Buckley – farmers of Ireland and England

History of the Irish name Buckley. Image copyright Ireland Calling

Buckley is a popular surname in Ireland, the UK, America and Canada. It is believed that two separate versions of the name originated independently of each other, one in Ireland and one in England. In time the two merged together to form the name we know today.

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Interestingly, although Buckley evolved in two separate forms, both names share a similar meaning.

The Irish Buckley comes from the ancient Gaelic name Ó Buachalla. That was from the word ‘buachaill’ which has come to mean ‘boy’ in modern times, but was originally used as a name for a herdsman.

Well respected family in ancient Ireland

Most Irish names were given to clan leaders, based on their appearance or profession. On that basis, it is likely that Buachalla was the name given to a shepherd or keeper of livestock. Animals, plus their meat and hides, would have been valuable commodities in Ireland in ancient times, as they still are today.
A clan with lots of livestock would have been well respected by others, and hold a strong negotiating position in trade deals. Buachalla would have been the first shepherd or farmer to be given the name by his fellow clan leaders. All of his family will have taken their name from him, with the Ó prefix, which meant ‘the descendant of’, being added as the generations passed.
The Ó Buachalla clan held territories in County Offaly, and also in the northern parts of County Cork.

English and Irish Buckley merged into one

The English version of Buckley can be traced back to before the 7th century. It is a combination of the word for a male goat, ‘bucc’, and the word for a meadow or clearing, ‘leah’. The name in English probably meant something very similar to its Irish equivalent, the name of a shepherd or farmer.
When the British Normans invaded Ireland in the 12th century, many of them settled and married into Irish families. The two versions of Buckley would have become unified around this time.
When written records of people’s names became commonplace, the slight variations of the name would have been written and spelt in different ways, depending on any given interpretation. For this reason the name Buckley, and most other Irish names, has numerous spellings and pronunciations. These include Bucklee and Buckleigh amongst others.
James Buckley. Photo copyright Damo1977 CC2
When Europeans began to travel to the ‘New World’ of America to start afresh, the name Buckley became global. Several more left Ireland for the US, Australia and Canada during the years of the ‘Great Famine’.

Famous Buckleys throughout history

A look back through history shows there have been many noteworthy people named Buckley.

Ben Buckley, 11, and his younger brother Daniel Buckley, 9, were amongst the first European settlers in America. They sailed from London in 1635 to start their new lives in New England.

James Buckley is an actor from England. He is recognisable for playing the sex-obsessed teenager Jay Cartwright in the smash comedy, the Inbetweeners. Buckley also bravely took on the role of a young Del Boy Trotter in Rock and Chips, a prequel to the classic British comedy Only Fools and Horses.

AJ Buckley is an Irish-born Canadian actor. He has appeared in popular shows including The X Files, CSI: NY and Justified. He also worked as a voice actor for the 2006 animated movie Happy Feet.

Video histories of popular Irish names

Irish names and their meanings

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