Clooney clan discovers George’s Kilkenny roots

HOLLYWOOD heart-throb George Clooney is a Kilkenny man.

A painstaking search has unearthed the derelict house where Mr Clooney’s great-great-grandfather was born, as well as his baptismal cert. Work by Gabriel Murray, the Kilkenny film-maker led to the discovery.

Mr Clooney announced recently that he is returning to Ireland in search of his roots. Following the disclosure, Mr Murray started investigating and discovered that George’s antecedent was a Nicholas Clooney from Windgap.

The problem was that no baptismal cert for Nicholas Clooney had ever been found.

Researching the recent computerised records of all birth records in Ireland by a Fás community employment scheme, Mr Murray discovered the certificate last week. It revealed that Nicholas Clooney was baptised in Windgap church on July 23, 1829, and was from Knockeen, Tullahought.

The next problem was locating of the actual townland where Nicholas was born, and the site of the ancestral home. A trawl through Griffith’s valuation of 1850, an invaluable census of all households in Ireland, pointed researchers in the right direction.

Mr Murray travelled down to Tullahought with Kilkenny-based cardiologist Dr Michael Conway and started searching for George’s ancestral home. After two hours climbing the hills of Knockeen, he and Dr Conway located the ancestral home. When they knocked on the front door of one of the houses, they were greeted by Peter Purcell and his son, Paul, George Clooney’s cousins.

On checking Nicholas’ baptismal cert, Mr Murray discovered that Peter’s great-granduncle, Patrick Bourke, had been godfather at Nicholas Clooney’s christening in 1849. Nicholas’ father was David Clooney, and his mother was Mary McGrath. The McGrath family are all now deceased.

Peter Purcell recalled how his ancestors, the Clooneys, had uprooted overnight and left for Kentucky. Peter mentioned that his relative, Mary Egan’s mother, was also a Bourke.

The McGraths and the Bourkes had married into the Clooney clan in the 18th century. Nicholas Clooney had left for America and settled in Kentucky around 1847.

Mary Egan is organising a reception for George Clooney in Tullahought when, as she hopes, he comes next year. Mary plans to invite all the Clooney clan from throughout Ireland. The community hall in Tullahought and Powers’ recently re-opened bar will be the host venues.

Picture: Peter Purcell, Mary Egan and Willy Burke at George Clooney’s ancestral home in Kilkenny

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