Home Arts & Culture This blue blood Towey is looking forward to the annual clan gathering

This blue blood Towey is looking forward to the annual clan gathering

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I hear they’ve attracted quite the crowd of Toweys from all corners of the world

 This blue blood Towey is looking forward to the annual clan gathering

Towey town: Main Street Ballaghaderreen, Co Rocommon. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 
 

 

 

Recently someone suggested that I should put my name forward to become the new Chairperson of the Towey Clan Gathering.

This title changes intermittently between Chairperson, Chieftain and Taoiseach, which all sounds rather imperial if you ask me.

The reality of the job, though, would be organising the Towey meetings, one of which happens to be taking place this weekend in Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon.

What does a Towey Clan Gathering involve, you might ask?

Sword duels, crest tattoos? Perhaps a little burning at the stake?

Alas, no. This year’s itinerary lists casual Towey get-togethers: a walking tour of Ballaghaderreen sights, a Towey Business Meeting, a coach tour of townlands where Toweys lived and a discussion of Towey genealogy.

Though I’ve never been to one before, I hear they have attracted quite the crowd of Toweys from all corners of the world, all convening in what is the fulcrum of all Towey creation: Ballaghaderreen.

I’ve yet to hear of any support for my run for Mother of the Toweys – sorry, I mean Chairperson

This is a town which truly is awash with the surname. You’ll find at least two shopfronts there bearing the name and the townlands surrounding it are full of Towey families, a name you rarely hear in any other part of the country.

Though I’ve yet to hear of any support for my run for Mother of the Toweys – sorry, I mean Chairperson – it did set me thinking about my own rather concerning lineage.

My Towey blood is truly blue, spanning decades of Towey intertwined with Towey, blurred lines and good times.

Before we start here, I’d like to mention that I have just the right amount of toes and fingers and the Bishop did not have to sign a letter allowing my parents to marry.

That said, the sheer amount of Towey in my veins does scare me. Let’s start at the top.

  • ‘You live in a quiet area,’ said mum. Then the car was broken into

  • Dad, can we please not talk about old people shifting?

  • Stephen hasn’t yet forgiven my parents for the revelation of ’99

My great-grandmother’s maiden name was Anne Towey and she was from Cloontia, a little village not far from Ballaghaderreen.

She went on to marry Tom Towey from Barnaboy, a small townland in Ballaghaderreen, where they settled and had seven children, one of whom was my grandad, John.

While the other siblings emigrated to America and England, John stayed at home and married my Granny, Nancy Towey. And yep – that was her maiden name. This where it starts to get weird.

Nancy Towey was from Castlemore, another Ballaghaderreen townland, but she settled in Barnaboy with her husband John.

I don’t care what race, colour or creed of a person ye bring home, just do not bring home a Towey”.

Nancy and John Towey had six children, one of whom was my mother Jean.

She remembers her mother telling her: “I don’t care what race, colour or creed of a person ye bring home, just do not bring home a Towey”.

And who did my mother bring home? Michael Towey, my father.

He is from Cloontia, just like my great grandmother Anne was, an area which I’m hoping is home to just as many different strains of Toweys as Baraboy is.

It was rumoured that there was at one point 23 different families of Toweys in Barnaboy alone – an area which is just 1.5km squared.

According to the 1911 census, there were 101 people with the surname Towey living in Barnaboy that year – so the rumours probably aren’t too far from the truth.

Off the top of her head my mother can remember 10 different families of Toweys living in Barnaboy when she grew up there in the 1970s, which although would be a decrease on 1911, is still no small number.

I feel rather exposed now after telling you all about the homogeneity of my ancestry – I’m basically Towey cubed.

I feel rather exposed now after telling you all about the homogeneity of my ancestry – I’m basically Towey cubed.

“Well, that explains a lot,” was the reaction of one of bosses at work when I told him. I was asking for that I suppose.

Still, when I found myself googling the Canon Laws around cousins marrying each other while researching this article, I thought enough is enough.

The chance of me or any of my siblings marrying a Towey is now thankfully greatly reduced as there are less of us around than in 1911, which is good.

I don’t think I could handle the guilt of the passing on the mantle to the next generation.

It’s always awkward, Mum tells me, when someone official asks for her family details.

“No, I said your maiden name”

“Yes, I was Towey before I married.”

“Okay, and your mother’s maiden name?”

See? Awkward.

I have been robustly assured that none of these past Towey alliances which led to my creation were in any way sinister.

Still, though, just because my Mum says everything is totally above board doesn’t mean I’ll be spitting in a tube and sending it off for analysis any time soon.

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