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Power – French peasants become Irish peers

The name Power is around the sixtieth most common surname in Ireland. It is particularly popular in the city of Waterford and the surrounding areas. Poore and Powers are variations of the name.

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The word comes from the French word poer, which means poor. It would have been the name given to peasant families in France.

The name Power arrived in Ireland in the 12th century when the Normans invaded. They took over vast areas of the country and settled. Over time, they became integrated with the Irish people.
History of the Irish name Power. Image copyright Ireland Calling
Power may originally come from the word for poor, but history shows that the Powers held large territories in Ireland.

Richard Power was the son of John Power, 5th Baron Power of Curraghmore, County Waterford. He was placed under the protection of Oliver Cromwell when he inherited his family’s estate aged 12, so no rival clan would invade his land.

Power was granted the title 1st Earl of Tyrone (even though his territory was around the Waterford area – the two areas are at the opposite ends of the country).

In 1673, Power tried to increase his territory by arranging for his eldest son John, and his sister’s daughter be married. Power’s sister was Catherine Fitzgerald, who had married into the Fitzgerald family. The marriage went ahead despite Catherine’s daughter, also called Catherine, being aged 12 and John being only 8. The marriage was later annulled and Power lost the Fitzgerald’s territory.

The Powers kept their Waterford estate and it was handed down through the generations. That was until James Power 3rd Earl of Tyrone had no son to hand the title down to and so the title was forfeited.

The Earl of Tyrone was recreated though when James’ daughter Catherine married John Beresford. Beresford became the (second) 1st Earl of Tyrone. His son, George created and adopted the title Marquess of Waterford in 1789. The family are still members of the Irish peerage today, with John Hubert de la Poer Beresford, 8th Marquess of Waterford, the current holder of the title.

Famous Powers around the world

Dermot Power is an Irish artist who has done illustrations for various comic books and fantasy movies including Judge Dredd, Harry Potter and Star Wars.

Paddy Power is a successful businessman from Ireland. He set up the betting shop, also named Paddy Power. The company has worked its way up from a standing start and is now one of the industry leaders in Ireland and Britain.

Jonathon Power is a Canadian former world number one squash player. He is won the World Open in 1998 and a Commonwealth gold medal in 2002.

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Margaret Power was from a peasant Irish family in the late 18th-century. She grew up to marry the Earl of Blessington and was described as “the most beautiful countess of Blessington”. Unfortunately her husband died leaving her with considerable debts and she was forced to flee to Paris to avoid her creditors.

John Power is an English musician who has been a part of successful indie bands The La’s and Cast.


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