This interesting surname is an Anglicized form of the Old Gaelic "O'Foghladha". The Gaelic prefix "O" indicates "male descendant of", plus the personal byname "Foghladha" meaning pirate or plunderer. This great sept originated in the southern Munster County of Waterford, and from there spread to Counties Cork and Kerry, where the name is particularly widespread, and ranks among the sixty most numerous surnames in Ireland. The distinguished English family of Foley, centred in Worcestershire and its surrounding counties, is believed to be of Irish origin. In his "Dictionary of English and Welsh surnames", C.W. Bardsley, M.A., states that "Foley must be looked upon as an Irish surname". Among the several notable namebearers listed in the "Dictionary of National Biography" are Thomas Foley (1617 - 1677), founder of the Old Swinford Hospital, Worcestershire (1667); Daniel Foley, professor of Irish at Trinity College, Dublin, 1849 - 1861; and John Henry Foley (1818 - 1874), sculptor, who attained international fame in his sphere. Among his public works are O'Connell, Goldsmith and Burke in Dublin, and the figure of the Prince Consort in the Albert Memorial Hyde Park. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Maoliosa O'Foley, Archbishop of Cashel, which was dated 1131, in "Medieval Ecclesiastical Records of Ireland", during the reign of Turlough Mor O'Connor, High King of Ireland, 1119 - 1156. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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