Recorded in many spellings including Holohan, Hollan, Houlihan, Hoolahan, Ollahan, Ollerhan, Olohan, Oolahan, Oulaghan, Whoolehan, the apparently Australian Hoolan, and the even more unusual (in relation to this surname) Nolan and Merry (!), this famous surname is Irish. It is a development of the original Gaelic O' hUallachain, and translates as the male descendant of Uallach. This was an early personal name meaning 'proud and arrogant'. Two distinct septs of this name arose in Ireland, one in County Offaly and the other in Thomond, an ancient territory comprising most of County Clare with adjacent parts of Counties Limerick and Tipperary.In due course they spread southwards, and several members of the sept today residing in south West Munster spell their name Houlihan, Holland or Nolan, the latter two forms resulting from confusion over the original Gaelic form of the name in 17th Century records. In the 1659 census the majority of namebearers were recorded in Co. Kilkenny where Holohan is the most usual present day spelling. The strange use of Holohan (in various spellings) synonymously with Merry is long standing in Co. Kilkenny. In a pardon of 1558 one, Richard Merry, alias O'Howloughane, was recorded in that county, whilst Mary Ollohan or Ollerhan, the spellings vary, was a passenger on the ship Rochester of Liverpool, bound for New York city, on May 8th 1846. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Donal O'Hoolahan, Archbishop of Cashel, which was dated 1171, "Ecclesiastical Records of County Tipperary", during the reign of King Rory O'Conor, last native High King of Ireland, 1166 - 1175. 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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