Reagan: What’s in a name?

If you’re of Reagan tribe, you have American Presidents and High Kings of Ireland in your background. By Shauna O’Halloran.

Variants: Regan, O Riagáin

An Irish name with great significance in American history and culture, most famous Reagan worldwide is undoubtedly that of 40th president of United States, Ronald Reagan. Born on February 6th 1911, he became Governor of California (with a margin of over a million votes) in 1967 after a successful career as a movie actor.

However, his career as a national politician was to be infinitely more successful, with Reagan rising in popularity thanks to his positive, can-do attitude in face of Iran hostage crisis and floundering economy, two main challenges for United States in run up to his election. During his term as President, he continued to prove immensely popular, and was regarded as a superb communicator and a man of great decency, with common touch. By all account, his policies helped America return to prosperity, as well as improving job creation and bolstering country’s national defense. He also had that indefinable quality of making Americans feel better as a nation. After taking office in 1981, he was victim of an attempted assassination after just 69 days. He was hospitalised for his gunshot wounds, but recovered and returned to office, which only bolstered public’s growing fondness of him.

Reagan remains oldest President ever elected to office, aged 69 when he took up his first term; he was sworn in for his second term in 1985. He passed away on June 5th 2004, aged 93 after a ten year battle with Alzheimer’s Disease, and is survived by his wife Nancy. Although there is ongoing debate about his legacy and long-term effects on US of ‘Reaganomics’, he still ranks among most popular of modern Presidents in American opinion polls.

Reagan’s Irish roots can be traced to Tipperary town of Ballyporeen, where his great-grandfather Michael Regan (who later changed family name to Reagan) was baptised in 1829. Michael Regan left Ireland to find a better life, first traveling to London, and then emigrating to America in 1857. Ronald Reagan famously referred to his Irish-American ancestry more than once, and even visited village of Ballyporeen in 1984 during his presidency.

The name Reagan can first be found originally in three main septs across Leinster and beyond, and is said to mean ‘son of little king’. The main sept from Tara was one of Four Tribes of Tara, who were active and vital forces against Scandinavian invasions during tenth century. They were ultimately defeated around 1180 by Normans, and were driven away to Leix.

Another significant sept were Riagáins who ruled across Leinster and were descended from Donnchadh, brother of Brian Ború, High King of Ireland from 1002-1014. A smaller sept using name were found in County Cork, and were related to MacCarthys of South West Cork and town of Carbery.

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