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Tully/Flood – origins in Ulster and Connacht

Tully is an ancient Irish surname that is particularly popular in the provinces of Ulster and Connacht.

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While the Tullys were rarely rulers of their territories, they were a respected and well educated family and held important positions in their communities over the centuries.

There are several variations to the name including Tally, Tilly, MacAtilla and even Flood. See the end of this article for a full list of variations.
History of the Irish name Tully. Image copyright Ireland CallingToday the surname ‘Tully’ is most popular in Co Galway in Connacht and the Ulster counties of Fermanagh and Tyrone.

The Ulster Tullys

There are two likely origins for the name. The first is that it comes from the old Gaelic name O’Taithlagh. The ‘O’ prefix means ‘grandson of’ or ‘descendent of’ while ‘Taithleach’ means ‘quiet’ or ‘peaceful’. So the name means ‘descendant of the quiet and peaceful person’.

The Tullys used to be chiefs of the Hy-Laoghaire of Lough Lir. This was an area in Co Fermanagh. In Co Tyrone they were erenaghs, which meant they worked for the church. They were responsible for collecting revenue and building and maintaining church property.

The Connacht Tullys

Another possible origin is from the Gaelic name O’Maoc Tuile. The name means ‘descendent of the devotee of St Tuile’. St Tuile’s name comes from the word ‘toil’ which meant ‘will of God’.

The clan lived in the area that now covers the counties Galway, Roscommon, Leitrim and Cavan. They were a medical family and served as hereditary physicians to the powerful O’Connor and O’Reilly clans.

At some point the name was anglicised to Flood as ‘tuile’ is also Gaelic for ‘flood’. However, Flood isn’t necessarily an Irish name as there are several alternative origins for the name in England and Wales.

Famous Tullys and Floods

Toby Flood. Photo copyright George Olcott CC2
Toby Flood

Ted Tally is an Oscar winning American writer. He has written screenplays for hit movies such as Silence of the Lambs and Red Dragon. He won an Academy Award for Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay) for Silence of the Lambs.

He is also a playwright and has written award winning plays such as Terra Nova and Coming Attractions.

Tom Tully was an American actor. He appeared in several hit movies during a 30-year career including Destination Tokyo, Lady in the Lake, The Caine Mutiny and Coogan’s Bluff.

Toby Flood is an English rugby international. He played for some of the best rugby teams in Europe including Leicester Tigers and Toulouse. He was also a mainstay in the England Team and helped them win the Six Nations in 2011.

Sue Tully is an English actress, producer and director. She appeared in the popular teen drama Grange Hill before becoming a household name when she starred in the British soap EastEnders.

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She gave up acting to work behind the camera. She has produced or directed many popular UK TV shows including Secret Diary of a Call Girl, Silent Witness and Stella.

Variations of the name Tully

Variations of the surname Tully include; MacAtilla, MacCantully, MacTilly, MacTully, O’Multilly, O’Multully, Flood, Tally, Talty, and Tilly.


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