genealogies of the families
O'CULLANE, COLLINS Collins is of course a common English surname: Of 29 Collins biographies in the Dictionary of National Biography 27 are of Englishmen. Nevertheless in Ireland Collins may be regarded as a genuinely indigenous Irish name: in fact it is one of our most numerous surnames, being number 30 in the relevant statistical list with an estimated Collins population of 14,000 persons. The great majority of these come from Counties Cork and Limerick. This is as might be expected because the sept of O'Coileáin (possibly derived from the word coileán, a whelp or young dog) originated in North Desmond which extended into the modem Co. Limerick, where they were lords of the baronies of Connello, until in the thirteenth century they were driven southwards by the Geraldines and settled in West Cork near the country possessed by their kinsmen the O'Donovans. The well known Gaelic poem, translated as "Lament over Timnoleague Abbey" has immortalised Seán ÓCoileáin, or John Collins (1754-1817), one of this sept. It should be observed that in the very territory to which they migrated was a sept called O'Cullieáin also subsequently anglicised Collins: these were of the Corca Laoidhe.
The most famous of all Irish Collinses was from West Cork - Michael Collins (1890-1922), who combined in the highest degree the qualities of soldier and administrator, till the promise of a brilliant career was tragically cut short by his death in the Civil War which followed the establishment of the Irish Free State. Another who lost his life for Ireland was Father Dominic Collins, S.J. (1553-1602), who was hanged in Dublin Castle. Father Collins, O.P., led the Confederate Catholic army to a successful attack on Bunratty Castle in 1647. Jerome Collins (d, 1881), the arctic explorer, was a Co. Cork man. David Collins (1756-1810), who was born in Offaly, was one of the founders of the city of Sydney. A Co. Wicklow family of Collins produced three distinguished men: William Collins (1 740-1812), author, his son, William Collins (1788-1847), painter and Royal Academician, and grandson William Wilkie Collins (1824-1889), the well known novelist. In America Edward Knight Collins (1802-1878) was a pioneer ship-owner who early adopted steam in place of sail; his ancestor emigrated from Ireland in 1635.
A very well known name in Australia is Tom Collins, which in fact was the nom-de-plume of Joseph Furphy (1843-1912). He was well known under his own name also, so much so that "furphy" became a word in current Australian speech, signifying a rumour without foundation. (Joe Furphy was not himself a disseminator of rumours, but the water-carts his firm manufactured, which were in use all over the country and were called furphies, were frequently the meeting-place of gossips.) His father was a tenant farmer at Tanderagee, Co. Armagh, who emigrated in 1840. The surname Furphy is very rare. It occurs occasionally in the modern birth registers for Co. Armagh and also in the Co. Armagh Hearth Money-Rolls of 1664-5. Professor M. A. O'Brien has suggested to me that the name is probably ÓFoirbhte, derived from the adjective foirbhthe, meaning complete or perfect.
Source:Irish Families by Edward MacLysaght MA, D Litt, MRIA - Irish Academic Press 1991