Recorded in many spellings including Wheelan, Whalen, Whelan, Whelehan, Welan, Weallan, Wealleans, Feolande, Fyland, O'Phelane, Phelan and probably others, this interesting name is Irish. It is the anglicized or developed form of the ancient pre 10th century Gaelic name O' Faolain, meaning a male descendant of Faolan, itself a personal name meaning 'Young wolf". Whelan is more numerous that Phelan, and stands seventy-ninth in the list of the hundred commonest names in Ireland. The family tend to have settled in Counties Waterford, Kilkenny, Wexford and Carlow, and it is natural that the present day representatives of the sept of O' Faolain should be found in those counties as their chiefs were the Princes of the Decies before the Norman Invasion of 1170. Amongst the many interesting recordings are those of Leo Whelan R. H. A. (1892 - 1956) who was a notable portrait painter, and the writer Sean O' Faolain who is the son of Denis Whelan. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Phelan. Accoirding to the records of County Kilkenny he was the bishop of Ossory, in the year 1437, during the reign of King Henry V1 of England, known as "The Founder of Eton", 1422 - 1461. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.1461.
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