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The O'Haras are an important sept of distinguished origin. They are descended from Eaghra (pronounced Ara), lord of Luighne (the modern Leyney) in Co. Sligo, who died in 976 and who was himself, in the traditional genealogies, of the family of Olioll Olum, king of Munster. In Irish the name is O hEaghra, of which the anglicised form O'Hara is a phonetic rendering.
O'Hara is cited in ancient times as "O'Headra, or O'Hara, chief of Luighne" (Leyney) in Sligo, "but Lieney anciently comprised part of the baronies of Costello and Gallen in Mayo." From the 12th to the 17th century they held their rank as lords of Lieney, and had large possessions to the period of the Cromwellian wars. The O'Haras are thus designated by O'Dugan: "The lords of Lieney, of high fame: The men of Lieney, of warlike swords." They possessed great lands in Sligo up to the 19th century. The families of Cooper Hill and Annaghmore held lands and are of note into modern times.
O'Hara is one of the few names in Irish history which has consistently kept the 'O' before the name. It appears that the O'Haras have outnumbered the Haras at all times in written records, a rare feat considering the pressures that existed to drop the Mac and O from all Irish names. By the time of the 1890 index, 105 O'Haras are found in Sligo, Dublin, and Antrim, and only 5 "Haras", all from Galway.
About the year 1350 this sept formed two divisions, the chiefs of which were called respectively O'Hara Boy (i.e. buidhe, tawny) and O'Hara Reagh (i.e. riabhach, grizzled). In the "Composition Book of Connacht" (1585) O'Hara Boy is seated at Collooney and O'Hara Reagh at Ballyharry: the latter is a contemporary English attempt at writing Baile Uí Eaghra or Ballyhara.
In the fourteenth century a branch migrated to the Glens of Antrim and settled at Crebilly near Ballymena. Here it became an important sept and entered into several marriages and alliances with the great families of Antrim.
In the mid-nineteenth century O'Haras were still found concentrated in the barony of Lower Glenarm. At the beginning of the twentieth century the name was being used interchangeably with Haren in several parts of Co. Fermanagh and so some at least of the O'Haras of that county will he originally O'Harans. The origin of the Harans of Fermanagh is uncertain. In seventeenth century documents they appear as Ó hAráin and they were erenaghs of Ballymacataggart.
Outside Ulster, as might be expected, the O'Haras of today are chiefly found in Counties Sligo and Leitrim.
The famous manuscript known as "The Book of O'Hara" is still in existence: it contains a very full record of chiefs of the name.
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