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Martin, (Mac) Gilmartin, Kilmartin
Martin is among the fifty most numerous surnames in Ireland; in fact it has thirty-eight place. The thirteen thousand persons of the name in Ireland with widely distributed over the country, being found most frequently in East Ulster and, of course, in Dublin which, being the metropolis, contains families from all the provinces. Martin is also a common name in Great Britain: it has thirty-first place in England and forty-eight in Scotland.
The best known families of Martin are those of Galway city and county: they were one of the celebrated "Tribes of Galway". These Martins are not Gaelic in origin. Their pedigree states that they came to Ireland with Strongbow. An interesting fact relating to the Martyns of Tullyra, Co. Galway, should be mentioned here. A special clause was inserted in the penal act 8 Anne, Chap 3, providing that the prohibition of gavelkind in Catholic families should not apply to Oliver Martin of Tulliry on account of his assistance to Protestants during the brief period of Catholic ascendancy in the seventeenth century - an example of clemency very usual in the ferocious Penal Code.
Our native indigenous Martins may be either O's or Mac's. The O'Martins were of some importance in the mediaeval period: Giolla Earnain O Martain who died in 1218 is described in the various Annals as chief brehon or chief professor of law in Ireland - chief poet etc., in "Loch Ce"; and in 1431 the death of the Bishop of Clogher, who was also an O'Martin, is recorded. MacMartin was the surname assumed by a branch of the O'Neills in Co. Tyrone. Survivors of these minor septs are now plain Martin without either Prefix. Co. Tyrone is also the original homeland of another sept whose present-day representatives are sometimes called Martin: this is an important sept of MacGiolla Mahrtain, anglicized MacGilmartin in the seventeenth century and now usually Gilmartin or Kilmartin. Their forbears were chiefs in the barony of Clogher, Co. Tyrone, but, though they were still very numerous in the adjoining county of Fermanagh at the time of the 1659 census, they were gradually forced westwards to the territory in which they are now chiefly found, I.e Counties Leitrim and Sligo. Fergal MacMartin (d. 1431), Bishop of Killala, was probably of this sept.
A number of distinguished men and women of the name have adorned the annals of Ireland, especially in the nineteenth century. The most notable of these were: John Martin (1812-1875) the Young Irelander and brother-in-law of John Mitchel;; Richard Martin (1754-1834) that romantic character known as "Hair Trigger Dick" and "Humanity Dick" (the originator of legislation against cruelty to animals), who could boast that his Connacht avenue was thirty miles long; his daughter Harriet Letitia Martin (1801-1891), the novelist; his grand-daughter Mary Letitia Martin (1815-1850), the "Princess of Connemara" owner of 200,000 acres, who ruined herself relieving sufferers at the time of the Great Famine. In recent times we have had Miss Martin of Ross (1862-1915), of the famous literary partnership of Somerville and Ross; and finally, not to mention various distinguished churchmen and colonial statesmen, Edward Martyn (1859-1932) another remarkable Co. Galway man, the co-founder of Sinn Fein and a pioneer of the Irish dramatic movement.