Mac MaolŠin

Origins of the surname "Mac Maoláin"

Mac Maoláin

 Mac Maoláin is a surname which evolved from an earlier root form of Maelan, to 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 would eventually became anglicized in the modern era as son of Mullan: MacMullan, MacMullen, MacMoylan, McMullan, McMullen and McMullin.

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

These forenames of  Maelán, Maolán, Maoláin, Meallain and the collateral medieval surname Mac Maoláin (son of), surface in terms of historic pathways, in some of the earliest recorded irish tribal clusters identified by historians and extracted from ancient texts, i.e: the Fir Gallion;  the Ui Bairrche; the mercenary families clustered with Clanna Rory (Laighsi), the Laigin dynasty of Leinster: the Ui Failghe; the Ui Dunlaigne; and Clan Donnchada. 

Territorial dynasties emerged over periods in excess of several thousand years, with diverse variant forms of Maelan recorded in several different locations for unrelated families. During the 10th century those forenames evolved to surnames.

The collateral surname, Mac Maoláin emerged historically during the 11th century amongst a family associated with the mercenary Mide (Meath) Luighne and Brega Gaileanga tribal families. 

Sequentially it is also be found recorded in various monastic sites such as Ceanannus (Kells), Clonmacnoise, Clones, Clonfert, Kilnamanagh Roscommon, Kilmactranny Sligo and Daire (Derry) Collumcille.

These tonsured monastic occupational recordings contributed to the more frequent adoption of the tonsured form (Maolain=bald) vs the original early irish form of Maelan (=hillock). The variants of Maolain (O'Mullan, O'Mullen) eventually became the most common form adopted in Ireland.

Ancient pedigree's posted for Connacht and Mide Gaileanga and Luighne septs, suggest several different cultural and topographic relationships i.e: the Eoghanachta, sons of Cian (Cormac Gaileang), the Dal Riada Clanna Rory (Fergus Gaileang) and Cathoir Mor Ui Failge (Sil Cormaic Gaileang).

Where these tribal references appear, they also very often include comments by historians referencing a mythologic connection to dieties such as Lugh, Nauda and the mystic Tauth De Dannan.

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


Ancient pedigrees extracted from the "Book of Glendalough" and "Book of Leinster", lead sequentially from the earlier used form Maelan, to the more frequent monastic variant Maoláin and the collateral family Mac Maoláin.

This family was recorded in the ancient Irish Annals as Lords (Tiarna or Tigernach) of the Luighne Midhe, Gaileanga Mora and Gaileanga Brega, with elements inhabiting locales  in the baronies of Upper and Lower Kells Meath, Castlerahan Cavan, Clankee Cavan,  Skreen, Dunboyne and Castleknock Meath.

The 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 are later recorded as sept O'Mullen along with an affiliated family O'Lohan.

Monastic descendants are identified in the parish of Kilnamanagh (home of the monks) and in the townland Cluain Mhic Mhaolain (=meadow of McMullan) plus diocese of Elphin and Loch Ce. 

Monastic descendants who had adopted the collateral surname Mac Maoláin were employed post norman as: erenaghs, clerics and laity in the early Celtic churches of Morgallion, diocese of Kilmore, territory of O'Reilly; Cluain Mhic Mhaolain diocese of Elphin in Roscommon, territory of Mac Dermot; as well as Baille Mac Maolain (Bally Mc.Mullen) Abbyleix Laois, territory of O'Mhorda (O'More).

Variant McMullan/McMullens were also recorded in more recent times (17th/18th century) as Clerics and Bishops of the primate diocese of Armagh, employed in dispersed suffragan dioceses of: Kilmore; Meath; Clogher, plus Connor and Down of Ulster, where MacMullen held the bishops seat in Cabra Iveagh (territory of Magennis).

Anglicized forenames flowing from these ancient Maolain pedigree families right up to the medieval period, are still found today in descendant 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).

More recent anglicized ones such as Thomas, James, John, George and occasional Andrew emerged mostly after the Norman Invasion, adopted from new monastic foundations such as the Priory of St John in Kells Co. Meath, the Priory of St James in Cruisetown Meath, the Knights Hospitaller's of St Johns erected in Kilmainhamwood Meath and Kilough Co. Down. These forenames came from Brittany Saints revered by the "Landed Gentry", specifically those landowners of Norman extraction (Thomas, Cruise, Plunkett, Butler).

The forename Carlus anglicized Charles is first 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 these surname families (Reilly/McMullen) are connected  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 of Charles McMullan). 

11th century descendants of Maelan (a lector) and Laidcnen Mac Maolain "laity & the lord of the Luigne & Gaileanga Meath,  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 who was recorded by surname in the Irish Annals as Lord of the Gaileanga Brega (Duleek/Dunboyne area), was Mac Mic Maolain, slain in 1144AD. One additional reference to a Lord of these Gailenga was recorded in …...without surname clarification, after which this mercenary cluster and it's designated lords disappear.

Some 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 a townland 1st named Bally Mc.Mullen suggests their presence here and probable status as erenaghs (airchinneach) to the dominant family of O'More in the monastery of Abbyleix.

This property now referenced as Ballymullen alias Mc.Mullen, was confiscated in the later part of the 16th century and reallocated by Irish statutes dated 1639.


Many different pedigrees and topographic suggestions have been posted linked 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 note 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 have produced many assigned or corrupted versions.

Below are listed all the possible pedigrees which might have connected back on Irish evolutionary pathways (based on ancient scripts) to a family whose dominant male forename formed a root variant which evolved to a cluster, a Mullen ancestor may have been part of:

 Luigni/Gaileanga 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 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 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 Oenghusa genealogy:  (Rawlinson) 

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


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 can be 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  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 the  modern surname variants of  Moylan, Mullen, Mullan, Mullins, Mullens, McMullan, McMullin and McMullen for this line. 

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 the 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 their affiliated Gaileanga Mor kin O'Lohan.

O'Mealláin (Ui Neill) 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 of which were later transcribed as Mullen and McMullen, but also McMellon and the 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 in later times 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 recorded with variants of Malin and O'Mellon, some  of whom were 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). Historians to date have identified no ancient cineal, branch pedigree or conclusive lineage for this family. It is possible they either adopted or were assighned  the false pedigree of Niall. The family might actually be related to either Mallon Clan Fergusa or the O'Mellon's sept of Clonmellon Westmeath (Southern Ui Neill), mentioned in )'Dubhagain's topographical poem of ancient tribes and septs created 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.