It is surprising that, until now, nobody suspected that the late Walt Disney might have Irish ancestors. Well, for the record,
the creator and founder of the iconic Disney brand is a direct descendant of a Kilkenny farmer.Kilkenny historian, Frank Kavanagh, was doing some research when he stumbled across the name of Arundel Elias Disney who lived in Freshford in the early 1800s.Further investigation showed that Arundel was Walt’s great-grandfather born in 1801.
Arundel accompanied by his wife and children emigrated to the ‘New World’ via Liverpool and ended up in Ontario, Canada. Kepple Disney, Walt’s grandfather, was born in 1832 and his son, Elias, Walt’s father, was born in 1859. The Disney family moved south to Kansas in the United States in 1880. Elias, a farm worker, married and had five children, one of which was Walt who was born on December 5th, 1901.Walt Disney visited Ireland to carry out research for his film ‘Darby O’Gill and the Little People’ that was released in 1959. He was probably unaware of his Irish ancestry and did not visit Kilkenny.