|Clare County Library||
and O'Daly Monument
by Luke McInerney
The O’Daly Monument at Finavarra
Tradition suggests that the greatest member of the family, poet Donnchadh Mór Ó Dálaigh (c.1175-1244), whom the annals describe as ‘a poet who never was and never will be surpassed’, operated a school of poetry at Finavarra. Donnchadh Mór composed a number of well-known poems in classical literary Irish, many of which had religious themes. Upon his death he was buried at Boyle Abbey in Roscommon.
When antiquaries John O’Donovan and Eugene O’Curry visited Finavarra in 1839, they were struck by the ‘wild stories’ told about Donnchadh Mór. Ruins of the Uí Dhálaigh school of poetry could be seen in the mid-nineteenth century in the field opposite the pillar and plaque locally known as the O’Daly monument. To the north of the monument situates a large ringfort or ráth called Parkmore, which it is said had links to the Uí Dhálaigh poets. Little is actually known about their school and only a few references from the seventeenth century provide us with detail about its activity.
A poem by Aonghus Ruadh Ó Dálaigh (d.1617), a controversial
poet from the Cork branch of the family, says that the Finavarra school
was wealthy and sounded like a ‘loud organ’ where one could
hear ‘pupils reciting the melodies of the ancient schools’.
Another text writes that Finavarra was ‘a great centre of mastership
in poetry for the poets of Ireland and Scotland’, and was where
the ‘four divisions of poetic knowledge’ were studied. It
also says that instruction in harp-playing was offered at the school.
In another poem, dating from the 1640s, a Scottish poet who was on a
circuit to all of the poetry schools in Ireland like ‘like a bee
stealing honey from every flower’ (gadaigh bláith gan blátha
a-muig) described Finavarra and its school in verse, calling it: Fiodhnach
Bhearaigh bhionn-Donnchaidh (‘Sweet Donnchadh’s Finavarra’),
recalling that earlier association with Donnchadh Mór.
The Uí Dhálaigh of Finavarra are recorded in the annals
for the years 1404 and 1420 as ollamhain of Corcomroe. One member whose
obituary was recorded in the Irish annals under the year 1404 was named
Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh. He was the first of the family recorded
with the title ollamh Corco Modruadh (‘professor of Corcomroe’).
In 1514 the annals record the Uí Dhálaigh operating a ‘house
of general hospitality’ and from this time they had links to Corcomroe
Abbey when one of their leading members was interred there. Their settlement
at Finavarra must have drawn the attention of the English authorities
because it was attacked by the Lord Justice of Ireland in 1415 when he
plundered a number of the learned Gaelic families in Ireland. There is
little evidence to support the local tradition that Donnchadh Mór
established a branch of the family here before his death in 1244. But
records indicate that the Uí Dhálaigh were well established
in the locality by the early 1400s. A charter made by the earl of Thomond
in 1590 confirmed the Uí Dhálaigh in their landholding
at Finavarra, and deeds show that members of the family were still living
at Finavarra in the early 1700s.
Excerpt of a poem by Donnchadh Mór Ó Dálaigh (d. 1244)
Na treig mo theagasg a mhic (‘My son remember’)
But oh! let faith, let hope, let love
Translation by Douglas Hyde, 1906.
Na treig mo theagasg a mhic (‘Don’t forget my counsel, son’)
Faith, Hope and Charity
Translation by Ristéard Ua Cróinín,
T.L. Cooke, Autumnal Rambles about New Quay, County Clare (1863)
Plaque on the O’Daly Monument dedicated to the memory
of the ‘venerable poet’, Donnchadh Mór Ó Dálaigh