Tribes of Galway

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A display of the fourteen tribal flags in Eyre Square, Galway

The Tribes of Galway (Treibheanna na Gaillimhe) were fourteen merchant families who dominated the political, commercial, and social life of the city of Galway in western Ireland between the mid-13th and late 19th centuries. They were the families of Athy, Blake, Bodkin, Browne, D'Arcy, Deane, Font, Ffrench, Joyce, Kirwan, Lynch, Martin, Morris and Skerritt. They were of mixed origins, variously Norman, Hiberno-Norman, Gaelic-Irish, French, Welsh and English, or some combination of the above.


The Tribes were merchant families who prospered from trade with continental Europe. They dominated Galway's municipal government during the medieval and early modern eras.

The Tribes distinguished themselves from the Gaelic peoples who lived in the hinterland of the city. However the feared suppression of their common faith joined both sides together as Irish Catholics after the Irish Rebellion of 1641 ( for many Irish was already a second or even first language). During the Irish Confederate Wars (1641–1653), Galway took the side of the Confederate Catholics, and as a result the Tribes were punished following the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. The town was besieged and after the surrender of Galway in April 1652, the Tribes had to face the confiscation of their property by the New Model Army.

The Tribes lost much of their power within Galway city after English Parliamentarians took over the Galway Corporation in 1654. Because of the uncertain response to this dilemma by the merchant families, Cromwell's forces referred to them by the derogatory name, "The Tribes of Galway", which they themselves later adopted as a mark of defiance.

Galway's urban elite enjoyed a measure of their power restored during the reign of the King Charles II (1660–1685) and his successor James II. However, Jacobite defeat in the War of the Two Kings (1689–91), marked the end of the Tribes' once overwhelming political influence on the life of the city, which passed to its small Protestant population. Garrison members of the Tribes who owned land in Galway and Mayo were protected by the advantageous surrender provisions that were signed on 22 July 1691.

Notable members of the Tribes[edit]


  • Margaret Athy, fl. 1508, founder of the Augustinian Friary of Forthill.



  • John Bodkin fitz Richard, Mayor of Galway, 1518–19.
  • Dominick Dáll Bodkin, mass murderer, executed 8 October 1740.
  • John Bodkin, Roman Catholic Warden of Galway, died 1710. After his death, his body was said to have been the subject of a miracle because it was thought to have not decayed.
  • Leo Bodkin, (1879– 30 August 1919) was a British military officer and writer
  • Michael Bodkin (c.1888–1900), inspiration for Michael Furey in James Joyce's short story "The Dead"




Font (ffont)[edit]

French (ffrench)[edit]








Like all Irish counties Galway has a nickname. The nickname the tribesmen is now used for the county and its people and is derived from this term.


The tribes also lend their names to fourteen of the city's roundabouts located in or around the city's boundaries. The roundabouts are signposted on navy blue signs containing the tribe's name in the Irish language


External links[edit]