Fanny O’Dea is Lissycasey’s most famous character. Details of her early life are unclear. She may have been an orphan educated by the Brews of Kilrush or born in Cuan Thaidhg, Greygrove, the daughter of O’Deas evicted from Dysart O’Dea. Dick Cronin, however, in his book O’Dea – a Rebel Clan, says more specifically that her father, Bartholomew, and uncle, James, moved from Dysart to Knockmore near Kilmihilwhere they reclaimed mountain land to eke out an existence. Bartholomew and James married two sisters from Tradaree. Ann Lawlor and Bartholomew had a son, Michael, and two daughters, Margaret and Fanny. When they both died at a young age James took the two elder children. Fanny, who was then aged four, was cared for by an aunt who was married to a protestant called Bouchier Brew in Kilrush.
Fanny was raised a Roman Catholic, got a good education and learnt housekeeping. She married Owen Coughlan from Knockbeg and in 1790 persuaded him to move to Lissycasey and take a job on the Mail Line, the new road which was then being built from Ennis to Kilrush. Fanny transformed her small mud cabin into a shop dealing in all the necessities of life. Gradually this industrious woman expanded her business. Her house soon became a half-way house catering for travellers going to or from the west. The story is told that during the winter assizes of 1790 Lord Norbury and his solicitors were travelling by stage coach from Ennis to Kilrush. Impressed by the refreshments Fanny provided, particularly the “egg-flips”, he granted her a licence to sell liquor. Some claim, however, that the person who granted Fanny the licence was Robert Vere O’Brien. Norbury became notorious as the judge who sentenced Robert Emmet to death in 1803.
Fanny O’Dea and her mud cabin have long vanished but her name and her “egg-flips” have lived on. The present Fanny O’Deas pub is built on the same site and is a landmark in County Clare. It has been run by eight generations of the same family. Many famous people have visited the establishment over the years. Daniel O’Connell drank here during his election campaign in 1828 as did his most famous supporter, The O’Gorman Mahon. Charles J. Kickham, author of Knocknagow, and Fr. Matthew of the Temperance movement are also known to have been here. Indeed, legend states that it is unlucky to pass the Lissycasey pub without going inside. This story is based on a nineteenth century murder in Kilrush where an innocent man was convicted on circumstantial evidence. On his way to the gallows in Ennis, he refused an offer of one last drink at Fanny O’Dea’s. Meanwhile in Kilrush the real murderer had surrendered. A rider was immediately dispatched to Ennis but arrived too late to prevent the execution. The lesson of the story is that the tragedy would never have occurred if that little procession had stopped for a drink at Fanny O’Dea’s.