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Irish Surname - Caulfield

The surname Caulfield in Ireland is regarded as a name of many origins. It is believed to be an anglicised form of the native Gaelic sept name 'Mac Cathmhaoil' i.e. son of Cathmhaoil, a personal name from 'cath' meaning battle and 'maol' meaning chief. This sept was traditionally descended from Niall of the Nine Hostages.

The name may also have English origins, from the English 'planter' family first recorded in Ulster in 1607. This prosperous Ulster landlord family was established by Sir Toby Caulfield who came to Ulster in the service of Queen Elizabeth and obtained a large grant of abbey lands in counties Armagh and Derry. Sir Toby was the first Baron Charlemont and the collector of rents and fines for the government on the forfeited O'Neill estates from 1608 to 1611. Castlecaulfield in County Tyrone was one of the seats of the Caulfield family, who were always active in the English interest. The 5th Baron Charlemont, William Caulfield, captured Sir Phelim O'Neill in 1652 and in the next generation they took the side of William of Orange. James Caulfield (1728-1799), 1st Earl of Charlemont and first president of the Royal Irish Academy, was commander-in-chief of the Irish Volunteers as well as being a scholar.

Sir William Petty's 'census' of 1659 shows that Cawells and MacCawells were at that time numerous in Armagh and Louth. The abbreviated form MacCall had not yet been adopted and Caulfield appeared only as a planter family.

The name has been anglicised in many forms, including McCall, MacCawell, Campbell, Cowell, Caghwell, and Caulfield. Today MacCaul and MacCall belong mainly to the Armagh-Monaghan-Cavan area, while Caulfield is most numerous in north-east Ulster and in Mayo.

Famous People

James Caulfield was Catholic Bishop of Ferns from 1786 to 1814. Bishop Caulfield was regarded as a collaborator with the British and he ordered all Catholics to surrender their arms and be loyal to "the good gracious King George III". He denounced Fr Murphy and the other priests who took part in the Wexford Rising.

Dr. Richard Caulfield (1823-1887) was Secretary, Librarian and Custodian of the Royal Cork Institution and Librarian for Queen's College, Cork. Because he was well respected across the sectarian divide he was often chosen as intermediary in important historical and theological controversies. In his memory, a bronze door inlaid with silver was erected at St Fin Barre's Cathedral in Cork.

In modern history Mayo native Professor Seamus Caulfield, former Professor of Archaeology at UCD, is responsible for the discovery of the remains of a Stone Age landscape at the Céide Fields near Ballycastle in North Mayo. A native of nearby Belderrig, Professor Caulfield led a team of archaeologists in the research and location of stone walled fields, houses and megalithic tombs over 5,000 years old, preserved beneath the growing blanket bog over thousands of acres in North Mayo. In 1989 Professor Caulfield launched a project to build a visitor centre on the site and the Céide Fields Visitor Centre opened to the public in 1993.

Coat of Arms

The coat of arms has the blazon of barry of ten silver and red, on a canton of the second a lion passant.

Researching Irish Surnames

We have researched many sources for the origins of Irish surnames and extracted a fair representation of the origins of each. As there are many variations we have compiled a representative, but by no means exhaustive, selection.

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