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O'Flaherty clan County Galway Ireland
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O'Flaherty         -  Tribes of Galway   

The Ferocious O'Flaherties

In the Middle Ages, the Norman-English conquered Ireland, and seized O'Flaherty country in 1235 a.d.

The DeBurgh (Burke) family seized and fortified the town of Galway, planting it with Norman-English families like the Lynches, Martins, Barretts, etc.

The O'Flaherty were forced into the wilds of Connemara. By the 14th and 15th Century, the O'Flaherty had grown strong again through a liberal management of territorial waters.

O'Flaherty Crest Galway City

Threatened by the strength of the Gaelic natives, the Galway citizens walled off their city, and on the wall placed the ominous prayer:
"From the Ferocious O Flaherty's O Lord deliver us".

The O'Flaherty get their name from a descendant of Murchada, Flaithbhertaig Mac Ermin (Flaherty, son of Evin), a Prince of Connaught. Flaithbhertaig was a popular name in Ireland in the 10th century a.d. Today it is translated into "bright leader." The clan, during these pre-Norman times, had emerged from the Viking terror of the previous two centuries, becoming known for two seemingly contradictory traits, its warlike prowess and its amiable mansions.

The first O'Flaherty, known in the Irish as ua Flaithbhertaig, is mentioned in the annals of Ireland in the year 1034 - Muireadhach Ua Flaithbheartach, Lord of Ui-Briuin-Seola, a descendant of the Muinter Murchada and the O'Brien clans.

Muireadhach O'Flaherty ruled his clan as a high chief and claimed his royal blood through many an Irish hero. He united many of the descendants of the the Ui Briuin (O'Beien) tribes in the area east of Loch Corrib.

These O'Flaherty tribes were nominally subjunct to the tribe of the O'Connors, but they were also fiercely independent. The O'Flaherty tribes who dominated the area around Galway Bay served as the Admirals in the forces of the O'Connor dynasty during the 11th and 12th centuries. In the year 1092, Flaherty O'Flaherty briefly siezed the Kingdom of Connaught from Ruadri O'Connor, and proclaimed himself High King of Ireland. However, discovering the better part of valor, he chose not to hold the throne, eventually conferring the Kingship on Muirchertach O'Connor. Flaherty O'Flaherty died in battle in the year 1098.

In 1124 the O'Flaherties built one of the first castles in Ireland, the original Castle Galway. The Norman use of castles to subjugate the Saxons in Britain had upgraded the science of war. The O'Flaherty clan, with their capital at Enach-dun, controlled Lough Mask and Lough Corrib, Bay of Galway, Connemara and the "half barony" of Ross.

In 1169 Dermott MacMurrough was dispossessed of his territory, and lost his legal appeal. The treacherous Dermott offered his daughter to a Norman general named "Strongbow." Strongbow was a restless warrior under the thumb of England's Henry II, and he wasn't making much booty in impoverished Wales. MacMurrough had been ostracized by his people, and he wanted revenge. In return for his own child, MacMurrough brought the Normans into Ireland. MacMurrough had his revenge when he and the Normans with Strongbow brought their chain mail and armor against the bare chests of the Irish warriors to conquer Ulster, Munster and Leinster in Eastern Ireland. The price of MacMurrough's treachery would be paid in centuries of blood.

The Ard Ri at the time, High King Roderick O'Connor in Connaught, ceded his claim to Ulster, Leinster, and Munster to the Normans, and held to himself the province of Connaught. The Normans wanted more, and soon planted a castle in Connaught.

O'Connor summoned his councils and called the other clans into action as described in a poem of the time:

But the castles, chain mail, the armour, and the other advantages the Normans held in the Science of War proved too much for the Tribal Irish. O'Connor and O'Flaherty, MacDermott and MacGeraghty fell victims to the whims of war. The Normans under Strongbow, Hugh de Lacy, Hubert de Burgh and their armored knights conquered Ireland and claimed it for the Norman Empire.

Because Connaught was the last of the four Irish territories to fall, because O'Connor had won some brief concessions from the Normans while they plundered Ulster, Leinster and Munster, the O'Flaherty baronies in Clare on Galway Bay were temporarily left in peace. This ended in 1201 when O'Connor turned over to the Normans, Rory O'Flaherty. By 1235, the clan, then under the leadership of Hugh O'Flaherty, suffered great defeats with the rest of the Connaught Irish, and the O'Flaherty clans were pushed across the Galway River into the Connamara regions, at the brink of the Atlantic.

Connemara, Gnobeg and Gnomore united as Moycullen and the half-barony of Ross, would become O'Flaherty territory for the next 450 years.

The Galway river, and the linking lakes Corrib and Mask, eventually became the boundaries that separated the Norman territories in Connaught held by the Burkes, and the Gaelic areas in Western Connaught held by the O'Flaherty, and to the north by the O'Malley clan. Inside an area bounded to the north, by the O'Malley's in Mayo, to the east the lakes; the south, Galway Bay; to the west, the Atlantic Ocean, this region called Moycullen, Connamara, and the half barony of Ross, - lumped into one name,- Iar-Connaught - was considered one of the most desolate lands in Ireland.

But, the O'Flaherties survived, and maintained their Gaelic heritage against the onslaught of fate. The Normans, led by the de Burgh family, took control of the town of Galway, whose citizens would one day erect a wall that bore the plaintive prayer, "From the ferocious O'Flaherties, Good Lord protect us".

In this territory of West Connaught rose the family's most illustrious Renaissance characters, including the Pirate Queen Grace O'Malley, Murrough of the Axes, and Donnel of the Wars.

The O'Flaherty's were to hold their country for 400 years. ruling with only occasional obeisance to the English King, presenting an impregnable frontier to the Norman Lords and their client City of Galway. In those centuries the O'Flaherty adapted much from the Normans, building castles, churches, towns and growing rich on the commerce of the day. The O'Flaherty should be credited also with helping to preserve the essence of the Gaelic-Celtic-Irish heritage to the point that when the Irish chief Murrough O'Flaherty died in 1626 it was written that he still practiced the ancient brehon ways.

In the turbulent 17th Century occurred the singular most notorious event in O'Flaherty history: "the massacre at Shrule." At Shrule, dozens of English Protestants were murdered. While the exact murderers are unknown, it was said the English protestants were executed by the wrath of the O'Flaherty in 1641. This event helped lionize Britain's revenge on the island. Edmond O'Flaherty, a colonel in the Irish army was blamed for these events and executed by the conquering army in 1653. Most historians agree, that while the tragedy was egregious, the events were exagerated and propagandized by the British Puritans to mobilize their armies against Ireland.

Partially as a consequence of anti-gaelic prejudice among the Anglo-Norman royalist aristocracy, the English completed their reconquest of Ireland in 1653, when they finally took Inisboffin Island in O'Flaherty territory.

In the nineteenth century, the family again began to forge its way into the modern world. After the Act of Union, the O'Flaherty saw family members in Parliament, and prominence in the City of Galway loomed. But the desolation inflicted on Ireland by the famine of the 1840's destroyed the chance for many to escape the poverty of British domination .... unless they fled the island.

And, like their Milesian ancestors, many sought adventure beyond the seas. During the nineteenth century, O'Flaherties of Ireland began building clans all over the world.


See History of other Tribes of Galway
Athy, Blake, Bodkin, Browne, D'arcy, Deane, Ffont,
Ffrench, Joyce, Kirwan, Lynch, Martin, Morris, Skerritt


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