Healy is a popular name in Ireland and also across America, Australia and the UK. The history of the name can be traced back to two ancient Gaelic families, the Ó hÉilidhes and the Ó hÉalaighthes.
The name Ó hÉilidhe came from the word hÉilidhe, which meant claimant. In ancient Ireland this name was possibly given to people who laid claim to the best plots of land, or even positions of power such as the throne.
The O’ would have been added to the name to refer to the grandson of or descendant of hÉilidhe.
The Ó hÉalaighthe family got their name from the word hÉalaighth, which meant ingenious. This suggests that at some point in Irish history, a cunning mind was able to solve a problem where brute force had failed, although there is no record of any specific incident where the name came from.
But the name hÉalaighthe was given to a man at some point, and again the Ó was added to the name when referring to that man’s descendants.
Both families held large territories for many years, with the Ó hÉilidhe living in Co Sligo and the Ó hÉalaighthe predominantly in Co Cork.
Some of the first Irish people to settle in America
The invasion of Ireland led by Oliver Cromwell signalled the end of the power of both. The Ó hÉilidhe and Ó hÉalaighthe clans lost their land and their power and had to integrate into the communities dominated by the new English settlers.
In the years after England invaded Ireland, many Irish people changed their names to make them more English sounding, as it was difficult to find work if you had an Irish name.
For this reason, Ó hÉilidhe and Ó hÉalaighthe both evolved into the name Healy that is still popular around the world today. There are also several variations of the name, such as Haly, Haley, Haily, Healey, Hely, O’Healey, O’Haly, Heal among others.
Several Irish families named Healy moved to America in the early 1800s. These were wealthy families and moved to America to gain plots of land and build a better life in the new world.
Around 40 years later, many more Healys left Ireland for America because of the great potato famine. Unlike their namesakes who had moved years before, these Healys were moving to survive, although most of them flourished and prospered in America.
Northern Ireland’s all-time top goalscorer
David Healy is the most notable person to come from Ireland in recent years. He is the record goalscorer for the Northern Irish football team, with an impressive record of 36 goals in 95 appearances including a hat-trick against Spain in a famous 3-2 victory and the winner in the 1-0 win over England in 2005.
He scored the most goals, 13 in 10 games, in a single European Championships qualifying campaign, a record no striker in the history of Europe has bettered.
Denis Healey was one of Britain’s most prominent politicians in the 1970s, serving as Chancellor of the Exchequer during a long and distinguished career.
Other famous Healys include Fran Healy, the lead singer of Scottish rock band Travis and Una Healy who is a member of British girl band The Saturdays.