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|Cullen Surname Origins|
Part II: Cullen of Co Wexford
compiled by Jim Cullen
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There can be little doubt that there were, at the very least, two lineages of Cullen in southeast Wexford from about the mid-14'th to the mid-17'th centuries. It's interesting that MacLysaght did not make any particular distinction between the two though his discussion of the families was brief. One family is said to have been Anglo-Norman, descendants of adventurers who arrived from the continent some time after 1170 and took the name Cullin or Cullen. The other family was a native Gaelic sept according to tradition and were found with the names of O'Cullin or O'Cullen. The distinction between the two names Cullen and O'Cullen was recognized in the 1659 survey in Co Wexford which reports that 25 Cullins or Cullens (Normanised families) were living in the baronies of Bargy and Shelbourne, while a greater population of 140 O'Cullins or O'Cullens were living in the Irish baronies of Shelmalier (East and West). By the mid-19'th century however, the O' had been dropped from the name of the Gaelic sept and so both Norman and Gaelic families were known as Cullen or Cullin. That the Gaelic Cullens dwelt in an area to the north of the Norman family is not surprising. With the arrival of the Normans came quite a bit of resistance from the native residents and the result was that the Gaelic sept was forced to relocate to the north. This division between the Norman and Gaelic families was not absolute and certainly Gaelic Cullens dwelt peacefully amidst the Norman family and vice versa. In time the Normans assimilated themselves into the native culture, blending their lifestyle with that of the Irish, creating a unique new culture often quoted as being "more Irish than the Irish themselves".
Origins of the Norman family of Cullen
MacLysaght gave no indication of the origin of the Cullens of Wexford other than that "they", meaning the O'Cullens who held Glencullen in Co Wicklow or more likely the Cullen family in general, retained prominence as evidenced by Cullen of Cullenstown being among the leading gentry of Co Wexford in 1598. In "Families of County Wexford", Murphy was more specific and described the "Anglo-Norman Colyns who were prominent proprietors up to the Cromwellian confiscation in the mid-seventeenth century". Colyn is a name found in greater numbers in County Kent in England, particularly in the 15'th and 16'th centuries. The earliest mention of the name Colyn however is to be found in Cornwall in England, not to be confused with the early family of Cullen in Surrey. Spelling variations in Co Kent, according to land deeds of the time, are given variously as Colyn, Colyne, Colyns, and Colin, with Colyn being by far the most common variation, evidently the accepted spelling at that time.
According to T.C. Butler, Colyn likely derives from Colwyn in Wales, from the Welsh word "colwyn" meaning "young animal", also found as coloyne. That the Norman Cullens of Wexford should have Flemish origins is not surprising since most of those arriving after the Norman invasion came from Wales to settle the southern regions of Co Wexford. They considered Ireland a frontier territory where farmers, traders, craftsmen, and artisans could find new opportunities. Many arrived after the first decade of the 12'th century in the Barony of Forth in the extreme southeast of Co Wexford. This of course supports the idea that the Norman Cullens of Co Wexford were among those planted in Wales some time after the conquest of 1066. More of these Flemish planters would later arrive in Ireland during and after the events of 1169. Herbert Hore, the noted Wexford historian, also identifies the Cullen family as Flemish but did not offer much more information on the Cullens specifically. For the sake of comparison, it is known that other Norman families were commonly found to have their origins in Pembrokeshire in Wales or Devonshire in England. A few came directly from the north of France.
The Norman surname Cullen may also have been derived from the city of Cologne in Germany and convincing arguments for the evolution of the name from Cologne have been demonstrated. In Reaney's Dictionary of British Surnames, spelling variations from the 14'th to 16'th centuries are shown as Coloigne, de Coline, de Culayn, Cullan, and Cullen. The name de Culane was found mid-14'th century in Scotland in the person of Henricus or Henry de Culane of the year 1340 though the name Colane dates back even further in Scotland to the year 1260. This would seem to indicate a connection between the name Cullen and the city of Cologne but the actual connection to the Norman family in Ireland (or the Gaelic one for that matter) is rather weak. Even so, it is known that brass plates produced for churches and sold in Cologne were also called "Cullen" Plates. These plates were actually produced in Flanders and elsewhere but were made available through the city of Cologne. Another point to note is that, in early times, brass was bought and sold by a unit of measure called a "Cullen". Another possibility (and an origin related in at least one family legend) is that the "Cologne" origin of the family name Cullen may have been introduced into Ireland by way of Scotland.
There are several towns in Co Wexford which have taken their names from the family of Cullen. Perhaps the most famed is Cullenstown in Bannow Parish, the seat of the Norman Cullen family from at least as early as the 15'th century up to about the middle of the 17'th century. As prominent landowners, the Cullens were among the leading gentry of Co Wexford as stated in the Clongowes Manuscript of 1598. Just as in the case of the spelling of the name Cullen, there are many variations of the old and new names of the town. Cullenstown or Cullinstown was formerly known as Bally Cullen or Bally Coloun and is sometimes still referred to as Ballycullen. It is located on the southern shores of the Barony of Bargy, Parish of Bannow, about four miles east of Bannow Bay. It sets just at the entrance of an inlet that leads up to Duncormick. Actually there are two towns known as Cullenstown. The second Cullenstown is located in the Barony of Shelmalier West and is roughly nine miles north of the first and is about ten miles west of Wexford town. Another is Cullen's Newtown whose location has not yet been identified but the possibility exists that it may have been the Newtown which is located just a couple miles east of Cullenstown near the western shores of Bannow Bay. A few miles to the northwest, across the Bay, are two more towns around the area of Tintern Abbey that deserve mention. Garrycullen to the south and Ballycullane (or Ballycolane) to the north. It should also be mentioned that Clongeen is often referred to as "Little Cullenstown".
The Cullenstown in Bannow Parish also has the distinction of being the location of the castle held by the Cullen family. Cullenstown Castle has existed since at least as early as 1467 (and certainly much earlier than that) when John Cullen died in debt for lands and property around the Bannow including Cullenstown Castle. Still, the land and Castlecullen itself remained in the hands of the Cullen family up until the Cromwellian confiscations of the 1640's when the property was seized and granted over to the Boyse family. Ownership of the castle was later passed on to the Radfords, then to the Sparrows, and then to the Burnsides. The castles usage and appearance has changed over the years and what must have been an impressive structure has been diminished somewhat with the removal of the battlements and the construction of a regular roof in its place.
Early Personalities of the Cullen Family in County Wexford
There are many mentions of early Cullens in Co Wexford from The Civil Survey of Wexford 1654-1656, Knights Fees in Co Wexford, The Leinster Inquisitions, and other sources many of which are quoted in Hore's History of Wexford. Among those early Cullens mentioned are:
Notable Cullens of County Wexford
John Cullen of Duncormick was a fluent Irish speaker and nationalist. His father, Walter Cullen (or Cullin) of Duncormick was a noted National Leaguer in the 19'th century. Walter Cullen died January 4, 1849 at the age of 84. Walter's wife Margaret died June 21, 1858 at the age of 80. Both are buried at Bannow. Also buried there is a daughter of John Cullin of Duncormick, Mary Cullin, who died December 30, 1858 at the age of 19.
Father James A. Cullen, most noted for having founded the Pioneer's Total Abstinence Association (PTAA), was born Oct. 23, 1841 at North St. in New Ross, Co Wexford. He was one of the first pupils of the C.B.N.S. (boy's school) in New Ross. Fr Cullen was ordained in 1864 and appointed curate in Wexford where he introduced the "Christmas Crib". In 1866 he was one of the six founding priests at the House of Missions in Enniscorthy. Specialising in the promotion of temperance, he entered the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) in 1881 and was away in Belgium for two years before returning to Dublin. While in Dublin, Fr Cullen founded the Pioneer's Association on Dec 28, 1898 in the Church of St. Francis Xavier, Gardiner Street Dublin. The movement began with the meeting of four people on Gardiner St. in Dublin. The PTAA survives to this day and recently celebrated its centenary. In its heyday back in the early 1960's, the population of Pioneers in Ireland numbered three quarters of a million people. Fr Cullen remained in Dublin until his death in 1921. Fr James Cullen had a brother, John B. Cullen, who lived in Bawnjames and appears on a list of landowners in 1876. He possessed 477 acres worth over 325pounds. John B. Cullen died in 1923.
Wexford native Rev. Sylvester Cullen was born at Inch, Blackwater, in 1876. He studied in the Irish College, Paris, and was ordained in 1900. Served for three years as professor of French in St. Peter's College, Wexford, and served as curate in several towns in Co Wexford. Fr Cullen was appointed Parish Priest of Our Lady's Island , succeeding Rev. Robert Fitzhenry who died in 1928. Fr. Cullen was also a playwright and musician. He was responsible for the opening of the present cemetary in Our Lady's Island in 1932. Rev. Cullen died in May of 1941. Several Cullins are buried in the cemetary at Our Lady's Island: John Cullin, who died Feb 14, 1836 at the age of 34; his wife, Elizabeth, who died Nov 11, 1797 at the age of 39; Saragh (Walsh) Cullen, who died May 6, 1814 at the age of 28; and Margaret (Mashford) Cullin, who died Feb 1, 1875 at the age of 40.
Other Cullens of note include: the often quoted and famous Irish historian, Louis M. Cullen, born in New Ross; Edward O'Cullen, newspaper editor and Wexford historian of some note; and Reverend Walter Cullen, a native of Wexford town who was Parish Priest of Kilrush.
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