Joyce Country

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Green indicates Joyce Country, with pale green showing it at its greatest defined extent; Red indicates Connemara,[citation needed] with pink showing it at its greatest defined[citation needed] extent (not including those who consider anywhere west of the Corrib to be in Connemara)

Joyce Country (Irish: Dúiche Sheoighe) is a region in counties Galway and Mayo in Ireland. There are about 2,000 people living in the area. About 25% are native Irish speakers. Joyce Country lies west of the Lough Mask area, beyond the isthmus; a hilly region in the north of County Galway, extending into the southern part of County Mayo, traversed by green valleys and lonely roads which takes its name from a Norman Welsh family who settled here in the 13th century during the reign of Edward I. Many people with the name Joyce still live there. The writer James Joyce carries the family name although he was born in Dublin in 1882.

There exists a Joyce Country Mountain and Lake District which covers the area south of Lough Mask, including the communities from Clonbur to Maam, Cloghbrack and Finney. Some sources include the balance of the isthmus, extending the region to Cong, Cross and The Neale.

The first of the Joyce family ("Seoige" in Gaelic) recorded in Ireland is Thomas de Jorse, who arrived at Thomond from Wales with his fleet, and married Nora O Brien, a descendant of Brian Boru, in 1283.

The following extracts are from “Irish pedigrees or, The origin and stem of the Irish nation.” Limited American ed. By John O’Hart.

Published 1915 by P. Murphy & son in New York .

Available here –

JOYCE. (No. 1.) Of Joyces’ Country, County Galway.

Arms : Ar. an eagle displ. gu. charged on the breast with a bar gemel erm.

Crest: A demi wolf ducally gorged ppr. Motto : Mors aut honorabilis vita.

A VERY curious pedigree of this family is recorded in the Office of Arms[i],* Dublin ; which agrees with MacFirbis in tracing the descent of this family from a King of Britain. Other genealogists assert that Joyce and Joy are of Anglo-Norman descent, and were originally called De Jorse. But all admit that they were an ancient, honourable, and nobly descended race ; of tall and manly stature[ii] ; and were allied to the Welsh and British Princes.

Thomas de Jorse, who (according to the History of Galway, &c.) was the first of the name that came to Ireland, sailed from Wales in the reign of King Edward I., immediately after that Monarch had,A.D. 1282, defeated the Welsh prince Lewyllen, and added Wales to England. He arrived with his fleet at Thomond, in Ireland, where, it is said, he married Nora O’Brien, daughter of the then Prince of that Principality.

He afterwards put to sea, steered for West Connaught, and landed in the barony of Tyrawley, in the county of Mayo, where the sept had a temporary stay, and founded the Abbey of Rosserk [iii],* on the banks of the river Moy. Thence he re-embarked, and reached lar Connacht (or the north-western part of the county Galway), where he established a colony and acquired extensive tracts of territory contiguous to Killery Bay, adjacent to the county Mayo ; and extending from Cong river to the river

Glenbrickeen, near Clifden, in the county Galway, in which some of his posterity now reside. While on his voyage to lar Connaught, his wife was delivered of a son, whom he named MacMara (or ” the son of the sea”), who was subsequently called Edmond. This Edmond (MacMara) Joyce was first married to the daughter of O’Flaherty, prince of lar Connaught by whom he acquired the territory comprising the present Parish of Ballinakill, and other districts ; from him are descended the Joyces of “Joyces’ Country,” called after their name Duthaidh Seoigheoch, now forming the Barony of Ross, the parish of Ballinakill, etc., in the west of the county Galway.

The Joyces were a brave and warlike race, and great commanders of gallowglasses, particularly Tioboid na Caislein (Toby or Theobald of the Castles), who is No. 11 on the subjoined list of the chiefs of the Joyce family. This Theobald and the neighbouring chiefs were frequently at war. One of his most remarkable battles was with Tioboid na Luinge (or Toby of the Ships), who is No. 28 on ” The Bourkes, lords viscount Mayo” pedigree ; which was fought in Partry, on the boundary of the Bourkes’ territory and Joyces’ country, in which the Joyces were victorious, and Theobald Bourke made prisoner. As the result of that battle, Tioboid na Luinge gave the Joyces a part of his territory, extending from the battlefield (the original boundary ; and to this day known as Sraith na Luinge, indicating where Tioboid na Luinge was captured) to Owenbrin. The Joyces were frequently at war with the O’Flahertys, who, during almost the whole of the sixteenth century, strenuously endeavoured to regain the territories which Edmond (MacMara) Joyce received with the daughter of O’Flaherty, as above mentioned. In those sanguinary battles the bravest and dearest kinsmen fell on both sides.[1]

Note that there are references to the de Jorz family in Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Devon in the 30–40 years before Thomas de Jorse left Wales for Ireland. [2]

Both the Battle Abbey and Falaise Roll name the companions of William the Conqueror who fought at the Battle of Hastings, 1066. Le sire de Jort, also le Cil de Jort is named and is said to have been the first Joyce.

In discussing the Battle of Hastings Wace states – “The vicomte; Lord of Thouars, did not display cowardice that day. Richard of Avranches was there and with him the lords of Victrie and of Lassy, of Vaudry and of Tracy; they were in the same company and struck the English impetuously, not fearing pike or ditch. They knocked down many men that day and killed many a good horse, and many of them were wounded. Hugh, the lord of Montfort, the lords of Epinay and of Port, of Courcy and of Jort killed many men that day…” [3]

The Conqueror and his Companions – J R Planche, Volume II, London; 1874

Cil de Jort – Jort is a commune near Conrei, arrondissement of Falaise. It had belonged to Lesceline, Countess of Eu, but no possessor of it in 1066 is known to French antiquaries. It was probably held by some under the de Courcis of that day, as they are named together “Cil de Courci e Cil de Jort.”

So we have a mention of Robert de Jort, presumably the same Robert mentioned later in the Domesday book as being at Burton Joyce in Nottingham. [4]

Area Population Irish Speakers
An Fhairche 890 19% (175)
Conga 493 40% (201)
An Chorr 158 30% (48)
Leitir Breacáin 31 12% (4)
An Ros 105 60% (64)
An Uilinn 91 31% (29)
Mairíos 128 12% (16)
Binn an Choire 116 14% (17)
TOTAL 2,012 554


See also[edit]

County Galway

County Donegal

County Kerry

County Mayo