Ó Dálaigh

Ó Dálaigh
Ethnicity Irish
Current region Throughout Ireland and the Irish diaspora
Place of origin Westmeath Ireland
Connected families Clann MacMhuirich
Distinctions Many Chief Ollamhs (Chief Poets) of Ireland and also Scotland
Traditions The most prominent Irish bardic family
Estate Corca Adaimh, Corca Raidhe, Mhuintir Bháire, Finnavara, Dunsandle and others (historical).
Name origin and meaning Descendant of Dálach

The Ó Dálaigh (Irish pronunciation: [oː ˈdˠaːɫ̪i]) were a learned Irish bardic family who first came to prominence early in the 12th century, when Cú Connacht Ó Dálaigh was described as "The first Ollamh of poetry in all Ireland" (ollamh is the title given to university professors in Modern Irish).

"Harp of Cnoc I'Chosgair, you who bring sleep to eyes long sleepless; sweet subtle, plangent, glad, cooling grave. Excellent instrument with smooth gentle curve, trilling under red fingers, musician that has charmed us, red, lion-like of full melody. You who lure the bird from the flock, you who refresh the mind, brown spotted one of sweet words, ardent, wondrous, passionate." Gofraidh Fionn Ó Dálaigh.

The modern Irish surnames O'Daly, Daly, Daley, Daily, Dailey and Dawley are derived from Ó Dálaigh.

Name derivation

The name Ó Dálaigh means 'descendant of Dálach'. The derivation of the personal name Dálach is not entirely obvious, but the most widely accepted theory is that it derives from the same root as dáil meaning "assembly;" the Irish Parliament is called 'Dáil Éireann.' Dálach therefore probably meant "assemblyman" or "councillor."[1]

Origins and ancestry

The earliest records of the family place them in the region of Tethba in what is now Westmeath, their lands were in Moyashel & Magheradernon barony, Westmeath. The ancestral clan was called Corca Adaimh ('Race of Adam') and they claimed descent from a son of Niall of the Nine Hostages[2] (High King of Ireland circa 400AD) via Máel Dúin mac Máele Fithrich of the Cenél maic Ercae, who was king of Ailech in Ulster. Máel Dúin's sons included the high king Fergal mac Máele Dúin and Adamh, the Ó Dálaigh ancestor. However, one source claims that Adamh was a son of, confusingly, another Máel Dúin the son of Fergal mac Máele Dúin. The great-grandson of Adamh was called Dálach, from whom the later surname derived.[3][4] The Ó Dálaigh claimed kinship with the O'Neills and O'Donnells.

Gofraidh Fionn Ó Dálaigh asserted a descent for the family from a 6th-century Dálach, who was the pupil of the saint and poet Colmán the patron of the cathedral town of Cloyne. Dalach is said to have become a bishop of the early Irish Church.[5]

The Ó Dálaigh who settled in Munster seem to have been given an alternative descent from the Eóganacht kings of Cashel, in particular from Aenghus the king of Cashel who was baptised by St. Patrick.[6] However, this pedigree is less well attested than that deriving from Niall and there is no clear indication that the Munster branch of the Ó Dálaigh were considered to have had separate origins from the others. It may merely represent an attempt to integrate the bardic family with the local dynasties they served.

An eminent dynasty of bards

"The chiefs of high Corca Adhamh, O'Dalaigh of lasting renown."[7] Many of the Ó Dálaigh were hereditary poets to the various Irish royal courts and a number of them held the post of Ard Ollamh (Chief Poet of Ireland). The Ard Ollamh ranked with the High King of Ireland in the social hierarchy, and maintained his own court. More than one member of the Ó Dálaigh family held both this post and the post of Chief Ollamh of Scotland. The chief poet of the family was known as "The Ó Dálaigh" in the same manner that the Prince of Thomond was called "The O'Brien."[8]

Members of the clan founded bardic schools throughout Ireland, and also in Scotland. This diaspora seems to have begun in the early 12th century. The noble bards of Ireland were accorded great prestige and were accounted filid or "men of skill;" in social rank they were placed below kings but above all others. The Ó Dálaigh were the foremost practitioners of the exacting and difficult poetry form known as Dán Díreach throughout the Late Medieval period.[9] Part of the prestige that attached to the Irish bardic ollamh was derived from fear; a leader satirised in a glam dicenn (satire-poem), by a very able poet, could find his social position badly undermined. Very talented poets were also believed to possess the power to raise boils on the face of the target of their satires or inflict other bodily harm (early Irish society placed great store on the physical appearance of leaders). Conversely, the praise of a skilled poet was very greatly valued as it enhanced social and political prestige.

In addition to their poetry the senior members of the Ó Dálaigh sept were also chieftains, their lands included the minor 'kingdom' of Corca Raidhe (Corcaree) in Meath and Mhuintir Bháire in Cork. In theory the lands of Irish poets were held sacrosanct and could not be despoiled during warfare or raiding.[10] Other members of the family were ecclesiastics: monks, abbots and bishops; they often combined their church roles with the production of religious poetry.

The Irish bardic poet was often intimately involved in dynastic politics and warfare, a number of the Ó Dálaigh died violent deaths, or caused the violent deaths of others;[11] the murderous, axe-wielding crusader Muireadhach Albanach Ó Dálaigh is the archetype of the warlike Irish poet.

Notable family members

Medieval Period

Early Modern Era

Later history of the sept

Life in British Ireland

Denis Daly of Dunsandle, MP for Galway. A portrait by Joshua Reynolds. The name Denis was used as an anglicised approximation of Donnchadh
See also: sept

The end of the prominence of the Gaelic-speaking nobility of Ireland, epitomised by the Flight of the Earls, in the early 17th century meant the social eclipse of those bardic families, such as the Ó Dálaigh, that depended on their patronage. The name Ó Dálaigh also changed, becoming anglicised to Daly, O'Daly, Dayley, Daley, Dailey or Dawley. With the loss of land in the wake of rebellions against English rule and in the Plantations of Ireland, most branches of the Ó Dálaigh became, to a greater or lesser extent, impoverished. An example of this is the fate of the Dalys of Mhuintir Bháire (the Sheep's Head Peninsula, Cork), relatives and descendants of Aonghus Ruadh Ó Dálaigh (Aonghus Ruadh na nAor); they lost the last of their land in the aftermath of the fall of James II, and were reduced to the state of struggling tenant farmers.[28]

One prominent exception to this trend was the Daly family of Dunsandle, which became part of the Protestant Ascendancy though its members often espoused the extension of Catholic rights. Generations of this family served as mayors of, and MPs for, Galway, they were also raised to the peerage as Barons of Dunsandle.[29] The Dunsandle Dalys claimed descent from Donnchadh Mór Ó Dálaigh and incorporated the Red Hand of Ulster into their coat of arms to record their ancient Uí Néill connections.[30] Ultimately, the Dalys of Dunsandle retained their wealth and political prominence, but at the cost of losing the faith and culture their ancestors long upheld.

A member of the above mentioned line, Denis St. George Daly, won a gold medal for men's polo at the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris.

Easter Rising and after

The Ó Dálaigh family of Limerick played a significant role in the Easter Rising of 1916 in Ireland. Ned Daly was Commandant of the Dublin 1st Battalion of the Irish Volunteers. He fought at Four Courts and was forced to surrender by orders of Patrick Pearse, before being executed in Kilmainham Gaol. His sister was Kathleen Daly, a member of Cumann na mBan and later the first female Lord Mayor of Dublin. Her husband was Tom Clarke, chief organiser of the Easter Rising and the first to sign the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. Ned and Kathleen's uncle, John Daly was also a prominent member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood who had taken part in the earlier Fenian Rising of 1867 and was a Member of Parliament for Limerick City. John was also a friend of Tom Clarke.

The most notable bearer of the Ó Dálaigh surname, re-adopted in its Irish (Gaelic) form, in modern times is:

References and sources

  1. Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, Published by The Society (1897), p. 299
  2. Eógan mac Néill is the most widely attested as being the ancestor of the Ó Dálaigh, who are therefore of the Cenél nEógain branch of the Northern Uí Néill. However, the family are sometimes placed in the Uí Maine (Southern Uí Néill, not the Uí Maine of Connacht) and thus descended from Maine of Tethba whose existence as a son of Niall of the Nine Hostages is somewhat doubtful (see Clan Ó Duibhgeannáin). It may be that the Ó Dálaigh were given this derivation because their lands were in the region of Tethba (Teffia).
  3. 1 2 3 4 Koch, p. 1374
  4. The original descent from The O'Clery Book of Genealogies (Analecta Hibernica No. 18 R.I.A. MS. 23 D 17): "Genelach Muintire Dalaigh 589. Ferghal m Taidgh m Aenghusa ruaidh m Donnchada ruaidh m Aenghusa m Donnchada moir m Aenghusa m Tiadgh doichligh m Con connacht na scoile m Dalaigh m Muiredhaigh m Taidgh m Giolla coimded m Dalaigh (o raiter muinter Dalaigh) m Fachtna m Cuirc m Adaimh m Maile duin m Fergaile m Maile duin m Maile fithrig." (m = mac 'son of')
  5. Leland, p. 14.
  6. Mangan, p. 10.
  7. The Topographical Poems of John O'Dubhagain and Giolla Na Naomh O'Huidhrin, edited by John O'Donovan (1862) Dublin.
  8. Conellan, p. xxii
  9. 1 2 3 Rigby, p. 578
  10. Mangan, p, 9.
  11. Mangan, pp. 89
  12. Annals of Loch Cé, annal for 1181, http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/T100010A/index.html
  13. Annals of the Four Masters the original: Maoil Iosa Ua Dálaigh ollamh Ereann, & Alban ard taoiseach Corca Raidhe & Corcadain, Saoi oirdherc ar dhán, ar eneach, & ar uaisle do écc i c-Cluain Ioraird oca oilithre.
  14. Koch, p. 1375
  15. Annals of Ulster otherwise Annala Senait, Annals of Senat U1246.4
  16. Ann. Ulster, U1271.8.
  17. Ann. Ulster, U1307.14.
  18. Mangan, p. 8
  19. Annals of Ulster U1347.6
  20. Mac Carthaigh's book, CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts: a project of University College, Cork College Road, Cork, Ireland – http://www.ucc.ie/celt (2000) Text ID Number: T100013
  21. Ann. Ulster, U1415.1
  22. Annals of the Four Masters, M1474.22.
  23. Four Masters, M1490.15
  24. Four Masters, M1514.14.
  25. Mangan.
  26. Gillies, W., A Poem on the Downfall of the Gaoídhil, Éigse, 13 (1969–70), pp. 203–10
  27. Mangan, p. 14
  28. Mangan, p. 10
  29. Mangan, p. 8.

For the adventures of Muireadhach Albanach Ó Dálaigh:

An account of the bardic tradition in Clare and photographs of the monument to Donnchadh Mór and the Ó Dálaigh bardic school at Finnyvara (Finnavara):

The full text of the poem "Harp of Cnoc I'Chosgair," by Gofraidh Fionn Ó Dálaigh:

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