This interesting name is of Irish origin and is, along with Phelan, the Anglicized form of the Gaelic "O' Faolain", a descendant of "Faolan", itself a personal name representing a diminutive of "faol", a wolf. The modern spelling of Whelan is more numerous that Phelan, and stands seventy-ninth in the list of the hundred most popular 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 Princes of the Decies before the Norman Invasion of 1170. In the modern idiom, the spelling variants include Wheelan, Whellan(s), Whelehan, O' Whealane, (O) Whalen, O F(e)olande, (O) Fyland, O' Phelane and Philan. Leo Whelan R. H. A. (1892 - 1956) was a notable portrait painter, and the writer Sean O' Faolain is the son of Denis Whelan. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Phelan, Bishop of Ossory, which was dated circa 1437, in the "County Kilkenny Records", during the reign of King Henry V1 of England, known as "The Founder of Eton", 1422 - 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.1461.
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