Mac MaolŠin

Origins of the surname "Mac Maoláin"

Artist: Michael David McMullen 

Mac Maoláin

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

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

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

A less certain possibility predating the written monastic sources is found in translation of an Ogham narrative cut into the Aghascrebagh Standing Stone, found in Co,  Tyrone.

One of the very few Ogham stones in the north of Ireland, it was almost certainly a standing stone before this Ogham script was cut into it.

1.2 metres high, the stone itself appears to be from circa 500AD, but when exactly this much worn oghamic inscription interpreted as "Dottetto Maqi Maglani" would have been added, remains unknown.

MAQI according to oghamic experts who analyzed this stone, was an earliest form of Mac=son of, leaving some convinced this script might be referencing an individual who was a son of Maelan 


These "original forename variants" eventually became anglicized, and in the modern era evolved to the surnames Mullan/Mullen/Mullin and "son of"= Mac Mullan, Mac Mullen, Mac Mullin and Mac Moylan.

They have been shortened to the common variants in use today of McMullan, McMullen, McMullin and McMoylan.

Existence of those earliest Irish variant forms of Mac Maoláin, Mic Maoláin, Mhic Mhaoláin, Mec Mellain and Mec Maoilin, can be verified in:

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

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

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

4. The recorded surname's of individuals identified in ecclesiastic histories for several Irish dioceses bearing a variant of this surname.


These diverse resources highlight the factual reality, several unrelated families adopted a variant of this forename as their family (clan) surname in Ireland over many centuries.

More importantly this diversity exposes the simplistic research efforts adopted by crest marketing companies, who cobble together questionable analysis about a specific surname, post varied suggestions of where it first emerged and display one common crest for all (based it would appear on who they are marketing).

These outdated general descriptions perhaps acceptable in the past, have remained static, and ignore vast amounts of modern definative updated database research evidence illuminating several specific families of this surname and several different crests representing their lineage.

The chiefly forenames Maelán, Maolán, Maoláin, Meallain and collateral medieval surname of Mac Maoláin (son of), surface in terms of historic identification, in transcribed early locational descriptions of populations and affiliated families within dynastic tribal clusters identified in Irish historical research, by a chiefly name. The source of this information links to documents such as Raw.linson B502 "Genelach Laigin", the book of Glendalough, the book of Leinster 

These ancient texts reference a significant chieftain, and make use of his forename to record and identify family groupings. This particular forname and variants, can be found in published antiquarian research sequentially:

* In the early chiefly families of the Laigin (Lein/Lyne) ), specifically Ui Bairrche tribal clusters, which included their mercenary allies, the fianna of  Clanna Rory (the Laighsi);

Ui Maeláin (line 190, line 201, line 207, Ui Bairrche, Glind Uissen, Leinster, Chieftain Ui Cellaig (Kelly Kelley) located in Magh Ailbe, Kells plain, Co. Kilkenny and later the Killeshin barony of Slievemargy Co. Laois;

* In the downstream dynastic evolution of the Laigin i.e, the Ui Failghe; Ui Dunlaigne; Ui Fergusa, and Clan Donnchada:

Rus Failge m. Cathaír Máir sé mc la suide .i. Nath Í, Brénaind, Óengus Find, Óengus Dub, Dálán, Eochaid,  Clann Coibdenaig: Úi Móenaig & Úi Máele, mc Máelíne.

Line 1513 Colmán m. Cináeda m. Máeláin m. Dub Dá Braine m. Donchada.

*In the genelach (pedigree) for the Luighne & Gaileanga alliance of Mide and Brega (=modern counties of Westmeath and Meath):

O’Maelláin, Dealbhna Bec, Chieftain O’Mellon, tributary to Mael Sechlain (McLoughlin) Clan Cholmain, Uisneach, located in the area of Clonmellon, barony of Fore, Co. Meath.

Ui Maelán & Mac Maoláin, tigherna Gaileang Breagh, tributary to Síl nÁedo SláineMael Sechlain (MacGlaughlin) Brega, baronies of Lower Kells/Morgallion Meath plus Castlerahan/Clankee Cavan. 

Territorial dynasties emerging over periods in excess of several thousand years, were constantly reshaped by conquest and defeat, producing several diverse variants of an original form of the forename Maelan, recorded in different locations for clearly unrelated families (clan/sept)

This forename is also linked to diverse monastic sites such as Ceanannus (Meath), Clonmacnoise (Offaly), Clones (Monaghan), Swords (Dublin) Clonfert (Galway), Kilnamanagh (Roscommon), Kilmactranny (Sligo), Daire (Derry columcille), Downpatrick (Down) and Ahoghill Kilconway (Antrim).

It was monastic occupational records and the common variant form selected by scribes for individuals recorded in them, which contributed to a more frequent use of the transcribed tonsured form (Maolain= bald) versus origin form Maelan (=of the hillock or height) in identify individuals bearing this forename.

Tracking ancient pedigree's and territorial population groups where a prominent Maelan & Mc surfaced, confirms several different cultural and topographic tribal clusters and diverse tributary relationships were linked to it.

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

Specific surname families identified in more recently published genealogical and antiquarian research (all of which predate the modern genetic evolution and haplogroup analysis) include:

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

Ethnology of the Gael, a research project by  C. Thomas Cairney, listing  O'Mullan on pages 78, 82 and 87, and a suggested descent conclusion as from the earlier families of Cahair Mor and the Laigin.

O'Hart "Irish Pedigrees" (Origin and Stem of the Irish Nation) and his suggested descent conclusion as from a Connor brother of Dathi (#102 on the Concannon pedigree), his son Donall, his son Maolan, also linked to earlier Laigin origins.


 O’Growney, in his monastic research project provides examples of sites connected to early ecclesiastic tradition and the original use of the forename variant Maelán (Daire Maelain Fermanagh, Cell Maelain Limerick and Killmoylan Galway), vs Maolain.

Widely dispersed ecclesiatic sites where a variant of this forename had emerged included several in county Laois, one of which may have been according to "O’Growney research conclusions", the very 1st to house a monastic given the forename of Maelan:


These different pedigrees and varied topographic suggestions verify as modern genetic studies have, that several separate families in different territorial locations adopted this chiefly forename as a clan surname over many centuries.

Most modern historians wisely caution that ancient pedigrees should be read with the view of being indicative of topographic alliances versus agnatic descent (e.g. the Ui Bairche/Laighsi cluster) as chiefly families were often tacked on to a dynastic pedigree to ensure participation in the Brehon competition for tigernach=king or territorial lord.

Generally, antiquarians consider recorded ancient pedigree's as only becoming completely reliable from about the 9th century (=800AD+) forward, due to those constant shifts in the dynastic affiliations of earlier times.

Many families (clan/sept) adopted a pedigree that was either assigned, or in some cases representative of a false/corrupted version, carried forward by the clan to modern times.

Below are listed ancient pedigrees found in ancient Irish text research, describing evolutionary pathways where a prominent male forename in that particular territorial cluster, is suggested to have spawned a clan surname of Mullan, Mullen, McMullen.

Note all three claim descent from either Ailella Auluimm (said to be of Munster) or, an Oiliol (a variant of Ailella) said to be of Teffia.

Forenames significant to a Mullen or Mc, such as Cormac, are found in all three, while Donchada which links directly to the Leinster Mac Maolain is only found in two.

 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

Fergus Gaileang Teffia:   (Clana Rory to Leinster) 

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 B502)

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


Mac Maoláin

The 1st family recorded anywhere with a surname of "Mac Maoláin" emerged in annalistic records of a ruling family, early 11th and 12th century, associated at that time with the Mide & Brega tribal clusters of Luighne & Gaileanga, and tributary at that time to the Ard Ri (High King) family of Mael Seachlain (Southern Ui Neill) Clan Cholmain:


A map of the "Breifne Region"(circa  700AD) which predates the arrival of Ui Briuin O'Rourke and O'Reilly clans, illustrates the topographic locales occupied during the 8th century by Gaileanga Mora and the Mide/Brega Luighne families:

Castlerahan & Clankee Cavan; Lune Meath; Upper & Lower Kells Meath; and Fore & Morgallion Meath. (Map compliments of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland)

Notices found in diverse Irish Annals relating to this family of Maelan, Maoláin, Mic Maolain, identify them as originally of the Luighne, and also reveal the territorial tribal clusters they were aligned with, and those they held lordship over, which included the Gaileanga.

In addition sources illuminate their ecclesiastic links to the monastic site of Kells (Ceannanus) and "Alumnus of Columcille", during the period when Kells became the primacy (head of this monastic branch), responsible for it's educational sites in Ireland and Scotland).




Sequential annals chronicle this family, reveal their wider involvement with territorial tribal elements both in the conflicts of this era and the monastic communities.

In short our Mullen ancestors were a "warrior class" but simular to all ruling families, had relatives linked to monastic orders.

809, Foircheallach of Fobhar, Abbot of Cluain Mic Nois, one of the Gaileanga Mora (pictured clonmacnoise and the cross of the scriptures):


847 "The demolition of the island of Loch Muinreamhair by Maelseachlainn, son of Maelruanaidh against a crowd of 'sons of death' of the Luigni and Gailenga who were plundering the districts at the instigation of the foreigners (Norsemen) and they were destroyed by him";


848, Maelan, son of Cathmogha, lord of Ui Briuin of South Connaught, was slain by the foreigners; (authors note:  Antiquarian O'Rahilly disputes the Ui Briuin label, suggesting this man was of the Laigin),

855, Maeleona son of Olbrann, one of the Luighni of Connacht, Lector of Cluain Mic Nois, died; (authors note, this variant currently translates as "Malone", of connacht not to be confused Maelan of the mide barony of Lune lineage who descended from Echnach):

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 (Malone?)

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). (authors note:  St Ciaran was the patron saint of the Gaileanga, and the use of the variant Maelan vs Maeleoin, would suggest this priest is of the family Mullen vs Malone).

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


Mac Maoláin (Gaileanga Mora and Brega) 

A Chieftain whose father had the forename Lorcan or Leochain  (translates as Larkin or Loughan, Logane, Lohan) circa 10th Century, is identified in the Irish Annals as the Lord of the Luighne/Gaileanga of Mide, Cavan and Brega. The annals of Ulster considered to have been created in the monastic site of Armagh, and copied later by dispersed scribes, used the form LORCAN which may be the more accurate form.

1037AD, Laidcenn (variant Laidhgnen anglicised Lynan), is listed by scribes of  different monastic orders, housed in different locations, as the son of Maolán, the grandson of Eccnigh Ui Lorcan (translates as Larkin).

Lynan became  the king of the Luighne/Gaileanga Mora alliance in 1037AD, He was married to the daughter of the Gott  king of Uisneach=Westmeath Southern Ui Neill (the Gott, son of  then Ard Ri Conchhubar Maelseachlain Clann Cholmain

Lynan is also recorded in the charters to the "Book of Kells"as both laity (alumnus of Columcille) and witness to the freedom of Kildalkey (land transfers to the alumnus of Columcille circa 1025-37 AD, by Conchubar Maelseachlain.

Lynan was taken prisoner (hostage) in 1038 during the conflicts between competing Mael Seachlain "derbfine" and sons of Brian Boru, for position as Ard Ri  (it is unclear which of these competitors held him captive).

His brother Maelan d.1050, was lector in the monastic site of Ceanannus (=Kells), the chief religious educational site at that time, primacy of the kin of Columcille with learned monastics migrating to linked areas in Scotland such as Iona, Oban and Dunkeld.

Lynan and his wife unfortunately died 1051, somewhere in the east while returning from a  pilgramage to Rome. His son Logan was elected successor as lord of the Gaileanga (but not of the Luighne) and would 1st appear in the annals 1060AD as:

 Leochan mac maic Maolán (Logan Mac Maolain).

Territorial references are no longer used by scribes from this point forward, and subsequent entries attach the verbal identifiers of mic, maic and Mic Maoláin to those entries, verifying the collateral evolution based on marriage to royalty (Southern Ui Neill (the Got) Clann Cholmain) of this surname and the family of Mac Maoláin, last 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. 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: