Aghowle Church.jfif

Aghowle Church

Killoughternane church.jfif

Killoughternane Church

Saint Fortchern.jpg

Fortune (Ó Foirtcheirn) Family Origins - Ancient Ireland

The Fortune Family have connections with the Kingdom of Leinster.

The Old Irish name is Foirtchairn and they are descendants of the Fortuatha Laigean. Some of the Fortuatha Laigean had previously held the Kinship of Leinster. The earliest mention of the Fortunes that I have found yet is for the year 331 where "Fraechar Foirtriun, the last King of Ulster, who resided at Eamhain, fell in the Battle of Achadh Leithdheirg." (Annals of the Four Masters).

The Fortune family were mentioned again in the 5th Century, in 900 and in 1050 and Saint Forchern (Irish name for Fortune), pictured on the left, of the 5th Century (ibid).

While researching the Ui Briuin Cualann - the ancient Kings of North Wicklow - I came across the Fortuatha and was struck with the similarity of the name to Fortune, and the fact that the Fortuatha were based in Forth in Wexford, the same location where the Fortunes, Ó Fortcheirn in Irish, meaning over-lord, are most commonly found. The Fortunes are not found throughout Ireland but rather mostly in Wexford and to a lesser extent Wicklow, and originally Carlow.

 As far as I am aware it has been assumed by many Fortunes (although clearly not by some of the older scholars of Irish names, that the Fortunes arrived in Ireland from East Lothian in Scotland, as the name was found to occur there frequently, and not in the records in Ireland until around the time of the Normans - the Old Irish name Fortcheirn was only known to be around from this time. Yet the Annals of the Four Masters place the Fortune Family in Ulster in 331, in Leinster in the early 400s, in 900 and again in 1050: "900. MaolCianan Mac Foirtcheirn, Bishop of Lainne Léire" "1050. Diarmaid Ua Cele, airchinneach of Tealach-Foirtcheirn and Achadh-abhall, died"

Saint Foirtchern, often documented as Fortchern of Uí Dróna (the Uí Dróna Laigean clann) founded the churches of Aghowle in Shillelagh (The Damhliag of Achadhabhall, James Graves,The Journal of the Royal Historical and Archaeological Association of Ireland 1883), the monastery of Foirtcheirn, the church of Tullagh Foirtcheirn Tullow, and the church of Killoughternane. He was one of the first Irish monks. His commemoration day is February 17th.

Born into a Royal Family in the early 400s, he was baptised by St. Patrick, and set up Churches at Carlow and West Wicklow. The Martyrology of Donegal records the Royal Background of the name Foirtcheirn: "Foirtchern, son of Feidhlimidh, son of Laoghaire (High King of Leinster), son of Niall of the Nine Hostages. He was a bishop, and a disciple of Patrick, and he was of Ath-Truim in Laoghaire, and of Cill Foirtcheim in Ui-Dróna, in Leinster".

Documents from the 1500s mention the Fortune Family lands at Kiltennel, Ballymoney, Mount Alexander, Kilmichael and Clonremon: it amazes me that my relatives have not moved far from the Gorey area in 500 years- considering there are so few of us left! The Annals of The Four Masters mention the Fortuatha as far back as the year 284. The Fortuatha-Laighean, 'The Stranger Tribe of Leinster', which occupied the Valley of Glendalough, were the same Foirtchairn family connected with the Churches at Aghowle, TullowPhelim (known as Mothairean Tilcha Forchairn around 1100) and St. Fortchern's Church, and the same Fortunes again who are found in the 1500s owning land around Ballymoney, Kiltennel and Kilmichael, and the same Fortunes who can still be found around the area today.

Looking at a map of these places they are all in such close proximity!

My theory is that the Fortuatha Laigean refers to the Fortuatha of Loggan, on the Wicklow-Wexford border: Elizabeth Fitzpatrick in The Last Kings of Ireland 2016 discusses an ancient Royal site at Loggan, and connecting the local names of Pallis - from the Irish for Palace, Racecourse, Deerpark and Knocknagapple (Hill of the Horses) and others to this ancient site as well as showing photographic evidence of a moate in this area which could be the Paillís:

"The core of the early medieval patrimonial lands of (Art Caomhánach Mac Murchadha's) Uí Cheinnsealaigh ancestors was North Wexford near the border with Wicklow (Fig. 3), a location that is distinguished by the former assembly place of the sept in Loggan Lower townland, and southwest of which are the townlands of Pallishill, Pallis Upper and Pallis Lower where some of the service families of Uí Cheinnsealaigh lived as late as the sixteenth century"

Sure enough I have Fortune relatives in both Pallas and Loggan which might not be so surprising only this is a remote area, very sparsely populated and there are very few Fortunes in Ireland - they aren't found in most of the country. The Irish Septs (Daithi O Lorchain 2007) reveals that the Fortunes are indeed the Fortuatha of Laigin: FORTUNE FORTIN, FORTERN, Ó Foirtcheirn - an Ui Deagha sept of the Laighin at Ardcavan and Wexford Town, Forth, Wexford. Irish Family Names: John Ryan 1917: "WICKLOW: The strip of mountainous country running North and South through Co. Wicklow was occupied in the fifth century by a people probably pre-Celtic in origin and known as "Fortuatha Laighean," "the extra states of the Laighin".i.e., states governed by their own rulers, but owing allegiance to the Laighin. (The Laighin were the ruling people in Leinster, which Province at that time was bounded in the North by the Liffey). These Fortuatha Laighean remained undisturbed for many centuries, certainly until Clontarf, for at that battle we find their king fighting on the Norse side. About A.D. 900 some of the Northern part of Co. Wicklow was included in Cualu, a kingdom lying chiefly in Southern Co. Dublin. Parts of the comparatively low-lying western districts of Co. Wicklow belonged to the Kildare states of the Uí Faeliin and Ui Muiredaig. These two septs, together with the Ui DAnchada, whose lands were in Southern Co. Dublin, were the three strongest septs of the Laighin, and held the Kingship of the Leinster Province. There were four divisions of the Laigin : (1) Dal Nia Corb ; (2) Dal Messe Corb ; (3) Dal Cormaic ; (4) Dal Coirbre. These were descended from the four sons of Cii Corb5 who was King of Leinster A.D. 164 174. The second of these divisions, the Dal Messe Corb, is obscure and their territory was probably in the Wicklow Mountains (I suspect it is Loggan). . The surname of their chief was O'Fergaile. The Fortuatha Laigin held their own right down to the ninth century, and are frequently mentioned as an active organization on subsequent occasions down to the year 1170. The Battle of Selgge in the Fortuatha Laigen was fought in A.D. 708, while Conaing, son of Cuchongelta, Lord of the Fortuatha,was slain in the rout at the fair of Dun Laigen Curragh, Co. Kildare, in A.D. 825"

Since Saint Forchairn born in the early 1400's was grandson of the High King Laoire, and MaolCianan Mac Foirtcheirn was Bishop of Lainne Léire in 900, it seems that the Fortune Family retained their position to some extent to around the time of the 1st millennium.