According to James P. Hynes in his 1987 book "The O'Shaughnessys" the earliest historical references to the ancestors of the O'Shaughnessys refer to Heremon, Monarch of Ireland and his descendant, Eochy Muigh who ruled Connaught from 358 AD to 365 AD.
He also states that King Dathy (or "Daithi"), the last great pagan King of Ireland, was ancestor of the O'Shaughnessys. He then traces the line from King Guaire the Hospitable (the most famous seventh century King of Connaught) through some 15 generations to Sheaghnasy, from whom the family name is derived. From the 12th to 16th Centuries the O'Shaughnessys are mentioned in "The Annals of the Four Masters" on several occasions, though briefly.
More detail is recorded about the O'Shaughnessy family from the early 16th century. At this time they were based in Gort Castle. Gort (or "Gort-Inse-Guaire") is situated on the N18 road from Galway to Ennis. The castle is long gone but locals will be able to show you the site by the river where it and the manor house stood.
From Sir Dermot OShaughnessy (knighted by King Henry VIII in the early 16th century) to his great-great-great-grandson Roger who died in 1690, the OShaughnessy family occupied the Gort site. Even though the castle was burnt by the Cromwellian General Ludlow in 1651 (at a time when the chief of the clan, another Sir Dermot OShaughnessy, was away from the home defending Galway) the house remained. After the estates were confiscated by William III in 1697, several OShaughnessys used lawsuits to try to regain them and one, Sir Joseph OShaughnessy, furious at the legal delays, forcibly re-took the mansion house at Gort around 1760. Unfortunately, the courts and the House of Lords ruled against him and Gort was lost again in 1770.
Other OShaughnessy Castles
Not far from Gort are two other OShaughnessy castles, Ardamullivan and Fiddaun.
Ardamullivan Ardamullivan is about 8 kilometres south of Gort. It is first mentioned in 1567 when claimed by Dermot The Swarthy on the death of his brother Sir Roger OShaughnessy (sons of Sir Dermot mentioned above). In a dispute over possession of the castle, Dermot fought his nephew William in a duel beneath the walls of Ardamullivan. Dermot killed William but William had managed to wound his uncle to the extent that he died within about half an hour of his nephew.
Fiddaun Fiddaun, which guarded the western frontiers of the OShaughnessy territory, dates from the 15th or 16th century. The last OShaughnessy to occupy Fiddaun was Lady Helena who died there in 1729. It is now a well preserved National Monument.
Not far from Gort is the site of an old monastic settlement, Kilmacduagh. The 7th century saint, Saint Colman MacDuagh established a monastery on the site given him by King Guaire. Over the following 13 centuries various other buildings were added and restorations made.
You may see a larger JPEG version of the images above by clicking on the thumbnails.
The Limerick O'Shaughnessys
- During the 17th century one or more O'Shaughnessys migrated from Gort in Co. Galway to Co. Limerick. Amongst them was Thomas O'Shaughnessy (great(4)grandson of Sir Dermot O'Shaughnessy) who settled in Glin on the Shannon about 1692 in the aftermath of the Treaty of Limerick. I believe that he was my great(6)grandfather. His great(3)grandson John was born at Tullyleague near Glin in 1837 and migrated to Australia in about 1863.
- A book by John PM Feheney is a great source of information on the Limerick O'Shaughnessys. It is called "The Munster O'Shaughnessys - The People and their Stories." You may order a copy from the author here.
The O'Shaughnessy Society
The O'Shaughnessy Society is open to all with O'Shaughnessy/Shaughnessy/Shannessy roots and is registered with the Clans of Ireland Office. It organises family rallies every second year at Gort and provides regular newsletters to its members. Visit the Society's web site here.
Clans of Ireland
Clans of Ireland Ltd. is a non-profit organisation set up in 1989 under the auspices of the Irish Tourist Board (Bord Failte) and the Heritage Section of the Department of the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) in order to help publicise and give advice on the organisation of clan rallies in Ireland.
Some Irish surnames have roots originating in the 5th century A.D. and earlier. Some descend from kings and ruling families who were prominent in Irish history while others descend from famous intellectual or bardic families who preserved the history and culture of their nation for posterity. They all represent the rich fabric of Irish society and have contributed to our ancient culture and heritage. You are invited to celebrate and share in this heritage by participating in this movement, and even visiting the homes of your ancestors.
Visit the Clans of Ireland here.
James P. Hynes
James P Hynes has written several books directly related to the O'Shaughnessy clan: "The O'Shaughnessys", "Fiddaun Castle" and "A Short Guide To Kilmacduagh" and, sharing history with his O'Heyne clan: "White Sheeted Fort", "Dunguaire Castle" and "The Hynes Sept".
To purchase his books contact him here.