Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Carlow Castle & The Berks
(Proud Irishmen).

Source: Michael Purcell & Pat Purcell Papers

From: Michael Purcell <>

Carlow Castle & The Berks

(Proud Irishmen).

Graiguecullen people sometimes wonder from whence came the nick-name the "Berks". The following article published in the Graiguecullen annual journal 2014.

This article was originally submitted by Pat Purcell for publication in the 1982 Carloviana Journal but the journal was not published that year. The article remained unpublished until recently.

We emailed a copy to Donal McCartney, Professor Emeritus of Modern Irish History, University College Dublin and a proud Graiguecullen man, he replied ---

"As a former pupil in Graigue Boys' School in the 1930s I can confirm that I had often heard Sean O'Leary refer to us and the people of Graigue as 'the Berks' not in any offensive way but almost as an endearing term" ----.

From the PPP.

In 1920 the noted historian and authority on the history of the Castle and Manor of Carlow, Lord Walter FitzGerald of Kilkea Castle, wrote a letter to Carlow history researcher Marlbourgh Clarke Douglas and in what must have been in answer to a question, posed by Douglas to FitzGerald.

Fitzgerald replied:-

Circa 1475 Carlow Castle and the Manor of Carlow were granted to the members of the Berkeley and Mowbray families.

In 1484 Sir William Berkeley was Lord of the Manor of Carlow and held the title Viscount of Catherlough.

In 1489 Maurice Berkeley owned portion of the Carlow estates. The following year he had a disagreement over land with his cousins the Mowbrays much to the displeasure of King Henry V11.

As a result Maurice Berkeley was left holding the Bridge Castle with one tower on the west of the Barrow opposite the Castle of Catherlough among the Irishry.

In time the people living on this side of the river Barrow and who supported Maurice Berkeley came to be called "The Berks" a label they gladly embraced to indicate they were not supporters of the Crown but proud Irishmen".

One hundred years later during the reign of Queen Elizabeth the First it was stated:-

"They that dwelt west of the river Barrow - dwelt west of the English law".

In 1925 FitzGerald's letter was passed to a schoolmaster in Graigue (not yet known as Graiguecullen), the legendary and much respected Sean O'Leary, he reintroduced the moniker to his pupils.

He took great delight in referring to several generations of Graiguecullen school-goers as the "Berks".

In a lecture delivered to the Carlow Branch of An Taisce  in May 1980, Padraig O'Snodaigh described Graiguecullen as Carlow's "Irishtown" maybe he was right?

From: Michael Purcell March 2014 <>


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