Recorded in the spellings of O'Neary, Neary and Nary, this Irish surname is today rarely if ever found with the "O" prefix. Like most Irish surnames it originates from a description of the first chief of the clan,one whose name was "Naraigh" meaning "modest". That in itself is unusual for an Irish surname. Most of them relate either to the religious followers of a particular saint or are a description of the chief's prowess with the sword! The name today in Ireland is rarely numerous except in the province of Connacht, and particulary the counties of Mayo and Roscommon. Early examples of the name recording include Donal "Boy" O'Nare, a famous character of the 16th century from County Kildare. He seems to have committed a number of gruesome offences including murder, although this was possibly in a duel, but he obviously knew the right people because in each case he received pardon. He was known as an "Idleman", a word which means not what it seems, but a gentleman! Rather less contentious was Father Cornelius Nary, 1658 -1738, and also from Kildare, who held a number of high posts within the Catholic Church in Germany. He was head of the Irish College in Paris in 1703, and later returned to Ireland as parish priest of St Michan's, Dublin. The first known recording of the surname may be that of Father Nicholas O'Naraighe, at the Irish College, St. Etienne, France, in the years 1503 - 1508.
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