This name, with at least seventeen variant spellings including Holohan, Holian, Houlihan, Oolahan, Whoolehan and the more unusual Holland, Nolan and Merry, is an Anglicized form of the old Gaelic O'hUallachain. The Gaelic prefix "o" indicates "male descendant of ", plus the personal byname Uallachan, a diminutive of "Uallach", 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. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Donal O'Hoolahan, Archbishop of Cashel, which was dated 1171, in the "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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