The name Morgan is Celtic. The meaning of the name is unknown but the first part probably means “sea”. It was a fairly common Welsh masculine given name well before the Norman invasion (1066).
In 1169, King Henry 11, the grandson of William the Conqueror, sent a force recruited from Wales to invade Ireland. The Morgan family probably came to Ireland at this time. The Morgans who emigrated to Australia lived in Galway. The nearby village of Kilfenora in County Clare has had many residents named Morgan (Kilfenora was once an important town and has a cathedral dating from the 12th century but the population is now less than 200. There are Morgan family graves in the Cathedral cemetary.)
By 1300, most of Ireland was under Norman control. Most of the invaders, however, gradually adopted Irish ways. Norman power waned and the Irish chieftains regained control of all of Ireland except for a narrow strip along the coast south of Dublin known as the Pale.
When Henry V111 made himself Head of the Church of England, he passed laws banning Catholicism in Ireland as well as England. In most of Ireland, Henry’s laws were totally ignored. When Queen Mary succeeded Henry, she decided that the way to subdue Ireland was to send English settlers there. Mary’s colonists had little success but Elizabeth 1 strengthened the policy and began to enforce the ban on Catholicism. This led to an uprising of the Irish who were decisively defeated by the much stronger English forces.
The policy of sending English colonists to Ireland continued. Under Cromwell, all Irish landowners were expelled from the provinces of Ulster, Munster and Leinster and their land given to English soldiers. Poor Irish people were allowed to remain as tenants and labourers. In ten years of rebellion from 1641, the population of Ireland was halved.
Irish Catholics were further suppressed by laws passed in 1692 and 1727 which banned Catholics from voting, sitting in Parliament, purchasing land, serving on a jury, holding any government office, practising law, teach in a school, ordaining a priest or bearing arms. Naturally, the Irish continually rebelled against these laws.
Although the country was exporting wheat, beef and dairy products, the poor, landless Catholic Irish were reduced to diet consisting almost entirely of potatoes. In 1846, potato blight destroyed most of the crop. A million people died of starvation. Another million emigrated.
Martin and Alice Morgan brought their family to Australia in 1840, shortly before the Great Famine.