Mac MaolŠin

Origins of the surname "Mac Maoláin"

Mac Maoláin

 Mac Maoláin as a surname evolved from the earlier root form of Maelan, and the later variant medieval forms of Maoláin; Mailin

Old Irish Gaelic (c700-c900) nominative form:


Middle Irish Gaelic (c900-c1200) nominative form:

Maelan, Maolain,Mailin


It eventually became anglicized in the modern era as "son of Mullan": MacMullan, MacMullen, MacMoylan, McMullan, McMullen and McMullin.

Existence of early Irish variants Mac Maoláin, Mic Maoláin, Mhic Mhaoláin and Mec Maoilin, are verified, by: ancient Irish townland's established in locales these families inhabited; in diversified Irish annal entries spanning several centuries; and in the  specific hand written notes found in the charter section of the "Book of Kells".

Forenames of  Maelán, Maolán, Maoláin, Meallain and the collateral medieval surname Mac Maoláin (the son of), surface in terms of historic pathways, in the earliest recorded tribal clusters identified by historians, extracted from ancient texts. They include: the Fir Gallion;  the Ui Bairrche and the mercenary families clustered with Clanna Rory (Laighsi), plus  Laigin dynastic pedigrees for Leinster referencing the Ui Failghe; Ui Dunlaigne; and Clan Donnchada. 

These territorial dynasties emerged over periods in excess of several thousand years, producing diverse variant forms of Maelan, recorded in several different locations for clearly unrelated families.

During the 10th century these forenames evolved to surnames, and for Maolain, the collateral surname, Mac Maoláin emerged in records beginning 11th century for a family associated with the Mide (Meath) Luighne and Gaileanga tribal clusters. 

It was also found recorded in diverse monastic sites such as Ceanannus (Kells), Clonmacnoise (Offaly), Clones (Monaghan), Swords (Dublin) Clonfert, Kilnamanagh (Roscommon), Kilmactranny (Sligo) and Daire (Derry) Collumcille.

Monastic occupational records contributed to more frequent adoption of the tonsured form (Maolain=bald) versus the original early form Maelan (=hillock). The variants Maolain (Mullan, Mullen) and Mac Maolain eventually became the most common form adopted in Ireland by scribes recording historic events.

Tracking ancient pedigree's and population groups that Maelan & Mc were part of,  suggests several different cultural and topographic relationships i.e:

the Eoghanachta, sons of Cian (Cormac Gaileang), 


the Dal Riada Clanna Rory (Fergus Gaileang) and.

the Laigin, Cathoir Mor Ui Failge (Sil Cormaic Gaileang).

Where these tribal references appear in historic renderings, they also often include comments referencing mythologic connections to the dieties of Lugh, Nauda and the mystic Tauth De Dannan.

Specific families (clearly more than one) that have been identified in more  recently published genealogical works include: Irish Genealogical Society's history of Clanna-Rory, MacMullen noted on page 16 and Fergus Gaileanga on page 86 and, the research project titled "Ethnology of the Gael" by  C. Thomas Cairney, listing O'Mullan on pages 78, 82 and 87


Many different pedigrees and topographic suggestions have been posted which link to this surname and the history surrounding it. They verify as genetic studies have, that several distinct and separate families bore this surname over many centuries.

Most modern historians caution that ancient 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 of earlier times produced many assigned and some corrupted versions.

Below are listed all the possible pedigrees which might have connected back on Irish evolutionary pathways to a prominent family whose dominant male evolved to a Mullan, Mullen, McMullen. 

Connacht Luigni/Gaileanga 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

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

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 

Oenghusa genealogy:  (Rawlinson) 

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

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

The map circa 700 AD of the Breifne Region illustrates the topographical location of the Gaileanga Mora and Luighne families of: Castlerahan & Clankee Cavan; Lune Mide; Lower Kells and Morgallion Meath.

These are the predominant annals supported patrimonial locations of that family who adopted the eventual surname of Mac Maoláin:

Notices found in various Irish Annals related to Maelan, Maoláin, Mic Maolain and Gaileanga plus 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.


Heraldic and historic pedigree information collected from documents produced over several thousand years, identify sequential clusters that possibly generated a downstream surname of Mullen & 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 are identified as a branch of Cineal Dal Niad Cuirp a cluster which historians suggest based on later pedigrees,  link to the Luighne families who migrated both to Connacht and Midhe.  Clanna Rory historical information suggests  ne of their clan cluster referenced as the Loighis also joined this dynastic group as militia (mercenaries), migrating from Uladh to the Laois area circa 300AD. One of these topographically clustered families is identified as Ui Maeláin,  a family who likely generated 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, were recorded here circa 14th century, tributary at that time to the Ui Maine (O'Kelly, but not found in the Kelly historic list of families ?).  Mentions of this surname associated  with Mac Dermott in Roscommon and later Sligo plus historic analyis suggests the possibility this family might have originated earlier in Cavan and Meath, driven  across the Shannon during the Norman Invasion, settling here under a Chieftain named Concannon along with affiliated Gaileanga Mor sept O'Lohan.

O'Mealláin (Ui Neill) Clan Fergusa

This line emerged much later (15th 16th century) 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 of which are later transcribed as Mullen and McMullen, but also McMellon and the Irish McMillan.  They are said to have been alternate keepers of St Patricks Bell, later holding significant churchlands in the county of  Armagh  and tributary at that time to the Northern Ui Neill.

O'Maoláin (Mullan) Clan Conchobhiar Magh Ith

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

O'Mellon (Sil Aedha Eaniagh) O'Murphy

This somewhat obscure family is recorded with variants of Malin and O'Mellon, some later transcribed as McMalin, McMellon and McMullen, located in the barony of Strabane Co. Tyrone under a Chieftain O'Murphy (Murchada), a chiefly surname more synonomous with earlier Laigin dynastic families of Leinster).  Historians to date have identified no ancient cineal, branch pedigree or conclusive lineage for this family. It is possible they simply ended up in the territory captured by Ui Neill. . The family itself might actually be related to either Mallon Clan Fergusa or alternately O'Mellon a sept of Clonmellon Westmeath (Southern Ui Neill), mentioned in 'Dubhagain's topographical poem of ancient tribes and septs in the 14th century.

Mac Maoláin (Gaileanga Mora and Brega) 

This line is identified and discussed,  by variant historians as culturally linked in very early times to either: Munster and the mythological sons of Cian (Cormac Gaileang); or alternately the Red Branch Knights of Clanna Rory (Fergus Gaileang).

Suggestions are that they later emerged in the Dunmore area of  Magh Seola Galway, branching 7th century to a new territory called Gaileanga  Mora in Cavan and Meath. A Chieftain Lorcan or Leochain  (Lorkin, Larkin, Loughan, Logan, Lohan) circa 10th Century, is identified in the Irish Annals as territorial Lord of these Gaileanga of Mide, Cavan and Brega.  1037AD, Laidcenn (variant Laidhgnen anglicised Lynan), is listed variantly by scribes in different annals/locations as either the son of Maolán and grandson of Eccnigh Ui Leochain (Lohan) or Ui Lorcan (Larkin).

Lynan became  the king of the 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 pilgramage.  Lynan earlier (circa 1025-40 AD)  was 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). His brother Maelan d.1050, was a lector in the monastic centre of Ceanannus (Kells).

Lynan and his wife died in the east while they were returning from Rome. His successor as lord of the Gaileanga  recorded 1060AD would be his son Leochan mac maic Maolán.  

Sept and/or the territorial reference of  ui Leochain (Lohan) was no longer used by monastic scribes from that point forward in any Irish Annal for this specific lineage. All subsequent entires attached the verbal identifier 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 the map below.