An Interview with Maureen Phibbs

Maureen Phibbs (née Hickey) originally from CullenIn a fascinating interview about her life recorded by Irish Life and Lore, Maureen Phibbs recalled her schooldays in Cullen, North Cork and her own family, the Hickeys of Gortnacreha. She spoke of the many different families in Cullen, of the history of the place, and famous people like Edward Walsh that came from the area. She talked about her time spent in Birmingham, where she worked with many immigrants in the Irish Centre. Her story reveals the importance of her work during the sixties and seventies, when there was mass emigration from Ireland to England. She married in Millstreet church in 1968 and eventually ended up living in Blessington in Wicklow, her husband Pat’s homeplace. Later she took an interest in history, which culminated in her buying the “Irish Roots” Magazine in 2007, which she still edits with her daughter Julie, and which provides an important service in distributing information on all aspects of Irish culture, especially researching family roots.

The audio interview was recorded in 2008 and is a part of the Irish Life and Lore South Dublin County Collection and can be listened to at (I highly recommend it!)


Irish Roots Magazine is released every quarter and is sent worldwide. For more information on the magazine, go to one of these links:


Maureen Phibbs

Maureen is a founder member of Blessington Family History Society and has acted as its secretary for several years. In 1994 she was awarded a Diploma in Local History from NUI Maynooth. In 2000 Maureen made contact with Elizabeth Nunn in Brisbane Australia, a relative of the North Cork 19th century poet and translator, Edward Walsh. She also assisted Fr. John J. O’Riordain with the research and subsequent publication of the works of this poet, A Tragic Troubadour, which was launched in the National Library in November 2005. In 2004 Maureen was involved in the making of a television documentary on the search by an 88 year old Englishman for his mother’s birthplace in Limerick, called ‘When Evening Falls – The Search For Barbara O’Connell’, filmed by Blessington based West Wicklow Films. Maureen continues her work in family and local history. In late 2007 Maureen and her daughter Julie became proprietors and editors of Irish Roots magazine. – from the Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations


Irish Roots Magazine, which has been running for seventeen years, has been purchased by Historian Maureen Phibbs and her daughter Julie, a broadcast journalist and film director.

It has been said that you know you are a genealogy addict when your dining room table has been transformed into an office and the table has been pushed into a corner to make more room for your files, you introduce your daughter as your descendent, you have more photos of dead people than of living ones and you’d rather go to a cemetery than a shopping-centre.

Maureen Phibbs had all the symptoms. She is originally from Cullen a small village outside Millstreet, Co. Cork. She is married to Pat and they live in Co. Wicklow. They have six children. Maureen’s passion for genealogy was first ignited in 1984 when a relative contacted the family from Australia. The family had been unaware of these relations and so an exciting discovery of relatives was uncovered as was a deep interest in genealogy and family history.

This led Maureen to undertaking various courses in genealogy and local history, among them a course in Maynooth NUI as well as many intensive courses in different strands of the subject. In April 1998 Maureen founded the Blessington Family History Society which went on to inspire many members and which continues to be a thriving, active and invaluable part of the West Wicklow community. She has compiled and contributed to many books.

Maureen, who believes that research, like charity, begins at home organised a conference style reunion for Phibbs family members. The highly successful ‘Phibbsfest’ brought together Phibbs family relatives from all over the World. The emotional celebration unearthed the Phibbs family tree and culminated in an enriching experience and a powerful tribute to the many Phibbs ancestors which had long since scattered across the globe.

Maureen joins the Irish Roots’ team as editor and brings with her over twenty three years experience of research in the genealogical field. Her enthusiasm, zeal and genuine passion for genealogy and family history will be reflected in her involvement in the magazine.

Julie Phibbs is Maureen’s eldest daughter ( or should that be descendent?). Julie’s background is mainly in TV Production which she studied in the Liberties College, Dublin. Julie went on to further her career in Broadcast Journalism with East Coast Media in North East Lincolnshire in 2001. She was proud to collect two of four NTL television awards at the 2002 ceremony where she won ‘Best College TV Item’ and ‘Best Community or Business Item’.

Julie was first introduced to the world of genealogy by Maureen where they collectively combined their skills to document elderly Gerard Wakelam’s moving story ‘When Evening Falls – The Search for Barbara O’Connell’. The documentary tells the story of Gerard’s search for information about his Irish mother who died when he was only four years old. Gerard from Herefordshire in England was forbidden by his grief stricken father to ever speak of his mother after her death and so the woman who was Gerard’s mother remained largely a mystery to him. The documentary follows Gerard on what would become his last trip to Ireland and his final chance to answer questions that had haunted him about her all of his life. The documentary has been shown at various film festivals around the Country. – from Pencil Stubs Online



The actual audio is located at



Maureen and Julie Phibbs [1]
Back in time with Maureen and Julie (The Wicklow People)

1 thought on “An Interview with Maureen Phibbs”

  1. To be a Hickey of Gortnacreha is one of her claims to fame
    And as an Irish historian hers is a great name
    One of the children of the long deceased Molly and Con
    Who were much loved in Cullen in Seasons long gone

    Maureen Phibbs as a historian is known far and wide
    And to the people of Cullen in Duhallow she remains a sense of pride
    Though her life’s journey took her to places elsewhere
    To far greater fame in the big World out there

    A credit to Cullen of her one can say
    And quite an honorable person in every way
    Of conceit and guile she is one who seems free
    And that she has not lost her Duhallow accent seems amazing to me

    She may not have lived in Cullen in Duhallow for many a year
    But her interview on tape uploaded by Michael on the Millstreet Web Site is a joy for to hear
    Though fame on her life’s journey of she has come to know
    She retains her humility and the inner glow

    Since the life’s journey in Gortnacreha for her began
    She has achieved so much in a seven decades plus span
    Among the historians of Ireland hers is a great name
    Yet she remains down to earth despite her success and fame.

    “Maureen Phibbs” is by Francis Duggan

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