Denis Daly (judge)

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Denis Daly, Irish Judge and Privy Councillor, c.1638-1721.

Early life[edit]

Daly was a son of James Daly of Carrownakelly and Anastase Darcy of Kiltullagh. Darcy was a niece (or grand-niece) of Patrick D'Arcy, with whom Daly began his career as D'Arcy's clerk.

His ancestor, Dermot O Daly, was a Gaelic-Irish supporter of the Earl of Clanricarde. The family had risen from utter obscurity in the mid-16th century to become powerful landlords by the 1640s. Denis Daly was a member of the Carrownekelly (modern-day Carnakelly, Athenry) branch. The family were supporters of the Stuarts and remained Catholic.

Mature career[edit]

During the reign of James II, Daly was made a Judge and Privy Councillor. Part of the terms for supporting James during the Williamite War in Ireland was conformity to the Protestant church. He did this in 1709, which had the additional effect of protecting his extensive estates in mid-Galway.

Daly and his brother, Charles of Calla (M.P. for Athenry in 1689), had accumulated a great deal of land purchased from the profits of their legal business. During the early years of the 18th century the brothers spent some thirty-thousand buying estates such as Dunsandle, Raford and Quansbury; the price of Dunsandle alone was £9,450, which Denis obtained in 1708.

Daly was also a patron of the local Catholic clergy, providing a refuge for Athenry's Dominican friars in Esker, close to his castle at Carrownekelly. The monastery is still in existence.

In decades to come, Daly's descendants would settle at Dunsandle, and from c.1760 to c.1820 effectively monopolised the mayoralty of the town of Galway. Daly's great-grandson was made a peer, Baron Dunsandle and Clanconel, in the 19th century.


Daly married Mary Power, daughter of Thomas of Park, Limerick, with whom he had four sons and two daughters.


In analysing Daly's successfully career, Patrick Melville states There was ... a marked difference in how the various Irish families gained or preserved estates from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Loyalty and government service counted for much. More crucial was the preservation of property through the 17th century and the ability to take advantage of available land. The Clanricarde family's position as the greatest and most influential landowner in the county made relations with them particularly important. All these factors are illustrated in the history of the related Daly families. The most crucial factor in the rise of the Dalys was the ability and family ambition of Judge Denis Daly of Carrownekelly. (p. 15)

See also[edit]


  • Clare Bards, Galway Gentry, Patrick Melvin, in The Irish Genealogist, volume 11, part i, 2002, pp. 13–15.
  • Daly, Denis, Eoin Kinsella, Dictionary of Irish Biography, pp. 16–18, Cambridge, 2010