Tormeys of Historical Note in Ireland
by James Tormey Clare, February, 2003
Perhaps the earliest report of a "Tormey" in Irish history is in 1232 A.D. and deals with Giolla-Iosa MacScealaighe O'Tormaigh (in English it is translated thus: Servant of God, son of the story teller, descendant of Tormey).
O'Tormaigh was a principal in the first, last and only schism in the history of the Irish Catholic Church when he deposed, by force of arms, Jocelyn, an English Cistercian monk. His death was duly reported in 1237 in the Annals of Lough Ce and a full and complete exposition of his life and times has been carefully presented and can be reviewed in another chapter of this website (see Giolla-Iosa O'Tormaigh, Archbishop of Ardagh, 1232-1237).
Over the past four hundred years various members of Tormey families have been recorded, primarily for their political activities against English rule of their homeland. The first recorded instance in this time frame involved one Shane O'Tormo who in the year 1601, and by virtue of Elizabethian Fiant #6572, received a royal pardon from Queen Elizabeth I for his "rebellion against the Crown". As a condition of his pardon he was required to present himself to the Queen's Keeper of the Peace in Ireland and "to be bound over to keep the peace".
The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries showed further patriotic and anti-English sentiment and activities. Arguably the greatest and most prominent anti-English voice in the Post-Famine years in Ireland belonged to a young priest, Fr. Michael Tormey, a native of County Westmeath, a close friend and clerical spokesman for the likes of Frederick Lucas, Charles Gavan Duffy, Charles Stewart Parnell and Michael Davitt, Irish heroes all. A short sketch of his life has recently been published in Ireland in the County Meath Historical Journal Riocht na Midhe and is republished here on this website with full permission of the author. (See Michael Tormey -- Priest and Patriot.)
The "Troubles" of the 1920's brought a Tormey to national recognition, although it was his tragic death that brought him to notoriety. In January, 1921, Joseph Tormey of Moate, County Westmeath was shot and killed by a British guard at an internment camp at Ballykinlar; County Down, in what is now Northern Ireland. He was an active Republican in the fight against the British regulars and the infamous "Black and Tans". He was captured and imprisoned under the British "Restoration of Order in Ireland Act of 1920". According to the official reports, he was shot by a British guard/soldier because "he was too close to the wire". The incident caused Republican outrage and was widely reported in such papers as the Belfast Morning News, The Freeman's Journal, and the Westmeath Examiner. The incident was cited in John McGriffin's pro I.R.A. book, Internment.
This chronicle would not be complete without reference to John Tormey, born in 1860, in Crookedwood, County Westmeath. He was a man who traveled extensively in North and South America and as a writer he contributed voluminously to the Westmeath Examiner in matters of local history as well as poetry. An Irish patriot, he was arrested in 1919 for his association with the Redmondnite Volunteers. He died in 1939, and like Fr. Michael Tormey, was buried in Kilmaglish cemetery, near Mullingar, County Westmeath.
Although separated by centuries, there is a curious common bond among all these men. Each one of then, in his own day and own way was a torchbearer for Irish freedom and for removal of the centuries old yoke of the English Crown.