Mulcahy is a surname and Clan of Irish Gaelic origin. Mulcahy is the anglicised form of "Ó Maolchathaigh" which in Gaelic means "a descendant of a devotee of Cathach" Based on the location of the largest population of people with the surname today, Co. Waterford or Co. Tipperary seem to be where the Clan originated. However unusually the earliest known references found to date, dating from 14th and 15th centuries are to be found in Co. Kerry, where it is believed the Chiefly line flourished until the 16th century.
The Mulcahy Clan was active in the centuries before the reformation. Having been heavily involved with Church affairs, the collapse of the Monasteries under Henry VIII would have meant destruction for the Clan as well as many others dependent upon its structure. However the reformation of the 16th century was not the only factor contributing to the Mulcahy Clan's subtle presence in medieval political life.
The Norman invasion of 1169 would have had a very immediate impact on all those Clans who were situated in the east from Counties Waterford upwards to Dublin and beyond. For them the shock of the Norman military advance would have greatly disrupted everyday life not just in monastic communities. There is subtle evidence to suggest that perhaps the landing of the Normans was a contributing factor in the spread of a branch of the Mulcahy Clan west to find patronage amongst the safer confines of the west Munster Churches. The lack of annalistic record of the Clan holding any prominent positions within the Church in their original homeland would support such a theory. After all the Church of Lismore in Waterford, Emly in Tipperary and all the Churches within the Desmond realm were all under the same patronage, making the channels open for anyone allied to one or more of them to move freely.
The surname means "a descendant of a devotee of Cathach". The surname is of ecclesiastical origin meaning that the family came into existence from within the early Irish monastic tradition. It was common in medieval times for major families to send family members to be educated at monastical communities. Patronage of religious institutions was a means for Clans to gain reputation as well as establish links from which they can later exploit. The monastic community of Inis Cathaigh is the probable origin for the Mulcahy surname. Inis Cathaigh's position within the Shannon estuary seems to support this as the earliest references to bearers of the name seem to have held important position within the nearby religious communities of Inisfallen, Aghadoe and Ardfert.
There exists a popularly circulated theory regarding the Mulcahy families origins. The theory first proposed by John O'Hart claims that the Mulcahy family descend from the O'More of Laois. O'Hart makes mention of a John O'More who he claims was a younger brother of Rory Caech O'More and who adopted the surname Maolcatha. This theory is almost certainly wrong. O'Hart, intentionally or unintentionally had attributed the origins of the Mulcahy family with O'More on the basis of the name which John O'More had adopted. The name John O'More adopted was not Maolchatha as O'Hart had claimed but actually Maolchathail, and it is from him that the County Laois sept of Ó Maolchathail usually anglicized Mulhall, claim descent. To this day many commercial heraldic outlets continue to pass the traditional arms of the O'More family of Laois, which are "Vert a lion rampant or in chief three mullets of the last", off as those of Mulcahy when there is clearly no connection between the two families.
The Chiefly line for the Mulcahy sept seems to have become extinct relatively early on. Turbulent political events such as the Tudor reconquest and the reformation greatly effected the Irish church and those dependent on it. We have scant references from medieval sources that a County Kerry branch of the family had established something of a political force within the Monastic communities of Kerry. A County Waterford/Tipperary branch had for a long time been thought of as the senior branch of the Family. However this seems to come from unreliable sources such as O'Harts Pedigrees which falsely traces the line back to the O'More's of Laois.
According to the website of the Mulcahy Clan, a new Chiefship claim has been made based on the controversial "ad hoc" Derbfine system. This is an accepted system for restoring hereditary Chiefships for Clans in Scotland long bereft of leadership. According to the website, Mr. Oisín Ó Maolchatha of Dingle, Co. Kerry has been chosen to be the next hereditary Chieftain of the Mulcahy Clan .
- Ballyogaha (Baile Uí gCathaigh), in County Cork, which may or may not have had some connection with the family
- Mulcahy Middle School, a middle school in the San Joaquin Valley in California
- Mulcahy Stadium, a baseball stadium in Anchorage, Alaska
- Oisín Ó Maolchatha, Chiefly Claimant of the Mulcahy Clan
- Alan Mulcahy (born 1983), Irish professional football player
- Anne M. Mulcahy (born 1952), American businesswoman, chairman and CEO of Xerox
- Dan Mulcahy (1882-1953), Australian politician
- John Joseph Mulcahy, American Roman Catholic bishop
- John Duffy and David Mulcahy (born 1959), English rapists and murderers in the 1980s
- Denis Mulcahy (born 1956), Irish hurling player
- Francis P. Mulcahy (1894-1973), United States Marine Corps general and commander during World War II.
- Geoffrey Mulcahy (born 1942), British businessman with Kingfisher plc
- Hugh Mulcahy (1913–2001), American professional baseball player
- John Mulcahy (1876–1942), American Olympic double scull rower in the 1904 Olympics
- Kevin V. Mulcahy (born 1945), American professor and culture scholar
- Mark Mulcahy (contemporary), American jangle-pop musician in the 1980–90s
- Mark Mulcahy (contemporary), Movie Industry Executive 1981–Current
- Michael Mulcahy (born 1952), Irish expressionist painter
- Michael Mulcahy (born 1960), Irish Fianna Fáil party politician; TD for Dublin South-Central
- Pat Mulcahy (born 1975), Irish hurling player
- Richard Mulcahy (1886–1971), Irish politician, leader of Fine Gael and Cabinet Minister; Chief of Staff of the IRA
- Russell Mulcahy (born 1953), Australian film director
- Tomás Mulcahy (born 1963), Irish hurling player
- Thomas Michael Mulcahy (born Jan 1901), Secretary Canterbury Hospital and Australian Labour Party Member.
- Fictional person
- Father Mulcahy, character in the film and television show M*A*S*H
- J.O'Hart, Irish Pedigrees, Stem of the Irish Nation
- The general armory of England, Scotland, Ireland, and wales, p.715
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