Like many events which end up having a considerable impact on one's life, it all began by accident. One day early in 1984. The Letter arrived. It was postmarked Bank of Ireland, Dublin and addressed simply to Paul Noone, Chatswood, Australia. A diligent Postmaster had redirected it to the Lane Cove Noones. We feverishly tore it open imagining all sorts of surprises such as fabulous inheritances, long forgotten titles, castles and wealthy estates only to discover that the true addressee was a certain Paul Noone recently arrived in Sydney from the Emerald Isle!
From that chance occurrence began a whole series of events. Firstly in delivering The Irish Letter as it had now come to be known, we met the charming Paul Noone and his delightful wife Eimear. Over drinks the first meeting and at a subsequent dinner at our place, I was well and truly bitten by the Scarabus Genealogiensis, more commonly called the 'Family History Bug'.
Following this encounter I decided to research my family tree.
Coming from a person who up till then had never been quite sure which uncle was married to which aunt, let alone to whom his various cousins belonged - this was some decision.
Undaunted, I then enrolled for a ten week course in Genealogy and was soon plunging headlong into the often frustrating and frequently rewarding world of the family history researcher. Having carefully avoided all through my school years anything remotely connected with historical characters, events, and dates, only made it more rewarding to tackle them in my adult years.
A few family legends were exploded almost immediately.
Firstly, it had oft been related by my father Les when the peat fire burned low on cold winter nights as we gathered round the Noone hearth that we were descended from the 'Black' Irish and that our surname derived from anglicisation of the spanish 'Nunes' or Nunez'. The story ran that at the time of the Armada, spanish ships were driven ashore especially around Galway where the Spaniards were befriended by the Irish and settled. I was quite taken with this notion and used to exploit it in my courting days fondly imagining that the object of my desire was impressed by the thought of that hot spanish/irish blood coursing through my veins. I even discovered there had been a famous spanish admiral, Pedro Nunez (Peter Noone, get it?) and deluded myself into thinking there might be a connection!
Another myth about the origin of our surname and only given credence by the really gullible was that on one occasion in the far distant past an ancestor was challenged by a British sentry on a dark irish night. "Who goes there?", was the challenge, and reputedly the reply was given, "No-one". He was arrested for his impertinence; the name was duly recorded on the charge sheet - and stuck!
While the first is historically possible, as the 'Black Irish' are, in fact, descended from crew members of the Spanish Armada; the second is pure fantasy and it is highly improbable the Noones sprang from either of these beginnings. The scholarly version is that 'Noone' is an anglicisation of the gaelic name, O Nuadhain, pronounced O'Noone, and was around long before the Spanish Armada in 1588.
According to the records, we are in fact a sept of the Ui Fiachrach traditionally descended from Niall of the Nine Hostages who was King of Tara in the early 400s, and from whom were descended the Ui Neill (Clan O'Neill ). Niall was the first of the re Erenn Uile or Kings-of-all-Ireland who ruled up to around 1200 a.d.
Rev. Patrick Woulfe in his book "Sloinnte Gaedhah is Gall" gives the following explanation of the name:
"O Nuadhain (Irish Gaelic): O Nowan, O Nowne, Noone, Noonan; descendant of Nuadha (an ancient sea divinity); the name of a Sligo family of the race of Cairbre, son of Niall of the Nine Hostages. This family anciently possessed the district of Callraighe Laithimh, nearly co-extensive with the present parish of Calry, near the town of Sligo. The name is still very common in Connacht."
Woulfe goes on to give the following explanation of the Ui Fiachrach:
". . . . .descendants of Fiachra, son of Eochaidh Muighmradhoin, King of Ireland in the 4th. century. Fiachra was a brother of Niall of the Nine Hostages and father of the celebrated King Dahy, the last pagan monarch of Ireland.
However, it has always been thought that the Gaelic Celts came from southern France and northern Spain around 350 B.C. They eventually became political leaders of Ireland though an upper class minority group, and by 800 A.D. had imposed their empire, language, and law upon the whole country.
Recent research shows that Irish men in Connaught, the western province of Ireland from where the Noones come, are almost all descended from an ancestral population of hunter-gatherers that inhabited Ireland before the invention of agriculture. And these hunter-gatherers are thought to have originated on the Iberian Peninsula, or modernday Spain! (The New York Times, March 2000).
There are other spanish connections. When the Spaniards landed at Kinsale (Co Cork) in 1601, Hugh O'Neill marched 300 miles south to join with them against the English. He was thoroughly routed and went into exile in Europe. His tomb is in the Spanish National Church beside Villa Spada which is home to the Irish Embassy at the Vatican.
Furthermore, the ancient Leabar Gabala (Book of Invasions), preserves the tradition that three sons of Mileadh of Spain, namely Heremon, Heber and Ir, conquered Erin about the time of Alexander the Great. From these three men descended all the royal clans of Ireland. Hence the name "Ireland", and the word "Hibernian" to describe all things irish.
Did you know there are "Noons" also in Scotland? They are found in the area around Aberdeen! Also, the gaelic word for 'Noone' means a lamb, so there could be many people with the surname 'Lamb' who were originally Noones!
Incidentally, it was not until almost 1865, that our ancestor Martin Noon(e) started to spell Noone with the "e" on the end!