Clan Mulcahy

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Official Clan Mulcahy Arms
Gaelic Form Ó Maolchathaigh
Origin Tipperary/Waterford
Leadership Hereditary Chiefship
Current Head Oisín Ó Maolchatha of Co.Kerry (Assumed)
Heraldry A Silver Yew Tree, A Silver Fawn

Mulcahy is a surname and Clan of Irish Gaelic origin. The anglicized form of "Ó Maolchathaigh" which in Gaelic means "a descendant of a devotee of Cathach" according to most sources the family originated in County Waterford. However this appears to be based on more modern distribution patterns rather than documentary evidence. The earliest mention of the family appears in the Annals of Inisfallen in 1317 AD and subsequent references in and around the Churches of County Kerry in the 15th century may point to a connection with the nearby monastic community of Inis Cathaigh in the Shannon estuary.


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 Mulcahy Clan was active in the centuries before the reformation. This notable Munster surname is an Anglicized form of the Old Gaelic "O'Maolchathaigh", descendant of Maolchathaigh, an ancient male given name composed of the elements "maol", from the pagan Irish "mal", chief, and related to the Welsh "mail", hero, with "cathaigh", the genitive of "cathach", warlike.

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.


This notable Munster surname is an Anglicized form of the Old Gaelic "O'Maolchathaigh", descendant of Maolchathaigh, an ancient male given name composed of the elements "maol", from the pagan Irish "mal", chief, and related to the Welsh "mail", hero, with "cathaigh", the genitive of "cathach", warlike.

O'More theory[edit]

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.[1] 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,[2] 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.

Chiefship Claim[edit]

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, Chief of the Name of the Clan Mulcahy.

  • 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
Fictional person

See also[edit]


  1. ^ J. O'Hart, Irish Pedigrees, Stem of the Irish Nation
  2. ^ The General armory of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, p. 715