Patricia Kennealy-Morrison – FAQ 43

While you’re talking about names, where do Jim’s names and yours originally come from?

`Kennealy’ means “wolf’s head” in Irish. When the first of my family came over from Ireland in the late 19th century, they seem to have been spelling the name O’Kinealy–only one among the many variant spellings of Ó Cinnfhaolidh, from ceann, head, and faol, wolf; the pronunciation, ken-EEL-ee, is unchanged.

Whatever the English orthography, the name is said to betoken descent from ancient Irish tribal shaman-priests, who would wear a wolf’s pelt to denote their magical rank and calling, the wolf’s head on top of theirs and the rest of the pelt hanging down their back. (Jim just looooved that story…)
`Kennealy’ is a very old name of noble chieftain grade, relatively common in early times, though after the 12th century it fades in prominence in most annals. The family belongs to the tribal group Uí Fidhgheinte (the People of the Deer), and is counted among the Eoghanachta–ruling aristocracy of the province of Munster (southwestern Ireland).
The traditional pedigree assigns the family a royal Milesian origin, with the descent coming from Eibhear son of Míl ((Heber son of Milesius) through King Eoghan, known as Mogh Nuadhat (`servant of the god Nuada’) or Eoghan Taighlech (Eoghan the Splendid), and his descendants the kings Olliol (or Ailill) Olum and Olliol’s son Eoghan Mór–Eoghan the Great, who died in battle in 195 CE, and who is the founding ancestor of the Ó Cinnfhaolidh and the other Eoghanachta families.
[Only the Irish families that can trace their descent from Milesius, who with his sons and uncle made the first successful Celtic invasion of Ireland against the earlier Tuatha Dé Danaan, who themselves had conquered the still earlier Fomorian inhabitants–those families whose names, with rare exceptions, are now or were originally prefixed with mac or Ó–are considered true native Irish, by the way. Which means that Seanie-come-latelies and jumped-up incomers like the Fitz-whoevers and the Walshes and the Butlers and all the rest of the opportunistically invading rabble are not…
Because of the requirements of the bardic oral tradition, these genealogies are considered authentic and accurate at staggeringly early dates: routinely to 300 CE, and, as we see here, often much earlier even than that. But back to my people.]
Moving along, there were many early individuals of the name, notable among them Cennfaelad, a young 7th-century Irish chief who, suffering a head wound in battle, lost his `brain of forgetfulness’, so that while recuperating in a hospital attached to a brehon school–a law college–he remembered everything he heard, and he wrote it all down. What he wrote became the basis for Ireland’s compassionate and breathtakingly modern brehon law system (which was finally dismantled by the English invaders in the 16th century so that their own law system could be imposed, with what result we all very well know), and he became a great scholar and jurist, Cennfaelad the Learned, renowned in Irish literature to this day.
In more modern times, there was Edmund Vaughan Kenealy, a 19th-century lawyer and poet, active, like many others of his class and education, in Irish occult and mystic circles (O.T.O/Macgregor Mathers/Golden Dawn stuff); writers of the name today are Thomas Kenneally (Schindler’s List), Jerry Kennealy, a detective story author, and of course your humble servant.
As far as I know, I have no direct connection to any of these guys, though with such a small clan base everyone of the name is probably related in some degree. But it’s fascinating how gifts for writing and the law, not to mention nontraditional spirituality, continue to crop out 13 centuries after Cennfaelad the Learned, 18 centuries after Eoghan Mór–gifts that seem inherently traceable in Jim’s family line as well.
`Morrison’ can be either Irish or Scottish; there was a lot of to-and-fro-ing between Ireland and Scotland back then. There are differing stories, but most reputable clan historians assert that the original Morrisons, the present Scottish Clan Morrison, were an Irish family with a strong bardic tradition who migrated to Scotland at an early, unspecified date, finally settling on the island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.
The Gaelic original of the name is usually spelled Ó Muirgheasain; when the connection to Ireland was broken the Ó disappeared, though the name with the old Ó prefix still occasionally turns up in Donegal. There are also families of Morrisons in other widely scattered regions of Scotland, but beyond possible intermarriage (and, oddly for Scotland, there seem to be no MacMorrisons), they have no connection to the Lewis clan, which is the official, `real’ one.
In Jim’s case the name is purely Scottish. The Clan Morrison have their ancestral territory on Lewis; the present Chief is John Morrison of Ruchdi. There are two very attractive tartans: Dress Morrison–also known as the Clan Society tartan, bright red with narrow white and black stripes, similar to Macgregor–was supposedly rediscovered quite recently, when someone repairing a chimney of an old homestead on Lewis found a Morrison family Bible hidden away inside, and wrapping it was a piece of this lost red tartan, which has since been determined to be the original clan sett; and Hunting Morrison or Morrison Ancient, dark green with black and a thin red cross-stripe.
The Morrison clan badge is driftwood, and the war cry is “Dún Eisdean!” (meaning Eisdean’s castle, Eisdean being the name of an early warrior of the clan, Englished as `Hutcheon’ and incorrectly translated as `Hugh’; pronounced, more or less, doon AYSH-thaun).
`Morrison’ means “sea-valor” or “sea-chosen”–appropriate for a sailor’s son. Even more appropriate: according to the author T.C. Lethbridge, the clan totem of the Morrisons is a serpent, and snakes of course are sacred creatures of the Goddess–information I laid on Jim the first time we met, and he was thrilled to hear it, though it seems to have been something he had intuitively known for a very long time…
The Scottish Morrisons were renowned for producing brehons (the Brieve of Lewis was the most famed), and were often at sword’s point with the rival clans of Mackenzie and Macleod; both they and their Irish analogues bred famous bards, including Iain Morrison of Rodel, a poet-blacksmith who died in 1852.
I sometimes teased Jim about the Morrisons being the spawn of a bastard son of a king of Norway, who arrived on Lewis shipwrecked, clinging to a piece of driftwood–hence the badge–and was saved by the chief’s daughter, who married him: a fine story, but this once-current origin has long been disproved.
Besides, if the Morrisons’ pedigree from a family with an Ó prefix is accurate–the Ó Muirgheasains’ founding ancestor was Fiacha mac Eochaid (late 4th century, last king of the pagan Irish before Patrick got his mucky hands all over our ancient faith; Fiacha was 200 years after our guy Eoghan Mór, I might add, so I still have precedence!), the brother of King Niall of the Nine Hostages, with descent going back through the warrior kings Cormac mac Art and Conn the Hundred-Fighter to Erevan son of Míl–Jim is every bit as much a royal Milesian as I am.
I was named Patricia for my great-great-grandfather Patrick O’Kinealy, a successful printer, who came over from Ireland in the late 19th century with his sister Ellen, from Dalkey, a village south of Dublin in the hills overlooking the bay. (The family legend is that he met his end when he fell into a vat of printer’s lye and there was nothing left of him but his wedding ring and the nails in his shoes; another fine Celtic fable, but I suspect it’s as apocryphal as the tale Jim once spun me about how his mother’s family was so poor they had to live in trees!!)
Also I was supposed to be born on St. Patrick’s Day; I made my entrance two weeks early, and ended up being baptized on that day of infamy instead, though I am deeply proud to have been named for my immigrant progenitor, and consider myself his namesake, not that meddlesome missionary’s.
Four generations seems a long way to go for a name, but the Irish, like the Jews, don’t generally give their children parental names or the names of living kinfolk as first names (middle names or Confirmation names, sure; but not first names). The lace-curtain practice of naming kids Junior or So-and-so III or IV is really not typical, and sniffed at by those of more correctly Celtic sensibilities. This distancing in naming is probably a carryover from the days before Brían Boru introduced the system of male-line surnames as we now know them; before that, people were simply `son of’ or `daughter of’, which could lead to things like Brían mac Brían Ó Brían–very confusing.
My middle names are all family names as well: Anne for an aunt and a great-aunt, Elizabeth for both my grandmothers and two other great-aunts, Genevieve for my mother, Honora for an aunt and two great-grandmothers.
When I was born, Celtic-American children, annoyingly enough, weren’t being given ethnically correct names, just the standard Hebrew/Latin/Anglo-Norman Conquistador grab-bag, so I correct that omission by assuming various Celtic names as middle names whenever the fancy strikes me–Aeron, Lassarina, Athyn, Aoife–since I don’t seem able to decide on one in particular.
I read somewhere the claim that Jim was given the middle name Douglas for General Douglas Macarthur, to express his military father’s admiration for the victor of the Pacific war, but I don’t know if this is actually true or if it’s just another overheated Morrisonographer fannishly speculating as usual in the absence of proof.
So before this story too gets enshrined by the terminally credulous as yet another dubious “Jimfact”:
I certainly haven’t asked Admiral Morrison to explain why he gave his eldest son the names he did! I have had no more commerce with my husband’s parents than he himself had–which is to say none whatsoever–and they for their own reasons have had none with me.
[This would be, by the way, the same Admiral Morrison who, I am told, once issued orders that under pain of military discipline no sailor under his command was ever to listen to the music of a certain bunch of hippie degenerates called the Doors. True story! It came to me from someone who knew the Admiral well and worked closely with him back then, and I’m also told the whole crew knew exactly why the Captain Bligh-ish edict had been handed down…and only listened to Doors music all the more!]
But General Macarthur notwithstanding (maybe so, maybe no), Jim himself told me that he was named James Douglas for Scotland’s great hero Sir James Douglas–though he professed not to be aware of the historical details (“I don’t know, honey, some cat in medieval Scottish history”).
I was only too happy to fill him in, and he was unexpectedly moved by the story: James Douglas was a knight, known as the Good Sir James, of the renowned warrior line of the Black Douglas. (There are Red Douglas and Grey Douglas too, and several other lines, but those are all different families.)
In any event, Sir James was the most loyal friend and staunch supporter of King Robert the Bruce, and when Bruce died the Good Sir James set out to take the king’s heart to the Holy Land, since Bruce, who had never been able to make the pilgrimage in life, on his deathbed apparently felt the urgent need of penance, and had begged his friend to perform the task for him.
But Sir James never got to the Holy Land, and neither did the heart of his king: en route through Spain, he and the three knights who accompanied him were attacked by Moors in Andalusia, in 1330. Valiant to the last, he flung the heart in its metal casing (made from the blade of Bruce’s sword) into the enemy and charged after it, shouting “Where Bruce goes Douglas follows!” He was cut to pieces, of course, and died on the spot; but moved by his courage, the Moors restored the case with the king’s heart, and it now resides at Melrose Abbey, in the Scottish border country; in commemoration, the Douglases have borne a crowned heart in their coat of arms ever since.
I don’t know if Jim had any more names hidden away anywhere; his birth certificate lists James Douglas only.
Jim’s father, the quondam and music-hating Admiral (according to the Admiral’s wife, Clara, at least as she was quoted in a piece in the New York Times on her husband’s retirement from the Navy in 1975, he is the worst piano player in the world–to date, the only thing he is known to have in common with his firstborn), is George Stephen (known as Steve). Jim’s brother has a well-known Scottish name (St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland); his paternal grandparents were Paul and Caroline; he has an older cousin or paternal uncle named, apparently, Thad; and I honestly don’t remember what he told me his mother’s parents’ (the Clarks) forenames were.
Jim and I would often discuss names–he was fascinated by naming practices, the mystic power that names have always held, and it was he who chose `Gwydion’ as the magical name he wanted to use for our wedding and his initiation. He allowed as to how he liked `Jim’ well enough, though already he was thinking of his future personal nomenclature (“Once I get into serious writing, I won’t be able to call myself Jim anymore; who ever heard of Norm Mailer, Ernie Hemingway, Jim Joyce?”).
From time to time (in lighter or more turned-on or more pissed-off moments) I would address him as `Jamie’, which has for at least five centuries been the correct Scottish familiar or affectionate diminutive for `James’ (VASTLY preferable to `Jimmy’, I wouldn’t have called him that if someone put a gun to my head), and actually he rather liked it. But sometimes he’d fight back with `Trish’…it could get pretty ugly!!

James: from Hebrew Jacob, “he followeth after”, to Latin Jacobus, Jacomus; “supplanter”; literally, “one who takes by the heel”; in the New Testament, there were two Apostles of the name, one of whom, St. James the Greater, became Santiago de Compostela (`St. James of the Field of Stars’, campo stella), the patron saint of Spain; Santiago’s cathedral shrine in Galicia (a gloriously Celtic region of far northwest Spain) is a great site of holy pilgrimage to this day; the scallop shell is his symbol from medieval times–all pilgrims to Compostela bear it–and “Santiago y España!” was a national battle-cry (cf. “England and St. George!” or the “Saint-Denis!” of the French); `James’ is the predominant royal name of Scotland (Séomaighas in old Gaelic, Seumas in modern spelling; Jago in Cornish, Seamus or Séamas in Irish)
Douglas: Celtic, dubh glais, “black stream”; originally a river name; explained above
Morrison: Scottish, “sea-chosen” or “sea-valor”; explained above
Patricia: Latin, “noble,” “woman of noble birth”, from patricius, term for the Roman aristocracy (as opposed to the common people: patricians/plebeians); the 6th-century St. Patricia is the patron saint of the city of Naples; one of Queen Victoria’s granddaughters was Princess Patricia of Connaught; only in this century, oddly enough, has it been used as the feminine form of Patrick (in Irish, Pádraigín)–patron saint of Ireland, and in my opinion the worst thing that ever befell it
Anne: English form of Hebrew Hannah, “grace”; traditionally the name of the grandmother of Jesus (on his mother’s side, of course); name of three English queens
Elizabeth: English form of Hebrew Elisheba, “oath of God” or “perfection of God”; in the New Testament, Mary’s cousin, the mother of St. John the Baptist; name of the greatest English monarch of all time, Elizabeth I, daughter of King Henry VIII and Queen Anne Boleyn
Genevieve: Celtic, “white wave” or “white ghost,” “white shadow”; variant of the Welsh Gwenhwyfar (Gwenivere, name of King Arthur’s queen; Janniver or Jennifer in Cornish); Ste. Geneviève is the patron saint of the city of Paris
Honora: Anglo-Norman form of Latin Honoria, “woman of honor” (how true…<g>)
Kennealy: Irish, “wolf’s head”; explained above
Pamela: English, first used by Sir Philip Sidney in Arcadia (1590), who almost certainly invented it (it was at that time pronounced Pa-MELL-a or Pa-MEEL-a); it was later popularized by Samuel Richardson, who used it for the servant-girl heroine of his novel Pamela (1740), making it a lower-class name up until very recently; the intended meaning is unknown, but the name is possibly derived from Greek or Latin word elements for “bees”, “honey” or “apples”, Indo-European compounds meaning “soft” or “dark”, or from Latin mala, “malignant, harmful”; pan-, Greek prefix meaning “all”
Susan: English form of Hebrew Susannah, “lily”
Courson: English via Norman French, perhaps from words to do with horse- trading (a corser was a horse dealer; how oddly appropriate…) or from curt- or court-, “short, lacking in stature”; possibly a toponymic (a personal name derived from a place name)–Welsh corsen, a bog or fen, but most likely from the French town of Courçon; if Scottish, from Corson, a variant spelling of Carson


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