Roderic O'Flaherty

O'Flaherty, Roderic, historian and antiquary, was born at Moycullen Castle, Galway, in 1629. His father Hugh, last chief of the race, died when he was an infant. Roderic was educated by Dr. Lynch, author of Cambrensis Eversus, and was intimate with Duald MacFirbis, of Lecan. He devoted his life to the study of the history and antiquities of Ireland. His first production was a letter on the Chronology of Irish History, addressed to his master, Lynch.

He had scarcely arrived at manhood when, in 1652, without having taken any part in politics, he was included in the general Cromwellian proscription. On appeal to the Parliamentary Commissioners sitting at Athlone, he was allowed a portion of his estates in west Connaught, but so burdened with taxes and dues that he was reduced to great destitution. He was disappointed in an alleviation of his circumstances at the Restoration, and wrote: "I live a banished man within the bounds of my native soil; a spectator of others enriched by my birth-right; an object of condoling to my relatives and friends, and a condoler of their miseries." His first important work was a reply to Dr. Borlace's History of the Rebellion.

He also wrote A Description of West Connaught, first published by the Archaeological Society in 1846. His great work, the Ogygia, "remains a lasting monument of our author's learning and genius. Immediately on its appearance it excited the curiosity and attracted the attention of the learned of Europe, many of whom testified their approbation of the work in the most flattering terms. Our ablest antiquaries since that time have admitted that in it he has given secure anchorage to Irish history." His Ogygia Vindicated, which followed, remained in manuscript until published by Charles O'Conor, in 1775.

A number of minor tracts and treatises will be found in the appendix to West Connaught. His English is bald and stiff; he wrote with greater ease in Irish or Latin. Most of his works were written at Parke, about seven miles west of Galway. Thomas Molyneux, after visiting him there in 1709, wrote: "I went to visit old Flaherty, who lives very old, in a miserable condition... I expected to have seen here some old Irish manuscripts, but his ill-fortune had stripped him of these as well as his other goods, so that he has nothing now left but some few pieces of his own writing, and a few old rummish books of history, printed."

O'Flaherty was of a commanding presence, and was proud of his blood and ancestry. He was a strange mixture of simplicity and wisdom; and amongst his neighbours had the reputation of being able to work miracles and exorcise evil spirits. He died in 1718, aged about 89, leaving an only son Michael, to whom, in 1736, a portion of the family estates was restored.


195. Irish Writers of the Seventeenth Century: Thomas D'Arcy McGee. Dublin, 1846.

346. West Connaught: Roderick O'Flaherty: Edited by James Hardiman. (I. A. S.) Dublin, 1846.