Both Cleary, or Clery, O'Cleary, O'Clery, and Clarke, one of the most common surnames in England, Ireland and Scotland, are anglicized versions of the same Irish name - O Cleirigh, meaning "grandson of the scribe." The ancient name derives from Cleireach of Connacht, who was born in 820 A.D. The Cleirigh family held power in Co. Galway until the 13th century, and then they proceeded to scatter throughout Ireland. The most prominent branches of the family settled in Derry and Donegal, Cavan (where most of the Cleirighs of the Clarke variety dwelled) and the Kilkenny/Waterford/Tipperary region. Today, the largest number of Clarkes reside in Ulster. Famous Clarkes include Austin Clarke, one of the most important Irish literary figures of the 20th century. Other notable Clarke writers are the English comedy writer Roy Clarke and the contemporary English novelist Susanna Clarke. Clarkes are also prevalent in sports around the world. Bobby Clarke is a retired Canadian hockey player with the Philadelphia Flyers, Matthew Clarke was an Australian rules professional footballer, while another Matthew Clarke is a professional soccer player for Bradford City in England. Clearys have excelled in various fields as well. Beverly Cleary is an American author, famous for her "Ramona" children's books. Irish Catholic priest Michael Cleary is infamous for fathering a love child with his housekeeper, a scandalous fact that was revealed three weeks after his death in 1993. Conor O'Clery, a contributor to IrishCentral, is a well-known Irish Times journalist.

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