Origins Of The Name ‘Scully’

I chose the name Scully Love Promo for my internet promotion business and subsequent book and CD review blog because I named it after my Goldendoodle (who is my kid in a fur coat), Scully. She is all about giving unconditional love and Scully Love Promo is all about spreading the love about artists that I appreciate and believe in. I thought it would be fun to research the origins of the name Scully and this is what I’ve discovered:


First name origin & meaning:

Scottish: Town crier; herald

First name variations: Scullee, Sculley, Scullie

Last name origin & meaning:

Irish: reduced Anglicized form of Gaelic Ó Scolaidhe ‘descendant of the scholar’, from scolaidhe ‘scholar’.

The Irish surname Scully is the Anglicized form of the Old Gaelic name O’Scolaidhe. This name ultimately derived from an Old Irish word meaning, literally, “a student”. Hence, the name is of nickname origin, deriving from a personal characteristic of the original bearer. During the Middle Ages, nicknames were very popular in Ireland; they were terms of affection and endearment, and the name ‘Scolaidhe’ was usually given to one who was a student or who was noted for having great academic ability.

The family name Scully was first found in county Westmeath and Leinster where they had been seated as early as the twelfth century but were driven out during the Anglo-Norman invasion of Strongbow in 1172 and their lands were confiscated and they were driven in to counties Tipperary and Cork (Province of Munster). Despite this some of the names are still numerous in Leinster.

On leaving Delvin (County Westmeath) the most significant family of this name in medieval Ireland settled in Lorrha, in the southern county of Tipperary where they became erenaghs of the church of St. Ruan. Erenaghs were powerful lay lords whose families held church titles and property from generation to generation.

It was no doubt an offshoot of these which gave its name to Ballyscully, a place on the other side of the Shannon. Another branch of the Scully sept settled near Cashel in South Tipperary in the seventeenth century. This family gave their name to Scully’s Cross which is a magnificent ecclesiastical memorial near the Rock of Cashel where the Scullys have the privilege of interment.

A branch of the Scully family retained its lands in County Dublin up to 1256 when the property of William O’Scully passed in to ecclesiastical possession.

Scully is used sometimes in north Connacht as a synonym of Scullion or Scullin (O’Scolláin). Scullin is now rare, but Scullion is fairly numerous in north east Ulster. The O’Scullions were erenaghs of Ballyscullion in the deanery of Rathlowry, diocese of Derry.

The name Scully occurred in many references, but from time to time the surname was spelt Scully, Scally, O’Scully, Sculley, Sculey, Skally, Skully, Skulley, Scholey, Skholey, Scullee and these changes in spelling frequently occurred, even between father and son. It was not uncommon to find a person’s name spelt several different ways during his or her lifetime, firstly when he or she was baptized, another when that person was married, and yet another appearing on the death certificate.

The best known Scullys were Tipperary men. James Scully was the proprietor of Scully’s Bank of Tipperary, one of the few private banks to weather the financial crises of 1820 and 1825. These crises occurred when the British and Irish currencies were combined following a controversial Act of Parliament and numerous small banks were forced out of business. It is of interest to record that this very reputable institution, Scully’s Bank of Tipperary, was acquired by John Sadlier of scandalous and notorious memory.

Denis Scully (1773-1830), political writer and Catholic advocate, and his son Vincent Scully (1810-1871), well-known Irish politician and author, were of the same Kilfeacle family.

James Scully (b. 1865), American poet, was born in county Cork.

Vincent Scully (b. 1900), Canadian cabinet minister, was born and educated in Ireland.

In North America some of the first migrants which could be considered kinsmen of the sept Scully and of the same family were Peter, John, Martin and William Sculley all arrived in Philadelphia between 1840 and 1870; Ben, Edward, John, Joseph, Martin, Mathew, Michael, Owen, Patrick, Peter, Thomas and William Scully all arrived in Philadelphia between 1800 and 1870.

Scully has also been the surname of:

• Actress Gillian Anderson’s character (Dana Scully) on the American television series The X-Files (this is who I named my dog, Scully, after)
• A British television series
• The Scully family of the British television series Neighbours
• British TV presenter Hugh Scully
• UFO author Frank Scully
• Physicist Marlan Scully
• American journalist and speechwriter Matthew Scully
• Irish poet Maurice Scully
• Irish-American painter Sean Scully
• Architectural history professor and writer Vincent J. Scully
• Major League Baseball announcer Vin Scully
• A Marvel Comics villain and enemy of The Punisher

10 thoughts on “Origins Of The Name ‘Scully’

  1. Interesting, however there are a few things here that need clarification. The O Scolaidhe’s were not pushed out of Leinster. The internet is great for picking up info but you should reallise that most of it is simply cut and pasted from it’s origional source. This can give the impression that these facts are set in stone when in reality it can be very misleading.

    in 1100AD Ireland was divided into 5 cuiges (provinces) The O Scolaidhe’s were from the kingdom of Mide, not Lein. This only ceased to be when the Normans destroyed the power base of the Mac Loughlans who were the Hiigh Kings of Mide at that time. Also, the ‘Scholar’ translation is very misleading. It must be understood that the ‘Sept’ of O’Scolaidhe did not spring up over night! Being a descriptive name the Sept itself would have had its origins with another sept before that whos ancestors were likely Mac Loughlans who were in turn actually decendants of the Ui Neill dynasty.

    In ancient Ireland the idea of ‘scholar’ is unlikely unless the origional bearer was actually a monk. It is far more likely that the bearer was actually a Brehon, Olamh or bard giving him a very high status in society. These positions would equate to a person of learning which by todays translation would equal a scholar. You must be careful not to judge these things by todays standards and actually see them in the context of the time they originated. The internet is not to be trusted regarding name origins. There are too many cutter/pasters out there that in time may well be responsible for rewriting history!

    1. Hello Luke,

      Is the coat of arms above correct? I’ve found two other versions for variants of our surname. As with Scullions of ulster it is the red hand of ulster with two lions.

      1. Hi,

        I’m not Luke. I’m Christine. I’m sorry but I don’t know for sure if that coat of arms is correct. I found it online and assumed it was. I hope so!

        Thanks for stopping by,

      2. Eamon, saw your post on this website. My family are Scullions from County Derry. If you have connections to that family, I’d love to share information.

      3. Hi Tom,

        No, I’m sorry, my family name isn’t Scully, it’s Bode. My ancestors are Woodcock, Clyde, Mueller and Bode.

        Thanks for stopping by my site though!

        Best regards,

  2. Hi Luke!

    Thank you very much for taking the time to write a comment to let me know more about the history of your name. I appreciate it and found the comment very interesting. I’ll heed your advice in the future about not trusting the internet for accurate name origins.

    All the best,

  3. Have you ever considered writing an ebook or guest authoring on
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    like to have you share some stories/information.
    I know my viewers would appreciate your work. If you’re even remotely interested,
    feel free to send me an email.

    1. Hello,

      I have considered both writing an eBook and guest blogging on other people’s websites but at the moment I’m too busy to do that. My sister is battling ovarian cancer and it’s all I can do to focus on my client work. I don’t have the energy right now to do extra writing as I’m helping to cook meals on weekends for my sister’s family and want to spend as much time as I can with them. So right now the time just isn’t right. I’ll keep your offer in mind though and appreciate it.

      All my best,

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