MacGilligan, or more usually in Ireland, Gilligan or Galligan, derives from the Old Gaelic "MacGiollagain". The translation is almost certainly "the son of the Chiefs attendant", literally a "page", one who was training for Knighthood. "Giolla" implies one who was a devotee or close follower, and was often used as a prefix to a saints name, although not in this case. Here the diminutive "gain" emphasises the "page" to create "the future knight". Curiously, although the name has clear Scottish origins, it is not found in this spelling in the early records of the country.The clan has always been prominent in County Derry where their territory was known as "MacGilligans strand, whilst the village of Tamlaght Ard was originally known as Ard MacGilligan. By the 17th Century the "Mac" had largely disappeared, the name being recorded in the 1659 "Census" as Gillgon and Gillgun. The Chief of the Clan resides at Grange in the barony of Carbury, County Sligo, the Coat of Arms being argent, a fess azure between in chief two lions heads and in base a crescent, gules, Arthur Gilligan achieved fame as captain of the English Cricket team which defeated Australia in the 1926 series. The earliest Gilligan to leave during the 1846 - 1850 Famine period was Mike Gilligan, who embarked from Belfast on the ship "Ashburton" of Liverpool, on March 7th 1846, bound for New York. He was aged 17 yrs., and, according to the ships list, had no recorded occupation. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richar Gilligan, which was dated June 24th 1668, a witness at St. Michael's Church, Dublin, during the reign of King Charles 11 of England, known as "The Merry Monarch", 1660 - 1685. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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