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Irish Surname - Grady / O'Grady

The name in Irish is O'Grádaigh or O'Gráda, derived from 'grada' meaning 'illustrious'. This was the name of an aristocratic family who mainly originated in counties Limerick and Clare. They were a Dalcassian sept, one of the main septs of Thomond, an ancient territory comprising most of County Clare, with adjacent parts of Counties Limerick and Tipperary. The ancient seat and main territory of the Chief of the Name was at Killballyowen, County Limerick and there was an O'Grady stronghold at Inis Cealtra (Holy Island) on Lough Derg.

The O'Gradys were kinsmen of their neighbours the O'Briens of Thomond in Limerick. The O'Briens granted them a generous acreage of land in Cineal-Donghaile near Tuamgraney, County Clare, where the tower of a ruined O'Grady castle can still be seen. A little further north, near Scarriff, there is a Lough O'Grady.

An important branch of the family in East Clare, who supported the English invaders in the reign of Henry 111 (1216 - 1272), changed their name to Brady in the late sixteenth century. In parts of Mayo and Roscommon some Gradys took the name Gready, from the Gaelic 'Mac Riada', corrupted in the spoken language to O'Griada. However, the name Grady has to a large extent absorbed the rarer Gready and this has resulted in the name Grady being numerous in north Connacht and bordering areas of Ulster. The prefix O is retained in County Clare more than anywhere else.

The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John O'Grady, Bishop of Tuam, which was dated 1364, in the 'Ecclesiastical Records of County Galway', during the reign of King Edward 111, known as 'The Father of the Navy', 1327 - 1377.

In the mid-19th century, there were 1103 Grady households - most numerous in Mayo (136), Galway (133), Limerick (113), Tipperary (112) and Clare (104).

The Benedictine priory of Glenstal (Limerick), one of Ireland's leading boys' schools, is on a former O'Grady estate.

Motto

Vulneratus non Victur - Wounded not Conquered.

Famous People

One of the most illustrious bearers of the surname was the scholarly Standish Hayes O'Grady (1832 - 1915), an Irish antiquarian. In 1901 he contributed an essay on Anglo-Irish aristocracy to a collection entitled 'Ideals in Ireland', edited by Lady Augusta Gregory. He also undertook the task of cataloguing Irish Manuscripts in the British Museum - which was unfinished on his death and was later completed by Robin Flower.

His cousin, Standish James O'Grady (1846 - 1928), was an Irish author, journalist and historian. O'Grady's works were an influence on WB Yeats and George Russell and this earned him the title of the 'Father of the Celtic Revival'. He was equally proud of his family's Unionism and Protestantism as of his Gaelic Irish ancestry and he was described by Augusta, Lady Gregory as a 'fenian unionist'. He wrote a history of Ireland emphasising the importance of the country's heroic period, as well as several other historical novels including 'In the Wake of King James', 'The Flight of the Eagle' and 'Red Hugh's Captivity', all of which aroused a new interest among his contemporaries in Irish epic literature.

Researching Irish Surnames

We have researched many sources for the origins of Irish surnames and extracted a fair representation of the origins of each. As there are many variations we have compiled a representative, but by no means exhaustive, selection.

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