O’Hara – ancient Irish clan of Sligo

History of the Irish name O'Hara. Image copyright Ireland Calling

O’Hara is a popular name around the world. It originated in ancient Ireland at some time before the 10th century.

During the 1800s, the name was spread around the world, to America, Britain and Australia as millions of people were forced to leave Ireland because of the ‘Great Famine’.

It is now a fairly common name in most English speaking countries.

O’Hara originally came from an ancient clan in Ireland. The country had no one leader or king, but was instead made up of numerous family clans that all held their own territory.

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One of these clans was the O’hEaghras. They held territory in County Sligo. The O’hEaghras were descendants of a man named Eaghra, who was a member of the powerful household of Ollum, King of Munster.

Eaghra gained his own territory in Sligo, and when he passed the leadership of the family down to his son, the family name became O’hEaghra. The ‘O’ prefix in Ireland refers to the ‘grandson of’ or ‘descendant of’.

The family owned large areas of land in Sligo and remained a powerful force up until the 16th century. Then Oliver Cromwell’s invasion of Ireland saw the O’hEaghra’s land confiscated and handed over to British settlers.

Like most clans in Ireland, the O’hEaghras couldn’t defend themselves against the military power of Cromwell. Their land was taken and they had to re-integrate themselves into the changing Irish-British society.

At this time, many of the traditional Irish names evolved into more English sounding versions, and O’hEaghra became O’Hara.Maureen O'Hara It became a popular name around the world when thousands left Ireland during the ‘Great Famine’ of the mid-19th century.

Famous O’Haras throughout history

There have been several notable people named O’Hara throughout history.

The most famous of which is surely Maureen O’Hara. She is the Irish actress who starred opposite John Wayne in the 1950s John Ford classic movie, The Quiet Man. O’Hara is considered a national treasure in Ireland, and there is a statue of her and Wayne in the village of Cong, where the movie was made.

Robert O’Hara Burke was an Irish police officer in the 1800s. He took on an expedition of exploring across the unknown territory from the south to the north of Australia. It is a significant event in history and became known as the Burke and Wills expedition.

Burke died in the Australian jungle after months of suffering from dehydration and disease. Of the 19 men that started the mission, only one managed to survive.

Patsy O’Hara was a member of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA). The group wanted to remove Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom to create a republic of the whole of Ireland. O’Hara was imprisoned for possession of a hand grenade in 1979. Two years later he died after spending 61 days on hunger strike as part of an IRA prisoners’ protest.

Scarlett O’Hara is the name of the lead character in the classic 1930s novel, Gone with the Wind.

Video histories of popular Irish names

Irish names and their meanings

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