• Shea surname history

    Shea surname history

    O'Shea, Shea and (O')Shee are anglicisations of the Irish O Seaghdha, from the personal name Seaghdha, meaning either "Hawk-like" or "fortunate". The surname arose in south Kerry, on the Iveragh peninsula, where the family held power in the early middle ages. Despite the later decline in their influence, they were not displaced, remaining extremely numerous in their original homeland down to the present day. Many of the name (usually found as "Shee" or "O?Shee") were also prominent in the armies of the Catholic monarchs of Europe after the final defeat of Gaelic Ireland in the seventeenth century.

    As "Shee" and "O?Shee", the surname is also found in some numbers in counties Tipperary and Kilkenny. These are the descendants of family members who migrated north as early as the fourteenth century. They became prominent in Kilkenny especially, where the name was more often anglicised (O')Shee and were one of the so-called "Ten Tribes of Kilkenny". The family is now known as the Poer O?Shees. The townland of Sheestown in that county records their influence.

    The most famous bearer of the name in Irish history was Katherine ("Kitty") O'Shea, mistress and later wife of Charles Stewart Parnell; their love affair brought about Parnell's downfall and changed the course of Irish history.

    The resumption of the O prefix, at least within Ireland, has been truly remarkable, from less than 16% of families in 1890 to over 97% in 1996.

    Sir Martin Archer Shee (1769-1850) was President of the Royal Irish Academy for almost 20 years.

    Jack O?Shea (1957 - ) and Paudie O?Shea (1955 - ) are two of the best Gaelic footballers the country has known, winning between them 15 All-Ireland medals with the Kerry team between 1975 and 1986.

    John O?Shea (1944 - ) is the founder and director of the Third World development and relief agency GOAL. His passionate commitment to his beliefs has made him a national figure.