Recorded in several forms as shown below, this world famous surname is Irish. In past times the Gaelic spelling was O' Spealain, and it is said to be of dual origins, in that the clan was recorded as holding lands in at least two places. In medieval times one branch of the clan held the barony of Eliogarthy in County Tipperary, whilst the other was recorded from the year 1540 at Bective, in County Meath. Curiously the place names of Ballyspelane occur in both County Kilkenny and County Tipperary, suggesting that in long off times, the influence of the clan was very wide indeed. The meaning of the surname is the descendant of the scythe, from the ancient gaelic word "speal" meaning scythe or possibly sword, suggesting that the first nameholder was a warrior chief. In the modern idiom the name is recorded as the very rare O' Spillane, but more usually Spillane, and sometimes Splain, Splane, Spollen and Spelman. The latter is an 18th century development associated with the province of Connacht. Early examples of the surname recording include Timothy Splane who married Ellen Fowlue at Killarney, County Kerry, in 1795, as well as Michael Spillane. He emigrated to New York from the port of Cork in 1847, being formerly a small farmer from County Offaly. He was the grandfather of the famous author Mickey Spillane, whilst Cardinal Spelman (1889 - 1969) was the Archbishop of New York for many years. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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