Select Larkin Miscellany

Here are some Larkin stories and accounts over the years:

The O'Lorcain of Leinster

Lorcan Mac Cellach was a provincial King of Leinster of the Ui Ceinnsellaigh line in Wexford in the 9th century.  This was the earliest reference to the name in Leinster and it appears that many families of Leinster used the name after this.  By the eleventh century it was found both as a personal as well as an hereditary surname.

First to bear the surname was Tadg O'Lorcain, the king of Ceinselaig who died in Wicklow in 1030.  The O'Lorcain were originally seated in Kildare and county Wexford and initially welcomed the Norman intrusion in 1169.  This was rewarded by almost immediate dispossession of their lands.

By 1420 the family was recorded as the chief of Foharta Cairn (Carnsore Point, the most southeasterly point of Wexford).  They remained numerous in the barony of Bargy.  Larkinstown near Wexford, Ballylarkin in north Wexford, and Larkin's Cross at Barntown all take their name from this family.  The family also spread to Kilkenny where the town and parish of Ballylarkin near Freshford was named for them.

The O'Lorcain of Ui Maine

This family descends from the princes of Ui Maine and Siol nAnmchadha and takes its name from Lorcan, son of Moran, who flourished about 905.  The earliest chief recorded was UaLorcain, abbot of Killeigh in Offaly, who died in 1059.  Muirgheas O'Lorcain was slain in 1121 at the Termon of Lismore, Waterford, while accompanying Turlogh O'Conor, King of Connacht, and Hugh O'Heyne, lord of Aidhne.  Nimeas macMahoun O'Lorcain died at Clonfert in 1363.

Their lands were on the borders of Munster, Tipperary and Meath and by all accounts the majority of these O'Lorcain were native to the diocese of Clonfert.  However, Cromwell's policy of dispersal drove many west to Galway.  A number of the family are mentioned in the 1653 transplantations and 1659 census in east Galway parishes and in the west Offaly parish of Lusmagh, which once belonged to Galway.

The Progression in the Spelling of Larkin in Ireland

The table below shows the progression - from O'Lorcain to Larkin - between the 11th and 18th century.
1024      O'Lorcain  Mael Mordha, king of Ceinnselaigh, slain at Wexford
1363      I Lorcain Nimeas macMahoun, died at Clonfert, Galway
1490      Lorcan Peter, rector of St. Michael's, Waterford
1519      Lorkan Nicholas, curate of Drogheda, Louth
1565      O'Lorcayne John, vicar of Kilquain, Galway
1659      O'Lurkane families in O'Neilland, Armagh

1665      Larkane Loughlin, Lorrha, Tipperary
1706      Larkin John, Tanariffe, Cork

Michael Larkin, the Manchester Martyr

William Allen, Michael Larkin, and William O'Brien were hanged in 1847 for their role in seeking to free the Fenian leader Thomas Kelly who was under arrest in Manchester.  A policeman had been killed in the attempt to free him and the three men were quickly hanged, despite the fact that none of the three had killed the policeman.

Larkin testified in the trial as follows:

"As my friend here said, no one could regret the man's death as much as I do.  With regard to the charge of pistols and revolvers and mu using them, I call my God as wetness that I neither used pistols, revolvers, nor any instrument on that day that would deprive the life of a child, let alone a man.  Nor did I go there on purpose to take life away."

Their mass funerals and events with the Land League focused the minds of the popular masses on the injustice of English rule in Ireland.  Public outrage at the executions, as well as agitation for an amnesty for Fenian prisoners, succeeded in mobilizing nationalist opinion to an extent that the rising itself failed to achieve and provided a basis for the launching of the home rule movement.  

John Larkin and Paul Revere's Ride

The following excerpt comes from the genealogy of the Larkin family, published in 1930.

"Samuel Larkin, born 1701, died 1784 aged 83; he was a chairmaker, then a fisherman, and had horses and a stable.  He was the owner of Brown Beauty, the mare of Paul Revere's ride made famous by the Longfellow poem.  The mare was loaned at the request of Samuel's son, deacon John Larkin, and was never returned to the owner."

According to this source, the famous horse was owned not by Deacon John, but by his father.  If true, this would mean that not only did Revere ride a borrowed horse but a borrowed borrowed horse.  That it had a name is difficult to prove in the absence of corroborating evidence.

John Larkin's estate inventory lists only one horse, unnamed, value of sixty dollars.  The inventory does reveal that Larkin was a wealthy man, with possessions valued at over $86,000.  He was probably a friend of the patriot cause in Charlestown and it would seem natural that the patriots would have depended on someone in his position to provide an expensive item such as a horse if it were needed.  But the horse itself may not have had a name.


The Larkin Monument

The Larkin Monument stands on Telegraph Hill at the highest point in Higham in Kent, in memory of Charles Larkin a Rochester auctioneer for his work in promoting the Parliamentary Reform Bill of 1832.

The inscription on the monument reads as follows:

"The Friends of Freedom in Kent erected this Monument to
the memory of
Charles Larkin,
In grateful testimony to his fearless and long
Advocation of
Civil and Religious Liberty
And in his zealous exertions in promoting the
Ever Memorable Measure of
Parliamentary Reform,
AD 1832."

The Darling Buds of May

The most famous Larkin family is fictitious, that created by the writer H.E. Bates in his five books about the Larkins, starting with The Darling Buds of May in 1958.  These books was made into a TV series in the early 1990's which proved very popular with the British viewing public.  The program described an idyllic rural 1950's Kent and was filmed in the Kent village of Pluckley and in nearby locations. 

The key characters were Sidney Charles "Pop" Larkin (David Jason), Ma Larkin (Pam Ferris), who were unmarried, their eldest daughter Mariette (Catherine Zeta-Jones), and tax-collector Cedric Charlton (Philip Franks), who was re-christened Charley by the Larkins. 

Charley arrived at the beginning of the first episode to get Pop Larkin to fill in his tax forms.  He was distracted from this when he fell in love with Mariette Larkin at first sight and the Larkins distracted him even further by attempting to teach him to play crib and getting him drunk.  In spite of his terrible hangover the next day, he became captivated by the idyllic country life led by the Larkins, and ended up as a member of the family.

Tom Keneally's The Great Shame

Tom Keneally's The Great Shame tells of Ireland's familiar form of exile - one that was forced.

The book opens in a townland outside Ballinasloe in Galway where a farmer Hugh Larkin finds himself accused of a form of radical nationalism known as Ribbonism.  He is dragged away from his young wife and family to Galway jail, then tried, convicted, and transported for life to Australia.  After three months at sea, the ship docks in Australia and the reader lives and feels the life of an Irish convict in that massive country.

Intermingled with this, the book revisits Ireland and the Young Ireland movement.  We are given in some detail the run-up, failure and aftemath of the bungled 1848 attempted rising and later the rise and fall of the Fenian movement.  Meanwhile in Australia we follow the trials and tribulations of the Larkin family and the commercial endeavors of Hugh's children as they seek to make their way in Australian life.

All the time the reader is conscious that Hugh Larkin is in fact Thomas Keneally's great grandfather-in-law.

Larkins in the Backwoods of Canada

In 1825, John Larkin and his wife Margaret set out from county Longford in Ireland for the forbidding shores of Canada.  Their fourth child, John, made his first unsteady steps on that boat.  No doubt, they came by way of the Ottawa river, then called the Grand, to Richmond Landing at the Chaudiere; then on through the forest on the road to Richmond where they applied to the Land Board for a 200 acre lot of land.

It was poor land, sandy and full of stones.  But little by little they cleared the land, built a shanty and struggled to survive.  Two more children were added to the family.  It was too much for the young wife and mother and, like many other pioneer women, she died before her time.  In those times, it was impossible for a father to carry on alone, so John married Catherine McCormack, either a cousin or sister to his first wife. Seven more children were added to the family.  Today a plaque to this John Larkin lies flat on the ground in Richmond cemetery.

In 1851 the three eldest Larkin boys - Matt, John and Michael - trekked some 10 miles through the bush to the Rideau river.  On arrival they all set to work.  They slashed the underbrush, cut down trees, and pulled stumps with levers until they had a clearing for the first log shanty.  Then on they went to the brothers' lots, for time was precious. The first shanties had to be built before the winter came.

They would work the land with only a spade and scattered the seed by hand.  The precious grain was harvested and carefully ground into flour in a hollow tree stump.  How well off they felt when they got their first oxen and some sheep.  Then they could make moccasins from the untanned leather and clothes from the coarse homespun wool.  The oxen would pull their stumps.

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