Blake of Gortnamona, parish of Clontuskert

© Donal G. Burke 2013

Valentine, eldest son of Patrick Blake of Drum, in the barony of Moycullen, Mayor of Galway in 1771, married Anne Burke, daughter of Robert Archdeckne Burke and through this marriage the Blake family eventually acquired the Burke estate at Gortnamona in the parish of Clontuskert in east Galway.[i] The will of this Valentine of Tully and Gortnamona was proved in 1821.

The arms of Valentine Alexander Blake, with his seat given as Gortnamona and residence as Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire, are given as ‘Argent a fret Gules, and with mantling of Gules and Argent. For crest he bore, on a wreath of the colours, a mountain cat passant guardant Proper and motto ‘Virtus sola nobilitas.’[ii] Born in 1870, he was the son of Valentine Fitzpatrick Blake of Gortnamona, who died in 1870. He served as an officer in the 4th Scottish Rifles in the South African War and married Alison, daughter of Robert Skeet.

He and his wife were buried in Deansgrange, Dublin and commemorated by a memorial bearing the inscription ‘In Loving memory of Valentine Alexander Blake, Major Scottish Rifles, of Gortnamona, Co. Galway and Killiney, Co. Dublin, died 12th December 1923. Also his wife Alison Ann Josephine, who died 16th May 1955.’[iii]

The Blake family were long established in the town of Galway and were numbered among the most prominent. Hardiman in his ‘History of the Town and County of Galway’ states that the arms most commonly associated with the family, Argent a fret Gules’, were first borne by one Richard Caddell surnamed Blake, sheriff of Connacht in the first decade of the fourteenth century.[iv]

An example of the same arms borne by a later member of the Blake family survived into the twenty first century in the centre of the old town of Galway, on Shop Street. This armorial stone, dated 1646, appears to commemorate the marriage alliance of a male of the Blake family, with the initials ‘A.B’ with his wife of the Browne family, initials ‘I.B’ and consists of the impaled arms of both families. That of Blake is on the dexter side and consists solely of a fret dominating that half. Above the impaled arms was carved a closed helmet in profile and atop the helmet a cat passant guardant.

Thomas, a younger son of Valentine Blake by his wife Julian Lynch, and direct descendant of Richard Caddell sheriff of Connacht was ancestor of the Blake families of Menlough, Co. Galway, baronets, of Towerhill in Co. Mayo and of Drum, of Tully and of Gortnamona, Co. Galway. This Thomas appears to have flourished about the early sixteenth century as his father Valentine died in 1499.[v]

For further details on this family, refer to ‘Families.’


[i] Landed Estate Database, N.U.I., Galway.

[ii] Fox-Davies, A.C., Armorial Families, a directory of gentlemen of coat-armour, 5th edition, Edinburgh, T.C. & E.C. Jack, 1905, Appendix, p. 1520.

[iii] Ireland Genealogy Projects Archives, (, headstones, Deansgrange, South West section, Part 1, nos. 1-150 (no. 30)

[iv] Hardiman, J., The history of the town and county of the town of Galway, from the earliest period to the present time, W. Folds and sons, Dublin, 1820, footnote, pp. 7-8. The Caddell name was used as an alias in conjunction with the Blake surname for a number of centuries thereafter, with individuals of the family still being known as such into the seventeenth century about Galway.

[v] B. Burke, A Genealogical and heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland, London, Harrison, 1858, Vol. I, p.96.