Mac MaolŠin

Origins of the surname "Mac Maoláin"

Mac Maoláin

Mac Maoláin is an ancient surname of native Irish origin evolving from the earlier root forenames of Maelán; Maoláin; and Meallain. It would later become anglicized as: MacMullan, MacMullen, MacMoylan, McMullan, McMullen and McMullin.

The existence of early Irish variants Mac Maoláin, Mic Maoláin, Mhic Mhaoláin and Mec Maoilin, are verified by existence of Irish townlands in locales these families inhabited, plus numerous Irish Annal entries which span several centuries plus specific written notes found in the charters to the Book of Kells.

The forenames Maelán, Maolán, Maoláin, Meallain and collateral surname of Mac Maoláin (the son of), connect in terms of historic pathways to some of the earliest population clusters in Ireland identified as affiliated in ancient texts with: Fir Gallion, the Ui Bairrche, mercenary families first clustered with Clanna Rory (the Laighsi), the Laigin dynasty of Leinster,  the Ui Failghe, Ui Dunlaigne and Clan Donnchada.

These territorial dynasties emerged over periods in excess of a thousand years, with the variant Maelan found recorded as co-located with these families. During the 10th century these forenames evolved to surnames.

As a collateral surname, Mac Maoláin emerged 1st in the 11th century amongst families of the Mide and Brega Gaileanga and Luighne. Sequentially it can also be found recorded in monastic  centres like Ceanannus (Kells), Clonmacnoise, Clones, Clonfert, Kilnamanagh Roscommon and Kilmactranny Sligo. Monastic occupational records contributed to frequent use of the tonsured written form Maolain (bald) vs Maelan, making it eventually one of the more common surnames found in Ireland.

Pedigree's posted for the Gaileanga and Luighne septs indicate a cultural and topographic relationship with the Eoghanachta, sons of Cian (Cormac Gaileang), Clanna Rory (Fergus Gaileang) and sons of Cathoir Mor Ui Failge (Sil Cormaic Gaileang) as where the forenames appear. shared mythologic references connect it also  with Lugh, Nauda and the mystic Tauth De Dannan.

Specific families are identified in Irish Genealogical Society's published history of Clanna-Rory, with MacMullen noted on page 16 and Fergus Gaileanga on page 86.

Research titled "Ethnology of the Gael" by  C. Thomas Cairney identifies O'Mullan on pages 78, 82 and 87.

Pedigrees in the book of Glendalough and book of Leinster, lead sequentially from Maelan, to the more frequently used alternate variant Maoláin then the collateral Mac Maoláin, recorded in the ancient Irish Annals as Lords (Tiarna or Tigernach) of the tribes of Luighne Midhe, Gaileanga Mora and Gaileanga Brega, located in Morgallion Meath, Upper and Lower Kells Meath, Castlerahan Cavan, Clankee Cavan,  Skreen, Dunboyne and Castleknock Meath.

Warrior elements of these Gaileanga (Gallen) and Luighne (Lune) families were said to have been driven during the Norman invasion back across the Shannon to the territory of Concannon Ui Diarmada (Corca Mogh in Galway and Roscommon) where they appear recorded as sept O'Mullen along with the family O'Lohan.  In Roscommon the monastic descendants are identified in the parish of Kilnamanagh (home of the monks), Cluain Mhic Mhaolain (=meadow of McMullan). 

The monastic descendants who had adopted the surname Mac Maoláin were employed as: erenaghs and clerics in the early Celtic Church of Morgallion, diocese of Kilmore, territory of O'Reilly; in Cluain Mhic Mhaolain diocese of Elphin in Roscommon, territory of Mac Dermot; and in Baille Mac Maolain (Bally Mc.Mullen) Abbyleix Laois, territory of O'Mhorda (O'More).

McMullens are also recorded as Clerics and Bishops of the primate diocese of Armagh, employed in the suffragan dioceses of Kilmore, Meath plus Connor and Down in Ulster, where MacMullen held the bishops seat in Cabra Iveagh territory of Magennis.

Anglicized forenames flowing from these ancient pedigrees and during the medieval period, can still be found today in related Mullen and McMullen families. They include:  Aengusa (Angus, Aeneas or Eaneas), Aodh (Hugh), Artuir (Arthur), Donnghal (Donal, Daniel), Dunacan or Donchada (Donagh, Duncan, Dennis), Cathal mac Donchada (Charles), Laidgneain, Laidcnen (Lynan), Morda (Moore), Seamus (James), Sean (John), Seargus (George), Robhartach (Robert) and Tomias or Tomealtach (Thomas).

Prominant forenames such as Thomas, James, John, George and the occasional Andrew surfaced primarily after the Norman Invasion. Emerging from new monastic orders such as the Priory of St John in Kells Co. Meath, Priory of St James in Cruisetown Meath plus the Knights Hospitaller of St Johns located in Kilmainhamwood Meath and Kilough Co. Down, these names were adopted by monastic descendants from the Landed Gentry, specifically those landowners of Norman extraction (Thomas, Cruise, Butler) and the Saints they revered.

The forename Charles is found in the pedigree of O`Reilly who became lord of Machaire Gaileang (Morgallion) on the fall of Mac Maolain (Charles O`Reilly d.1196). Both surnames (Reilly/McMullen) connect to the monastic site of Loch Oughter in Co. Cavan, founded by Mac Mailin (variant). Alternately it may be derived from Cathoir Mor, Catha Mogh, or Cathal mac Donnchada of the Gaileang, forenames well back in the mists of time that connect to the pedigree of McMullen. It was also the anglicised rendering for the father of Rory O'More (Calvagh) landlord of church lands in Kilmainhamwood which may have been occupied by McMullen erenaghs.

Downstream descendants of Maelan (lector) and Laidcnen Mac Maolain (laity) functioned in these monastic enclaves as stewards of termon church lands, monastic builders and lay clerics. The last Irish Chieftain connected to this Gaileanga pedigree, recorded by his surname in the Irish Annals, was Lord of the Gaileanga Brega (Duleek area), Mac Mic Maolain, slain in 1144 AD.

Some of these monastic Mac Maolain's appear to have been driven along with the princes of Brega, Dunn (Regan-descended from the family O'Duinn) into Co Laois where the townland Bally Mc.Mullen confirms their presence and likely status, as erenaghs to the dominant family O'More in the monastery of Abbyleix.  This property was confiscated in the later part of the 16th century.

Many different pedigrees have been posted which could attach to this surname or history surrounding it.  Most historians note that pedigrees conceptually should be read with a view of likely only being completely reliable from about the 9th century onward, as the constant shift in dynastic affiliations produced many assigned or corrupted versions.

Below are listed all the possible pedigrees which might have connected back on Irish evolutionary pathways to the roots of this surname, or topographic groupings an ancestor may have been part of: 

An early Gaileang Mora genealogy:   (Rawlinson)

Léocán m. Laidgneáin m. Máeláin m. Éicnich m. Dúnchada m. Cináeda m. Léocáin m. Donngaile m. Conchobair m. Moínaich m. Máel Mórda m. Adamra m. Dechraich m. Dergscáil m. Leae nó oe m. Cormaicc [Gaileang] m. Taidg m. Céin m. Ailella Auluim

An early Gailenga North Teffia genealogy:   (Clana Rory) 

Lughaidh m. Fergna m. Gillacha m. Ronain m. Oiliol m. Donchada m. Saoi Mor m. Oildgoid m. Gailne m. Cormac m. Blathnaine m. Felim m. Oiliol m. Fergus m. Rosa m. Rory 

An early Genealogy of Sil Cormaic Gaileng

Clothna m. Colggan m. Móenaich m. Crunnmáel m. Báetáin m. Báeth m. Findich m. Gossa m. Tálgluind m. Brócáin m. Cormaicc m. Taidgc m. Céin m. Ailella Auluimb

An early Oenghusa genealogy:  (Rawlinson) 

Fergus m. Artuir m. Coscraich m. Dunchada m. Oenghusa m. Moenach m. Bresalain m. Ronain m. Fiachrach m. Oenghusa m. Chrimthaind

An early Luigni Connacht genealogy:   (Rawlinson)
Diarmait m. Fínnachta m. Cobthaich m. Máel Dúin m. Cind Fáelad m. Taiccthich m. Cind Fáelad m. Diarmata m. Findbairr m. Brénaind m. Nad Fróech m. h-Idin m. h-Idchuir m. Niad Chuirp m. Luí (a quo Luigni) m. Cornáin m. Taidgc m. Céin m. Ailella Auluimm.

An early Cianachta Glinni Gaimen genealogy:  (Rawlinson)

Conchobor m. Donnchada m. Galiach m. Diarmada m. Conchobuir m. Duind Chuind m. Condalaich m. Máil Fathardaig m. Conchobuir m. Taidg Temin m. Cind Fáelad m. Suibhe m. Failbe m. Ernáine m. Crachine m. Cormaic m. Eircc m. Etchon m. Finchain m. (is e cetnandgab Glenn Gaimen) m. Feicc m. Imchada m. Condlai m. Taidgg m. Cein m. Ailella Auluimb.

The map below reflects topographic locales and tribal groupings extant 9th century AD, occupied by the Gaileanga/Luighne of Connacht and Gaileanga/Luighne tribes of Cavan, Meath and Brega.


This Map circa 700 AD of Breifne Region illustrates the topographical locations for the Gaileanga Mora and Luighne families of Castlerahan & Clankee Cavan, Lune Mide, Lower Kells and Morgallion Meath, the patrimonial source of the eventual surname of Mac Maoláin.

Notices in the Irish Annals related to Maelan, Maoláin, Mic Maoláin plus the Gaileanga and Luighne:

809, Foircheallach of Fobhar, Abbot of Cluain Mic Nois, one of the Gaileanga Móra died.

855, Maeloena, son of Olbrann, one of the Luighni of Connacht, Lector of Cluain Mic Nois, died

884, Dunacan, m. Tauthcair, dux Galeng Collumrach 

929, Maeleoin, bishop and anchorite of Ath-Truim, died,, after a good life.

953, Ruadhacan mac Eitigen ri Airthir Gaileng.

978, The battle of Teamhair was gained by Maelseachlainn, son of Domhnall, over the foreigners of Ath-cliath and of the Islands, and over the sons of Amhlaeibh in particular, where many were slain, together with Raghnall, son of Amhlaeibh, heir to the sovereignty of the foreigners; Conamhail, son of Gilla-Arri; and the orator of Ath-cliath; and a dreadful slaughter of the foreigners along with them. There fell also in the heat of the battle Braen, son of Murchadh, royal heir of Leinster; Conghalach, son of Flann, lord of Gaileanga, and his son, i.e. Maelan; Fiachna and Cuduilich, the two sons of Dubhlaech, two lords of Feara Tulach; and Lachtnan, lord of Mughdhorn-Maighen. After this Amhlaeibh went across the sea, and died at I-Coluim-Cille.

991,   The Fox, grandson of Leochain, King of the Gaileanga, died. 

993,   Conghalach, mac Laidhgnen, .i. ua Gadhra, tigherna Gaileng.

993,   Eicnech Ua Leochain, king of Luighne, was killed by Mael Sechnaill in the abbot's house of Domnach Patriac.

994,   Conghalach, son of Laidghnen, king of the Gaileanga, died.

1003, Madadhan, mac Aenghusa, toiseach Gaileng m-Becc, & Ferc-Cul was slain.

1005, Cathal, mac Dunchadha, tigherna Gaileang Mor.

1009, Maelan, .i. in Gai Mor, ri Ui Dorthaind ("Maelan i.e. of the large spear king of Ui Dorthainn").

1017, Maolán, mac Eccnígh uí Leochain, tigherna Gaileng & Tuath Luicchne (Luigne) uile, do mharbhadh dona Saithnibh.

1032, Donnghal mac Duin Cothaig, ri Gaileang

1037, Laidhgnen Ua Leocain, tigherna Gaileng.

1048, Aedh, son of Maelan Ua Nuadhait, airchinneach of Sord, was killed on the night of the Friday of protection before Easter, in the middle of Sord.

1050, Maelan, lector of Ceanannus, who was a distinquished sage; died.

1051, Laidcnen, son of Maelan Ua Leocain, lord of Gaileanga, and his wife, the daughter of the Gott O'Maeleachlainn, went on a pilgrimage to Rome; and they died in the east, on their return from Rome.

1060, Leochan mac maic Maelan, king of Gaileanga.

1060, a defeat was inflicted by the men of Brega, i.e. by Gairbeid ua Cathasaigh, on the Gaileang, i.e. on Leochan grandson of Maelan, and on the Cairpre.

1065, Leochan, i.e. the son of Laidhgnen, lord of Gaileanga, was slain by Conchubar Ui Maeleachlainn.

1076, Amhlaib, mac mic Maoláin, king of Gaileanga

1077, the grandson of Maelan, king of Gaileanga, was killed by Mael Sechlainn king of Temair.

1091, Laidgnen .i. An Buidhenach h-Úa Duinn Cathaig, rí Gaileng.

1091, Laighgnen, lord of Gaileanga, was slain by the Ui Briuin.

1097, Maelan Ua Cuinn, airchinneach of Eaglais-Beag at Clonmacnoise.

1124, the finishing of the cloictheach of Cluain-mic-nois by Ua Maeleoin, successor of Ciaran.

1127, Gillachrist Ua Maeleoin, abbot, successor of Ciaran of Cluain-mic-nois, fountain of the widsom, the ornament, and magnificence of Leath-Chuinn and head of the prosperity and affluence of Ireland, died.

1134, Maelciarain, a son of Cormac, a noble priest, prop of piety and wisdom, noble head of CLuain-mic-nois, died on MIchaelmas NIght, and it was in Imdhaigh Chiarain he died. Mael Ciaran ( a quo muinter Maelán).

1144, Mac Mic Maoláin, tigherna Gaileang Breagh, was slain.


As mentioned, Mullan, Mullen, Mullin, Moylan and the collateral surname of McMullen evolved to become some of the more common surnames in Ireland.  Heraldic and historic information  collected over several thousand years, gives the following clusters as possibly having generated a surname of McMullen:

Ui Maeláin (Ui Bairrch) Dal Niad Chuirp

This very early line  given as descendants of  Eochu Guinech and Daire Barriaig, grandson of Cathair Mor, settled initially in the Kells Plain and  Barony of Slievemargy Co. Laois under  Ui Cellaig (Kelley). They were identified as a branch of Cineal Dal Niad Cuirp a cluster which included based on pedigrees,  the later Luighne families who migrated both to Connacht and to Midhe.  Clanna Rory historical information suggests that a cluster referenced as the Loighis joined this dynasty as militia (mercenaries), having migrating from Uladh to this area circa 300AD. One of these topographically clustered families are identified as Ui Maeláin,  generating modern surname variants such as  Moylan, Mullen, Mullan, Mullins, Mullens, McMullan and McMullen

O' Maoláin (Ui Maine) Ui Díarmada

The territorial group Ui Diarmada, were identified as 1st located in the Sil Anchia area of Loughrea Galway, settling much later in the baronies of Killian and Ballymoe (Corco Mogh). O'Mullen, a sept transcribed with modern variants of Mullin, Mullan and McMullen were recorded here circa 14th century tributary then to the Ui Maine (O'Kelly).  Historic analyis suggests the possibility this family originated in Cavan and Meath, and were driven  across the Shannon during the Norman Invasion, settling here under a Chieftain named Concannon along with their Gaileanga kin O'Lohan.

O'Mealláin (Ui Naill) Clan Fergusa

This line historically located in Dungannon Co. Tyrone under a hereditary chieftain O'Hagan, included sept variants such as O'Quinn, Mulfoyle, O'Mallon, Mellan and Millan, some of whom were later transcribed as Mullen and McMullen, but also McMellon and Irish McMillan.  They are said to have been the keepers of St Patricks Bell, later holding significant churchlands in Armagh Ulster and tributary to the Northern Ui Neill.

O'Maoláin (Mullan) Clan Conchobhiar Magh Ith

This line suggested also to be of  Ui Neill origin, included sept surname variants of Kane, MacCluskey Mullen, Mullin and O'Mullan. Their hereditary Chieftain  was O'Cathain (O'Kane), Lord of Creeve in Coleraine and Keenaght (now Londonderry), where a Mullan sept and recognized chieftain were recorded as late as the 17th century.

O'Mellon (Sil Aedha Eaniagh) O'Murphy

This somewhat obscure line containing surname variants of Malin and O'Mellon, some  later transcribed as McMalin, McMellon and McMullen, were located in the barony of Strabane Co. Tyrone under a Chieftain O'Murphy (Murchada), a surname more synonomous with the Laigin dynastic families of Leinster. There is no ancient cineal, branch pedigree or conclusive lineage evidence found for this line, suggesting they had either adopted or were possibly given a false pedigree from Niall. This family may actually be related to either the Mallon Clan Fergusa or the O'Mellon's of Clonmellon Westmeath (Southern Ui Neill). 

Mac Maoláin (Gaileanga Mora and Brega)

This line identified culturally as 1st linked in Munster to the mythological sons of Cian (Cormac Gaileang), and alternately as Red Branch Knights of Clanna Rory (Fergus Gaileang), emerged in the Dunmore area of  Magh Seola Galway, branching 7th century to a territory called Gaileanga  Mora in Cavan and Meath. A Chieftain Leochain (Loughan, Logan, Lohan) circa 10th Century, is identified in the Irish Annals as the territorial Lord of the Gaileanga in Mide, Cavan and Brega.  1037AD, Laidcenn (variant Laidhgnen anglicised Lynan), was listed variantly as the son of Maolán son of Eccnigh Ui Leochain (Lohan) and by other monastic enries as Ui Lorcan (Larkin). He became  the king of the Gaileanga Mora,  married the daughter of the Gott (Malachi King of Uisneach=Westmeath) Southern Ui Neill and travelled with her to Rome on a pilgramage.  Lynan had earlier (circa 1025 AD) also been recorded in the charters to the book of Kells as both laity (alumnus of Kells) and  witness to the freedom of Kildalkey (land transfers to the church by Malachi). His brother Maelan d.1050, was a lector in the monastic centre of Ceanannus (Kells). Lynan and his wife died in the east while returning from Rome. Successor as lord of the Gaileanga  in 1060AD would be his son Leochan mac maic Maolán. Sept and/or territorial references to ui Leochain (Lohan) will not be made from this point forward in the Irish Annals for this specific lineage. All subsequent entires will use verbal identifiers of mic, maic and Mic Maoláin, verifying the collateral evolution based on this marriage to royalty (Southern Ui Neill) of the surname and family of Mac Maoláin, tigherna Gaileang Breagh slain 1144AD.


Locales of the Gaileanga and Luighne of Mide and Brega during the dynastic era of Sil nAedo Slaine Mael Seachlain Kings of Mide and Tara (Brega) are illustrated on this map below.