such are a sept (irish clan) of the O’Rourkes of Breffni, would consequently have the same family motto, which is simply this: Buadh. It means,literally, victory. period.

Best regards to you and yours.