Mac MaolŠin

Origins of the surname "Mac Maoláin"

Mac Maoláin

Mac Maoláin as a surname evolved from the old Irish Gaelic root form of Maelan, a forename in use circa  700-900 AD.

Later middle Irish variant forms of Maoláin; Mailin; Maellain would come into use circa 900-1200AD.

All of these variants are verified in numerous Irish "annals", with entries spanning hundreds of years.

One additional possibility predating the written or monastic entries, might have been found in translation of an ogam narrative, cut into the "Aghascrebagh Ogham Stone" found in Co. Tyrone:

One of the very few Ogam stones in the north of Ireland, and almost certainly a standing-stone before Ogam was cut into it. The stone, 1.2 metres high, has been re-erected.

The much-worn inscription has been interpreted as DOTETTO MAQI MAGLANI - of which only seven letters can now be read.

MAQI according to lanquage experts analyzing this stone, is suggested as an earliest form of Mac = son of, leaving some convinced this ogham stone is a reference to an individual recorded as the son of a Maelan 

Original variants were eventually anglicized in the modern era as Mullan/Mullen/Mullin and "son of"= MacMullan, MacMullen, MacMullin and MacMoylan.

Later they were shortened to the most common variants in use today: McMullan, McMullen, McMullin and McMoylan.

Existence of these early Irish variant forms of Mac Maoláin, Mic Maoláin, Mhic Mhaoláin, Mec Mellain and Mec Maoilin, are verified by:

1.Ancient Irish townland's established in the locales these families inhabited;

2. Diversified Irish annal entries recorded by scribes located in different areas and spanning several centuries;

3. Specific hand written notes found in the charter section of the "Book of Kells"; and

4. Surname's of individuals identified in the ecclesiastic histories of Irish dioceses.

These diverse resources highlight the factual reality, of several unrelated families eventually adopting this forename as their surname in Ireland.

More importantly they exposes the simplistic research efforts adopted by consumer crest marketing companies, who cobble together questionable analysis about where a surname first emerged (based on who they are marketing), and ignore the vast amount of modern updated research input even when provided that evidence.

The forenames Maelán, Maolán, Maoláin, Meallain and collateral medieval surname Mac Maoláin (son of), surface in terms of historic identification, in some of the very earliest records of populations and tribal clusters identified in Irish historical research.

Extracted from these ancient texts, affiliated references to a significant chieftain using this forename include entries found sequentially:

*the early pedigree's of Ui Bairrche which included their mercenary allies of Clanna Rory (Laighsi);

*the downstream clusters of the Laigin (pronounced Lein/Lyne), with dynastic pedigrees posted for: Ui Failghe; Ui Dunlaigne; Ui Fergusa, and Clan Donnchada; plus

*the genelach (genealogy) of the Luighne/Gaileanga alliance of Mide and Brega.

Territorial dynasties emerging over periods in excess of several thousand years, were reshaped by conquest and defeat, producing several diverse variants of the original variant Maelan, recorded in several different locations, for clearly unrelated families (septs)

The forename is also found in diverse monastic sites such as Ceanannus (Meath), Clonmacnoise (Offaly), Clones (Monaghan), Swords (Dublin) Clonfert (Galway), Kilnamanagh (Roscommon), Kilmactranny (Sligo), Daire (Derry) Collumcille and Ahoghill Kilconway (Antrim).

It was these monastic occupational records and the form selected by scribes, contributed to the later more frequent transcribed selection of the tonsured form (Maolain= bald) versus Maelan (=of the hillock or height) when identifying individuals of this forename linked to tribal events versus monastic.

The variant forms Maolain (Mullan, Mullen Mullin) and Mac Maolain McMullan, McMullen, McMullin) eventually became the most common forms used in Ireland by dispersed regional scribes recording the historic events of their day.

Tracking ancient pedigree's and territorial population groups where a prominent individual named Maelan & Mc surfaced,  will confirm as mentioned, several different cultural and topographic tribal clusters and relationships.

Where tribal references appear in historic renderings, they often include a mention of ancient pagan dieties, such as Lugh, Nauda and the mystic Tauth De Dannan.

Specific surname families identified in the more recently published genealogical research works include:

Irish Genealogical Society's history of Clanna-Rory, identifying the seat of MacMullen on page 16 and the migration of Fergus Gaileang to "Teffia" (modern day Westmeath) on page 86;

Ethnology of the Gael  project by  C. Thomas Cairney, listing O'Mullan on pages 78, 82 and 87, who suggests descent of families linked earlier to Cahair Mor and the Laigin dynasty.

O'Hart "Irish Pedigrees (Origin and Stem of the Irish Nation) suggesting descent from a Connor brother of Dathi (#102 on the Concannon pedigree), his son Donall, his son Maolan, also suggestive of earlier Laigin origin.

One of the recorded Maolan monastics (date unknown) was:

Maolán an early Christian bishop in Connacht, whose feast day is given as 25 December. He is commemorated in the placnames Cill Easpaig Mhaoláin (the church of Bishop Maolán) Killaspugmoylan, parish of Kilconickny, Loughrea) and Cill Mhaoláin (the church of Maolán) or Kilmoylan, a parish four miles south of Tuam. 

These many different pedigrees and topographic suggestions verify as modern genetic studies have, several separate families in different locales, adopted this surname over many centuries.

Most modern historians wisely caution, that ancient pedigrees conceptually should be read with the view of topographic alliances (e.g. the Ui Bairche/Laighsi) versus agnatic descent.

Generally these pedigree's are only considered completely reliable from about the 9th century onward, due to the constant shifts in dynastic affiliations of earlier times.

Many families (septs) present a pedigree that was assigned, or in some cases a false/corrupted version.

Below are listed ancient pedigrees found back on Irish evolutionary pathways where a prominent male forename in that particular territorial cluster, may have spawned a later descendant surname of Mullan, Mullen, McMullen. (note that three of them suggest common descent from a Munster Ailella Auluimm)

Luigni of Connacht:   (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

Sil Cormaic Gaileng:  (Leinster)

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

Gailenga Teffia:   (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 [Gaileang] m. Rosa m. Rory

Luighne & Gaileang Mora: (Cavan/Meath...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


The 1st family recorded with the surname  of Mac Maoláin emerged in annalistic records early 10th and 11th century. They were identified as associated at that time with the Mide & Brega tribal clusters of Luighne and Gaileanga. 

This map of the "Breifne Region" predating the arrival of O'Rourke and O'Reilly of Ui Briun (circa 700AD) illustrates the topographical locales occupied by Gaileanga Mora and Mide/Brega Luighne families (Castlerahan & Clankee Cavan; Lune Mide; Upper & Lower Kells, Fore & Morgallion Meath. (Map compliments of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland)

Notices are found in various Irish Annals relating to Maelan, Maoláin, Mic Maolain, which identify Gaileanga and Luighne as those families they were aligned with, and their involvment in the monastic site of Kells (Ceannanus) as "kin of Columcille".

 These are the predominant "annals supported" patrimonial locations for that family who 1st adopted the eventual surname of Mac Maoláin.

Annal entries sequentially reveal the wider involvement of these tribal clusters: 

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,   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.

1002,  Repose of Colum Ua Laigenáin, coarb of Ailbe.

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 wisdom, 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.


Mac Maoláin (Gaileanga Mora and Brega) 

A Chieftain forename Lorcan or Leochain  (Larkin or Loughan, Logane, Lohan) circa 10th Century, is identified in the Irish Annals as Lord of the Luighne/Gaileanga of Mide, Cavan and Brega.

1037AD, Laidcenn (variant Laidhgnen anglicised Lynan), is listed by scribes located in different monastic locations and identified as either the son of Maolán, a grandson of Eccnigh Ui Leochain (translates as Lohan) or Ui Lorcan (translates as Larkin).

Lynan became  the king of the Luighne/Gaileanga Mora,  married the daughter of the Gott (son of Conchhubar Maelseachlain) king of Uisneach=Westmeath Southern Ui Neill) and travelled with her to Rome on a pilgrimage.

Lynan earlier (circa 1025-40 AD)  taken prisoner 1037 in the annals is also 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 of Columcille by Conchubar Maelseachlain).

His brother Maelan d.1050, was a lector in the monastic site of Ceanannus (Kells), dedicated to the kin of Columcille.

Lynan and his wife died in the east while they were returning from Rome. His successor as lord of the Gaileanga (but not of the Luighne) is recorded 1060AD as Leochan mac maic Maolán.  

Territorial references of Leochain/Lorkin are no longer used by monastic scribes from this point forward in entries for this specific lineage. Subsequent entires attached the verbal identifier of mic, maic and Mic Maoláin, verifying the collateral evolution based on marriage to royalty (Southern Ui Neill (the Got) Clann Cholmain) of the surname and family of Mac Maoláin, tigherna Gaileang Breagh slain 1144AD.

Authors note: Locales of Mide and Brega during the dynastic era of Clann Cholmain and Sil nAedo Slaine (the Mael Seachlain kings of Mide and Tara (Brega) are illustrated on the map below. When reading the annals, this clarifies that the modern day county of Meath (Irish Mide) was then referenced as Brega, and Westmeath referenced as Mide (Meath).

Middle Irish Gaelic (c900-c1200) nominative form: