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Malony – servants of the Church from County Clare

The name Malony is a popular one in several English speaking countries around the world such as America, Canada and Australia.

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It actually originated in Ireland sometime before the 12th century. At the time Ireland was not ruled by any one king, and the country was divided up into several territories ruled by family clans.

History of the Irish name Malony. Image copyright Ireland CallingThese family clans would take their names from their leader, who was often a great warrior or soldier. However, in the case of Malony, the clan leader was a man of the church.

Malony is derived from the ancient Gaelic name Maoldhamhnaigh. This was a name given to the leader of a clan in County Clare. The name is made up of two words; firstly ‘maol’ which meant bald. Although this is a physical description of someone, it actually referred to their profession as a monk, as they would all have their hair shaved to mark their dedication. In this case the word ‘maol’ referred to a ‘servant’ or ‘devotee’. The second part of the name, ‘dhamhnaigh’, meant ‘Sunday’ or the ‘Lord’s Day’.

So Maoldhamhnaigh was a servant of the Lord’s Day, which meant his profession was a man of the church, most likely a holy monk because of the maol (bald) reference.

His family members would have also taken his name. As the generations passed, the ‘O’ prefix was added to the front of the name to signify that they had descended from Maoldhamhnaigh. The family name became O’Maoldhamhnaigh.

The O’Maoldhamhnaigh family held territories around County Clare, and also further south in parts of Counties Limerick and Tipperary.

The name travelled around the world

The name developed further after the Cromwellian invasion in the 17th century. Much of Ireland became anglicised as the British took control of the country. Written records of people’s names were taken by English clerks, and Irish names were recorded as the English interpreted them. This meant that O’Maoldhamhnaigh became Malony, and various alternative spellings such as Maloney, Molony and Moloney.

The name travelled around the world when millions of Irish people were forced to emigrate in the years following the ‘Great Famine’. Numerous Malonys left Ireland for America, Canada, Britain and Australia.
Harry J. Malony
On the historic records of Irish immigrants arriving in New York between 1846 and 1851 there are 55 people named Maloney. It is likely that several more entered America during this period but were not officially registered.

Famous Malonys throughout the world

There have been many noteworthy people named Malony – or one of its variations – throughout history.

Harry J. Malony was a Major General in the US Army during the Second World War. He was awarded two Distinguished Service Medals, a Silver Star and a Bronze Star Medal during his service.

Damien Molony is an Irish actor who starred as Hal the vampire in the BBC horror-comedy series Being Human.

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Kristen Maloney is a US gymnast who won a bronze medal in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.

Frank Maloney was a British boxing promoter who was a leading figure in the sport throughout the 1990s and 2000s. He was the man that put the Lennox Lewis v Evander Holyfield superfights together in 1999. In 2014, he shocked the world by announcing that he was to undergo gender reassignment surgery and would live out the remainder of his life as a woman named Kellie.


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