The O’Mally Family

O’Mally family crest

(Crest No. 74. Plate 41.)

THE O’Mally family is descended from Milesius, King of Spain, through the line of his son Heremon. The O’Mallys belonged to the Hy Brune tribe, and the founder of the family was Conal Oirioson, of the line of Duach Galach, first Christian King of Connaught. The ancient name was Malla, and signifies “Modest.” The title of the chief was Prince of Burrishoole and Umalia. The territory of the sept was located in the present Counties of Galway, Mayo, and Sligo. The territory of Umalia comprised the present baronies of Murrisk and Burrishoole, in the County of Mayo. The O’Mallys are of the same descent as the O’Conors, Kings of Connaught, and seem to have been great mariners. Of them O’Dugan says:

“A good man yet there never was

Of the O’Mallys, who was not a mariner;

Of every weather ye are prophets;

A tribe of brotherly affection and of friendship.”

Of this family was the celebrated heroine Graine-Ui-Mhaille (Grana Wale) or Grace O’Mally, who in the reign of Elizabeth, commanding her fleet in person, performed many remarkable exploits against the English. Clare Island was her favorite residence. The remains of her castle of Carrig-a-Hooley still exist, and show that the original structure was one of great strength. Having been outlawed a body of troops were sent to besiege her in her castle, but she defeated them, and continued her piratical excursions. She was subsequently reconciled to Queen Elizabeth, and performed some valuable services for her. She visited the English Court, at the Queen’s invitation, where she astonished everybody by her eccentricities and cleverness. When about to leave, Elizabeth offered to make her a Countess. “I don’t want your titles,” Grana replied, “are we not equal? If there be any good in the thing, I may as well make you one, as you me. Queen of England, I want nothing from you—enough for me is it to be at the head of my nation.”

On her return to Ireland, this celebrated sea-queen landed at Howth, and in passing the castle of that name, then in possession of the St. Laurences, she saw the gates were barred. On being told that they were always shut at dinner time, so as to exclude visitors, her Connaught idea of hospitality was so shocked that she kidnapped the heir of Howth, and refused to return him until the St. Laurences covenanted never again to close their gates at meal time. This stipulation was carried out faithfully up to a quite recent period. Another branch of the O’Mallys were Chiefs of Tua Luimnidh, or the district about Limerick.

The Rev. Thadeus O’Malley, called “The Father of Federalism in Ireland,” was born in the County of Limerick in 1796. He was an advocate of the introduction of the Poor Law into Ireland, and supported the system of national schools. He had a lively public debate with O’Connell on the merits of federalism as against repeal. When Mr. Butt inaugurated the Home Rule movement in 1870, he came forth from his retirement, and became an ardent advocate of the new departure. His little book on “Home Rule on the Basis of Federalism” obtained quite an extensive circulation, and exercised considerable influence on public opinion. He died in 1877.