George Clooney and his Irish roots - the facts and the fiction

In response The Kilkenny People article last week. ‘Family cries foul on false George Clooney story in South Kilkenny’ local film-maker, Gabriel Murray who recently completed his documentary ‘George Clooneys Irish Roots’ has responded and Noreen Burke Hayes who contacted the paper about the Clooney saga and Enclann, the Trinity College based family roots service have given their reaction to Mr Murray’s assertions.

In response The Kilkenny People article last week. ‘Family cries foul on false George Clooney story in South Kilkenny’ local film-maker, Gabriel Murray who recently completed his documentary ‘George Clooneys Irish Roots’ has responded and Noreen Burke Hayes who contacted the paper about the Clooney saga and Enclann, the Trinity College based family roots service have given their reaction to Mr Murray’s assertions.

Mr Murray stated he discovered on September 20, 2011 the birth cert of George Clooney’s ancestor which led to the location of the family home in Knockeen ,Tullahought, Co Kilkenny. Response from Noreen Burke Hayes (NBH) and Enclann - In 2005 an American genealogist traced George Clooney’s family back to an immigrant ancestor who appears in the 1860 U.S. Census. This immigrant ancestor was Nicholas Clooney born in 1829 in Kilkenny. It was widely published on the ancestry website, and on www.famous roots.com amongst other sites. From 2005 when the story was first published online many Irish genealogists including Mary Flood of Rothe House and local families knew that the baptismal record of Nicholas Clooney in 1829 in the Windgap registers, was George Clooney’s ancestor.

Mr Murray stated that Noreen Bourke Hayes has contributed to last week’s article originally agreed to take part in the documentary. But when Olympia Films and their historians requested her to prove her claim that she was a cousin of George Clooney via the Mary Walsh link (that she cited in the article last week,) she could provide any documented evidence, such as birth and marriage cert’s etc. that she was in fact related. NBH/Enclann Response - Noreen Burke Hayes withdrew from the documentary first and foremost because she was not happy with the research. Noreen Bourke Hayes’s link to the Clooney family is through her great-grandmother Mary Bourke (nee Walsh) baptised Feby. 1835, a niece of Michael Clooney and Margaret Walsh of Windgap. On 2nd Sept. 1858 Mary Walsh married Richard Burke (Windgap RC registers).

Mr Murray stated that further to this Ms Bourke Hayes made a claim that her family owned the George Clooney ancestral home. On examination of this claim the historian’s consulted Griffiths Valuation and it clearly states that Plot 3 on the 1847 map was where Andrew Clooney lived .(Georges ancestor).

NBH/Enclann Response - By comparing Griffith’s Valuation with the manuscript Cancelled Books in the Valuation Office in Abbey Street, Dublin., its clear that the Bourke/ Burke family home in Knockeen is the same one previously occupied by the Clooneys.

Mr Murray stated that the current owner of this house is in fact Peter Purcell not the Bourke Hayes family in Knockeen. The Bourke Hayes own the house next door but there is no historical documents of the Clooney’s ever living there.

NBH/Enclann Response -There are historical documents to show the Clooneys lived in the Burke Hayes house. A list of documents as stated hereunder that can be examined to prove this: Landed Estate Court Rentals online at www.findmypast.ie; Griffith’s Valuation available online www.irishorigins.net and it is also possible to compare the evidence of these two sources with the Manuscript copies of the Cancelled Books, in the Valuation Office in Abbey Street.

Mr Murray states. Andrew Clooney lived in Peter Purcell house) there after the famine but due to the Gregory clause, Nicholas and his brother Thomas were evicted because their annual valuation was worth less than four pound’s a year.

NBH/Enclann Response - Nicholas Clooney was baptised in 1829, and younger brother Thomas Clooney was baptised in 1831. During the Famine years, both Nicholas and Thomas would have been minors, and wouldn’t have been legally able to take out leases on property. In 1850, the year in which Griffith’s Valuation for Kilkenny was published, Nicholas Clooney would have been 21 years and Thomas Clooney would have been 19 years. So even by 1850, they were simply too young to have ‘displaced’ or taken over the holdings of their parents’ generation. Also, if we look at Griffith’s Valuation we can see that this older generation of Clooneys are still living in Knickeen townland in 1850.

Mr Murray states Enclann have recently tried to get involved in this project, but have been unable to access the material on the Clooney’s as Olympia Films own the copyright research . Enclann have been involved only one month ,Olympia Films have been researching for one year extensively. Olympia Films can also confirm that Enclann has interviewed none of the direct Clooney relatives or consulted the various parish records and met with the local priest that hold these records. The American genealogist that was involved in the research in 2005 failed to link the Windgap Clooneys with Tullahought.

NBH/Enclann Response -Fiona Fitzsimons from Enclann stated “I would like to make quite clear that neither I or anyone else from Enclann has ever tried to get involved in any documentary made by Gabriel Murray. Similarly I have never heard the name of Olympia Films before reading this article “

Mr Murray stated that during the course of the research the link with the Laois Clooneys was made with the Kilkenny, Dunamaggin and the Tullahought Clooneys. Olympia Films can only suggest to Ms Bourke Hayes and Enclann that they watch Gabriel Murray’s new documentary ‘George Clooneys Irish Roots’ and study the fifteen hundred files of information before they start making un academic and in- accurate claims.

NBH/Enclann Response - Enclann is a Trinity College Dublin campus company, that developed out of the School of History at the University. We stand over the research we completed on the Clooney family of Windgap Co. Kilkenny, and are confident in our findings that:

The Clooney family were never evicted from Knickeen Townland during the Famine. The land records clearly show that the extended family remain on the land into the 1850s.

The Clooney family of Windgap and the Clooney family of Abbeyleix have separate origins, and are not related.

There may have been a Sarah Clooney of Abbeyleix, who may have worked in a carpet factory in Abbeyleix that may have made carpets for the Titanic. However if so, she was not a blood relation of the Clooneys of Windgap. We can cite all sources used during research and/or direct people to the documentary evidence. Also, on 2nd August Helen Moss from Enclann met the parish priest Fr. Nicholas Flavin and viewed the Windgap/ Dunamaggin parish registers. I would also like to point out that not many records survive that are relevant to the Clooney family of Windgap between the 1820s and 1860. I would be absolutely astonished if there were 1,500 files of information.

Mr Murray states George Clooney’s agent has been in contact with Gabriel with a series of e mails. Response from NBH and Enclann - What does this have to do with the veracity of Gabriel Murray/ Olympia Film’s research?

Gabriel Murray’s gives his final quote on the matter: Olympia Films operate in a democratic fashion ,we make conclusions on detailed academic research. It seems clear that the article printed last week was issued by the Bourke Hayes family and Enclann who have no access to the full academic research. Neither have they requested over a period of twelve months access to this extensive material ’

Fiona Fitzsimons of Enclann stated, It would never have occurred to me to request access, because I wasn’t aware of it

Mr Murray said the documentary is dedicated to the late Walter Walsh (Doctor of History;Maywood University; Local History Programme.St Kieran’s College ) who took part in the documentary. His extensive knowledge on the Land War and the Clooney clan in South Kilkenny helped Olympia Films resolve the mystery of the origins of George Clooneys Irish Roots. May he rest in peace. ‘George Clooney’s Irish Roots’ will be released worldwide in Oct .

NBH/Enclann Response - Walter Walsh was an inspirational person and much loved and with his passing we have lost a true gentleman and font of knowledge. The Land War was a campaign of agrarian protest commencing in 1879 and continuing throughout the 1880’s and again referring back to the evidence of Griffith’s Valuation and the Landed Estate Court Rentals, the extended Clooney family remained in the townland of Knockeen into the mid 1850’s