Moran is an ancient Irish surname that is still popular in Co Mayo, as well as around the English speaking world.
There are a number of variations including Morahan, Morrin, Murran, Murrin and O’Moran.
The motto on the Moran coat of arms reads ‘Lucent in tenebris’ which means ‘They shine in darkness’.
The name originated from the O’Morain clan from the Connacht province of Ireland. The ‘O’ prefix to the name means ‘grandson of’ or descendent of’. Morain was a personal name which came from the Gaelic word ‘Mor’ which meant ‘big’ or ‘great’.
Irish clans used to take the surname of their leader or chief, who would have been likely to have been a warrior. So the Morans were descended from a large warrior chief. Their territory spread from Elphin, Co Galway to Ardnaree, Co Mayo. The chief lived in Ballina, Co Mayo.
The Ballina clan eventually lost their territory to the Barrats and Burkes following the Norman invasion of Ireland.
Another sept, or branch, of the family were an important clan in Co Leitrim. In Galway the Morans were part of the Ui Maine (Hy Many), which was one of the largest and oldest kingdoms in Connacht. The chief of the Co Roscommon family lived in Ballintobber.
In Mayo and Sligo the Morans were respected and were a part of the Uí Fiachrach dynasty. The Uí Fiachrach ruled a fifth of the Connacht province.
Another separate clan also originated in Co Galway. They were called O’Moghrain. Their chief ruled over Criffon, Co Galway. Like the O’Morains, the O’Moghrain descended from a great warrior, possibly a sea warrior.
In Co Offaly, the clan known as O’Murchain anglicised their name to Morahan. Families all over Ireland had to anglicise their names as it became very difficult to find work under British occupation for people with an Irish sounding name.
This meant losing the Gaelic ‘O’ prefix and changing the spelling of their name. After the 1798 Rebellion there was a surge of patriotism among the Irish and many families reinstated the prefixes. However, they didn’t usually revert to the Irish spelling as by then many of them spoke English.
In the mid-19th century the Irish faced disaster as the potato crops failed. They lost a quarter of the population to either emigration or death caused by starvation or disease. Millions left the country and travelled to across the world, most notably to Britain, America, Canada and Australia.
The surnames travelled with them and there are now millions of people of Irish descent in these countries.
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