This ancient Irish clan surname, is one of the very few that never lost its "O" prefix. It derives from the pre 10th century Gaelic O' Maoileoin, meaning "a descendant of a follower of St John", and was originally recorded only in the province of Connacht. The name has been anglicized as O'Malley, O'Mailey, or O'Melia. The original territory of the clan were the County Mayo baronies of Burrishoole and Murrisk, although the relative smallness of the clan always made it difficult for them to retain their lands.Whether this lack of strength forced the O'Malleys onto the water or not, is unclear, but what is certain is that they became renowned for their maritime prowess. Even more lustre was added by the the fact that they were lead by a woman, the famous Grace O'Malley (1530 - 1600), who was described by her contemporaries as "the most famous sea captain, and the nurse of all rebellions!". Other prominent clan members include Austin O'Malley (1760 - 1854), one of the leaders of the failed1798 rebellion, whose son Patrick became a general in the French army. At the same time another member of the clan took the opposite view. George O'Malley (1780 - 1843) distinguished himself on the British side at the battle of Waterloo in 1815. The first recorded spelling of the family name is believed to be that of Teag O' Maille, which was dated circa 1499, in the charters of County Mayo, Ireland, during the reign of King Henry V11 of England, known as "The last Tudor monarch", 1485 - 1509.
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