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

A less certain possibility predating written monastic entries, 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 the Ogham script was cut into it.

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

MAQI according to ogham experts analyzing 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 in the modern era as the surnames Mullan/Mullen/Mullin and "son of"= MacMullan, MacMullen, MacMullin and MacMoylan.

Later they were shortened to the more common variants in use of McMullan, McMullen, McMullin and McMoylan.

Existence of the 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 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 recorded in the charter section of the "Book of Kells"; and

4. Recorded surname's of individuals identified in ecclesiastic histories for several Irish dioceses with a variant of this surname.

These diverse resources highlight the factual reality, that several unrelated families have adopted this forename as their family (clan) surname in Ireland.

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

These outdated descriptions perhaps acceptable in the past, remain static, ignoring vast amounts of modern updated database research evidence, even when that information is provided to them.

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

Extracts from these ancient texts, generally referencing a significant chieftain, and the later use of his forename to identify a family grouping can be found sequentially:

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

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

*In the genelach (pedigree) of the Luighne/Gaileanga alliance of Mide and Brega (modern counties of Westmeath and Meath).

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

This forename will also found in 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 form selected by scribes for individuals recorded in them, which contributed to the later more frequent transcribed selection of the tonsured form (Maolain= bald) versus original Maelan (=of the hillock or height) to identify individuals bearing this forename.

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

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

Specific surname families identified in the more recently published genealogical and antiquarian research conclusions (which predate genetic evolution) 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 project by  C. Thomas Cairney, listing  O'Mullan on pages 78, 82 and 87, with 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) with his  conclusion of descent from a Connor brother of Dathi (#102 on the Concannon pedigree), his son Donall, his son Maolan, and also earlier Laigin origins.

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

Widely dispersed ecclesiatic sites where a variant would emerge 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 their 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 these chiefly families were often tacked on to dynastic pedigree's to ensure participation in the Brehon competition for tigernach=king or territorial lord.

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

Many families (clan/sept) now present a pedigree that was either assigned, or in some cases a false/corrupted version, which has been carried forward to modern times.

Below are listed ancient pedigrees recorded in ancient Irish texts describing evolutionary pathways where a prominent male forename in a particular territorial cluster, may have later spawned a clan surname of Mullan, Mullen, McMullen.

Note that all three of them are claiming descent from either a Ailella Auluimm (said to be of Munter) or Oiliol (said to be of Teffia). Cormac also is found in all three, but Donchada a forename linked 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 the surname "Mac Maoláin" emerged in annalistic records of a ruling family, early 11th and 12th century.

They are identified as associated at that time with the Mide & Brega tribal clusters of Luighne & Gaileanga, and tributary to the Ard Ri (High King) family of Mael Seachlain (Southern Ui Neill) Clan Cholmain:


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

Notices are found in diverse Irish Annals relating to this family of Maelan, Maoláin, Mic Maolain, identifying them as of the Gaileanga and Luighne, and listing the tribal clusters they were aligned with.

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


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

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


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

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: disputed by O'Rahilly who suggest he 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 could be the one which is currently listed as Malone).

884, Dunacan, m. Tauthcair, dux Galeng Collumrach 

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

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 Maelan vs Maeleoin, would suggest this priest was of the family Mullen vs Malone).w

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  (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.

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

Lynan became  the king of the Luighne/Gaileanga Mora in 1037AD. He was married to the daughter of the Gott  king of Uisneach=Westmeath Southern Ui Neill (the Gott was the son of  the current Ard Ri Conchhubar Maelseachlain)

Lynan was 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 conflicts between competing Mael Seachlain "derbfine" and sons of Brian Boru, for position as Ard Ri  

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

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

 Leochan mac maic Maolán (Logan Mac Maolain).

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