Three O'Maolduin septs, one in County Fermanagh in Ulster, one in County Galway in Connacht and one in County Clare in Munster, can have provided the forebears of families bearing this surname. The name is now found mainly in County Galway. The name was a personal name composed of the elements maol (chief) and dun (fortress). County Galway acquired a seperate identity from the rest of Connacht when that province was divided and shired in 1585. The country is bounded on the west by the Atlantic Ocean and on the south by the waters of Galway Bay and a land boundary with County Clare. To the north lie the counties of Mayo and Roscommon, the latter also flanks County Galway to the east. The walled city of Galway, which contained about one-tenth of the population of the county before the famine of the 1840's, was of prime importance in the county with a flourishing commercial port and the handsome dwellings of the merchants. County Galway has long remained an Irish speaking region and the language has survived as a first language in the remoter parts and in the Aran Islands off the coast of Galway Bay. Old customs too, such as the wake and keening at funerals, died out slowly in this area. In the past the fine lobsters from Connemara, abundant on the coast, were a food eaten by the poor. An eminent member of the name was David Robert Muldoon the politician born in New Zealand. He served as an infantryman in World War II. before becoming an accountant. He was elected to parliament, and became deputy Prime Minister. Since 1986 he has been shadow foreign affairs spokesman. When the sparse Irish population began to increase it became necessary to broaden the base of personal identification by moving from single names to a more definite nomenclature. The prefix MAC was given to the father's christian name, or O to that of a grandfather or even earlier ancestor. At first the coat of arms was a practical matter which served a function on the battlefield and in tournaments. With his helmet covering his face and armour encasing the knight from head to foot, the only means of identification for his followers, was the insignia painted on his shield and embroidered on his surcoat, the draped and flowing garment worn over the armour. The associated coat of arms is recorded in O'Hart, Irish Pedigrees.
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