Mac MaolŠin

Origins of the surname "Mac Maoláin"

Mac Maoláin

Mac Maoláin is an ancient surname of native Irish origin that evolved from 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 ancient Irish townlands established in locales these families inhabited, by numerous Irish Annal entries spanning several centuries, plus specific written notes found in the charters to the Book of Kells.

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

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

As a collateral surname, Mac Maoláin emerged 1st during 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 a tonsured written form of Maolain (bald) vs Maelan (hillock), making that variant eventually the more common form found in Ireland.

Pedigree's posted for the variant (Connacht/Mide) Gaileanga and Luighne septs indicate several different cultural and topographic relationships: with the Eoghanachta, sons of Cian (Cormac Gaileang), with Dal Riada Clanna Rory (Fergus Gaileang) and sons of Cathoir Mor Ui Failge (Sil Cormaic Gaileang). Where these tribal references appear, they include comments regarding mythologic connections to Lugh, Nauda and the mystic Tauth De Dannan.

Specific families (clearly more than one) have been identified in:

Irish Genealogical Society's published history of Clanna-Rory, with MacMullen noted on page 16 and Fergus Gaileanga on page 86: and

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

Pedigrees posted include in the book of Glendalough and book of Leinster, leading sequentially from Maelan, to the more frequently used monastic 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, inhabiting locales  in Upper and Lower Kells Meath, Castlerahan Cavan, Clankee Cavan,  Skreen, Dunboyne and Castleknock Meath.

Warrior elements of these Gaileanga (Gallen) and Luighne (Lune) families are said to have been driven during the Norman invasion across the Shannon into the territory of Concannon Ui Diarmada (Corca Mogh in Galway and Roscommon) where they later appear recorded as sept O'Mullen along with the family O'Lohan.  In Roscommon monastic descendants are identified in the parish of Kilnamanagh (home of the monks), townland 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; plus 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. They emerged 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 Britanny 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 sites of Ceanannas (Kells Conchubar Mac Maolin Bishop) and of Loch Oughter in Co. Cavan, founded by Carlus Mac Mailin (variant form). 

Downstream descendants of Maelan (lector) and Laidcnen Mac Maolain (laity) functioned in these monastic enclaves as erenagh=stewards of termon church lands, monastic builders and lay clerics.

The last Irish Chieftain connected to the Gaileanga pedigree and recorded by his surname in the Irish Annals, as Lord of the Gaileanga Brega (Duleek/Dunboyne area), Mac Mic Maolain, was slain in 1144 AD.

Some of the 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 of Bally Mc.Mullen confirms their presence and probable status, as erenaghs (airchinneach) to the dominant family O'More in the monastery of Abbyleix.  This property was confiscated in the later part of the 16th century and reallocated in irish statutes dated 1639

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

Below are listed all the possible pedigrees which might connect back on Irish evolutionary pathway to families who may have formed the roots of this surname and, topographic groupings a Mullen 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 [Gaileang] m. Rosa m. Rory 

An early Sil Cormaic Gaileng genealogy:

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 at the time by the Gaileanga/Luighne of Connacht and Gaileanga/Luighne tribes of Cavan, Meath and Brega.


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

Notices found in the Irish Annals related to Maelan, Maoláin, Mic Maolain and Gaileanga and Luighne families:

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 one 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 downstream 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 suggests based on later pedigrees,  [ linked to the Luighne families who migrated both to Connacht and to Midhe].  Alterntely, Clanna Rory historical information suggests  this cluster referenced as the Loighis joined this dynasty as militia (mercenaries), migrating from Uladh to this area circa 300AD. One of these topographically clustered families was identified as Ui Maeláin,  generating modern surname variants of  Moylan, Mullen, Mullan, Mullins, Mullens, McMullan, McMullin and McMullen

O' Maoláin (Ui Maine) Ui Díarmada

The territorial group of  Ui Diarmada, identified as 1st located in the Sil Anchia area of Loughrea Galway, settled much later in the baronies of Killian and Ballymoe (Corco Mogh). O'Mullen, a sept transcribed with modern variants of Mullin, Mullan and McMullen are recorded here circa 14th century, tributary then to the Ui Maine (O'Kelly), but not found in the Kelly historic list of families.  Historic analyis suggests the possibility this family may have originated in Cavan and Meath, driven  across the Shannon during the Norman Invasion, and settling here under a Chieftain named Concannon along with their affiliated 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 (Cuinn) Mulfoyle, O'Mallon, Mellan and Millan, some 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 the county of  Armagh  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 overlord  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 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 chiefly surname more synonomous with the earlier Laigin dynastic families of Leinster. There is no ancient cineal, branch pedigree or conclusive lineage evidence found for this line, suggesting either an adopted or possibly given false pedigree from Niall. This family might actually be related to either Mallon Clan Fergusa or O'Mellon's of Clonmellon Westmeath (Southern Ui Neill). 

Mac Maoláin (Gaileanga Mora and Brega)

This line is identified as culturally linked to either  Munster and the mythological sons of Cian (Cormac Gaileang), or alternately to the Red Branch Knights of Clanna Rory (Fergus Gaileang). They emerged in the Dunmore area of  Magh Seola Galway, branching 7th century to a territory called Gaileanga  Mora in Cavan and Meath. A Chieftain Lorcan or Leochain  (Lorkin, Larkin, Loughan, Logan, Lohan) circa 10th Century, was 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).

Lynan became  the king of the Gaileanga Mora,  marrying the daughter of the Gott (son of Conchhubar Maelseachlain) king of Uisneach=Westmeath) Southern Ui Neill and travelled with her to Rome on a pilgramage.  Lynan earlier (circa 1025-40 AD)  had 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 Conchubar). 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. His 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) are not made by monastic scribes from this point forward in the Irish Annals for this specific lineage. All subsequent entires use the verbal identifiers of mic, maic and Mic Maoláin, verifying the collateral evolution based on  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.