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Irish Surname - Duffy

In Irish the Duffy surname is O'Dubhthaigh, from 'dubhthach' meaning dark, black or swarthy. The name was borne by a 6th Century saint who was also Archbishop of Armagh. The original homeland of the Duffys was Monaghan, where the surname is still very popular, they are also found in Donegal, Mayo and Roscommon.

The Donegal Duffys were centred on the parish of Templecrone, where they were powerful churchmen for almost 800 years. The Roscommon Duffys also had a long association with the church, producing a succession of distinguished abbots and bishops. Their central location in Roscommon was in the northeast of the county, in an area called Lissonuffy, which is named after them.

Duffy is now the single most common name in County Monaghan, where historically they were rulers of the area around Clontibret. They also contributed a great deal to the church, with a huge number of parish clergy of the name.

One of the founders of The Nation newspaper was Sir Charles Gavan Duffy (1816-1903), of the Monaghan Duffys. He had a long and distinguished career as a journalist and politician, was active in the Young Ireland movement, set up the Tenants' Rights movement and was elected MP for New Ross in 1852. Disillusioned at his lack of success, he emigrated to Australia in 1855 and went on to become Premier of Victoria. One of his sons, Sir Frank Gavan Duffy was Chief Justice of Australia from 1931 to 1936 and another son, Charles Gavan Duffy, was Clerk of both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Charles' son George Gavan Duffy returned to Ireland to become active in the nationalist cause. He was one of the signatories to the Treaty in 1921, and became President of the High Court.

The famous Cross of Cong, now in the National Museum of Ireland, was commissioned by the Archbishop of Tuam, Muireadach Ó'Dubthaigh (1075-1150), who was a member of the Roscommon Duffy family. Later on, another Archbishop of Tuam, Cadhla Ó'Dubthaigh, was ambassador to Henry II in 1175.

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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