The Duffy Family

Duffy family crest

(Crest No. 254. Plate 43.)

THE Duffy family is descended from Milesius, King of Spain, through the line of Heremon, eighth son of that monarch and first King of all Ireland. The founder of the family was Duach, seventh in degree from Fiachra, founder of the Hy Fiachra tribe, and son of Eocha Moy Veagon, King of Ireland, A. D. 350. The ancient name was Dubha, signifying “The Dark.”

The possessions of the sept were located in the present Counties of Mayo and Donegal.

Another branch of the O’Duffys was founded by Fiacha Baiceada, son of Cathire More, King of Ireland, A. D. 144. These held possessions in the present County of Monaghan. There was a clan of this name also in Tipperary.

The O’Duffys of Leinster, of the race of the monarch Cathire More, were of the same descent as the MacMorroughs, Kings of Leinster, and the O’Tooles and O’Byrnes, Chiefs of Wicklow.

Originally located in Kildare and Carlow and afterward in Dublin and Meath, the O’Duffys migrated in modern times to Louth, Monaghan, Cavan, Galway and Roscommon.

Many of the O’Duffys were learned men and eminent ecclesiastics, several of them having been Archbishops of Tuam and Bishops of Elphin.

On the celebrated Cross of Cong, which is regarded as one of the finest specimens of metal work, enamel, niello and jewelry of its age in the western world, may be read an inscription in the Irish language requesting a prayer for the four persons concerned in its creation, namely, Muireadach O’Duffy, Archbishop of Connaught, for whose use it was intended; King Turlough O’Connor, at whose desire and expense it was executed; Daniel O’Duffy, the Bishop who superintended its progress, and Maclisa O’Echan, the artist who executed it. This exquisite work of art was finished about the year 1123.

Many of this family—the McDuffys—were among the early settlers along the Blue Ridge, in Virginia, in the early years of the last century. One of the most eminent men of the name is Charles Gavan Duffy, now in his eightieth year. It has been truly said of him that he is, in his own sphere, one of the ablest men that this or any other century has produced in Ireland.

With Thomas Davis and John B. Dillon he founded the Dublin “Nation” in 1842, of which he was editor-in-chief, until its suppression by the Government in 1848. He gathered around him that splendid galaxy of genius—the men of forty-eight—who, under his guidance, laid the foundation of a modern Irish literature.

“They were a band of brethren, richly graced

With all that most exalts the sons of men—

Youth, courage, honor, genius, wit, well placed—

When shall we see their parallels again?

The very flower and fruitage of their age,

Destined for duty’s cross or glory’s page.”

The Nation under Duffy’s management at once took its place in the front rank of any journals of the time, in any country or language, in point of ability. Many whose names first appeared in print in its columns have since taken their place among the best writers of the century. In 1857 Duffy removed to Australia, where he soon rose to eminence, having become Prime Minister of the Colony of Victoria. During the past dozen years he has devoted himself to literature exclusively, having published during that time his “Life and Times of Thomas Davis,” “Four Years of Irish History,” “History of the Young Ireland Movement,” and other valuable works. He is at present editing a new “Library of Ireland”—a continuation of that produced under the same title previous to 1848. As a master of robust, limpid, didactic English Duffy is acknowledged to have no superior and very few equals. His son, Hon. John Duffy, is one of the ablest and most prominent public men in Australia to-day.

Several of the Duffys served with distinction in the late Civil War in the United States. One of them, Major Felix Duffy of Meagher’s Irish Brigade, was mortally wounded at the battle of Antietam, and while being borne from the field requested his carriers to lay him down, follow the flag, and do their duty. Major Edward Duffy of the Sixty-ninth Regiment, New York, is also a worthy representative of this talented family.