O'Hara is an anglicized phonetic rendering of the Irish translation O hEaghra, and is one of the few Irish families to have consistently kept the 'O' before the name.
The clan, of a distinguished origin, is descended from Eaghra (pronounced Ara), chief of Luighne (modern Leyny) in County Sligo. A scion of the family of Olioll Ollum, King of Munster, Eaghra died in 976. From the 12th to the 17th century (until the Cromwellian wars) the O hEaghras held their rank as lords of Luighne, and oversaw large tracts of land, including the baronies of Costello and Gallen in County Mayo.
About 1350, the O hEaghras formed two divisions, the chiefs of which were called respectively O'Hara Boy (buide, tawny) and O'Hara Reagh (i.e., riabhrach, grizzled). In the Composition Book of Connacht (1585) O'Hara Boy is seated at Collooney, and O'Hara Reagh at Ballyharry (Baile ui Eaghra or Ballyhara).>/ p>
In the 14th century a branch migrated to Antrim, near Ballymena, but the O'Haras of today are chiefly found in Counties Sligo and Leitrim. A famous manuscript known as The Book of O'Hara is still in existence and contains a very full record of chiefs of the clan. It also illustrates the respect with which the native Irish held the O'Haras in the 18th century.
There are many distinguished O'Haras. Kane O'Hara (1712-1782), a native of County Sligo, wrote the popular burlesque Midas. The first bishop of Scranton was Most Rev. Wailliam O'Hara (1816-1899). Revolutionary soldier James O'Hara assisted General Anthony Wayne in winning the first major victory over the enemies of the struggling American republic in the wake of the revolution. Born in Ireland in 1752, he came to Pennsylvania via England in 1772. He enlisted as a soldier but was quickly deemed fit to command and was made a captain.
A shrewd businessman, James purchased land at a sheriff's sale along the Allegheny River in 1794 and today that area is still known as the Township of O'Hara. Situated along the river, the township is located six miles northeast of Pittsburgh's Golden Triangle. O'Hara died in Pittsburgh in 1819. In more recent times, the most famous O'Hara is this year's Irish Person of the Year, Maureen O'Hara. Though she was born Fitzsimons, Maureen has made the name O'Hara well known the world over, thanks to her long and illustrious career in show business. Other notable show biz O'Haras include Catherine O'Hara, an actress who appeared in the movie Surviving Christmas along side Ben Affleck and James Gandolfini. Sporting O'Haras include Eamonn O'Hara, a member of the County Sligo Gaelic Football team who has been honored with an All-Star award, and on this side of the water, Shaun O'Hara is making quite an impression with the New York Giants as a defensive lineman.
O'Haras have also made a mark in the world of literature. Pennsylvania native John O'Hara authored numerous books and short stories between the 1930's and 1960's. His novel Butterfield Eight was made into a movie starring Elizabeth Taylor, who won an Academy Award for her role. Another of his novels, From the Terrace, was also made into a movie, this time starring Paul Newman. Poet Frank O'Hara (1926-1966), also made a major contribution to American literature. He was born Francis Russell O'Hara in Baltimore, Maryland, into a family of strict Irish Catholic.. Ward W. O'Hara of Cayuga County in New York was the author of 15 books and a columnist at a newspaper. His biggest legacy is his collection of farming equipment from the 1900's. With his wife he founded the County Museum at Emerson Park in 1975, which now holds their collection. In 1997, it was renamed the Ward W. O'Hara Agricultural Museum.
In the area of community service, Ann O'Hara has worked as an advocate for affordable housing for 25 years. She is a co-founder and Associate Director of Technical Assistance Collaborative, Inc., based in Boston, which works to expand affordable housing opportunities to people, including those with disabilities. In the business world, Walter O'Hara, the managing director of investment giant Allen & Co., is well known as having made a major contribution to All Hallows Catholic High School in the Bronx. In the 1930s All Hallows students were mostly poor Irish kids, so when O'Hara, an alumnus, discovered that the school had fallen on hard times he contacted other Irish-American investment bankers who were also alumni and raised money to keep the school open. Today the school is thriving, thanks to donations of over one million dollars a year raised by O'Hara and his team, and it has just added a science lab.
And so we see that O'Haras have contributed enormously in all walks of life, but perhaps the most unforgettable O'Hara is fictional. Scarlett O'Hara, played by Vivien Leigh in the epic love story Gone With the Wind, is one of the most enduring characters of all time. Today, a popular drink commemorates the movie with a Scarlett O'Hara cocktail. Pour 2 oz. Southern Comfort over ice in an 8 oz. glass. Fill with cranberry juice. Squeeze one wedge of lime into drink. Stir and serve, and drink a toast to O'Haras everywhere.
Below, see Maureen O'Hara make her return visit to Cong in Ireland where the 'The Quiet Man' was filmed