Mac MaolŠin

CastleKerran-Loughan Co. Meath




The connection of the Gaileanga to St Ciaran of Clonmacnoise is reaffirmed many times in the Irish Annals as indicated in that section referring to the origins of our name.  Foirchealach of Fobher (Fore) was recorded as the Abbot of Cluain Mec Nois in 809 AD, one of the Gaileanga Mora.  The Well of St Ciaran (pictured above) was located here in the ancient territory of the Gaileanga, along with the recently unearthed (2006) Ogham Stone of Castlekerran-Loughan, found in the Keim graveyard. These represent cultural links back to the mythological and historical lineage of the tribes of the Luighne and Gaileanga, of which Maoláin was Lord circa1017 AD. The ogham enscription on this stone translates as: Cuan son of the tribe of Luighni.

Maoláin's father Eichnigh is recorded as King of the Luighne 993 AD and connects back on his line to Cuan. From this line descended Mac Maoláin Lord of the Gaileanga Brega d.1144 AD.

Ogham comprises a set of twenty or so letters of the Latin alphabet, transcribed into incisions and notches made on the corner edge of a quarried slab of stone. A key to its translation was discovered in a medieval religious text. This marked the first time that Irish was written down. Using this translation key, it is possible to read the Ogham script, from the bottom of the stone up.

Most scripts conform to a pattern incorporating genealogical descent - for example (in Latin) "X son of Y" and other social elements such as "of the tribe Z". As such, they are frequently described as 'grave markers', although no evidence (eg: associated burials) of this function has been found by archaeologists. They may be commemorative, even in the absence of burials, or they may have been used as boundary markers.

Archaeologists place Ogham Stones in the date-range of the 4th to the 8th centuries AD, so an approximate average age may be 1500 years. What is significant about them is that they are testimony of the arrival of the use of Latin, spread by the Roman Empire as far as Great Britain, and via cultural exchange in Ireland. They show that Irish and Latin existed side by side, probably only in religious establishments such as monasteries, at the time of the emergence of Christianity in Ireland. These stones span the period of conversion to Christianity. Those with Christian associations are the earliest evidence of Christianity in Ireland.

The name Ogham is derived from Oghma, the Celtic God of elocution. Ogham probably originated and was certainly most predominant in South and Southwestern Ireland, areas which remained the focal point for it to the end.  Finding this stone here adds some additional credence to the general historical conclusion that Gaileanga and Luighne tribes originated much earlier in Leinster population areas, carried these techniques with them to Mide and Brega.


As explained in historic documents, the early church located exactly here and dedicated to St Ciaran, was later appropriate to the Priory of St John the Baptist of Kells. There are some interesting remains in the yard itself, including three Termon Crosses, with the fourth located in the river nearby.  Legend has it that Columcille of Kells (exiled later to Iona) dropped it there when he was discovered by St Ciaran taking it to the Kells monastery.

Ancient Maoláin's and sons (Mac Maoláin) connect historically to both St Ciaran, to CastleKeeran and to the Kells monastic Gille Columm (alumnus of Columcille) circa 800-1200 AD

Pictured: Laighin MacMaolain (elected Taoiseach) and Maureen McMullen (elected Cathaoirleach) in the Keim gravesite and adjacent a 1500 year old termon cross dedicated to St Ciaran