The Clan/Sept History
Curtin, more usually nowadays without the prefix Mac, is probably popularly regarded as a Co. Cork surname, and it is undoubtedly more common there than any other county, though also found in Limerick and Clare. The MacCurtins are, in fact, an ancient Thomond sept, whose territory was near Ennistymon in the barony of Corcomore, Co. Clare.
There they were hereditary ollaves to the OBriens of Thomond. Nor was this in any sense a nominal position, for from generation to generation the Clare MacCurtins distinguished them selves as poets and Gaelic scholars. The Four Masters recorded four of them as such in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
The best known in more modern times were Hugh Buidhe MacCurtin (c. 1680-1755), styled Chief of the Sept, who was a lexicographer as well as a poet, his cousin, Andrew MacCurtin (c. 1680-1749), and Hugh Og MacCurtin (c.1680-1755). In this century the name is honored in the person of Thomas MacCurtin (1885-1920) the patriotic Lord Mayor of Cork who was a victim of the Black and Tan terror in that city.
In Australia, John Joseph Curtin (1885-1945), was Prime Minister of Australia During World War II. He was the son of a Co. Cork Curtin and Curtin University in Perth was named after him.
In the United States, Andrew Gregg Curtin was the son of a Co. Clare man, and was Governor of Pennsylvania during the Civil War. Later he was Minister to Russia, and a member of Congress. Several of his descendants were also active in the government as military officers or as Ambassadors.
Jeremiah Curtin (c. 1840-1906) was a distinguished linguist.
In France, a Jeremiah Curtin was an Irish signatory of the address to the National Convention during the Revolution period. Major General Benjamin MacCurtin was a leader of the Vendean insurgents on the Royalist and Catholic side in 1793.
One common thought on the origin of the name is that it meant Son of the Hunchback. This is probably the most prevalent, as most of the various scrolls with the Coats of Arms that you find in shopping malls and such contain this source.
One Irish archeologist/genealogist, Richard Cronin of Dysart, contends that: "the family were bards to the O'Briens. This may explain one opinion of the surname MacCruitín, which signifies "Son of the Little Harp."
He continues: "Claírseach in Gaelic means concert harp, while Cruit means small or portable harp." Which more closely identifies with the family crest on file with the Chief Herald of Ireland. The description for this is as follows:
Vert in front of a lance in pale or a stag trippant argent attired or between three crosses crossletor, two and one, and as many trefoils slipt argent one and two.
Crest: In front of two lances in saltire agent headed of an Irish harp sable.
Another source states that Cormac, King of Munster, AD 483, was the founder of the illustrious Curtins, and the chief of the tribe to which the family belonged. His title was McCarthy McMore, Prince of Muskerry, King and Prince of Desmond, King of Cashel and Munster, Verily a royal personage.
Carthann was the ancient form of the name Curtin, which means "Kindness". In the Co.'s of Cork, Limerick and Clare were the possessions of the sept. In addition to their achievements as historians and poets, the Carthanns were ollaves of Thomond in history and music, a distinction considerable in itself.
Another illustrious person was Bishop MacCartin, Bishop of Clogher, consecrated in 454 by St Patrick. In Gaelic his name was Aedh Mac Carthin. In Northern Irelands Counties Down and Armagh the name was a powerful family until after 1599. Some of this branch moved south to County Cork, and when registered the name was misspelled into MacCurtin and MacCartin.
Other forms of the name are Curtain, OCurtaine, MacCurtaine, Curtayne, Curtan, Curteois, Curties, and Kyerty. Some of these are from Milesian era (450BC-500AD)
As you can see, there are many variations to the name, and due to the dark years of English rule, no good records survive. The dark period in Irish heritage stretches from about 1620 through about 1865. The English prohibited the Catholic Irish from going to school, registration of births and marriages, owning of land, and holding any sort of public position or trust. If you can break this black period, you are indeed fortunate.
Present your clan/sept crest in a most unique and attractive way by choosing an Irish Clan/Sept Shield by Rowan Heraldic Shields!