Downey is an Irish surname that means in English “belonging to a fort”. The name is found from ancient times in areas of Ireland’s modern County Galway, southwest Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Ulster and Leinster and is believed to be the surname of three distinct families. In Ulster, Downey (I. O’Duibheanaigh) were the chiefs of the Ulaid petty-kingdom of Cinel Amhalgaidh, now known as Clanawley in County Down, Northern Ireland.
- Aaron Downey (born 1974), NHL forward
- Brian Downey (drummer) (born 1951), Irish drummer
- Brian Downey (actor) (born 1944), Canadian actor
- Bruce Downey, CEO of Barr Pharmaceuticals
- Edmund Downey (1856–1937), Irish journalist and novelist
- Glen Downey (writer), Canadian children's author
- James Downey (academic)
- James Downey (Internet performance artist)
- James Erwin Downey (born 1942), Canadian politician
- Jim Downey (comedian)
- John G. Downey (1827–1894), Californian patriot
- John T. Downey, CIA pilot and P.O.W.
- Juan Downey (1940–1993), Chilean video artist
- June Downey (1875–1932), American psychologist
- Keith Downey (agricultural scientist), Canadian agricultural scientist
- Keith Downey (politician), Minnesota politician
- Keir Downey (artist and educationalist), English
- Marg Downey (born 1961), Australian comedian
- Margaret Downey, American atheist activist
- Morton Downey (1901–1985), American singer nicknamed "The Irish Nightingale"
- Morton Downey Jr. (1932–2001), American singer, songwriter and television talk show host of The Morton Downey Jr. Show
- Patrick Downey (born 1974), American pro football player
- Robert Downey Sr. (born 1936), originally Robert Elias Jr., actor, writer and film director
- Robert Downey Jr. (born 1965), American actor
- Rod Downey, author
- Roma Downey (born 1960), Irish actress and producer
- Shem Downey (1922–2013), Irish hurler
- Sheridan Downey (1884–1961), lawyer and Democratic U.S. Senator from California
- Walter F. Downey (1899–1961), American football player
- W. & D. Downey (William and Daniel), photographers
The source for all material in this section is the Gannet Military Times Hall of Valor website.
Medal of Honor
William Downey (U.S. Civil War hero), a Union Army cavalryman, was awarded the Medal of Honor for braving heavy fire from a Confederate States Army artillery battery as a volunteer member of a boat crew on the Ashepoo River, South Carolina to rescue crewmen on the stranded Union (American Civil War) steamer Boston.
Ernest Willard Downey for heroism in combat against the enemy in directing and operating anti-aircraft fire from his vessel while exposed to frequent horizontal Imperial Japanese aerial attacks and dive bombings, during the period of World War II from 7 December 1941 to 25 February 1942 and while on board the U.S.S. VAGA (YT-116)
Soldier's Medal recipients
Arlie L. Downey, on 10 July 1926 upon learning that an injured woman was lying exposed in the road near a point where the two heaviest explosions of the explosions at the Lake Denmark Naval Ammunition Depot (aka Lake Denmark Powder Depot) near Dover, New Jersey had already occurred and accompanied by two other men, proceeded toward that point and rescued the woman through the continuous roar of exploding magazines and when the air was filled with flying shells, stones, and fragments of buildings, and shortly before a third heavy explosion of the facility's munitions occurred.
Distinguished Service Cross (United States) recipients
Ernest L. Downey, during World War I near the Bois-de-Montrebeau, France, 28 September 1918, while severely wounded refused to go to the rear, but continued in the advance until the final objective was reached and his company relieved
Distinguished Flying Cross (United States) recipients
- Joseph Downey, U.S. Marine Corps, Pacific Theater of World War II
- John E. Downey, U.S. Marine Corps, Pacific Theater of World War II
- Thomas A. Muldowney, U.S. Marine Corps, Pacific Theater of World War II
- Lawrence E. Downey, U.S. Army Air Forces, European theater of World War II
- Rev. Patrick Woulfe, Priest of the Diocese of Limerick, Member of the Council, National Academy of Ireland, Irish Names and Surnames, © 1967 Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, in Irish and English, p 519, (The name was also found in Ulster …)
- John O'Hart, Irish Pedigrees; or, The Origin and Stem of the Irish Nation, 5th edition, in two volumes, originally published in Dublin in 1892, reprinted, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1976, Vol. 1, p 819
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