Flanagan – red haired warrior of Roscommon

History of the Irish name Flanagan. Image copyright Ireland Calling

The name Flanagan is a popular surname around the world. It is common in Ireland, Britain, America and Australia.

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The history of the name can be traced back to the Middle Ages in Ireland. The country had no one king or ruler and was split into numerous territories held by different family clans.

Irish names emerged during this period, with most families taking the name of their leader, usually the most skilled and experienced warrior. The name Flanagan first appeared after it was given to the leader of a clan of the O’Connor kingship in Roscommon.

The name derived from the word ‘flann’, which meant red or ruddy. This was highly likely to have been a physical description of the clan leader, who probably had red hair.

All members of that clan would have also taken the name and passed it down through the generations. The family was originally from the area now known as Roscommon but spread across much of western Ireland over the years.

When the government began to take records of people’s names and addresses for taxation purposes, the name was written down for the first time. These records were taken by English clerks and so the name was written as it sounds in English.

Because there were many Flanagans in Ireland, all having their records taken by a different clerk, several variations of the spelling of the name were recorded such as Flanagan, Flanaghan, Flanigan, Flannagan and numerous others.

The name became a common one in America, Canada and Australia in the late 1800s, after thousands of Irish people had left their homeland in order to escape the starvation and disease caused by the ‘Great Famine’.

Famous Flanagans throughout the world

There have been a number of noteworthy Flanagans in a great range of fields throughout history.

Micky_Flanagan. Photo Copyright - Dave Smith CC2

Tommy Flanagan was a legendary jazz pianist from Detroit. He worked with many stars throughout his career, including John Coltrane and Ella Fitzgerald.

Micky Flanagan is an English comedian. He shot to fame in 2011 with his ‘Out Out Tour’ which featured the hilarious tale of him going out to buy milk and being persuaded to join his friends for ‘one quick drink’, only to find himself hours later dancing in a nightclub wearing a dressing gown and holding a pint of milk.

Crista Flanagan is an American actress and comedian who was a regular in the television drama Mad Men.

Helen Flanagan is an actress and model who is best known for playing Rosie Webster in the British soap Coronation Street.

Video histories of popular Irish names

Irish names and their meanings