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O'Dea, Ó Deághaidh, O'Day, O'Dee

O'Dea Family Crest
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 O'Dea.

O'Dea Mitre
O'Dea Mitre

Head of O'Dea Crozier showing The Annunciation
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).

Romanesque Doorway, Dysert O'Dea
Romanesque Doorway,
Dysert O'Dea
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 engagement.

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."

Further Reading:
"O'Dea Chronicle"
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.

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Learned Families of Thomond