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Hickey is a common surname of Irishmarker origin.

The Hickey name in Irish history

The surname Hickey is one of the most ancient Irish surnames (O hIcidhe or O'Caigh "descendent of the healer"), with the clan holding the position of court physicians to the powerful O'Brien royal family of Thomond.

Surnames were only introduced in Ireland around 1,000 C.E. This ancient Irish family claims to be descended from Heber, a son of Milesius, King of the Gauls who colonized Ireland many centuries before the Christian era.

In a genealogical article, The O'Hickeys by Lt Col J. Hickey M.C., it is stated that the Hickeys are descended from Cormac Colchin, second son of Cathan Fionn, 14th King of Munster who was said to have converted to Christianity in C.E. 420, having been baptised personally by St. Patrick. His great grandson Aodh Caomh, 17th King of Cashelmarker and Munster is recorded to have built the first Christian church in Ireland, in Killaloe, County Claremarker.Most of the following history is explained in greater depth in Lt. Col. Hickey's article.

The Hickey ancestral home

Their traditional home was in the north of County Claremarker, Ireland, where there is still an area called Ballyhickey ("Baile O hIcidhe" , or The Town of the O' Hickeys). They are also associated with the neighbouring townland of Drim, and other townlands around Quin, Co. Clare.

Before the invasion of the Anglo-Normans at the end of the 12th century, the home of the family was located near Killaloe in County Clare.

Documents held in the British Museum (Collectanea de Rebus Hibernies Vol 1 p641) record that "in the last year of the reign of Connor O'Brien - na Srona - (of the nose) King of Thomand an obstinate battle was fought ...against Gerald, 8th Earl of Kildare, the Lord Deputy of Ireland near the castle of Ballyhickey." (C.E. 1496). The Earl of Kildare first used artillery in 1485 and it is assumed he later obliterated Ballyhickey Castle as no trace of it is shown in the Down Survey map of the County of Clare from 1658.

In the General Confiscation of 1654, the entire O'Hickey lands were taken by the English Crown.

The Hickey clan as physicians

In ancient times the Hickeys were hereditary physicians to many of the prominent families, including the O'Briens, the Kings of Thomond, a territory that embraced the present counties of Clare and Limerick. The activities of such healers in Celtic Ireland (before the Norman invasion of 1169 CE) can be viewed as similar to that of a shaman or druid.

As Lt Col Hickey states, from the 5th to the 10th centuries Gaelic culture was at its peak. Latin was commonly spoken so medical knowledge passed easily from abroad. In addition case records were maintained and passed from father to son which established clans of Hereditary Physicians such as the Hickeys.

By tradition, the O'Hickeys were noted for brain surgery, especially the art of trepanning with silver plates the skulls fractures and other head injuries sustained in battle.

Ireland was an especially miserable place to practice medicine. The soft moist climate encouraged all forms of bacteria while rarely being cold enough to kill them off. The constant damp cold sapped human resistance to disease and whole ruling families were often wiped out. Extreme famine was a regular occurrence despite the fertility of the land. The 8th century brought famine and pestilence, the 9th brought another famine and a plague for cattle. In 1080 plague killed 75% of Ireland's population. The O'Hickey's medical tradition survived through these.

Doctors in the Hickey family were famous for their study of medicine and translated many Latin and Greek Medical texbooks over the centuries. In 1403 Nicholas O'Hickey (with Boulger O'Callahan) wrote a commentary on the Aphorism of Hippocrates, a fragment of which is still preserved in the British Museum, London.

In 1489 Donough O'Hickey translated into Irish the works of contemporary European surgeons, an example being the work of Pietro d'Argeloto, the Chirurgia.

The British Museum also holds two further medical works of 1589 by Thomas O'Hickey of Clare and one by Donal O'Troy for the O'Hickeys.

The best of the work is set forth in the Book of the O'Hickeys, now in the National Library of Ireland.

The Hickey crest and motto

The generally accepted form of the Hickey family crest can be described as Lion passant guardant Or (that is, a gold lion walking, with the right forepaw raised and facing the viewer), on an Azure background, ensigned or crowned with an ermine fur of sable (that is, black) fleur de Lys with a sable bent. The less familiar motto is the Latin "Honour virtutis praemium", roughly translated as "Honour is the reward for virtue".

An Ancestral coat-of-arms for Hickey is a shield divided into eight triangles, all meeting at a point in the center of the shield. The triangles are colored alternately black and gold: upon each black triangle is a golden acorn and upon each golden triangle is a black oak leaf.

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