Cusack – origins in the South of France

History of the Irish name Cusack. Image copyright Ireland Calling

The surname Cusack has an interesting history.

While it is a common Irish name, it originated in France and came to Ireland via England where it has now all but died out.

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It came from the South West of France and is taken from the area known as Cussac in Guienne.

There are several variations to the name including Cuseck, Cuseick, Cusick, Cussack, Kusick, and Kewzick.

The motto on the Cusack family crest reads ‘En Dieu est mon Espoir’ which means ‘In God is my Hope’.

Spread to England then Ireland

The Cusacks first arrived in England with William the Conqueror in 1066. The name was anglicised as ‘de Cussac’ and ‘de Cusack’.

Over a century later the name arrived in Ireland as many Cusacks took part in the Norman Invasion of Ireland in 1169 when they ousted the King of Leinster, and in 1171 when they took Waterford and Dublin. They were granted land in Co Meath and Co Kildare.

In the early 13th century, Geoffrey de Cusack arrived in Leinster and his family became Lairds of Killeen.

A laird is a Scottish title which is ranked just below a baron. Killeen is a small area in Co Meath and Geoffrey built his castle there in 1181.

Integrated into Irish culture

As with many invading forces, as time passed they intermarried with the natives and a few generations later they had become integrated into Irish culture.

Their Anglicised names were given the Gaelic spelling ‘de Ciomhsog’.

However, as time went by they would become re-Anglicised as British rule took a grip on Ireland and it became more difficult for people to find work if they had an Irish sounding name.

Having arrived in Leinster and Munster and assimilating into Irish culture they were soon on the move again.

They headed for Connacht and fought for land in Co Mayo. The ones who settled in Co Mayo became known as ‘MacIosog’.

Spreading throughout Ireland

The Cusacks spread across Ireland’s four provinces and the name is still popular throughout the country, especially in Munster.

They fought for the Catholic James II against Protestant William of Orange in the Battle of the Boyne. Following James’ defeat, many of his supporters were forced to flee Ireland and headed to Catholic France.

The Cusacks who made this journey had taken their family full circle.

Gaelic Athletic Association

Michael Cusack was the founder of the Gaelic Athletic Association. He was born in 1847 in the Burren, Co Clare.

He was a patriotic man and was involved with the Gaelic Athletic Association, which aimed to preserve the Irish language.

As he walked through Pheonix Park in Dublin he was unhappy with the lack of people playing sport. He decided something needed to be done to ‘preserve the physical strength of our race.’ Along with his friend Pat Nally, he organised National Athletics Sports meetings in Mayo and Dublin.

Thanks to the success of the events he went on to found the Gaelic Athletic Association with Maurice Davin.

John Cusack copyright Georges Biard cc3
John Cusack

Cusacks in acting

Cyril Cusack was an esteemed Irish stage and screen actor whose career lasted 70 years.

He starred in the controversial Irish language film Poitín. He also appeared in hit movies such as My Left Foot, Les Miserables, True Confessions and Far and Away.

John Cusack is an American writer and actor. He appeared as Richard Nixon in the 2013 film The Butler. He has also starred in High Fidelity, Con Air, Being John Malkovich and 2012.

John’s sister Joan Cusack is also a leading actress. She was nominated for an Academy Award for her roles in Working Girl and In & Out.

She has also appeared on Saturday Night Live, Shameless, Toy Story, High Fidelity and School of Rock.

Their father, Dick, and sister, Ann, are also successful actors.

Video histories of popular Irish names

Irish names and their meanings