McQuillan and MacQuillan are surnames of Irish and Scottish origin. There are several unrelated origins of the surnames McQuillan and MacQuillan.
The Ulster variant of the surname was claimed to be an anglicisation of the Gaelic Mac Uighilín (son of Hugelin), the name allegedly adopted by the family of Hugelin de Mandeville. The de Mandevilles were a Cambro-Norman family and had conquered an area of north Antrim.
In reality the de Mandevilles sold their estates in northern Antrim to the McQuillans by the 1460s. The McQuillans had originally come to Ulster from southwestern Scotland to aid the earls of Ulster as mercenaries. Both families had previously held the office of "constable of the bonnaght" for the Earldom of Ulster—a system adopted from the Irish where mercenaries where hired to act as a body of standing troops. The McQuillans renamed the lands they acquired "the Route", derived from their "rout", a common term then for a private army.
These McQuillans played a large role in the history of County Antrim. They are the previous owners of Dunluce Castle, located in the north of County Antrim.
The surname can also originate as an anglicisation of the Gaelic Mac Cuilinn, a patronymic form of a name derived from cuileann ("holly"). The surname can also originate from as an anglicisation of the Irish Gaelic Mac Coilín and Scottish Gaelic Mac Cailein, patronymic forms of the names Coilín and Cailean respectively.
By Dean Hanley
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