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
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".
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.