The Lally Clan


The name Lally is a contraction of O’Mullally[1], which is derived from the Gaelic name MOLLO-I-O. The English form of this Gaelic name is O’Maolalaidh. Literally translated the name means speckled chief. More often than not, it is spelled Lally. No satisfactory explanation to explain why the letter "e" often appears in the name, Lalley, has yet been found. Indeed the name of the same Michael Joseph Lalley as it appears on different official documents is sometimes spelled Lalley, Lally, or even Lallie. An explanation often given is that a clerk upon hearing the name spoken might record one version without asking the person interviewed the correct spelling.

Before the re-division of the country into counties, the west of the country was the territory of Iar Connacht. Among the major Gaelic families were the O’Mullallys. They were a branch of the Ui Maine in County Galway.

They are of the same descent as the O’Neachtains (O’Naghtens), and both families originally formed one clan, called Ui Fiachran Finn from their ancestor Fiachra Fionn, grandson of Maine Mor, the common ancestor of all the Ui Maine.

The O’Mullally lands were first located in the fertile plain of Maonmhagh around Loughrea. For many generations, farmlands were held in common by persons bearing the same family name and living in the same locality. Portions of the common land were assigned to male members of the sept or clan. A system of tribal succession, called rundale, required that the land be returned to the sept when a landholder died. The land holdings of the sept would then be reapportioned among its members.

After the Anglo-Norman invasion of Connacht (Connaught), the province, including Galway, was granted to Richard de Burgo (Burke). Because of the power of existing chieftains, de Burgo could only control the southern part of the county. The O’Mullallys, however, were among those deposed by the Burkes and forced to settle at Tulach na dala (Anglicized as Tullaghnadaly or Tolendal) four miles north of the town of Tuam.

Two O’Mullallys became Archbishops of Tuam and two others bishops residing in the adjacent dioceses of Clonfert and Elphin between 1211 and 1711. Those who did not go abroad have remained there or thereabouts ever since: of the thirty-four births recorded for Lally in one year, thirty were in Connacht. A noted descendent of the Lally clan was Thomas Arthur O’Mullally better known as Count de Lally-Tollendal, whose battles against the British in France and India won him a title. His descendent later engaged Voltaire to reclaim lost family lands in Ireland.

The first known member of our family is Thomas Lally was born in County Roscommon. His son, Michael Joseph Lalley emigrated to the United States in 1875 at the age of twenty-five. Nothing else is yet known about Thomas.

The 1820-1880 Parish Marriage Register for Roscommon and Kiltwan, Diocese of Elphin list a Thomas Lally who married Elizabeth Gately but this does not appear to be the Thomas Lally, father of Michael Joseph Lalley.

Any assistance visitors to this site can offer us will be most appreciated.

1. The heraldic achievements are shown as a matter of interest, and are not intended to suggest that members of the families discussed here have any right to bear them. Arms are personal property, and can be borne heraldically--for example, on a shield, banner, monument, dwelling, vehicle, china and silver, visiting card, stationery, or servants' livery by only a single individual at a time, since the purpose of anotherís arms is to distinguish that person from all others. To use coat of arms in a way that implies relationship to the owner or entitlement to bear the arms in one's own right can only bring embarrassment.