The Ferocious O Flahertys…

From the Ferocious O Flahertys O Lord deliver us”.

How cool is that?

We stayed in a charming little town near Galway, Oughterard, on one of our visits to Ireland. DNA showed all my Irish lines were from the Connaught area, so I asked a friendly store owner where different clans were located. He had a map on the wall showing ancient clan territories. I knew I had Flaherty ancestors—and there they were—right in Oughterard. He told us there was a Flaherty castle just down the road. So, off we went.

The correct name is Aughnanure (Pronounced something like: On a nur) Castle. It’s a fun few hours to stroll the grounds and remains of the castle (or Irish Towers). There are no tour guides, but information is posted in the rooms. It has quite the interesting history, which is nice to know before you go.

Here’s a quick version: It all started in the 12th century. Normans (read: conquerors) moved into the area. They wanted the seaport of Galway and eventually convince/forced the Flahertys (ancient name: Ó Flaithbheartaigh) out of their land. The Flahertys, not being cowed at all, built a well-fortified castle in 1490 against the invaders who’d pushed them to the high hills. They continued to harass the Norman families in Galway. Indeed, records state they were a “mountainous and wild people”.

The Flahertys, whose motto is “fortune favors the strong”, ruled from this castle and high country for about 300 years. (That is longer than the United States has been a country!) They were such a problem for those in Galway that the Normans built a wall and made a plaque that said: “From the Ferocious O Flaherty’s O Lord deliver us”.

At the time, Aughnanure Castle was well situated with a river on one side that afforded a harbor to the castle. It’s no longer there, but if you hike down the small incline, you can see where it once flowed. There was also a forest of yew trees; only one is left. The remains still have the ‘murder hole’, where arrows/stones or boiling water/oil could be poured on attackers. There is a trap door in the banquet hall that when activated dumped an unwanted person into the river that flowed under the hall. (Devious!) There’s also the classic Medieval staircase which is narrow and would be extremely difficult for invaders to ascend, but it’s not a difficult climb when you don’t have to fight your way up the stairs.

An interesting, though morbid (or exciting, depending on your view) story: After a siege by the Normans on the Flaherty, the clan agreed to pay a tribute to the Normans. But they never did. After a few years the Normans (De Burgh family) sent a son to force the issue. The young man was invited to join a banquet. (Should have known better.) He was seated over the trap door. At some point, the Flahertys tripped the trap and the unfortunate lad plummeted into the river. And was drowned. His body was retrieved and he was beheaded. A son of Flaherty rode to Galway and threw the sack with the head at the DeBurghs. The Normans gave chase, but it was also a trap. The Flahertys were waiting over a hill. Not many De Burghs returned to Galway.

Flaherty Clan remained at Aughnanure until Cromwell. Which is another story.

I enjoyed learning about my Irish ancestors—though I don’t know that mine actually lived at Aughnanure. But I have Flahertys from the area, so there’s a good chance they’re a long ago great someone or other.

If you’re interested in reading a bit more, try these sites:

2 thoughts on “The Ferocious O Flahertys…

  1. Love this! What a great story! I visited that castle and knew nothing of the story. Now I want to go back and see it again. I even have a picture of that single Yew tree. 🙂


  2. Mom! I Loved reading this post about the Flaherty’s and their castle! It was so wonderful that we got to visit that area. So neat. Very well written. Thanks for sharing!!! Will post in family history records.


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