This year is the 100th anniversary of the Easter Uprising, a time to reflect on how those events have influenced us as a people, as a nation and as individuals. The courage and vision of those executed for rising up for Ireland’s freedom and their tragic ends have shaped not only Irish history and politics, but Irish culture as well.
Politicians, intellectuals, artists and historians will have plenty to say this year about the legacy of the Easter Uprising, but let’s consider something smaller and cuter. Babies. Specifically, what we name children. It’s too early in the year to say, but it will be interesting to see if the most popular Irish babies names of 2016 turn out to be tributes to the leaders of the fight for freedom.
The Central Statistics Office recently published a list of the most popular baby names from 1911 and 2014. In 1911, Mary was the most popular girl’s name in Ireland, with Bridget in second place and Margaret in third. In 2014, the top three were Emily, Sophie and Emma. The boy names list shows a less dramatic change. James is in the top three on both lists, appearing at third place in 1911 and second place in 2014. The top name in 1911 was John, while in 2014 it was Jack. Patrick was second in 1911, but had dropped from the top ten in 2014, when the second most popular name for boys was Daniel.
The Perfect Irish Name for Your Baby
March is when we honor our patron saint Patrick, and Patrick (Padraig) Pearse was one of the key leaders of the Easter Uprising, which was in April, so Patrick/ Padraig is a very strong contender for Irish boys born this spring. Many popular and traditional names have both an Irish (Padraig) and English language (Patrick) version.
Pearse is also a first name for Irish men. (We won’t quibble over spelling with Pierce Brosnan.) James does not leap out as an Irish name, but the 1911 and 2014 lists show it has always been popular here. It’s also a good name to commemorate the Easter Rising. James Connolly was a prominent leader, and James Larkin was an influential labor leader and nationalist of the day. The Irish version is Seamus, pronounced shay-mus.
Women played a significant role in 1916. Constance Markievicz is one of the most well known women involved. She was a colorful character, a suffragette, and a military leader. She was second in command of the Irish troops at St. Stephens Green. Rose McNamara was the commanding officer of a battalion of women who when offered the chance to simply disperse when the Irish surrendered instead insisted on remaining with the men and going to jail. Roisin (row-sheen) is the Irish version of Rose. Kathleen Lynn was a high ranking officer in the rebel army as well as a doctor. She launched Ireland’s first campaign to vaccinate children.
Parents looking for a girl’s name that captures the spirit of 1916 have another option. Saoirse is an Irish name that means freedom, and now that Irish-American actress Saoirse Ronan is in the spotlight, there is even a chance that Americans will learn how to pronounce the name (seer-shaw).
Of course, centenary babies lucky enough to be born in May hit the jackpot. Their birthstone is emerald.