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Mcllvenny Sept

Origin and Meaning

The irish surname McIlvenny , a variant of Mulvan(n)y and Mulvena (although the latter two may be distinct families), is essentially a north Ulster surname, being derived from the Gaelic O Mavilmheana . The prefix 'O' signifies 'grandson of' or 'descendant' and indicates the patronymic origin of the name while the second element in the first name may be derived from the river Meana, now Main, which flows into Lough Neagh at Randalshown in C.Antrim; in this case the name would mean 'devotee' (maol) of the 'Meana'. The surname Mulvany may also possibly be O Malmhagna of Donegal although, in Leinster where his name is now mainly found, it is O Maoilmheana . Other variants of Mulvenna include MacIlvenna and MacElvenna .

Development and History

Before the destruction of the Gaelic order in the seventeenth century the O Mulvenna sept was located in O'Cahan's country in Co. Derry where they were hereditary 'ollavs' to the O'Cahans (O'Kane); ollavs were a learned class who acted as hereditary custodians of the national memory and of oral literature and whose knowledge of pedigree and history enabled them, in return for handsome gifts, to feed the pride of the Gaelic aristocracy. Until 1603, they were the main support and champions of the Old Gaelic Order. The earliest reference to the name occurs in the Annals of Ulster in 1164 in which the first O Mavil Mheana figures. The name appears as O Mulvenna in the 1659 'census' while more modern birth statistics indicate that Mulvany is the usual form of the name outside northern Ulster. MacIlvenny belongs to north east Ulster but is not numerous.


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