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The Culliton Family History

Collected by
James Parnell Culliton

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Historical Facts, Commentary and Culliton Personalities

To meet the Culliton's we must go to county Carlow, to a region in the south of the county near the boundary line between Carlow and Wexford. It was near the town of u_ nene Bheeg (formerly Bagenalstown) which today has a population of 18,714- and is 60 miles from Dublin, that the ancestors of the Culllton's had their largest territory. Two miles east of the town is to be found the ruins of Ballymoon Castle. This castle was built by 'the Culliton's and was the seat of this family down to the time of the Norman invasion. The ruins of this castle are well preserved and have interesting architectural features.

The founder-chiefs of this family had single names which are lost in antiquity.... they established the family in Ireland in about 100 BC They owned thousands of head of cattle-for the more cattle you possessed in Gaelic society the more important a family you were. It was around 1000 AD when fixed and heredity surnames were first adopted. The Culliton's derive their name and descent from a Chief by the name of Codliatan, who lived around 950 AD. Codliatan when translated means 'sleeper' It was applied to the Cullitons more in the sense of a 'dreamer' because they were' renowned for being a poetic and dreamy race, and we can therefore understand why it was adopted by the family as their hereditary surname. Mac Codlatan (genitive case) is the Gaelic form of the surname and means 'son of Codlatan'. Codlatan is pronounced Collatan (the d has a seiailugaa and is therefore soft G ) and is strikingly similar to the English pronunciation Culliton. This is not usually the case because over the passage of years the Gaelic form was generally somewhat abused due to illiteracy and when Anglicized the latter form varied considerably from its Gaelic counterpart. The Culllton's were a very old Irish family who were first dispersed around the time of the Norman invasion and are therefore not so numerous today.

In early times this nation occupied by the Cullitons was covered with thick oak forests. The ancestors of this family were pagans who worshipped the Sun (because it moved, and so appeared to be the source of all life.) In 470 Saint Patrick visited this region and these pagans were converted to Christianity.
The neighbors of the Cullltons and with whom there was frequent fighting over land and cattle were the Bolgera (the great modic~l family of South Lienster); the 'Doyles; the 0'Ryans and the Cavanaughs.

There is nothing left to tell us to which clan the Culllton's belonged but we can safely assume it was one of the following which were the big clans in this area; Ul Drona, descendents of Drona, the fourth in descent from Cathaolr Mor, King of Leinster in the second century, the clan name of the Ryan's of Co. Carlow (each clan was composed of several families. )UI Feilmeadha Tualdh, descendant of Feldllialdh, son of ~i nna ~einnaealach. King of Leinatar in the fourth century, who were seated in the present barony of Niatllville, Co. Carlow.

The Culllton's were always very religious . Some of the family Cullitons in early times became erenagha. An erenagh was 'one who looked after the property of the Church, they were not clergy but laymen who devoted themselves to the above occupation. Although they were not clergy, they adopted the tonsure a religious observance by certain orders of the Roman Catholic Church, which consists in shaving part of the hair of the head (at the crown) as a sign of the dedication of the person to the special service of God, and commonly to the public ministry of religion.' They were always a very good and devout clan of people. In the Culliton family: I?Aelinnun Culliton, Uubhslane Culllton, David Culliton, Thaddeus Culliton, and Martinn Culliton all served as erenagha. The records show that Edru Culliton was Abbot of Selakar Abbey, Wexford in 1159 and in 1471 Oeoffpey ( Geoffrey or Humphery??) Culliton was Abbot of the Abbey of Dulake, in Gralguenamanagh, Co. Kilkenny.

In May 1169 the first party of Norman invaders landed in Ireland. Within a hundred years the Normans held more than half the country and the Norman 7WV~'3TONt;lRBB responsible for the dispersion of many ancient Irish clans. Many Irish families were deprived of their estates and made to work the land for the lords who supplemented them. Such was the case of the Culliton's in Carlow, soon offer the Norman invasion became a stronghold of the Anglo-Normans and because of its strategic position on the border of the lin~1?9h ."'ale, was frequently the scene of fierce battles between the Gael and Gall.

The Culliton's being deprived of their land had to become tenants of the Horroan families. The first Norman family to become Lords of Carlow were the de Bigods. One of this family had married the Earl of Pembroke's daughter in 1200 and, as the Earl of Pembroke had earlier given his daughter the territory of Carlow over which to rule, the de Bigods thus became Lords. They lost the title to the Howards (Dukes of Norfolk, ancestor of the present Duke who is Earl, Marshall, an English officer of State in her Majesty's Kingdom today,) who were made Lords of Carlow in 1346.

The Cheevers were the next family to gain possession of this area based on the Viscounts of Kountlelnster. The Choevers were supplanted by the Fane a who became Baron of Carlow, to be supplanted by the Lawsons, who were made Viscounts of Carlow. Finally the Duke of Wharton was made Marquis of Carlow, which title this family holds today in Lord Wharton.

County Carlow is the smallest of the Irish Counties. In the west of the county lies the fertile limestone land of the Barrow valley, while in the south-east are found the Blackstnirs Mountains along the Wexford border. Carlow, the county capital has a population of 7,667 and is 51 miles from Dublin. Tullow is the principal town in the Baal of the county. It has a population of 1,739 and is Ixx; miles from Dublin. Saint Mulllns in the Barrow valley, is a charming little village with interesting ecclesiastical remains.

As time went by the Culliton's succeeded in regaining some of their lost property. Also the Normans were few, and it was not until the time of Cromwell that the Cullitons really began to scatter. In 1431 John Culliton owned 5,000 acres of land in the Rathville district. Near Carlow town Michael Culliton owned an estate of some 1100 acres in 1674 and was noted for the remarkable way he kept up his land. In this town stands the ruin of Carlow Castle, which was erected by the de Bigods when they became Lord of Carlow. At LeiKhIinbri i~r In 1xx6, Martin Culliton owned a large mansion and 6XtC3TT.SL s -'rulle rty.. In 1619 came Cromwell who tried to deprive the Culliton's from their land. He virtually limited Irish ownership to Connaught and two-thirds of Ireland changed hands, leaving the Irish to work for their English masters'. Cromwell installed new .English settlers on the lands of the evicted Irish. The family suffered many hardships during this period and many Culllton's were executed by Cromwell including Cormac Culliton, Martin Culliton, Arthur Culliton and David Culliton. Near Hyde Park in London was a place called Tyburn there a gallows had been erected and where many Irish priests wore executed. They became known as the English Tyburn Martyrs, priests who were executed by Cromwell because of their faith. It is recorded that a John Culliton was one of the Tyburn martyrs, who were the ecclesiastical heroes of Ireland.

Since the time of Cromwell many Cullitons went to France, where they served with distinction In the army. They also joined the armies of Spain, Russia, Germany and their descendants the 'wild geese,' filled the ranks of the Irish Brigades of the 18th century. But the Famine period, le~bS-~S, was even more effective in driving the Culliton's out of Ireland than the tyranny of Cromwell .Hundreds of Cullitons perished and others emigrated to the U.S.A. where there are today some 500 of this family, many of whom have become distinguished. Today in Ireland there are about 100 of the family, who are to be found scattered all over the Irish counties.

Many Cullitons on arriving in America joined the army, and it is recorded that in the U.S. war of 1861-65, a Captain Mathew Culliton of the 63rd New York volunteers, served in General Thomas Francis Meaghers famous Irish brigade.

To-day, because 33 years of freedom is insufficient for Ireland to develop herself fully and provide opportunity, many Culliton's have still to emigrate annually, most of them to England; here they are intermarrying and losing contact with their origins. Here however, some still remain on their ancient land. And the visiting Culliton will be filled with emotion, for though little trace of their sojourn remains except for names on graveyard tombs, somehow he will sense the spirit which his kinsmen have left upon this place.

The "TQQ Press,' (weekly) and 'Leinster Leader' (weekly) are the two provincial newspapers which circulate in Go. Carlow today.
Arms -On the Shield, on a silver (argent) background, are 3 green Stars (Stars are called Mullets in heraldry). Crest - A bent arm, grasping A sword. Motto "Ever Faithful."

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