The Griffin Family

Griffin family crest

(Crest No. 120. Plate 64.)

THE Griffin family is descended from Milesius, King of Spain, through the line of his son Heber. The founder of the family was Cormac Cas, son of Olliol Ollum, King of Munster, A. D. 177, and his consort, Sabia, daughter of Con of the Hundred Battles, King of Ireland, A. D. 148. The ancient name was Gribhean and signifies “The Griffin.” The possessions of the family were located in the present County of Cork.

The best-known representative of this name was Gerald Griffin, the distinguished novelist and poet. He was born in Limerick in 1803, and his literary tastes were exhibited at a very early age. While yet a mere boy he wrote for the papers and published several poems of marked beauty. When nineteen years of age he wrote a play of acknowledged merit, and, much against the wishes of his relatives, proceeded to London in quest of fortune. He remained in the metropolis some years and met with but indifferent success. He made the acquaintance of John Banim and others, who befriended him as far as he would allow them, but he was too proud-spirited to accept favors or let his relatives at home know his painful condition. The privations he suffered so undermined his health that he never fully recovered.

At length he gained the recognition he deserved, his “Hollandtide Tales” being a pronounced success. His best-known production is that intensely dramatic novel, “The Collegians,” dramatized under the title of the “Colleen Bawn.” Many of his other works, namely, “Tales of the Munster Festivals,” “Tales of a Jury Room,” and his historical novel, “The Invasion,” are deservedly popular, while many of his poems are among the most beautiful in English literature. Just as he had achieved the success he so much coveted, his mind turned from worldly to spiritual affairs and he joined the Order of the Christian Brothers in Dublin. He devoted himself to his new sphere of duty with ardor, and died of fever, June, 1840, in his thirty-sixth year. He was buried at the North Cork Monastery, where a simple slab with the name Brother Joseph—his name in religion—marks his grave. Unfortunately, before retiring from the world Griffin burned nearly all of his unpublished writings.

The name is still numerous in Munster, and there are many prominent representatives of it, both among the clergy and laity, in the United States. Of the latter we may mention Dr. John Griffin, of Brooklyn, N. Y., a gentleman distinguished alike for his personal qualities and professional ability.