O’Grady comes from the ancient Gaelic name O Gradaigh. The ‘O’ prefix means ‘grandson of’ or descendent of’ while Gradaigh was a Gaelic word meaning ‘illustrious’.
The O’Gradys are certainly an illustrious family. They were originally part of the Dalcassian sept and are distant relatives of the noble O’Brien clan. The Dalcassians were a collection of the major clans in the kingdom of Thomond, which was the area now known as Co Clare as well as parts of Co Limerick and Co Tipperary.
There are several variations of the name including Grady, O’Garda and Gready. The motto on the O’Grady coat of arms is ‘Vulneratus Non Victus’ which means ‘Wounded But Not Defeated’.
The O’Gradys were a prominent family in Munster and had significant territory in the area that is now Co Clare.
They had castles to defend their land although the O’Grady Castle in Clare is now in ruins.
They moved to Limerick at the order of the O’Briens. They established themselves in the area and ruled over large territories.
However, they struggled to keep hold of their land over the years due to the constant pressure from the English. During King Henry VIII’s reign, a landowner named O’Grady changed his name to Brady in a bid to sound more English and therefore be allowed to keep his land.
Many O’Gradys in Co Limerick dropped the ‘O’ prefix to their name as it became difficult for people with Irish Catholic names to find work under British rule. More O’Gradys in Co Clare retained the ‘O’ prefix than other parts of the country.
Darby O’Grady lost his lands to the British only to recover them when he married the daughter of Sir Thomas Standish. As gratitude there has been either son or daughter named ‘Standish’ in every generation of the family to this day.
In 1831, a descendent, named Standish O’Grady became the first Viscount Guillamore of Caher Guillamore in the County of Limerick which was a peerage in Ireland.
His nephew was also named Standish O’Grady and was a respected engineer in America before returning to Ireland and collecting Irish manuscripts.
Another Standish O’Grady was a well-known writer and wrote several Irish folk stories.
In the early 20th century a man named John Lewis Grady married an African American woman. Their grandson was Cassius Clay, the man who would later be known as ‘The Greatest’ heavyweight boxing world champion Muhammad Ali.
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