- Burke as an Irish Surname
- Tiobold na Long Bourke (Theobald of the Ships)
- The Galway Burkes
- James Burk, Pioneer of SW Virginia
- Burke and Wills
- The Various Burkes
Burke as an Irish Surname
Burke or Bourke is much the most numerous of the Anglo-Norman surnames in Ireland (the name, it should be pointed out, is not found in England except in families of Irish background). Sir John Davis said in 1606: "There are more able men of the surname of Bourke than of any name whatsoever in Europe."
It is perhaps not possible that they all stemmed from just one ancestor. But even if several different Burkes came to Ireland in the wake of Strongbow, it has been one particular Burke family that has been so very prominent in Irish history.
The Burkes became more completely Irish than any other Norman family. They adopted Brehon Law and proclaimed themselves chiefs after the Irish fashion, forming septs. As late as 1518, when the City of the Tribes was still hostile to its Gaelic neighbors and the order was made that "neither O nor Mac should strut or swagger through the streets of Galway," a more specific instruction was issued forbidding the citizens to admit into their houses "Burkes, MacWilliams, Kelly, or any other sept."
Tiobold na Long Bourke (Theobald of the Ships)
Richard Burke, known as Richard an Iarainn (of the Iron)
possibly because of the iron mines on his Burrishoole lands, was the
second husband of Grania O'Malley the pirate queen, one of the
outstanding Irish women of the Elizabethan age.
Their son, Theobald of the Ships, was born at sea just
before his mother fended off marauding Turkish pirates. Theobald
was taken hostage by the English and brought up in the English point of
view. Like his mother, he knew how to play both sides and when he
failed to get elected to the leadership of the Burkes of Mayo, he
returned to England. He fought on the English side in 1601 at the
battle of Kinsale. He was later rewarded by Charles I and created
1st Viscount Mayo in 1627.
The Galway Burkes
There was no official peerage granted to the Burke family until the time of Henry VIII. Then the English King, wishing to make Ireland Protestant, made a bargain with two of its chieftains that they would became English Earls in return for their adopting the Protestant faith. One of these chieftains was the head of the Burke family in south Galway who, on becoming Protestant, was created the Earl of Clanricarde.
Richard Burke, the fourth Earl of Clanricarde, built Portumna castle in south Galway in the early 1600’s. It was at the time without equal in Ireland in terms of style, grandeur and distinction. The Earls of Clanricarde continued to live at Portumna castle until the latter half of the 19th century. The last of their line, the 15th Earl and second Marquis, died in 1916, leaving two million pounds to his great nephew Lord Lascelles.
Burke line in Galway had begun in the late 15th century with the Burkes
Castlehacket in north Galway. This
family remained Catholic during Tudor times and they were able to hold
their properties until the time of Cromwell.
They were then confiscated. A
sub-branch of these Burkes were the Burkes of Ower.
William Burke Teeling in his 1932 book The Burke Family –
A History told the
“At Ower, all
that remained was a gate near the house leading into the orchard. This, of wrought iron, was originally in the
market square at Tuam. My great uncle
John Burke purchased it to beautify Ower. When Ower was
sacked, according to Dermot Donelan, they came to take the gate at
being too heavy to remove at the first sacking.
They all swear they found the ghost of John Burke there in a
and a cut-away coat protecting his gate.
So they have left it standing to this day!”
Galway Burkes described by Teeling
Burkes of Ballyglunin,
represented by George Burke who is ranching in Canada, and the Burkes
Iserclerans, a branch of the Ower family now represented by Arthur
of Iserclerans and his sister Anne, the wife of Neville Chamberlain the
Chancellor of the Exchequer."
Pioneer of SW Virginia
had come to Pennsylvania sometime in the 1720’s, it is believed, from
Limerick. He was then or soon after a
Quaker as he married Mary (Polly) Bane at the Goshen Monthly Meeting in
was recorded in Pennsylvania records as Burke, but later in Virginia as
or Burk. In 1745 when Augusta county was
founded west of the mountains, James Burk(e) was living in the great
that is today the Virginia counties of Frederick, Augusta, Rockingham,
Shenandoah, Botecourt and Roanake.
Jesse Pepper wrote:
was a great hunter; he would take his knapsack filled with bread and a
salt and a few potatoes and go to the woods, west of Pepper's Ferry
all a wilderness at that time and stay several weeks.
On one of these excursions among the
mountains, he got into a beautiful valley and having a few potatoes in
knapsack, he found a place clear of timber and planted his potatoes.
fall he returned and found them growing."
first wife died in 1750. He remarried
the next year and took his new wife and their combined complement of
children to the place he had discovered, Burke’s Garden.
Here he built a cabin, cleared land, and
planted potatoes. But they did not stay
there long. The Indian wars prompted their
removal to Cumberland county in North Carolina.
Revolutionary War came, James Burk was a Loyalist, backing the King. He supported the Tory efforts and disinherited
his son James Burk because he had fought for the Americans. In his will he stated the following: “By the
disobedience and undutifulness of my eldest son James Burk I have had
cause to deny him or his heirs any portion of my living."
He left him five shillings.
Burke and Wills
Robert O’Hara Burke from county Galway was of the Clanricarde Burkes. He served in the Austrian army as a captain and later joined the Australian police as an inspector. He and his companion, W.J. Wills, were the first white men to cross Australia from south to north. Their expedition was far from well planned and, on the return journey in 1861, they both died from starvation after they had covered 3,700 miles by foot and on camel back.
A film of their tragic adventure, Burke and Wills, was made in Australia in 1986.
The Various Burkes