Joe Bodkin of Canada wonders about the Bodkin family motto crom aboo. His father believed it to mean “death before dishonor”, and was known to occasionally invoke it while raising a glass.
A family reunion newsletter from 1982 in my possession expresses a similar sentiment.
The old Irish watchword crom a boo means ‘I will burn’. The exact meaning of this is unknown to us and we hope it does not refer to Hades. It more likely refers to the Irish who would rather burn than give in to their conquerors and oppressors.
Luckily, history steers us away from death and hellfire.
William Newton, in “A Display of Heraldry” (1846) explains, crom-a-boo was the ancient Irish war cry of the Fitzgerald clan, whose arms the Bodkin family bore for many generations, according to Hardiman’s History of Galway, and whose motto they retain to this day.
Very cool. But, what does it mean? Martin Blake’s “Blake Family Records, 1600-1700“, defines it as “Crom to victory”. Modern Irish/English translations (Google) give the meaning of “Abu” or “Aboo,” as “forever”.
The Dukes of Leinster also share the motto, owing to their Fitzgerald lineage. That leads us to the Complete Peerage. (1890) Vol III. (D-F) p358 “Fitz-Gerald of Offaly” and fills us in on “Crom” and war cries.
Crom (Croom) and Shanet (Shanid) were two castles about 16 miles apart in Co Limerick, one being the seat of the Geraldines of Kildare, and the other that of the Geraldines of Desmond, whose distinctive war cries were accordingly “Crom-a-boo” and “Shanet-a-boo.” In 1495 an act of Parliament was passed “to abolish the words Crom-a-boo and Butler-a-boo.” The word “Abu” or “Aboo,” an exclamation of defiance, was the usual termination of the war cries in Ireland, as in a’ buaidh, “to victory!”
Abu as a war cry is on full display in O’Donnell Abú, a marching song about the Nine Years War.
The National University of Ireland’s (Galway) Landed Estates Database gives us a peek at the Castle:
I’ll take that over damnation any day.