Recorded in many forms including Malley, Mailey, Meally, Melley, Melly, Melia, all found with or without the prefix O', this is a famous Irish surname. It derives from the pre 10th century Gaelic surname O'Maille, meaning the male descendant of the prince, although who the prince was is not proven. The great O'Maille clan belonged exclusively to County Mayo, and they held sway over the baronies of Burrishoole and Murrisk in that county. Many members were renowned for their prowess at sea which is encapsulated in their motto, "Terra marique potens" meaning "Powerful by land and sea". Outstanding in this connection was Grace O'Malley, described by her contemporaries as "a most famous sea captain". Popularly known as "Graine Mhaol", she was the subject of many romantic tales. Examples of the early name recording include Thomas Malley, who embarked on the ship "Sheridan of Liverpool", bound for New York on May 7th 1846. He was one of the first Irish Famine emigrants to that city, whilst Arthur Mailey was a famous Australian cricketer before the Second World War. The coat of arms depicts a red boar passant on a gold shield, the crest being a ship with three masts, sails set all proper. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Grace O'Malley. This was dated 1530, in the records of County Mayo, Connacht, during the reign of King Henry V111 of England, 1509 - 1547. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.

Surnames reference. 2013.

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