Friday, 24 August 2012

The story of Irish "Reddys"


These "Reddys" are different

By Syed Akbar

Hyderabad: Helen Reddy, William Reddy, James Reddy, Jacob Reddy… If you think these 
Reddys are from Andhra Pradesh, you are mistaken. They are Irish Reddys, and except for 
their common surname, they do not have anything remotely connected to Andhra Pradesh or 
India.

Irish Reddys are not Reddys by caste, and cultural anthropologists say the Irish family 
name, Reddy, is a corrupt form of O’Roidigh or O’Reddy and dates back to the 12th century 
Ireland.

“My family name is from Ireland. My family’s ancestors came to the United States during 
the Great Famine, when there was a disease that killed the potato crop in 1849, and about 
two million Irish people died. Many immigrated at that time to North America,” points out 
Dr William M Reddy, professor of cultural anthropology, Duke University, Durham.

Explaining how Reddy became an Irish surname, Dr William Reddy, who is also the chair at 
the department of history in Duke University, says, “When my ancestors were in Ireland, I 
am told, their name was O’Reddy. But they dropped the “O” in the United States, because 
they did not want people to know they were Irish. At that time, the Irish were regarded 
as inferior.”

The Irish name “Reddy” is rare, but there is one famous singer in the United States, 
named Helen Reddy, known to many.  “There is no connection to Andhra Pradesh, another 
part of the old empire,” he clarifies to this correspondent.

According to researchers, some of the Irish people migrated to New York via Ellis Island. 
At the checkpoint, their surname was wrongly entered as Reddy instead of O’Roidigh or 
O’Rodagh. The Dictionary of American Family Names points out that Reddy is the reduced 
Anglicised form of Gaelic O’Roidigh or Roddy.

Though Irish Reddys have nothing to do with the Reddys in Andhra Pradesh either 
culturally or historically, they have one thing in common: its meaning. In Middle English 
(when the Irish surname Reddy supposedly came into existence) “readi” means a person 
quick in action. In Andhra Pradesh Reddys were tax collectors and known for their valour 
and quickness of action.

“Reddys were a ruling class in Andhra Pradesh. Reddy kings had their own coat of arms. 
Similarly, Irish Reddys also have coat of arms,” says sociologist V Satyanarayana.

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