Recorded in the spellings of O'Leahy, Leahy and Leahey in Counties Tipperary and Cork, and O'Lahy and Lahy in County Clare, this is an Irish surname of great antiquity. Generally to be found in the province of Munster, and in some numbers on the West Coast, the derivation is from the pre 12th century Gaelic word "laochda", which translates as "The heroic one". In the first instance the name was given to the chief of the clan, and it should be assumed that it was as a result of a battle, in which he distinguished himself.Sadly the event itself is lost in the mists of antiquity. It is known that to some extent the clan was dispersed in the period after 1603, when they joined the famous rebellion of that year lead by Lord O'Neill. This ended in disastrous defeat at the battle of Kinsale, and the end of Irish hopes of self government for three centuries. Despite the break up of the original clan, the several members have distinguished themselves. These include Edward Leahy (1797 - 1875) the famous portrait painter, and the Rev. Patrich Leahy, the arbishop of Cashel, responsible for the building of Thurles Cathedral. Amongst the many thousands of refugees from the "Great potato famine" of 1846-1848 was Simon Leahy, and his sister Margaret, who sailed on the ship "Venice", bound for New York, on April 30th 1846. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John O'Lahy, which was dated 1581, hanged in Dublin for refusing to renounce the faith, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1st, known by some as "Good Queen Bess", 1558 - 1603.
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