O'Daly, John (1800–78), writer and publisher, was born 5 February 1800 in Fernane, Cappoquin, Co. Waterford, eldest among three sons and three daughters of Eamonn O'Daly and Brigid O'Daly (née Kyley). He was educated at a local hedge school before going to work, in 1826, for the Irish Society in Youghal, Co. Cork, having converted to protestantism. In 1829 he worked for the Society in Kilkenny, where he was an inspector, as well as teaching the Bible locally. He also maintained a bookshop in the city on Rose Inn St. No manuscript in his hand survives from before the 1840s, but in 1844 he published Reliques of Irish Jacobite poetry, with biographical sketches of authors, interlinear literal translations and historical illustrative notes, by John Daly, together with metrical versions by Edward Walsh.
In 1841 he ceased teaching the Bible and subsequently reconverted to catholicism. In 1845 he moved to Dublin and set up a bookshop at 25 Anglesea St., where he also lived. In April and May of that year he wrote a series of letters to the Nation, in which he pleaded for the restoration of the Irish language and support for the Hibernian-Celtic Society. In 1846 he published Fein-teagasg Gaoidheilge. Self-instruction in Irish, or, the rudiments of that language brought within the comprehension of the English reader, without the aid of a teacher. It ran to four editions over the following two decades. In 1849 he was also involved in the publication of The poets and poetry of Munster, which included translations by James Clarence Mangan (qv).
O'Daly was the honorary secretary and publisher of the Ossianic Society. Among the many works published by him were books by Standish Hayes O'Grady (qv), Ulick Bourke (qv), John O'Donovan (qv), and Nicholas O'Kearney (qv). He also published the first version of the poem ‘Cúirt an Mheán-Oíche’, by Brian Merriman (qv), under the title Mediae noctis concilium (1850). He died 23 May 1878 and was buried in Glasnevin cemetery.
He married first (1827) Ellen Shea (d. 1849), a daughter of the Cork poet Labhrás Ó Séaghda; they had six sons and four daughters, of whom five lived beyond childhood. He married secondly (1850) Mary Murphy, a widow; they had one daughter. A collection of over sixty of his manuscripts is held in the RIA.