Argent a dexter hand lying
fessways couped at the wrist
cuffed indented azure holding
a sword in pale all proper, in
chief two snakes embowed vert.
The O'Deas were a prominent Dalcassian sept
associated for a long time with a district north of Ennis and
who once helped to shape the course of events in this part of
Thomond. They were descendants of the Clan Ó Deághaidh
whose territory comprised a good deal of the present-day Barony
of Inchiquin. They were firmly established here from recorded
times while the townlands of Dysart O'Dea, Curragh O'Dea and
Tully O'Dea lend credence to the extent of their territory and
their influence in local affairs.
The O'Deas are mentioned several times in the
"Annals of the Four Masters" as the coarb families
who administered the termon lands attached to many of the local
churches, especially the important monastic settlement at Dysart
Head of O'Dea Crozier showing The Annunciation
They are also known for having supplied several candidates
to the local clergy and some bishops to the adjoining dioceses. Among
the most notable was Archdeacon Cornelius O'Dea who was consecrated
Bishop of Limerick in 1400. Bishop O'Dea was an able administrator with
a wide knowledge of Canon Law, and whose mitre and crozier, considered
to be fine examples of medieval craftsmanship, is preserved in St. John's
Cathedral in Limerick. In 1568 the Bishop of Kilmacduagh, Conor O'Dea
drew up an interesting lease when he bequested the banqueting hall and
castle of Dysart to his nephews, Diarmuid Óg and Donnchadh, and
the two gardens and round tower to Domhnall O'Dea. He also made an unusual
proviso that they were to maintain the peace under guarantee of £100
each and to allow "the great brewing pan" to be used by all
the household. (Calendar of Inchiquin MSS. No. 890).
The O'Deas's were for long periods loyal supporters of
the O'Briain, Kings of Thomond and in
return the head of the clan held much land by agreeemnt with them. In
the second half of the 12th century, the O'Deas backed Turlough O'Briain's
claim to the high kingship. In the ensuring battle of Moin More (1151)
with the men of Connacht and Leinster, the Munstermen lost heavily. Among
those who fell were Flaherty O'Dea, head of the clan, many of his kinsmen
and supporters, several chieftans and "large numbers of good men."
This was the same O'Dea of whom it is said arranged for the orders of
the west doorway of Dysart Church to be adorned with a series of sculptured
heads in the Romanesque fashion, which are still much admired on stylistic
grounds. Over a century later however, against a far more determined enemy
in the person of Richard de Clare and his Norman army, the O'Dea, again
in alliance with the O'Briain and with strong support from the O'Hehirs
and the O'Conors, came out on the winning
side. It was Conchobhar O'Dea's correct assessment of the disposition
of the Norman forces which, on the morning of the 10 May 1318 were divided
into three sections, his subsequent tactics, the courage of his kinsmmen
and their supporters which proved to be the turning point in this historic
The O'Deas will always be remembered for their association
with Dysart because of its Early Christian Church and beautifully carved
Romanesque doorway, while the nearby round tower adds a further air
of antiquity to this historic site. Within the chancel there are memorials
to the family, one which reads "This tomb was erected by Michael
O'Dea of Dysart, son of Conor Crone O'Dea, in the year of Our Lord 1684.
Wherein was intered Joan O'Dea alias Butler, wife of the said Michael
O'Dea." They were also responsible for the re-erection of the magnificent
High Cross which stands in the nearby field. The inscription on the
pedestal states that "This cross was newly repaired by Michael
O'Dea, son of Conor Crone O'Dea in the year of 1683."
Ó Murchadha, Seán, 'Dysert Tola and its environs' in "The
Other Clare", vols. 16 (1992), 17 (1993), 18 (1994) 19 (1995).
Simms, Catherine, 'The Battle of Dysert O'Dea and the Gaelic resurgence
in Thomond in "Dal gCais", vol. 5 (1979).
Ua Cróinín, Risteard, "O'Dea: Ua Deaghaidh: story
of a rebel clan". Whitegate, Co. Clare: Ballinakella Press, 1992.