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Surnames Fahey/Fahy/ Fay and Vahey (Irish O Fathaigh )

The history of the surname Fahey, or Fahy, along with Vahey, like so many others, is an intriguing one. Separate origins are given in some sources for the origin of the surname Vahey (discussed below) Most sources assert that Fahy, Fahey, (and the rarer Fahie,) O Fathaigh in Irish, are the origins of the Vahey surname. Vahey is as an anglicisation. Fay is also given as a possible English rendering of O Fathaigh, a possible origin of the name is fothadh, which means "base" or "foundation".

What is more certain is that the stronghold and homeland of the Fahys was the area around modern-day Loughrea in the south of County Galway, where they held property until Cromwell's occupation of Ireland in the seventeenth century. In Irish this was known as Pobal Mhuintir ui Fhathaigh, or 'the country of the Fahys' . The location of 'Fahy country is in what is now the parishes of Kiltomas and Peterswell

Not many names are recorded from this period, but Tadhg Ó Fathaigh of Slieve Aughty, who went by the nickname 'an tSleibhe' , 'the mountain'. was one of the few known O Fathaigh clan chiefs.

The O Fathaighs were a sept of the Ui Maine (Hy Many in English), the name given to one of the oldest Irish kingdoms. There is a tradition, recorded by Irish historian John Donovan, that the clan was one of the last to surrender to the Earls of Ulster. Seven hundred clan members were said to have been killed in the Second Battle of Athenry in 1316, They were part of the force for Edward Bruce's three year campaign in Ireland, which was opposed by the Anglo Irish. Edward was the younger brother of Robert the Bruce, King of Scots.

There is a townland called Faheysvillage (Baile Uí Fhathaigh in Irish) in the parish of Athenry in County Galway. Part of the townland borders the R347, and it lies to the north-east of Athenry at 53° 19' 53" N, 8° 45' 33" W. There are no records for Faheysvillage in Richard Griffith's 19th C. Primary Valuation of property in Ireland. (See also the village of Fahy, County Mayo, below)

As well as County Galway, Fahey/Fahy and Vahey are both widely recorded in the bordering counties of Tipperary and Mayo. Vahey is recorded in Claremorris, Hollymount and Garrymore in 19th C. records.

Green Links

Some sources give the surname Green as an English version of Fahey, but this is an unlikely origin, The probable source of this hypothesis is the fact that a "green" (a lawn) in Gaelic is faithche, pronounced "fahy". There is a village called Fahy, near Westport in County Mayo, the origin of this name is also said to be from faithche, pronounced "fahy", meaning 'a green'.

Vahey - an alternative origin

A possible alternative origin of Vahey is as one of the many variants, of the Gaelic name 'Mac a' Bheatha' along with MacVeigh, Mac Vey, and Macbeth, and a considerable number of others. This seems less probable for west Ireland, but might explain the existence of the name in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Famous People with the Fahey/Fahy/Fay surname

  • Richard Fahey, successful UK racehorse trainer, b. 1966, in Nigeria, to Irish parents
  • Father Anthony Fahey (also Fahy) Irish Dominican priest, leader of the Irish community in Argentina.
  • Francis Arthur Fahy, Irish nationalist and composer (d, 1935,)
  • Francis Fahy (1880-1945) War of Independence veteran, who became Ceann Comhairle (speaker) of the Irish parliament Dail Eireann after independence
  • Jeffrey David Fahey, b. 1952, American actor and humanitarian,
  • Siobhan Fahey, b. 1958, Irish born singer and founder member of UK girl groups Bananarama and Shakespears Sister (her spelling).
  • Niamh Fahey, b. 1987 Irish footballer, (soccer player), member of the Republic of Ireland's national women's team
  • Frank Fay, d. 1931, Actor and founder of the Abbey Theatre (stated that his father's original surname was Fahey
  • Fahey Family Coat of Arms

    An azure (blue) shield, with a vertical sword, clasped by a hand, and the head of a wolf, in gold.

    Please Note

    There is often limited information available on a specific coat of arms and motto for an Irish surname. Sometimes there are many variations, sometimes none, we have compiled a representative, but by no means exhaustive, selection. Please visit our Coat of Arms and Motto page for more information.

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