Fanny O’Dea is Lissycasey’s
most famous character. Details of her early life are unclear. She may
have been an orphan educated by the Brews of Kilrush
or born in Cuan Thaidhg, Greygrove, the daughter of O’Deas evicted
from Dysart O’Dea. Dick Cronin,
however, in his book O’Dea – a Rebel Clan, says more specifically
that her father, Bartholomew, and uncle, James, moved from Dysart to Knockmore
near Kilmihil where they reclaimed
mountain land to eke out an existence. Bartholomew and James married two
sisters from Tradaree. Ann Lawlor and Bartholomew had a son, Michael,
and two daughters, Margaret and Fanny. When they both died at a young
age James took the two elder children. Fanny, who was then aged four,
was cared for by an aunt who was married to a protestant called Bouchier
Brew in Kilrush.
Fanny was raised a Roman Catholic, got a good education
and learnt housekeeping. She married Owen Coughlan from Knockbeg and in
1790 persuaded him to move to Lissycasey and take a job on the Mail Line,
the new road which was then being built from Ennis to Kilrush. Fanny transformed
her small mud cabin into a shop dealing in all the necessities of life.
Gradually this industrious woman expanded her business. Her house soon
became a half-way house catering for travellers going to or from the west.
The story is told that during the winter assizes of 1790 Lord Norbury
and his solicitors were travelling by stage coach from Ennis to Kilrush.
Impressed by the refreshments Fanny provided, particularly the “egg-flips”,
he granted her a licence to sell liquor. Some claim, however, that the
person who granted Fanny the licence was Robert Vere O’Brien. Norbury
became notorious as the judge who sentenced Robert Emmet to death in 1803.
Fanny O’Dea and her mud cabin have long vanished but her name and
her “egg-flips” have lived on. The present Fanny O’Deas
pub is built on the same site and is a landmark in County Clare. It has
been run by eight generations of the same family. Many famous people have
visited the establishment over the years. Daniel
O’Connell drank here during his election campaign in 1828 as
did his most famous supporter, The O’Gorman
Mahon. Charles J. Kickham, author of Knocknagow, and Fr. Matthew of
the Temperance movement are also known to have been here. Indeed, legend
states that it is unlucky to pass the Lissycasey pub without going inside.
This story is based on a nineteenth century murder in Kilrush where an
innocent man was convicted on circumstantial evidence. On his way to the
gallows in Ennis, he refused an offer of one last drink at Fanny O’Dea’s.
Meanwhile in Kilrush the real murderer had surrendered. A rider was immediately
dispatched to Ennis but arrived too late to prevent the execution. The
lesson of the story is that the tragedy would never have occurred if that
little procession had stopped for a drink at Fanny O’Dea’s.
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