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O'Davorans, O'Davoren, Ó Dabhoireann

O'Davorans Family Crest

Argent a sword erect in pale distilling drops of blood proper pommel and hilt or.

Ó Dabhoireann the ancient name
From whom thereafter they were all named
The goodly tribe, gentle, famous, gifted
A branch, the clusters of which were always lovely.

The Ó Dabhoireann or O'Davorans were a sept descended from the Eoghanacht, one of the royal families of Munster, who acquired land and property in the Barony of Burren and went on to distinguish themselves in a particular manner during the medieval era. A good deal of documentation is available on the extent of their property and on their literary activities, since they founded a school mainly devoted to the study of the ancient laws of Ireland. The O'Davorans were academics by descent and profession and their homes became open houses for visiting scholars and historians whose hospitality was well appreciated:

The race of the Ó Dabhoireann whose generosity is everlasting
The one abode of the school's yellow garbed brehons.

("The yellow garbed brehons" alludes to their practice of donning a yellow gown when delivering judgement)

The desire for learning was much evident at the time and the school which they established was well patronised and is of much interest today, because it was here within the confines of the stone fort at Cahermacnaghten that the students gathered for instruction. This well-known ringfort stands two miles from Noughaval and is reasonably well preserved, having been built with large limestone blocks. The interior has been filled in but there are indications of small structures having been erected both within and outside its walls. The place was once known as O'Davoranstown because of the extra accommodation built around the fort. The great Irish scholar Duald MacFirbis completed his studies here as did many other students. He, however, went on to compile a most extensive treatise on the genealogy of Irish families.

Records show that the school was founded by Gillananaev O'Davoran, about 1500, and continued in use for several centuries as a centre for the study of the Brehon Laws. Domhall O'Davoran emerges as the most erudite principal of the school and a folio of manuscripts which he faithfully copied on all aspects of the Brehon Code is preserved in the British Museum (Egerton No. 88). They give us a good insight into the terms of these laws which were accepted as codes of behaviour at community level and also provided certain penalties for transgressors. Sections dealing with cattle stealing, trespass, damages, assaults, debts, fines and obligations were all embodied in these laws and any man who injured a neighbour was liable not only for a fine but also held responsible for nursing the wounded party back to health. When the main tract on marriage and the rights of women was written down it was seen that they had achieved extensive privileges of a liberal nature. With the introduction of English law here, whoever, their status was again demeaned and some rights which were accepted in the 10th century were not fully recovered until the present century.

The pedigree of this learned family has long since been assembled in a comprehensive fashion by Muireadeacht O'Briain, a descendant of Magnus O'Davoran who is described as "a man of gentle blood and of fair education."

Another interesting well-written family record is the will or covenant drawn up by the two sons of Gillananaev Ó Davoran, Aodh and Cosnui, and it relates to the future disposal of parts of the lands of their father and grandfather consisting of two "ploughhands homesteads and other appurtenance".

Further Reading:
Macnamara, Dr. George U., 'The O'Davorens of Cahermacnaughten, Burren, Co. Clare' in "Journal of the North Munster Historical Society" vol. 2 (nos. 2, 3 & 4) (1912-1913).
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.

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Learned Families of Thomond