A notable family with Wexford associations

From Ireland’s Own Famous Irish Names series by Hilary Murphy
Published on this web site by kind permission of Hilary Murphy


According to popular tradition, the originator of the Parle family in Wexford was one of three brothers who were shipwrecked at Carnsore Point. Having had a leg broken, he was left behind while his two brothers returned to France. The story goes that he was induced to stay here by "a fair maiden who nursed him through his illness and whom he eventually married".

Richard Roche, author of "The Saltees", says that it has been suggested that the three Parle brothers were privateers, but exactly when they were shipwrecked on the Wexford coast is not known. He speculates that the first Parle may have settled at Clongaddy and that the name of the place derived from his calling as a privateer: Clongaddy being an English form of "Gleann an Ghadai", the Glen of the Thief. They may also have been just fishermen.

A census of Co. Wexford for the year 1659 shows that there were nineteen Parles (rendered Pearle) in the Bargy at that time.  In the previous century there is a reference to Thomas Parle of Cowelsheiken, Co. Wexford, who was killed in a quarrel in 1563, and to one Edmund Parle, of Brittas Co. Wicklow, described as a galloglass in 1570.

The Parles were connected with the Saltee Islands, off Kilmore Quay, throughout the last century. Samuel Lewis, writing in 1837, gave the population of the islands as "about twenty persons", which consisted of the members of the Parle family and labourers.

Griffith’s Valuation of 1853 shows John Parle as the occupant of the Great Saltee and Ellen Parle of the Little Saltee. Francis and Patrick Parle were later occupants. Their farm-home on the Great Saltee was described by Bassett in 1885 as "a comfortable slated house, occupying a well-sheltered spot on the north-east side". Griffith’s Valuation records show that there were nearly ninety families of Parles in Co. Wexford in 1853.  The name is mostly so spelt, though in a few instances it is returned as Parl, Parrel and Parrell.


In Richard Roche’s story of the Saltees we read that the father of this farming dynasty on the islands was John Parle, who lived on the bigger island until his death at the age of 87. He left a widow, a few years his junior, who survived him two years. One of their sons, Stephen, lost his life when he fell from the top of Celbooly cliff on the south-west end of the Great Saltee. He was only thirteen at the time. His body was recovered from the sea by island boatmen at "Deadman’s Shoal", so named after this tragic discovery.

John Parle was reputed a powerful man. He could lift two fully-grown sheep, one under each arm, into a cot (a small boat), and was known to have carried two 20 stone sacks of meal in the same manner.

Another Parle family owned a water mill at Mill O'Rags, near Duncormick, for many generations. In Bassets Directory of County Wexford (1885), we find Mary Parle, mistress of Broadway National School, and Martin Parle, postmaster in Churchtown, Carne.

Ellen Mary Parle, daughter of Mr. And Mrs. Thomas Parle, Wexford, who married Sean Sinnott, Grogan’s Road, Wexford, was one of the first in Wexford to obtain a certificate for the teaching of Irish after attending Ballingeary Irish College, Co. Cork. She was a National teacher in Clonroche and was very active in the Gaelic League there and in Wexford. She was a leading member of Cuman na m’Ban during the War of Independence and received the military service medal. She died in 1949.


Matthew Parle, a member of the prominent Parle family of Poulmarle, Taghmon, was one of Ireland’s leading horse-breeders and trainers. In 1954 his entry, What a Walk, won the Supreme Award at the Dublin Horse Show. He has achieved many other notable successes since he first won a jumping event in Dublin in 1922. There is a family tradition that Mr. Parle’s grandfather was a baby in his mother’s arms at the Battle of the Three Rocks in 1798.

Thomas Parle, a member of a Wexford town family, was awarded the Papal Bene Merenti Medal in 1977 in recognition of his long service with the Holy Family Confraternity Band, of which he has been manager for a number of years. His brother, Patrick Parle, is the Band’s conductor.

The late Nicholas Parle of Ballycogley, was prominent in the Gaelic League activities and later in Muintir na Tire. He was also crowned "King of the Mummers". Patrick Parle, Tacumshane, was a noted tenor and broadcaster on Radio Eireann in the 1930s and was a gold medal winner at the great country feiseanna of that period.

Fr. James Parle, a curate in Newtownbarry (Bunclody), gave his house to the first nuns of the Faithful Companions of Jesus when they came to the town to take charge of the national school there. Fr. Parle went to Australia to collect funds for the building of a suitable convent for the nuns. He was born near Kilmore in 1812 and was ordained at the Irish College in Rome in 1835. He served as curate in New Ross and Enniscorthy before his appointment as parish priest of Bunclody.

In 1863 he went to Australia for the purpose of collecting subscriptions for the erection of a church in Bunclody. He decided to remain in Australia. He was appointed to the Belfast Mission in Victoria in 1866 and built a church dedicated to St. Patrick. He then undertook the building of a new church at Keroft.

Towards the close of the last century, Sergt. P. Parle was weights and measures officer in Wexford. Miss Margaret Parle, Slaney St., Wexford, who died in October 1953, was principal of Caim National School for many years and afterwards taught in Glynn until her retirement. She was daughter of Patrick and Ellen Parle, School St., Wexford.


In 1954 an American priest, Fr. Thomas M. Parle, of Iowa City, celebrated Mass in the parish church at Carrig-on-Bannow, where his grandparents were married nearly a century before, and where his father had been baptised, and from where he emigrated to the United States when only six months old.

Fr. Parle, who had been to Rome for the canonisation of St. Pius X, found two first cousins, Mrs. Mary McCarthy and Mrs. James Colfer, living near Carrig-on-Bannow. William Parle was a small farmer in Branbane, in the Bannow parish, around the middle of the last century.

William Parle, Clovervalley, Taghmon, who died in December 1945, aged 94, was a staunch supporter of every national movement. He nominated Dr. James Ryan in every general election from the first time he stood as a Sinn Fein candidate in 1918. Four of his sons were prominent during the War of Independence: James, who was executed on 13th March 1923 in Wexford Jail; and Matthew, William and Phillip.

James, who was an officer in the I.R.A., was executed by firing squad at Wexford Jail on 13th March 1923, along with two comrades, John Creane and Patrick Hogan. Paddy Parle from Wexford town was one of five I.R.A. men killed in an explosion in Endentubber, Co. Louth, on 11th November 1957.

The name Parle is derived from Pierre (Peter). MacLysaght mentions the names Pearls and Perrills of Co. Clare as possible variants of Parle. He also notes an early (1570) reference to one Edmund Perle of Brittas, Co. Wicklow.

Copyright    1986  Hilary Murphy



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This page last changed on 04 March 2019