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O'Daly, Daly, Ó Dálaigh

O'Daly Family Crest

Per fess argent and or a lion rampant per fess sable and
gules, in chief two dexter
hands couped at the wrist
of the last

John O'Donovan, the noted scholar and antiquarian, considered that among the learned families of Thomond, the Ó Dálaigh made the greatest contribution to Irish prose and folk poetry. From the 12th century onwards members of the clan adopted the profession of bard and "file" (poet) and secured permanent positions in many of the ruling houses where their efforts led to a great output of poetic endeavour. Much of their lengthy verse has been preserved and documented and reveal the skill in which they adhered to the bardic tradition for centuries, in metre, in subject and in language.

Edward O'Reilly, the author of "A chronological account of nearly four hundred Irish writers" mentions 27 members of the Ó Dálaigh lineage and also provides the titles of innumerable poems composed by them.

One member, with close ties to Thomond, Donnchadh Mór Ó Dálaigh, wrote many poems to the Virgin Mary, and because of their sensitivity and pleasant style they later became very much a part of Irish folk tradition. One such poem, consisting of 148 verses, begins with the line "Frigeall Bheanacht Ó Muire" "Promise a blessing, O Mary".

Donnchadh Mór was the ancestor of the Thomond branch of the Ó Dálaigh who set up the school of poetry at Finnavara in the Burren, which flourished for a considerable length of time. They became hereditary bards first to the O'Connors and later to the O'Loughlins and many of their poems consisted of eulogies in praise of their patrons, on the hospitality of their houses and usually concluded with a recital on the achievements of their ancestors.

Lochlin Óg Ó Dálaigh imparts a desolate picture during the 17th century in which he deplores the departure of the "Swordsmen of the Gael", the effects of the Tudor plantations and the suppression of the Faith, "Cait ar ghabhader Gaoidhil"; "Where have the Gaels all gone? In their place we have a proud impure swarm of foreigners". Aonghus Mac Doighrue Ó Dálaigh, who was the author of several patriotic verses became a valiant supported of the O'Byrnes of Wicklow who, at a later time, became known as the outlawed chieftains of the glen and he served to perpetuate the memory of Fiach McHugh O'Byrne.

God be with you, ye warriors of the Gael
Let not subjugation he heard reported of you.

Cearbhaill Ó Dálaigh is remembered for the romantic element in his work and career. At an early age he was plighted to a young lady, Eileen, from one of the noble houses in Leinster. In his absence, her parents forced another suitor on her. Cearbhaill, however, disguised as a harper, appeared before the wedding feast and persuaded her to flee with him. This incident gave rise to the writing of the well-known song Eileen Aroon.

Gofraidh Fionn Ó Dálaigh was another eminent figure once described as "the chief professor of poetry in Munster." Many of his poems were addressed to the Earls of Desmond; one of the better known being "Fan gniomhadh meartar mac Riogh"; "By deeds is the son of a king valued". These are but a few brief examples from the extensive collection of folk poetry composed by the Ó Dálaig.

Further Reading:
Ni Murchadha, Eilís, 'From Royal Kincora to Croom of the Merriment: a review of some of the literature of Thomond' in "North Munster Antiquarian Journal" vol. 2 (1940-41).
O'Donovan, John and Eugene Curry, "The antiquities of County Clare: letters containing information relative to the antiquities of the County of Clare collected during the progress of the Ordnance Survey in 1839." Ennis, Clasp Press, 1997.
O'Reilly, Edward. "A chronological account of nearly four hundred Irish writers". Shannon, 1970.

Famous Clare Dalys:
Haulie Daly
Tommy Daly

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Learned Families of Thomond