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Famous People

Famous Walshs

Walsh, being one of the most numerous of Irish names, has made a mark on many aspects of Irish and world life – the Arts, Sport, Business and Entertainment.

The Arts

Maurice Walsh (1879-1964)

He was born near Listowel, Co. Kerry, a town known for many Irish literary greats including John B Keane, Bryan MacMahon and poet Brendan Kennelly. Maurice Walsh wrote stories based on his experience and the life of people and the countryside of North Kerry and Scotland. One of these stories was The Quiet Man which was made into a film directed by John Ford starring John Wayne and Maureen O Hara. The Key above the door and Blackcock’s Feather are other works by Maurice Walsh.

Dr Tom Walsh (1911-1988) was one of the founder members of the Wexford Opera Festival and its first Artistic Director, from 1951 to 1966. In 1950 he set up the Wexford Opera Study Circle and invited Sir Compton Mackenzie to give the inaugural address. Mackenzie suggested that they put on an opera themselves, and so an operatic tradition was born. The Dr Tom Walsh Lecture is presented by Wexford Festival Opera annually to honour his memory. His sister Nellie Walsh was a well known local singer. 

The Wexford Opera Festival has continued each year since 1951 in late Autumn.

Sir Kenneth Brannagh. The name Brannagh derives from the Gaelic word for Welshman - the same as Walsh. He was born In Belfast and is a well-known Shakespearian actor and director.


Thomas Walsh (1850 – 1910

Thomas Walsh emigrated from County Tipperary to Massachusetts with his family at a young age. He made a successful career in carpentry and later joined the throngs who followed the Gold Rush. His methodical approach to work enabled him to amass a fortune with his Camp Bird Gold Mine. He died in Washington DC. His story is told in his daughter’s book Father Struck it Rich (1936).His daughter Evalyn Walsh McLean is also of note.

Evelyn Walsh was a socialite and achieved fame as the last private owner of the ‘Hope diamond’- a wedding gift from her father. Some say that the curse associated with the diamond followed her. Her children died in difficult circumstances, her husband ran away with another woman and she died at the age of 60 from pneumonia.

Willie Walsh.

Born in Dublin in 1961, Willie Walsh has developed a career in the Airline industry. He qualified as a pilot with Aer lingus, the national carrier in 1980s. In 2001, following  a career in management in other airlines, he became Chief Executive Officer of Aer lingus. His robust approach to management resulted in the continued survival of Aer Lingus in the early 2000s. He resigned in 2005. Later in that year he joined British Airways as Chief Executive Officer.


Perhaps it’s the fighting ancestry of the Walshs that provides the clan with so many sportsmen.

Kilkenny is famous for its Hurling heritage and success in the All Ireland finals. It has produced many top players. One of these was Ollie Walsh (1937-1996). He was born in Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny. He played with the county hurling team from 1956 to 1972 as goalkeeper and won four all Ireland Final medals.  Ollie managed the team for five years in the early nineties and guided them to back to back All Ireland titles.

Fellow Kilkennyman  Michael ‘Ducksy’ Walsh won acclaim in the sport of Handball. He holds almost forty All Ireland senior medals in various grades.

The Kildare Walshs

A Kildare based Walsh family has been making a name for itself in horse racing and training since the 1980s. Ted Walsh was born in Cork, but moved to Kildare to follow his career as a jockey. His main achievements include his win on Attitude Adjuster in the 1986 Cheltenham Festival Foxhunter Chase. He turned to training in later years. In 2000 he  trained Papillion to win the Aintree Grand National and Commanche Court to win the Irish Grand National . Both of these were ridden by his son Ruby Walsh.

Ruby Walsh is one of the best known Irish sportsmen of the 21st century. He is a champion National hunt jockey with over 2,000 winners to his credit. His wins include several Grand Nationals in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England. He has won the jump jockeys’ title for the most winners in a year on several occasions. 

Ted’s daughter, Katie Walsh is one of the most successful female jockeys in Ireland and the UK. She was placed third in the 2012 Aintree Grand National on Seabass – the highest finish for a female jockey to date in the race.

The Walsh clan also spread to Kerry where they have excelled on the sports field too. Gaelic football is the big sport in Kerry. The county is the most successful at winning the annual football All Ireland Championship.

Tommy Walsh from Tralee, Co Kerry was a star gaelic football player at under 21 level, winning an All Ireland medal and the accolade Young Footballer of the year in 2008. In 2009 he won a senior All Ireland medal with the Kerry team.

His footballing skills were noticed by scouts for the Australian Football League (AFL). 2009 saw him signing a two year contract with St Kilda and in 2011 he moved to the Sydney Swans following in the steps of another Kerryman Tadgh Kennelly.

Billie Walsh

A Wexfordman, Billy Walsh is Irish Amateur Boxing’s head coach. He led the Irish Amateur Boxing Team at the 2012 London Olympics to its largest medal haul to date – one gold, one silver and two bronze medals. He began his own boxing career at the age of seven and represented Ireland at World and European Championships and the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Billie has worked since 2003 to develop Irish Amateur boxing to its current ranking of fifth in the world. He has his eye on the number one slot. His philosophy is ‘you can only achieve what you believe’. A true Walsh.


Louis Walsh is one of Ireland’s best known Walshs in the entertainment world. He was born in Kiltimagh Co. Mayo. The bright lights of the music business beckoned and he moved to Dublin to a career which eventually saw him managing several pop bands in the 1990s and 2000s. Boyzone, Westlife, Girls Aloud and more recently Jedward, found fame and success with Louis Walsh as manager. A career in TV saw Walsh become a judge on the hit TV show The X Factor in the late 2000s.