© Donal G. Burke 2015
The arms of Andrew O Hearne of Hearnsbrook, parish of Killimorbologue in the county of Galway, who died in 1733, were described in a pedigree dated 1782 of his descendant Lady Maria O Kelly, Countess of the Holy Roman Empire, as ‘Gules, three herons Argent membered Or’ given by William Hawkins, Ulster King of Arms.[i] No crest or motto were given in that source.
The arms are allusive or canting, in that elements of the composition of the shield make reference to the armiger’s name. This approach was adopted by those of an Anglo-Norman origin in England bearing the name Heron in the medieval period and a similar approach was adopted in Ireland when those of the name O Hearne came to adopt or be assigned heraldic devices.
The arms described as those of Andrew O Hearne of Hearnsbrook, parish of Killimorbologue in County Galway, in the late eighteenth century pedigree of his descendant Maria O Kelly, Countess of the Holy Roman Empire.
The original form of the surname in Irish of those of east Galway origin is uncertain. Edward MacLysaght, sometime Chief Herald of Ireland, in his ‘Irish Families, Their Names, Arms and Origins,’ made reference to a sept of the name O Aherne, who up to the middle of the fourteenth century were ‘dynasts of Uí Cearnaigh,’ an area in the modern County Clare, near the city of Limerick, from where they later migrated southwards. The original Gaelic form of that name he gave as Ó hEachtighearna, derived from the Irish nouns ‘each,’ a horse and ‘tighearna,’ a lord. That name was also anglicised as Hearn and Hearne, while the other sept anglicized as Hearne or Heron, or more commonly Heffron and Haveran, to whom MacLysaght referred was an Offaly sept, whose surname in its earlier Gaelic form was Ó hUidhrín.[ii]
Despite the uncertainty relating to the original Gaelic form of the surname of the O Hearns or O Hearnes based in east Galway, and to their origin, it is worthy of note that the arms, in utilising herons, allude to the anglicised form of the name and not the original Gaelic. As such it would appear to confirm that canting arms of this and similar families of Gaelic origin may have only been adopted for use sometime after the mid sixteenth century, the period after Anglicization was becoming widespread in these western territories. In a similar way the canting arms of the MacSweenys (also given as MacSwiney and variations thereof), of Scots mercenary origin, in using swine as design elements to allude to the family name, would suggest that those arms were adopted after the Anglicization period had become widespread.
Early references to the name
There are no surviving early references to members of the Hearne family in the late medieval period in east Galway but those few of the early modern period suggest that they maintained a minor presence at that time in the south of the barony of Longford in east Galway. Prior to its creation as an administrative unit by the English government in the sixteenth century the barony of Longford coincided for the most part with Síl Anmchadha, the ancestral lands of the O Maddens. The territory of the Earl of Clanricarde, the largest landholder in the county, lay to the west of the barony of Longford but his mansion and lands about Portumna on Lough Derg lay within the barony of Longford at its southernmost. Despite their proximity to the Maddens, the Hearnes in the early seventeenth century appear to have resided closer to the Earl of Clanricarde’s seat at Portumna and to have maintained a close financial relationship with Clanricarde.
Although Hawkins in his pedigree gives the name as O Hearne, the surname of the principal line of the family rarely occurs in historical sources as such and was more commonly given as Hearn or Hearne in contemporary eighteenth century references. However, it is possible that their Gaelic origin may be attested in the reference to one Hugh mcEdmund mcTeige moell (ie. Hugh son of Edmund son of Teige maol or ‘the bald’) O Herin of Tyrenyvin in the barony of Longford who flourished in the late sixteenth century and who was slain in rebellion prior to 1606. As a consequence of his being killed in rebellion his lands were confiscated by the Crown and in that year a parcel of his estate amounting to two cartrons of Tyrenyvin was granted to the land speculator John King of Dublin, Esquire.[iii] The identity, however, of this Hugh mc Edmund mcTeige as an O Hearne is uncertain as the same personal names were also common among the O Horans whose ancestral lands lay within the barony of Longford in the late sixteenth century at a time when the orthography of Gaelic surnames in State documents had not acquired uniformity.
The identity of Tyrenyvin is uncertain but may equate with the denomination of Tirahan (also given as Tyrahan or Tír athain), which comprised four quarters of land in the mid seventeenth century and was one of a number of denominations then in the possession of the Earl of Clanricarde in the parish of Lickmolassy, near Portumna.[iv] Tirahan as a townland name is now obsolete.
No Hearne was given as a significant landed proprietor in the barony of Longford or anywhere in east Galway in the second decade of the seventeenth century. The rise from relative obscurity of this family within the early modern landscape of east Galway appears to have occurred in the early seventeenth century and has been attributed principally to Edmund Hearne ‘of Gortnefuohy’ in the parish of Lickmolassy in the barony of Longford. (Gortnefuohy would appear to equate to the denomination identified as Gortneffahye in the Books of Survey and Distribution as containing three cartrons, all of which was the property of one John Herne immediately prior to 1641. The place-name is now obsolete).[v]
This Edmond of Gortneffahye may have been married to an O Dolan as Edmond’s son John referred to Cormock O Dollane of Gortnafuohy as his uncle and the latter referred to the former in a contemporary legal agreement as his nephew. (Cormocke O Dollane was married to Onora Broder.) Edmond advanced financial loans to a number of relatives and neighbouring landholders who mortgaged part of their properties to Hearne as security.[vi] He and his son John appear to have gradually amassed lands as they advanced finance to landowners in need of financial assistance, including various O Maddens. In a note of May 1628 to Richard 4th Earl of Clanricarde concerning the affairs of the Clanricarde estates, apparently sent by Sir Henry Lynch, the Earl was informed that John Hearn was seeking to acquire the tenancy of Ballynaheskrighe, formerly held of the Earl by one Hugh O Neaghten. In putting the proposition to the Earl, the correspondent related his opinion of John Hearn, as ‘of my knowledge a very honest and sufficient young man.’[vii] In 1638 John Hearne advanced a sizeable loan of seven hundred pounds to Ulick 5th Earl and 1st Marquis of Clanricarde. Hearne’s financial transactions with Clanricarde eventually resulted in his being granted rents otherwise due to the Marquis of Clanricarde from his lands in the barony of Longford, but he found it difficult to benefit from the grant by the opposition he claimed to encounter from those acting for the Marquis locally.[viii]
John Hearne by the mid seventeenth century was given as resident at Tirahan in the barony of Longford and as ‘John Herne mcEdmund’ (ie. John Herne son of Edmund) in the late 1630s or 1641 was proprietor of considerable lands in the denominations of Leckarrow, Cowlponry, Gortneffahye, Fargarome, Coolenegerigh, Aronynhany, Gortnenaghye alias Gorteenekeagh and in Galemtrine in the parish of Lickmolassy and a portion of the half quarter of Kilmalinoge in the parish of that name.[ix] Although Hearne held other lands in the parish of Lickmolassy, he appears to have acquired or rented Tirahan through his dealings with Clanricarde as about 1641 the four quarters that comprised Tirahan were given as the property of the Marquis of Clanricarde.
The Hearns lands were designated for confiscation in whole or in part by the Cromwellians in the mid seventeenth century and were allocated lands of 839 profitable Irish acres in the nearby parishes of Tynagh and Killimorbologue and certain lands in the parish of Beagh.[x] The family thereafter made their residence on high ground at a bend in the Kilcrow River in the parish of Killimorbologue. Senior members of the family were described as ‘of Hearnsbrook’ in the early eighteenth century, the name given to their residence where they would remain into the nineteenth century.
The mainline of the family remained Roman Catholic as evidenced by a report in The Times newspaper of 15th October 1828, which described a contribution made by Thomas Edward Hearn at a meeting in Ballinasloe of both Protestant and Catholic landowners and clergy concerned at the impact of the new Brunswick Clubs set up in the county that aimed to counter the moves towards Catholic Emancipation and what the landowners regarded as social harmony. It would appear that Hearn had theretofore not been prominent in public life as the reporter, when commenting on the resolution proposed by Hearn described him as ‘Mr. Hearne, of Hearnsbrook, a Catholic gentleman of large possessions in the county of Galway, and who, for the first time, came forward in Catholic polities, roused by the taunts and insults of the Brunswickers to those public exertions for which his talents manifestly quality him so well.’
The last of the family to inherit Hearnesbrook was Eliza Louisa Dillon Hearne, who in 1832 married George Kirkaldy. Later known as George Dillon Hearne Kirkaldy, Eliza Hearne’s husband thereby acquired the Hearne residence and lands. Eliza Dillon Hearne died at Hearnesbrook in 1859.[xi]
For further details relating to this family, refer to ‘Hearne’ under ‘Families.’
Herons as canting charges in the arms of armigers bearing a similar name
Prior to the use of canting arms by the Hearne family in east Galway, the use of three herons as charges was a canting device commonly adopted by knights and men-at-arms of the name Heron in England from the medieval period. Sir Godard Heron, Sir Roger and John Heron bore arms of Azure three herons passant Argent, as did Sir John of Essex, all in the medieval period. Those of Sir Ordinell Heron of Northumberland were given as Argent three herons passant Azure in the reign of King Edward II. Sir Roger and Sir William Heron were both attributed Gules three herons passant Argent in the reign of Edward II, while one Gerard Heron differenced the same shield with an annulet in chief Or and Walter with a cross crosslet in chief Or.[xii]
A chevron was introduced in the arms of other armigers, with John Heron about the reign of King Henry III bearing a shield of Gules, a chevron between three herons Argent and William Heron carried a shield Gules, a chevron engrailed between three herons Argent. Other variants include that of the shield of William Heron from the same reign who bore Gules, crusily Or, a heron Argent.[xiii]
In the early modern period the heraldic Visitation of Northumberland of 1615 found Richard Heron of Bokenfeild of that shire, Esquire, great-grandson of John Heron of the same place, to bear arms of Azure, three herons Argent with a crest described simply as ‘a heron, untinctured.’[xiv] His contemporary, James Heron of Panfield Hall in Essex, father of six sons and four daughters and son by his second marriage of Sir Edward Heron, Knight, one of the barons of the Exchequer, was found to bear arms in the 1634 Visitation of Essex of ‘Sable, a chevron Ermine between three herons Argent, membered Or.’ For crest he bore ‘a heron’s head Ermine, collared and beaked Or.’ This Sir Edward was described thereon as the son of Richard son of John Heron of Barmyng in Kent, ‘doctor of physick,’ son of John Heron, knight. The same pedigree gave John of Barmyng’s younger brother as Egidius Heron, attainted for High Treason, the husband of Cicelly, daughter of Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of England (later Saint Thomas More).[xv]
In Ireland, Sir John Bernard Burke, Ulster King of Arms, issued a confirmation of arms in 1880 unto the Reverend Daniel James Hearn, Rector of Kilmurry in the diocese of Cork and his brother Charles Richard Mont Orgueil Hearn of 24 Idrone Terrace, Blackrock in Dublin and of Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, sons of Robert Thomas Hearn, Esquire, Major of the 76th Regiment of Foot and grandson of Daniel James Hearn, Esquire, of Correa, County Westmeath, Lieutenant Colonel of the 43rd Regiment of Foot. who was grandson of the Venerable Daniel Hearn, M.A., Archdeacon of Cashel from 1726 to 1766. The confirmation of arms extended to the descendants of both brothers and the other descendants of their grandfather Lieutenant Colonel Daniel James Hearn, each bearing their arms ‘with their due and proper differences according to the laws of Arms’ and consisted of a shield ‘Per pale Gules and Azure a chevron between three herons Argent’ and for crest ‘on a mount Vert a heron as in the arms’ and motto; ‘Ardua petit ardea.’[xvi]
The arms borne by the descendants of Lieutenant Colonel Daniel James Hearn of Correa, County Westmeath, each with their due differences, after the confirmation of arms issued by the Ulster King of Arms in October 1880. (NLI, Dublin, G.O. Ms. 110, Register of Arms ‘H’, 1880-1897, folio 7.)
[i] NLI, Dublin, G.O. Ms. 164, p. 67. Pedigree of Lady Maria O Kelly, Countess of the Holy Roman Empire, (including pedigree of O Hearn of Hearnsbrook 1650-1700).
[ii] MacLysaght, E., Irish Surnames, Their Names, Arms and Origins, Fourth Edition, Dublin, Irish Academic Press, 1985, p. 129.
[iii] Cal. Patent Rolls, 3 James I, dated 23 February 3, p. 82.
[iv] MacGiolla Choille, B. (ed.), Books of Survey and Distribution, Vol. III, County of Galway, Dublin, Stationary Office for the I.M.C., 1962, p. 183.
[v] MacGiolla Choille, B. (ed.), Books of Survey and Distribution, Vol. III, County of Galway, Dublin, Stationary Office for the I.M.C., 1962, p. 183.
[vi] N.U.I., Galway, James Hardiman Library, Ref. No. LE26, Hearne of Hearnesbrook Papers 1606-1832, Biographical History (by K. Hoare).
[vii] Cunningham, B., ‘Clanricarde Letters, Letters and Papers 1605-1673,’ preserved at the National Library of Ireland Ms 3111.
[viii] N.U.I., Galway, James Hardiman Library, Ref. No. LE26, Hearne of Hearnesbrook Papers 1606-1832, Biographical History (by K. Hoare).
[ix] MacGiolla Choille, B. (ed.), Books of Survey and Distribution, Vol. III, County of Galway, Dublin, Stationary Office for the I.M.C., 1962.
[x] Simington, R. C., The Transplantation to Connacht 1654-58, Shannon, Irish University Press, for the I.M.C., 1970,; Tyrihan, parish of Lickmolassy. Although Hearn held other lands in that parish, his Tyrihan lands appear to have been rented from the Clanricardes. The Earl was proprietor of the four quarters of that townland about 1641.
[xi] Urban, S., The Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Review, London, J.B. Nicholls & sons, 1853, vol. 221, p. 451.
[xii] Foster, J., Feudal Coats of Arms, James Parker & Company, London, 1902, pp. 129-131.
[xiii] Foster, J., Feudal Coats of Arms, James Parker & Company, London, 1902, pp. 129-131.
[xiv] Marshall, G.W. (ed.), The Visitation of Northumberland in 1615, Mitchel & Hughes, London, 1878, p. 38.
[xv] Metcalfe, W.C., The Visitation of Essex, Part I, London, 1878, p. 417-8.
[xvi] NLI, Dublin, G.O. Ms. 110, Register of Arms ‘H’, 1880-1897, folio 7.