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ClearyO'Cleirigh meaning grandson of the scribe is the Irish for both O'Cle(a)ry and in many cases in Ireland, Clarke. The surname is of great antiquity deriving from Cleireach of Connacht born c.820. The first of his descendants to use his name as part of a fixed hereditary surname was Tigherneach Ua Cleirigh lord of Aidhne in South Co. Galway whose death is recorded in the year 916. It seems likely that this is the oldest true surname recorded anywhere in Europe. The power of the family in their original Co. Galway homeland was broken by the thirteenth century and they scattered throughout the island with the most prominent branches settling in Derry and Donegal where they became famous as poets; in Cavan where many appear to have anglicised the name as 'Clarke' and in the Kilkenny/Waterford/Tipperary region.

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