This is a picture of Aughnanure castle near Oughterard in County Galway – have you been there?
Kathleen Annette contacted us wanting to know a little more about her family – the O’Flahertys of Connaught.
She says: “My Great Grandfather Hartigan, came to the US from Limerick in the late 1800′s. He then married my Great Grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Flaherty when she came to the US in the 1890′s. She has Ros Muc in Connemara listed as her birthplace. Her father’s name is listed as William Flaherty and mother is Anne Stewart from Galway.”
The name O’Flaherty comes from the Irish O Flaithbheartaigh. They were the leading sept of west Connaught (Connemara) – with a smaller grouping in County Kerry.
But back to the O’Flahertys of Connemara. Up to 1245, the O’Flahertys had a fortress at “Bun na Gallimhe” – where the modern city of Galway is currently situated, but they were driven west into Connemara following battle with the Normans. As the new Norman town of Galway was built, the O’Flahertys were a constant threat – always eager to recover their old lands.
They built a number of castles over their time as the leading family of Iar-Conaught – including this one at Aughnanure near Oughterard beside Lough Corrib around 1500.
One the more famous characters to emerge within the O’Flaherty clan was Grainne Mhaile – Grace O’Malley. In 1546, Grace O’Malley – daughter of the Chief of the O’Malleys – was married to Donal O’Flaherty, heir to the chiefdom of the O’Flahertys. But as Donal and Grace settled down and had three children, Donal was beaten to the Chieftainship by his brother, Morogh.
Nobody is quite sure how, but when Donal died, Grace assumed the power and authority of her husband – and became the female chief of the western O’Flahertys. With her swift boats and allegiance of her people, she dominated the waters around Galway for many years.
Grainne eventually returned to O’Malley territory in Clew bay in County Mayo, and left her two sons behind to run things – Donal and Moragh na maor.
Connemara was in O’Flaherty control for 450 years until the English completed their reconquest of Ireland in 1653.
And today if you walk around many towns and villages in Connemara, you will see the name O’Flaherty above many shops and public houses. It’s still the homeland of many O’Flahertys.