Moore, More, O'Moore, O'More


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Moore is a very numerous name in Ireland: with some 16,500 of the population so called it holds twentieth place in the list of commonest names. The great majority of these (apart from the metropolitan area) are in Munster and Ulster. It is practically impossible to say what proportion of these are of Gaelic Irish origin and what proportion of English or Scottish extraction, for Moore is also indigenous in Britain and very common there (it has thirty-ninth place in England). It would perhaps be better to say Anglo-Norman rather than English, since Anglo-Norman Moores established themselves in Munster soon after the invasion. These Moores are called de Mora in Irish, a phonetic rendering of the English name which is derived from the word moor (heathy mountain). In Scotland the name is rendered Moore, More or, most commonly, Muir. It was first noted, in a variety of places, in the thirteenth century. There were Mores, a sept of Clan Leslie, and Muirs, a sept of Clan Campbell.

The Old Irish Moores are O Mordha, from the word mordha (stately, noble). The eponymous ancestor Mordha was twenty-first in descent from Conal Cearnach, the most distinguished of the heroes of the Red Branch. The O Mordhas were chieftains of County Leix (now Laois), and the town of Abbeyleix got its name from the Cistercian Abbey founded there in 1183 by Conor O More. In the Abbeyleix estate of the de Vescis there is a tomb with a carved effigy of Malachi O More, said to be the last of their chieftains. Six miles from Abbeyleix, a local man with a sense of history calls his garage "The Pass of the Plumes", to commemorate the spot where the O Mores, in 1599, are said to have slaughtered 500 of the Earl of Essex's soldiers, whose plumed helmets were strewn all around after the battle. The O'Mores were the leading sept of the Seven Septs of Leix, the other six being tributary to them. According to Keating the O'Mores have St. Fintan as their protector.

Of thirteen families of Moore recorded in Burke's Landed Gentry of Ireland (1912), twelve claim to have come to Ireland as settlers from England or Scotland and one to be an offshoot of the O'Mores.

Judged by the test of resistance to English aggression the O'Mores may be described as one of the foremost Irish septs. In this connection particular mention may be made of Rory O'More (died 1557) and his son Rory Og O'More (died 1578), both of whom were distinguished Irish leaders in the wars against the Tudor sovereigns. Another son, Owney Macrory O More, retrieved some of his father's inheritance. In 1599 he also imprisoned Thomas Butler, Duke of Ormond, General of the Irish royalist army and Lord Lieutenant, and subsequently released him with a millstone around his neck! It was an O More who, in 1513, shot dead Garret Mor, the FitzGerald known as the "uncrowned king of Ireland". Patrick Sarsfield, one of Ireland's greatest soldiers, had an O More mother. In County Laois, four miles from Portlaoise, a dramatic ruin on the Rock of Dunamase stands silhouetted on the otherwise flat landscape - all that the Cromwellians left of the Dunamase stronghold of the O Mores. Another Rory O'More, a member of the Leix sept, the head of the 1641 Rising and a staunch ally of Owen Roe O'Neill in the subsequent war. It is of interest to note that he was known in English as Moore as well as O'More.

A number of O'Mores of the Leix sept were officers of the Irish Brigade in France in the eighteenth century. The descendants of one of them, Murtagh O'More, (who went to France in 1691) ranked among the nobility of France as lords of Valmont.

The transplantations of the remnants of this sept to Kerry after their subjugation in Leix, may account for the frequency of this name More there now. St. Malachy, who was Archbishop of Armagh from 1132 to 1148, is described by Gams and other ecclesiastical authorities as Malachy O'Moore. His surname, however, was O'Morgair (now obsolete), which is not, in fact, an early form of O Mordha.

Of the many Moores who have distinguished themselves in various phases of Irish life the most famous was, perhaps, Thomas Moore (1779-1852), the poet: he was of a Co. Wexford family. The son of a Dublin grocer and wine merchant, he went to Trinity College after it had been opened to Catholics in 1793. There he met all the leading revolutionaries, but his mother restrained him from joining in their subversive activities. He went to London to study law and rapidly made a reputation as a poet. He had much charm but no money, and patrons got him a government appointment in Bermuda to ensure him an income. Given his poetic talents, he found the work far from congenial and appointed a deputy so that he could tour the Americas before returning to London. He fell in love, married, and wrote poetry, satire, plays and operas. When it was discovered that his deputy in Bermuda had absconded, leaving Moore with a debt of £6,000, he had to travel abroad to escape a debtor's prison. He met Lord Byron, who was so impressed with him that he gave Moore his autobiography, not to be published until his death. Byron died soon afterwards and Moore sold the book, but was persuaded by the Byron family to withdraw it. He gave back the money but, alas, burned the book. Later he wrote his own life of Byron. Moore's Melodies, his nostalgic songs about Ireland, were very popular and brought him fame and fortune. Despite Daniel O Connell's best efforts, he would take no part in Irish politics. Trinity College has commemorated him handsomely with a statue at the front gate.

In Connacht, Moore Hall was built in 1795 by George Moore, whose antecedents had fled to Europe with the "Wild Geese". George had done well in the wine trade in Spain and was able to return home to build his mansion at Ballyglass in County Mayo. George's son, John Moore, joined the United Irishmen and, when the French General Humbert landed at Killala in 1798 and declared Connacht a republic, he made John Moore its first, and last, president. The rising was quelled by the English and John, a gentle man, was jailed in Waterford where he died. The book, The Year of the French, is based on this episode. John's brother, George Henry Moore, is best remembered because he owned the horse, Croagh Patrick, which won the Stewart's Cup at Goodwood. George Augustus Moore (1852 - 1933), the novelist, was George's eldest son. He was educated in England and went to France to study art, but turned to writing. His first novels broke new ground by being outspoken regarding sex, greatly shocking the Victorians. He was a serious writer and Esther Waters, written in 1894, made his reputation and has been filmed. He and his neighbour in Connemara, Edward Martyn, were sparring partners and both contributed to the foundation of the Abbey Theatre. George Moore was an irascible man with a biting wit. He had a fierce love-hate relationship with Ireland and the latter part of his life was spent in Ebury Street, Chelsea; he found that London suited him best. His younger brother, Colonel Maurice Moore, looked after the estate at Moore Hall, but, when he was made a Senator in the newly-established Irish Free State, the anti-Treaty IRA vindictively burnt Moore Hall, ignoring the fact that the Moores had always been exemplary landlords.

In the 400 years since its foundation, Trinity College, Dublin, had only one Catholic provost until 1990. That was the Reverend Michael Moore (1640 - 1726), who was of the Mayo family and received his appointment from King James II. It was he who, with the librarian, a MacCarthy, saved the library when a fire broke out. Although he was a most able provost, his tenure was short, owing to a terrible indiscretion. Preaching in the presence of James II, he took as his text, "If the blind lead the blind both shall fall into the ditch". James had a Jesuit confessor whose sight was exceedingly poor and he took this personally. Moore was banished abroad, first to Rome, then to Paris, where he became rector to the University there. Ironically, he lost his sight, and the fine library he intended to bequeath to the Irish College in Paris had all but vanished by the time he died, pilfered by a servant who took advantage of his disability.

Father Florence O'More, alias Moore (1550-1616) was a noted Irish Jesuit in Austria. Others members of this family were noted as economists, architects etc. One Rev. Henry Moore (1751-1844) left Dublin for London to work as a woodcarver. Instead he became the devoted servant of John Wesley, who appointed him as one of his literary executors. He wrote a life of Wesley and, despite many opportunities for improvement, he adhered to the austere life of a travelling preacher.

Mooresfort, near Lattin in County Tipperary, was owned by a different branch of the Moore family. Charles Moore, a Member of Parliament, remodelled it in the 1850s. His son, Arthur Moore (1849 - 1904), was created a papal count and founded Mount St Joseph's Cistercian Abbey at Mount Heaton, County Offaly, close to his family home.

The Moores of Barmeath have been settled there since the fourteenth century. The grandson of Saint Thomas More claims in his Memoir that the family of More in England was a branch of the O'Mores of Ireland: subsequent research suggests that, though they did indeed come from Ireland and that they were of the Barmeath line.

The Viscounts of Drogheda, whose family name is Moore, descend from a soldier who came from Kent with the Tudors. They had their estates in Mellifont in County Louth. Sir Garret Moore became so firm a friend of Hugh O Neill, Earl of Tyrone, the great rebel, that in 1607 before he fled to the Continent O Neill stayed with him. When taking his leave, O Neill wept bitterly, never revealing that he was leaving Ireland forever. The descendants of these Moores later moved to Moore Abbey, County Kildare, a major Irish country house built in 1767 by Field Marshal Sir Charles Moore, 6th Earl and 1st Marquis of Drogheda. In the 1920s, Moore Abbey was rented by Count John McCormack, the celebrated Irish tenor. The 10th Earl of Drogheda sold the house to the Sisters of Charity who have a hospital there.

Arthur Moore (1666 - 1730) was one of the very earliest economists. Born in Monaghan, he made his home, and also his money, in England. He was an early advocate of free trade and in 1712 he promoted the Treaty of Commerce with France and Spain.

Robert Ross Rowan Moore (1811 - 64) of Dublin was the eldest son of William Moore of the Rowallane family which settled in Ulster in 1610. He was a political economist and a close friend of the patriot, Thomas Davis. He was a member of the Irish anti-slavery society, and in 1841 in Limerick he put a stop to a scheme for the exportation of apprentices to the West Indies. Like an earlier Moore, Arthur Moore (possibly an ancestor), he was a campaigner for free trade.

Temple Lushington Moore (1856 - 1920) of Tullamore studied architecture in Glasgow. He designed many churches, including the cathedral in Nairobi. He was highly regarded as an architect in England. His only son was drowned when the SS Leinster sank off the Irish coast in 1918.

Brian Moore is a novelist with an international reputation. Born in Belfast in 1921, he had a variety of odd jobs before writing The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, which became a best seller and has been followed by a regular flow of original works, including The Luck of Ginger Cogey and Catholics, which have been filmed.

Moores are widespread and numerous in Ireland today. Many have returned to the O prefix, while a few have reverted to the Irish O Mordha.


O'More (The O'More Lord of Laoighis or Leix, an extensive territory comprising the eastern and southern baronies of the present Queen's County; the territory was so called from the tribe designation of the sept, Mac Laoighis, a name derived from their ancestor Laoiseach son of Conal Cearnach Chief of the Craobhruadh or Red Branch Knights. Mordha, the descendant of Laoiseach was Lord of Laoighis and from him derived the surname O'More. Rory O'More, Lord of Laoighis (temp. Elizabeth I) waged war against her majesty and was slain in rebellion 1578. Anthony or Owny O'More, his son, succeeded as Lord of Leix but was slain in rebellion in 1601, when all the estates were forfeit and the sept scattered) Arms: Vert a lion rampant or in chief three mullets of the last. Crest: A dexter hand lying fessways couped at the wrist holding a sword in pale pierced through three gory heads all proper. Motto: Conlon Abú.

Moore (Earl of Drogheda) Arms: Azure on a chief indented or three mullets pierced Gules. Crest: Out of a ducal coronet a Moor's head proper wreathed argent and azure. Motto: Fortis cadere cedere non potest.

Moore (Earl of Mountcashel. descended of Kilworth settled in Clonmel temp James I) Arms: Sable a swan argent membered and beaked or a border engrailed of the last. Crest: A goshawk wings addorsed preying on a coney all proper. Motto: Vis unita fortior.

Moore (Mooresfort, Co. Tipperary) Arms: Argent a chevron engrailed between three moorcocks sable. Crest: A Moor's head and shoulders in profile proper wreathed argent and azure. Motto: None recorded.

Moore (Ballina Co. Mayo and Alicante, Spain) Arms: Argent a chevron Gules between three moorcocks proper. Crest: On a ducal coronet a moorcock proper. Motto: Fortis cadere cedere non potest.

Moore (Moigne Hall, Co. Cavan) Arms: Nicholas Moore captain in the regiment of Col Robert Tothill sent to Ireland by Parliament 1649. Crest: Azure on a chief indented or three mullets Gules pierced argent a border indented ermine. Motto: An eagle's leg erase a la quise sable grasping a human heart Gules.

Moore (Col. Moore sent to Ireland by Parliament 1649) Arms: Vert ten trefoils slipped argent four, three, two and one. Crest: None recorded. Motto: None recorded.

Moore (Rosscarberry, Co. Cork, Ireland.) Arms: Argent two bats sable between nine martlets Gules. Crest: An heraldic tiger's head couped argent pierced through with a broken spear all proper.

Moore (Barmeath and Carblagh, Co. Meath 1614) Arms: Sable two bars argent. Crest: None recorded. Motto: None recorded.

Moore (Charles Moore of Coogee, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, mayor of that city 1867 - son of James Moore of Ballymacrue, Co. Cavan) Arms: Azure a cross crosslet or on a canton argent a kangaroo proper. Crest: Out of a mural crown Gules a Moor's head couped at the shoulders proper on the neck a cross crosslet gold and wreathed or and azure. Motto: Perseverando et cavendo.

There are many more Moore coats of arms on record. The above represent the main lines in Ireland.