The Sheedy families of Ireland – a secretive mob

(Sheedy, Sheady, Sheeda, Shyder, Shider, Sioda, Siodha, Silk, Silke, Sheedies, Sheedy-Mac, Sheedy Mcnamara, Sheedy Macnamara)

Pat Sheedy Photo copyright Jenny Fawcett

Despite 20 years searching  there is still plenty of mystery surrounding the origins of the Sheedy families in Ireland.

1859:Catholic Telegraph, Ireland...                    “The O’Siodas, Anglice Sheedy and Silk, are descended from Cormac Cas, King of Munster, in which province they were subordinate chiefs at the period of the English invasions.
They were possessed of lands in the vicinity of Gort in the fifteenth century.

The ancestral Sioda/Siodha (Sheeda)  family were aligned with the Macnamara clan,  and served as lords and chieftains within west county Clare. Dispossessed of their lands, their descendants settled variously in Limerick, Cork, Tipperary and Galway, particularly in the ‘Golden Triangle’. The intersecting Shannon river tends to figure strongly in family folklore among various branches of the Sheedies:

“After the Cromwellian Settlement the “Sheedy” family were scattered: some of them settled in the county Cork, some in Tipperary, some in Limerick, and some in West Clare; but few, if any, of them are now to be found in their ancient patrimony of Clann Coilein “.,  From Irish Pedigrees; or the Origin and Stem of the Irish Nation by John O’Hart

Catholic-aligned  families produced political- advocates, agitators or insurgents. Within the 1780 – 1850 era, usually at least one family member  in each branch were transported to Australia as rebel convicts. There were branches who entered English navies  or armies and traversed places of conflict, whereas others with  anti-English sentiment  instead stayed home to stir on Irish troubles.

Its generally accepted that the Gaelic ‘Sioda‘ or ‘Siodha‘ is pronounced Sheeda in English, the translation as ‘Silk’.  Because of their relationship as chieftains of ‘Clann Coilein’ (Clan Culien, Culein) in the county Clare – and with the Macnamara clan, all Sheedys could (and regularly did) use the alias of Macnamara, McNamara, Mac, Mack,  Silk, Silke, Sheeda, Sioda. Those using the name Sheedy-Macnamara were formal heads of the families, and usually represented various Sheedies clan ie: Sheedy Macnamara Hayes, Sheedy  Finn.

It is generally acknowledged that all Sheedys  descended from a branch of the Macnamara clan, though one early Irish newspaper article instead suggests Siodha (Sheeda) formed the Macnamara clan, and branches then descended from there. This confusion probably arises from there being two significant branches of the family within  ‘Macnamara Fionn’ – their home turf in west county Clare: one  as chieftains in west Cuilein and the other in the east – each of whom bore similar names:

A.D. 1570. John MacNamara, son of Sheeda, son of  Maccon, son of Sheeda, son of Teige, son of Loghlen, lord of East Clan Culein, died. He was a noble and majestic man, and the favourite of women and damsels by reason  of his gaiety and pleasantry. Donald Reigh, the son of  Cuvea, son of Donogh, succeeded  Source:

A.D. 1578. Sheeda, son of Maccon, son of Sheeda, son of  Maccon, Tanist of East Clan Culein, was slain on Slieve- Eachtao, while in pursuit of a party of the Keanes of
Clanrickard who were carrying off plunder source

It is suggested Siodha/Sheeda’s first-known family seat was on the west coast of county Clare, in Munster where they held were appointed  Lords and Chiefs within Clann Coilein  – the Macnamara Fionn territory of their ancesters.

“A tradition, current in Clare, relates that Sheeda MacNamara, one of
the Lords of Clancuilen, was carried into Cullane Lake by a lake horse
which he had caught and tamed for his own use. This romantic transaction
occurred when the chieftain was on a hunting excursion in the districts
adjoining the lake. The rock from which the unnatural animal leaped,
bearing his rider to a watery grave, is still pointed out by the peasantry,
having the impression of horse-shoes visible on its surface. It is believed
that he resides in the lake, like O’Donoghue in that of Killarney ; and the
legend farther says, that Sheeda will yet appear at the head of a Dalcas-
sian army, to assist in the regeneration of Ireland”.  Source:“Lays and legends of Thomond; with historical and traditional notes” by Br Michael Hogan –  “Bard of Thomond”

This page attempts to co-ordinate early stories of the Sheedy families, and link actual branches of the families.

1859:  Catholic Telegraph, Eire…. “The O’Siodas, Anglice Sheedy and Silk, are descended from Cormac Cas, King of Munster, in which province they were subordinate chiefs at the period of the English invasions.
They were possessed of lands in the vicinity of Gort in the fifteenth century.
A branch of this family settled in the county of Cork in or about 1404.

by N Kilcolgan”
source: Catholic Telegraph, Ireland, 5 Nov. 1859.

Thomas Macnamara “leader of the Sheedies” 1840’s, Co Clare.

“The factions that were in the habit of beating each other wherever they met all agreed that they should make peace during the election, and have no quarrelling amongst themselves. There was one leader of a faction named Tom McNamara, who led the Sheedys – that was the name given to his party – and some of the clergymen were afraid that Tom was so given to fighting that he could not keep from it during the election. Father Clune……..  source: Cork Examiner, 10 Feb 1843.

The following story about Tom Sheedy Macnamara was often told by John O’Connell (brother of the Great Daniel O’Connell) in the endeavor to gather some three million supporters of the Repeal campaign:

“During the Clare election, when the people resolved not to drink any intoxicating liquors until the contest terminated, there was a man of the name of Macnamara at the head of a clan called the Sheedies; and as he was always foremost in a row, Father Cloone (Clune) spoke to him, saying “You must promise me faithfully, Macnamara, that you will not strike any man, no matter what provocation you may get, until the election is over.”
Macnamara scratched his head, and after some moments’ reflection, said – “That is hard enough, but I will promise not to strike any man unless he strikes me first.”
“No,” said Father Cloone, “that will not do. You must promise me unconditionally to strike no man, no matter what provocation you may get.”
“Well, then, I do promise your reverence,” said poor Macnamara.
A little Palatine vagabond, named Whitstone, who heard of the promise, asked Macnamara, “Are not you going to vote against your landlord?”
“To be sure I am,” said Macnamara, “and so ought you”.
“”You lie,” said Whitestone.-
Tom Macnamara returned the compliment, and the Palatine at once struck him with his fist in the face, and knocked him against the wall.
“I’ll tell you you what it is,” said Tom.
“I have one pig in the world, and she is worth two pounds between brothers. I will sell her on the Saturday before the election, and I will give you, Mr. F. Whitstone, one pound of the money if you will give me a blow after the election is over.”

    • O’Connell’s point in telling the story – “it is better to suffer a blow for Ireland than that she should suffer permanently in her fate and fortune by resenting it (source: The Vindicator 6 May 1843).

“James Sheed, alias McNamara, found guilty of the murder of James Grady, one of the Kilnoe Cavalry in the month of April last: to be hanged on Wednesday the first of August next .”source: Saunders Newsletter, August 1804. Note: James Sheedy Macnamara was instead transported to New South Wales, aboard the Tellicherry.

 1845….”James Silk (which is the English name for Sheady ) and several others...” fined… at Ennis Petty Session, Clare, April 1845 . Source:  Clare Journal and Ennis Advertiser, 28 Apr.1845

“Last Monday, Sheedy McNamara, a poor man who lived near Glanomera, being pursued by some persons who had an order at law against him, fled to the Kings Island, and attempted to swim towards Parteen, unfortunately perished.” source:  Limerick Chronicle, Thursday 20 Nov 1788:

A man named Sheedy McNamara was killed at the fair of Killaloe, on Tuesday, in a riot which took place there.”source: Dublin Weekly Register, 8 Sep.1821:  

An inquest was held on the body of William (Sheedy) McNamara (above named Sheedy McNamara), by R.G. Greene, Esq, Coroner, at Ballycagen, Parish of Killaloe, on the 5th instant. The deceased was returning from the fair of Killaloe, on the 3rd instant, and was met by three men, who murdered him outside the town (namely Matthew Quinlivan, Michael Comyn and John Stritch). Verdict: Wilful Murder against the three prisoners above named. Ennis Chronicle. “Source: Saunders Newsletter, 13 Sep.1821

  1. note: Anne Stritch (daughter of William Stritch) married John Sheedy Macnamara (a member of the ‘younger’ branch of ancient family of Macnamara’s of Cratlow, Clare). Their son Sheedy Macnamara lived Ballyalley, Co Clare and their daughter (co-heiress) Margaret Sheedy Macnamara married John Hayes: their sons (a) Sheedy Hayes and (b) Sir John Macnamara Hayes born Limerick 1750 who died 19/7/1809: a Baronet, also Physician in H.M forces, North America and who married 1787 Anne White in New York.


  “Sioda: , the territory of the MacNamara, known as the “MacNamara Fionn,” comprised the following parishes:

  • Killaloe,
  • Aglish,
  • Killurin,
  • Kilkeady,
  • Kilbrooney,
  • Tullagh,
  • Moynoe,
  • Kilnoe,
  • Killokennedy,
  • Kiltrinanela,
  • Feakle,
  • Kilfinaghty, and
  • Inishcaltragh.

Daniel Sheedy Macnamara of Glenomeara, Clare