Mac MaolŠin

Origins of the surname "Mac Maoláin"

Mac Maoláin

Mac Maoláin as a surname evolved from the old Irish Gaelic root form Maelan, a forename in use circa  700-900 AD.  The later middle Irish Gaelic forms of Maoláin; Mailin came into use circa 900-1200AD.  These variants are verified in numerous Irish "annals", with entries that span hundreds of years.

One additional variant possibility which might predate written monastic annal entries, is found in a translation of an ogam narrative cut into the "Aghascrebagh Ogham Stone" of 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 celtic lanquage experts is said to be the earliest form of Mac = son of, leaving some researchers convinced that this ogham stone text is referencing a mac Maelan 

These origin variants would eventually became anglicized in the modern era as Mullan/Mullen and "son of"= MacMullan, MacMullen, and MacMoylan. They were later shortened to the most common variants of 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 clerics located in different areas spanning several centuries;

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

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

All confirm Mac Maoláin and the later variant forms of it, was an original Irish surname.

These diverse resources highlight the factual origins and reality, that several unrelated families eventually adopted this forename as a surname in Ireland.

More importantly it exposes the simplistic research efforts adopted by consumer crest marketing companies, who cobble together questionable analysis about where this surname first emerged based on who they are marketing, ignoring updated input even when provided the factual 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 tribal clusters identified by Irish research projects.

Extracted from ancient texts, affiliated references to a significant chieftain who used this forename include entries that can be found sequentially with: the early Ui Bairrche and their mercenary allies of Clanna Rory (Laighsi); the Laigin (pronounced Lein/Lyne) dynastic pedigrees posted for: Ui Failghe; Ui Dunlaigne; Ui Fergusa, Clan Donnchada and 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. This would produce several diverse variants of the original forename variant Maelan, recorded in several different locations for clearly unrelated families (septs)

The forename is also found recorded 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 Antrim.

It was these monastic occupational records which contributed to the later more frequent transcribed selection of the tonsured form (Maolain= bald) versus using Maelan (=hillock or height) in the identification of an individual of the surname linked to local tribal or  monastic events.

The variant forms Maolain (Mullan, Mullen Mullin) and Mac Maolain McMullan, McMullen, McMullin) eventually became the most common form adopted in Ireland by dispersed regional scribes when 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 expected, several different cultural and topographic tribal clusters and relationships such as:

Dal Riada Clanna Rory the sons of (Fergus Gaileang); and

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

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

Specific surname families (clearly more than one) identified in more recently published genealogical research works include:

Irish Genealogical Society's history of Clanna-Rory, with MacMullen noted on page 16 and the migration of Fergus Gaileang to "Teffia"on page 86;

Ethnology of the Gael  project by  C. Thomas Cairney, listing O'Mullan on pages 78, 82 and 87, with a suggested descent of families linked to the Laigin dynasty, and later located in Co. Galway;

O'Hart "Irish Pedigrees (Origin and Stem of the Irish Nation) lists Connor brother of Dathi (#102 on the Concannon pedigree), his son Donall, his son Maolan.

Many different pedigrees and topographic suggestions will be found. They verify as genetic studies have, that several separate families in different locales, adopted this surname over many centuries.

Most modern historians wisely caution that these ancient pedigrees conceptually should be read with a view of more often pointing to topographic alliances (the Ui Bairche/Laighsi) versus agnatic descent, and consider them only 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 assigned, or in some cases false/corrupted versions.

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

Luigni/Gaileanga 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 North 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 a surname  of Mac Maoláin emerged in annalistic records of early 10th and 11th century, identified as a family associated at that time with Mide & Brega tribal clusters of the Luighne and Gaileanga. 

This map circa 700 AD of the "Breifne Region" predates the arrival of O'Rourke and O'Reilly of Ui Briun, illustrates the topographical locales occupied by the 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)

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

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


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) 

This line is identified and discussed by various historians as culturally linked in very early times to one of two possible dynasties:

Munster and the mythological sons of Cian (Cormac Gaileang); or,

Red Branch Knights of Clanna Rory (Fergus Gaileang).

The forename Maelan, later emerged in the Dunmore area of  Magh Seola Galway, and is suggested to have branched 7th century to a new territory called Gaileanga  Mora in Cavan and Meath (Loch Ramour area).

A Chieftain forename Lorcan or Leochain  (Lorkin, Larkin or Loughan, Logane, Lohan) circa 10th Century, is identified in the Irish Annals as the territorial 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 either the son of Maolán, a grandson of Eccnigh Ui Leochain (translates as Lohan) or alternatley 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)  is taken prisoner and also discussed in the charters to the book of Kells as both laity (alumnus of Kells) and  as 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 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 his son Leochan mac maic Maolán.  

Sept and/or the territorial reference to former territorial chieftains of  Leochain/Lorkin are no longer used by monastic scribes from this point forward in entries for this specific lineage. All 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.

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

Middle Irish Gaelic (c900-c1200) nominative form: