The O’Gara or Guiry Family

O’Gara or Guiry family crest

(Crest No. 10. Plate 2.)

THE O’Gara family is descended from Milesius, King of Spain, through the line of his son Heber, and belonged to the Kianachta tribe, thus uniting the blood of both Heber and Heremon. The ancient name was Eadrach, and signifies “Severe.”

The founder of the family was Eadrach of the Clan Kian, or race of Kian, youngest son of Olliol Ollum, King of Munster, A. D. 177, and the family name was derived from Gadhra, Chief of Coolavin and Sliabh Lugha, A. D. 1100.

The head of the clan was known as Chief of Lieney, but in after-times as Lord of Cuil O-bh Finn, now the barony of Coolavin, and sometimes styled Lord of Moy O’Gara, or O’Gara’s Plain of Coolavin, and also Sliabh Lugta, which latter district extended into a part of the barony of Costello, in Mayo.

The O’Garas retained considerable rank and possessions in the County of Sligo down to the seventeenth century, and one of them, Fergal O’Gara, Lord of Moy O’Gara and Coolavin, is justly celebrated as a great patron of learned men, particularly of the O’Clerys and other authors of the Annals of the Four Masters.

This great work, which was written under the patronage of O’Gara, is dedicated to Fergal O’Gara, in recognition of his patronage and support of the O’Clerys after the latter had been dispossessed of their lands, which they received from the Princes of Tir-Connell, of whom they were the local chroniclers.

The Rev. Fergal O’Gara, an exile on the Continent during the Cromwellian régime, in 1656, made a valuable collection of Irish historical poems and transcribed them into a volume for preservation. It was for a lady of this family, Celia O’Gara, famed for her beauty, that the exquisite air was composed to which Moore afterward wrote the melody, beginning:

“Oh! had we some bright little isle of our own,

In a blue summer ocean, far off and alone.”

Oliver O’Gara, the head of the family, sat in King James’ Dublin Parliament in 1689 for the County of Sligo, and served with distinction in the Irish army. He commanded a regiment of infantry at the battle of Aughrim, and was subsequently one of the hostages held by the Williamites for the safe return of the ships that conveyed the Irish troops to France after the treaty of Limerick. He received a command in the Irish Brigade in France, and served with distinction in Spain under the Duke of Vendome. He left four sons, three of whom entered the military service of Spain. One of these attained the rank of Brigadier, another was Colonel of the Regiment of Hibernia, and the third Lieutenant-Colonel of the Regiment of Irlandia. The fourth son, Charles O’Gara, was appointed equerry to the two sons of Leopold, Duke of Lorraine, and when the elder of these became Emperor of Germany, he created O’Gara an Imperial Councilor of State and Chamberlain, Grand Master of the Household to the Princess, his sister, and Knight of the Golden Fleece, and afterward a Count. The name is also written Guiry, and is numerous both in Ireland and America.