The Bolger Surname


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History of the surname:

The name Bolguidhir in Irish is well disguised: the practice in modern English speech of pronouncing the G of Bolger soft adds to this; had it been written Bolgar the distortion would not have been so marked. Up to the end of the sixteenth century O'Bulgire was the usual form, though O'Boulger occurs at Ferns in 1541, the name Bolger is closely associated with southeast Leinster and is rarely found elsewhere. It is that of a sept which supplied many physicians to the chiefs in that area.

     There are many references to the name in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, to tenants, jurors and clergy as well as medical men, mainly in Co. Kilkenny; in the 1659 census it is recorded as a principal Irish name in three baronies of Co. Kilkenny, two of Co. Carlow and two of Co. Wexford. In the seventeenth century they are more prominent in Co. Wexford than elsewhere, as is the case today. Brassell and Dermot O'Bolger, both of Ballywalter, were among the chief gentlemen of the barony of Ballagheen in 1608, and in 1570 O'Bolgirs were of sufficient importance to be consulted by the Lord Deputy and Council on a matter relating to ancient rights, especially of the Colcloughs, in Co. Wexford. The family was well represented in James II's Irish army and, after the Jacobite defeat, in the Irish Brigade in France.

      It is safe to say that almost all Bolgers in Ireland are of Bolguidhir stock, it is possible that the soft G referred to above is to some extent attributable to the existence of the English surname Bolger or Boulger, which comes from the Old-French word boulgier (maker of leather bags). It is noteworthy that in most cases where the name Bolger appeared in the sixteenth century it has no terminal R so the accepted derivation may be incorrect.

Last Updated : Wednesday, August 11, 2004 9:29 PM

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