Power Family History
“Per Crucem ad Coronam”
Through the Cross to the Crown
De Paor is a Gaelicised form of an Anglo-Norman name, which as such has two possible origins. The second origin is the one attributed to Irish Power, by both standard authorities: P. Woulfe, 'Irish Names and Surnames' (1923) and E. MacLysaght, 'The Surnames of Ireland' (1985).
Origin 1. From Old French 'Pohier', a native of Pois in Picardy, brought to England by the Normans at some time during or after the invasion of 1066.
Origin 2. From Old French 'povre, poure', meaning 'pauper', which Woulfe et. al. interprets as someone who has taken a vow of poverty; also arriving via the Normans.
Woulfe thought that as the name appears in Ireland early on as 'le Poer', the second origin here is the relevant one. He seems to have accepted this 'neat' from C. Bardsley, 'A Dictionary of English & Welsh Surnames' (1901). MacLysaght clearly follows suit ('Irish Families', 1985), and en suite the several works depending on these two authorities. It is unlikely, however, that Woulfe had come across the first origin. In any case the 'le', meaning 'the' in French, would be equally applicable to the first origin i.e. le Pohier is a native of Pois, 'the man from Pois', le Poitevin is a native of Poitiers, 'the man from Poitiers' etc. The Gaelic form susbstituted 'de' for 'le', as in De Brún for 'le Brun', the brown-haired man.
The Power dynasty put down roots first in Co Waterford; Robert le Poer arrived probably in 1176 in the wake of the Norman 'shock troops' of Strongbow (Gilbert de Clare). The book written by Giraldus Cambrensis (Gerald of Wales alias Gerald de Barry) 'Expugnatio Hibernica' ('The Conquest of Ireland') contemporary with the actual events, mentions Robert le Poer. He seems to have been King Henry 11's man. Henry, half Angevin half Norman, and a native of France, perhaps wanted to keep an eye on the Welsh-Norman barons who were carving up Ireland for themselves. According to legend, Robert died fighting the O Tooles in what is now Co Kildare.
It was in Waterford, and to some extent also in adjacent counties, that Power became a numerous surname; in fact Power tops the list for Waterford in the 1890 birth registration figures.
The 1659 'Census' of Sir William Petty, a Cromwellian survey of Ireland and its inhabitants, has Power as a 'Principal Irish Name' P.I.N.) where we would expect to find it; Power also appears as a 'titulado' or landholder/gentry name.
9 Power (all P.I.N. families except where stated) in Decies (all locations given here are baronies) + 2 Power tituladoes, Pierce and John; 11 Power & Poer in Cosmore & Cosbride; 12 Power in Glanahiry (Glenahiry Barony); 130 Power in Upperthird + no less than 10 of the name as tituladoes(!); 138 Power in Middlethird; 69 Power in Galtire; 8 Power in City of Waterford.
7 Power in Bargie (Bargy Barony; 16 Power in Shelbyrne; 11 Power in Bantrie.
21 Powre in Iffa & Offa; 16 Power in Eliogurty + Peirse Power, gentleman.
8 Power in Gowran; 8 Powre & Poore in Iverke; 8 Power & Poore in Knocktopher; 9 Power in Kells; 8 Power in City *& Liberties of Kilkenny.
By the mid 19th century, looking at the Power households in Griffith's Primary Valuation', the top counties were Waterford -1628, Kilkenny -341, Tipperary- 324, Wexford- 297, Cork- 217 and Limerick- inc city 128. The total households was 3315.
R.E. Matheson, the Registrar General compiled a 'Special Report...' on names,based on the 1890 births distribution figures. For Power, of the 272 births, all except 17 were in Co Waterford! It ranked 54th in the top 100 surnames in Ireland that year, and it was the first in Co Waterford.
A footnote on the Arms: generally the simpler the blazon the more ancient the coat of arms; and this is true of the Power arms. Strictly speaking it was the Normans who introduced personal arms into Ireland, in the sense that they were used on the continent, as means of identification in battle. This practice was adapted to the Celtic association of animals/emblems with tribes and families. The Power arms are a model of their kind.
Tyrone Power (1795-1841) actor and writer, born either in Co Waterford, or in Swansea, Wales of Waterford parents. It was written in a 19th century source that his real name was Powell; this is unlikely in the opinion of the present writer. He performed in both Dublin and London. He spent some time in the U.S. and published in 1836 'Impressions of America'. He went to the states again in 1840; he embarked on the steamer 'President' in March 1841 for the return voyage, but the ship was lost at sea.
His namesake, the American actor Tyrone Power (1914-1958) whose dashing good looks won him a devoted following as a Hollywood screen idol from the 30s to the 50s, was actually the great grandson of the foregoing. His own ancestry was a mix of Irish, English, French and German!
Ned Power (1929-2007) hurling hero of Co Waterford in the 50s and 60s. He was part of the team that won the All-Ireland, against Kilkenny, in 1959. Added to this honour were the three Munster provincial titles. He played for Tallow GAA.
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