Tribes of Galway

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File:The Tribes of Galway, Eyre Square.jpg
A display of the fourteen tribal flags in Eyre Square, Galway.

The Tribes of Galway (Treibheanna na Gaillimhe) were fourteen merchant families who dominated the political, commercial, and social life of the city of Galway in western Ireland between the mid-13th and late-19th centuries. They were the families of Athy, Blake, Bodkin, Browne, D'Arcy, Deane, Font, French, Joyce, Kirwan, Lynch, Martin, Morris and Skerrett. They were of mixed origins, variously Norman, Hiberno-Norman, Gaelic-Irish, French, Welsh and English, or some combination of the above.


The Tribes were merchant families who prospered from trade with continental Europe. They dominated Galway's municipal government during the medieval and early modern eras.

The Tribes distinguished themselves from the Gaelic peoples who lived in the hinterland of the city. However the feared suppression of their common faith joined both sides together as Irish Catholics after the Irish Rebellion of 1641 (indeed for many Irish was a second or even first language). During the Irish Confederate Wars (1641–1653), Galway took the side of the Confederate Catholics of Ireland, and as a result the Tribes were punished following the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. The town was besieged and after the surrender of Galway in April 1652, the Tribes had to face the confiscation of their property by the New Model Army.

The Tribes lost much of their power within Galway city after English Parliamentarians took over the Galway Corporation in 1654. Because of the uncertain response to this dilemma by the merchant families, Cromwell's forces referred to them by the derogatory name, "The Tribes of Galway", which they themselves later adopted as a mark of defiance.

Galway's urban elite enjoyed a measure of their power restored during the reign of the King Charles II (1660–1685) and his successor James II. However, Jacobite defeat in the War of the Two Kings (1689–91), marked the end of the Tribes' once overwhelming political influence on the life of the city – which passed to its small Protestant population. Garrison members of the tribes who owned land in Galway and Mayo were protected by the advantageous surrender provisions that were signed on 22 July 1691.

Notable members of the Tribes


  • Margaret Athy, fl. 1508, founder of the Augustinian Friary of Forthill.


  • Joaquín Blake y Joyes, 1759–1827, Spanish military officer who served with distinction in the French Revolutionary and Peninsular wars.


  • John Bodkin, Roman Catholic Warden of Galway, died 1710. After his death, his body was said to have been the subject of a miracle because it was thought to have not decayed.
  • Leo Bodkin, (1879– 30 August 1919) was a British military officer and writer



  • Patrick D'Arcy, 1598–1668, Catholic Confederate and lawyer who wrote the constitution of Confederate Ireland.


Font (ffont)

French (ffrench)




  • Germyn Lynch, fl. 1441 – 1483, merchant and entrepreneur
  • John Lynch, 1599?–1677?, historian and Archdeacon of Tuam



  • Lieutenant-Colonel Hon. George Henry Morris, 1872–1914, commanding officer of the Irish Guards
  • Mouse Morris, born 1951, racehorse trainer and former jockey



Like all Irish counties Galway has a nickname. The nickname the tribesmen is now used for the county and its people and is derived from this term.


The tribes also lend their names to fourteen of the city's roundabouts located in or around the city's boundaries. The roundabouts are signposted on navy blue signs containing the tribe's name in the Irish language

External links