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Irish Surname - Higgins

Higgins is an Irish family name with ancient royal connections. It is an anglicisation of O'hUigin, from the Irish word 'uiginn' meaning Viking. The original holder of the name was a grandson of Niall of the Nine Hostages, High King of Tara, and all of the O'Higgins claim a common descent from him. Ancient records show that several members of the O'Higgins claimed a hereditary right to be file or poet in the courts of the Irish Chiefs and Kings.

In medieval Ireland, the Higgins were a sept, or clan, of the southern Ui Neills, who settled in Connacht, particularly in County Sligo. Despite their Ulster roots, Higgins was primarily known as a Connacht name in the mid-19th century. Other branches were predominantly located in Meath, Westmeath, Longford, Roscommon and Leitrim. The main seats of the clan were at Dooghorne, Monteige and Ballynary in Sligo, and in Kilbeg in Westmeath.

Because of their loyalty to Gaelic culture and religion, the O'Higgins septs suffered under the English Crown in Ireland and had lost all their lands in Sligo and Westmeath by 1654. Some of them remained in Ireland as tenants on their own lands, but many of them migrated to Spain where they achieved high office in the service of the King. One of the most famous holders of the name was Bernardo O'Higgins (1778-1842), founder of the Chilean Navy and the first president of Chile. The main street in Santiago is Avenida O'Higgins - in honour of the man who gave Chile its independence from Spain. Bernardo was the son of Ambrosio O'Higgins, who came from a poor rural background near Summerhill in County Meath.

Of the O'Higgins descendants who remained in Ireland, many continued to make a contribution to Irish society and the cause for Irish freedom. The first Irish Dáil was elected in 1918 and there were two O'Higgins kinsmen in the Provisional Government of Ireland - Kevin O'Higgins and Brian O'Higgins, both of whose families came from County Meath. Brian O'Higgins' great grandfather had been involved in the 1798 Rebellion and later on Kevin O'Higgins' nephew, Tom O'Higgins, was elected to the Dáil in 1948. After an impressive political career Tom O'Higgins became Chief Justice in 1974, a post he held until 1985, when he was appointed to the EU Court of Justice, a position he held until 1991.

In 1996 surname records in Ireland, Higgins (with and without the O prefix), was the 79th most common of Irish family names.

Famous People

Michael D Higgins, ninth and current President of Ireland, was born on April 18, 1941 in Limerick city and was brought up in County Clare. He studied at University College Galway, the University of Manchester, and the University of Indiana. He worked as a lecturer in political science and sociology in the National University of Ireland, Galway, and in the United States before entering politics. He has served as a public representative at many levels from Councillor and Mayor, to 9 years in the Seanad and 25 in Dáil Éireann. Michael D. Higgins has been a stalwart ambassador for human rights and the promotion of peace and democracy in Ireland and in other parts of the world. He is also a writer and poet, contributing to many books covering diverse aspects of Irish politics, sociology, history and culture. On November 11th 2011, Michael D. Higgins was inaugurated as the ninth President of Ireland.

Motto

Pro Patria, which means 'for my country'.

Family Crest

Family crest has a griffin, symbolizing worship of the sun.

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