History of the surname:
O'Shea is included in the list of fifty most numerous surnames in Ireland with an estimated number of nearly twelve thousand persons so called, if we include Shea, Shee and O'Shee, (Variants of the same name) in the total. In Irish it is O Seaghdha, I.e. descendant of Seaghdha: this word means hawk-like and hence dauntless. The O'Sheas are primarily a Kerry sept. They were Lords of Iveragh but their power declined there from the twelfth century onwards, though not their numbers, for it is there that the great majority of O'Sheas are found even at the present day. Some of the lading members of the sept migrated to Co. Tipperary and we find Odoneus O'Shee recorded as Lord of Sheesland in Co. Tipperary in 1381. In the next century their sphere of influence moved to the adjoining county of Kilkenny: Robert Shee was Sovereign (I.e. Chief burgess) of the city of Kilkenny in 1499, and the well known family, now represented by the Poer O'Shees of Gardenmorris and Sheestown, Co. Kilkenny, come into prominence there about that time. Of the so-called Ten Tribes of Kilkenny the Shees (the only ones of Milesian blood), were the most influential; the Rothes and the Archers were next in importance (the others were Archdekin, Cowley, Knaresborough, Langton, Lawless, ley and Ragget). The form Shee and O'Shee is based on the anglified pronunciation of Shea (cf. O'Dea and Dee) and is not met with often outside Co. Kilkenny. Sir William Shee (1804-1868), M.P. for Kilkenny was the first Catholic judge in Ireland since the Revolution of 1690. Capt. Robert O'Shea was a devoted follower of Prince Charlie and was with him at Culloden. He was an officer of the Irish Brigade in France. At least five others of the name (O'Shee in France) were distinguished officers. The son of one of them became a peer of France. Sir Martin Archer Shee (1769-1850) was the President of the Royal Irish Academy (London) for twenty years. Daniel Shee (1777-1836) was an orientalist who was expelled from Dublin University for refusing to give evidence against his friends among the United Irishmen. John Dawson Gilmary O'Shea (1824-1892) was an American historian of note, whose father, a leader in Irish-American affairs, went to the U.S.A. in 1815. The murder of the twelve-year-old boy Denis Shea in 1851 is a shocking commentary on the evils of landlordism at that period. The name O'Shea is of course intimately associated with the fall of Parnell.
Last Updated : Wednesday, August 28, 2002 5:06 PM