At Easter this year I was honoured to be invited to address the descendants of Timothy Michael “Thady Mick” Brosnahan, a famous figure among the Kerrytown Brosnahans, as they gathered in Timaru and Kerrytown for a family reunion. It was my first real ceremonial function as Ceann Fine since the Gathering in 2013. Margaret and Bernard Hempseed, there as members of Thady Mick’s descendant group, had also been present with me in Kerry and were inspired to have a sash made to add to the accoutrements of my role. I had my hawthorn stick of course and was proudly showing it off when they made the surprise presentation. I was very grateful for their thoughtfulness.
The descendants of Thady Mick form a fascinating example of the optional spellings of the Brosnan/Brosnahan surname when it is used in the English form. Thady had two wives, each of whom bore him children. Those born to his union with Mary Sullivan went by the Brosnahan surname. When she died and he remarried Bridget O’Neill, the children of the ‘second’ family went by Brosnan. I suppose it was one way of keeping clear as to who belonged to who. Anyway it means that Brosnan and Brosnahan are mixed up in this particular way in a manner that is untangleable (if that’s a word).
To add to the confusion, Margaret Hempseed’s mother married first a Brosnan (of the Thady Mick line) and then a Brosnahan. Margaret, born to Winnie McGuire and Fergus Brosnan, was therefore a Brosnan. Her sister Claudia, meanwhile, the daughter of Winnie and her second husband Harold Brosnahan, was a Brosnahan (of the John ‘Peg Leg’ line). I made some play of this in my address to the reunion, pointing out that however our surname if spelt in English, it is an Irish name and O’Brosnácháin is the ‘proper’ spelling of the name. I heard an Irish speaker in a TV documentary refer to the Brosnahans collectively as what sounded like “Na Brosnacháiní” which I guess is the plural. Please correct me if this in wrong.
The reunion itself was a fun gathering with visits to farm properties at Kerrytown that are no longer in family hands, a dinner, a Mass and a lunch at Temuka. I really enjoyed meeting a whole new set of Brosnans/Brosnahans, seeing so many physical and social characteristics that seem to be common to all the Kerrytown families, and hearing stories of this vibrant energetic branch of the tribe. Na Brosnacháiní go bragh.
All photographs above courtesy of Bernard Hempseed.