Fallon Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Fallon Surname Meaning

The Irish surname Fallon or O’Fallon derived from the Gaelic clan name O’Fallanhain, meaning “governor” or “supremacy.” Some have maintained that Fallon was originally pronounced with a long “a” as in “fall.

Fallon Surname Resources on The Internet

Fallon Surname Ancestry

  • from Ireland (Connacht)
  • to England, America, Canada and Australia

Ireland.  Early O’Fallon clan history dates back to the 12th century and their affiliation with the larger O’Connor clan in Connacht. They were initially to be found in county Westmeath before being driven across the Shannon river into Roscommon. John O’Dugan, the 14th century bardic poet, recorded them as the chiefs of clan Uadach.

Roscommon.  Their family seat was at Milltown in Dysart parish where the ruins of the ancestral castle can still be seen. The castle was in place in 1425 and remained a functioning castle until the early 1600’s. The last known clan chief there was Redmond O’Fallon, although Edmond O’Fallon was also mentioned at that time as a burgess or prosperous merchant of Milltown.

The O’Fallons did remain substantial landowners in the area until well into the 19th century. A branch of the family lived at Ballina and Cloonagh in nearby Taghboy parish. Their numbers in the 18th century included the Rev. James O’Fallon, the Bishop of Elphin, and Malachy Fallon who had a reputation for dueling.

Galway.  Fallons were also in Galway. Anthony Fallon was a Catholic in Galway Town who had his property confiscated in 1657. Later a line of Roscommon Fallons moved into eastern Galway. Edmund Fallon was granted land in the neighborhood of Ballinasloe in the 1670’s. His family made their home at Runnamoat. They came into possession of Netterville Lodge through marriage in 1865.

America. Two Irish-born Fallons made their mark on 19th century America as it expanded from its original eastern borders:

  • the first was Dr. James O’Fallon, a surgeon during the Revolutionary War, together with his sons John and Benjamin.
  • and the second was Thomas Fallon who had immigrated with his parents to Canada in the 1830’s.

James O’Fallon made his home in Louisville, Kentucky after the war.  His elder son John moved to St. Louis where he was an army contractor and became, it was said, the wealthiest man in St. Louis. The younger son Benjamin made his name as an Indian agent, working with tribes along the Upper Missouri river. Fallon county in Montana was named after him.

Thomas Fallon was one of the early adventurers of the American West, first in Texas and then in California. Raising a small group of volunteers, he crossed the Santa Cruz mountains in 1846 and captured the town of San Jose. The Fallon House, built there in 1855, stands as a museum today. The Fallon Building in San Francisco, completed in 1894 and surviving the earthquake, had been commissioned by his wife Carmel Fallon.

The peak years for Fallon immigration came around the 1850’s. Celia Fallon came to New York with her seven children in 1847 from Roscommon after her husband had died. They eventually settled in Minnesota. Their story was recounted in Cecil Fallon’s 1968 book The Fallon Family Tree.

Others who came about that time were:

  • James Fallon from Roscommon who came to Boston in 1849 and, four years later, made the voyage via Panama to San Francisco. He settled at a ranch in Marin county.
  • John James Fallon, also from Roscommon, who came in 1852 and made his home in Hoboken, New Jersey. He fought in the Civil War with the Irish Rifles.
  • and Thomas Fallon from Galway who came in the early 1870’s and eventually made his home in Brooklyn. A descendant here is the talk show host Jimmy Fallon.

England.  Many Fallons made their way to England in the 19th century, with Liverpool being often the entry point. One family from Sligo lived a gypsy life in horse-drawn caravans in the north of England.  “The gypsy community still talk of Elizabeth Fallon, known as “Lady Pink,” who decked her caravan in pink silks and was renowned as a fortune-teller and wise woman.”  

Martin Fallon, a surgeon, moved from Dublin to Scotland after World War Two. His son is the former UK Cabinet minister Michael Fallon.

Canada. Dominic Fallon had immigrated to Kingston, Ontario from county Leitrim in the 1850’s. His oldest son Michael was the Catholic Bishop of London, Ontario from 1909 until his death in 1931. He was known for his passionate support for the British Empire.

Another Irish arrival was Luke Fallon from Westmeath who served in the British army and then came to Newfoundland in 1849. He was appointed the Head Constable at Harbour Grace in 1861. Later Fallons of this family were to be found in New Brunswick and in New England.

Australia.  Thomas Fallon from Athlone in West Meath was transported to Sydney on the Fergusson in 1829.  After receiving his conditional pardon he bought land near Camden, NSW and farmed.  His son William had success as a gold miner.

James Fallon, also from Athlone, came to Sydney as a bounty immigrant on the John Renwick in 1841.  He later moved to Albury, NSW where he was the town’s first mayor in 1859.  Two years afterwards he acquired a vineyard and made a success of it, exporting wine around the world.  James died in 1886 but the vineyard continued with the Fallons until the 1930’s.

Jimmy Fallon’s Family Ancestry

Jimmy Fallon, the TV talk show host, has an Irish ancestry, from Fallons who came to Brooklyn in the 1870’s and were there for about a hundred years.  Just click below if you want to read more about this history:

Fallon Surname Miscellany

O’Fallon Clan History.  They were called clan Uadach and some have linked these O’Fallons to the descendants of Uada, close to Lough Derg, and to a 2nd century king of Leinster.

However, the O’Fallons really date from the 12th century and Connacht. They were recorded as one of the twelve chieftains of the Sill Murray who were present at the inauguration of the O’Connors as kings of Connacht.  They allied themselves with their masters the O’Connors against the Anglo-Norman invaders at that time.

Early records show the Fallons as lords of Crionach-nag-Ceadach near Athlone in county Westmeath.  Later they were driven to the other side of the Shannon river and to Dysart parish in Roscommon. Here they were the chiefs of Uadach.

O’Fallon According to O’Dugan.  John O’Dugan was a 14th century bardic poet.  He wrote of the O’Fallons as follows:

  • “The O’Fallons who marched with force
  • Were chiefs of clan Uadach of wine banquets.
  • Men who let their spears decay
  • Of those are the freeborn clans.”

The Fallons and Dueling.  It was recorded in the 18th century that Malachy Fallon of Ballynaghan fought a duel with James Dillon of Oulsen and killed that gentleman.  His son Patrick challenged and fought Lord French.  In this encounter Pat shot first and shot away a button from his adversary’s coat.  Lord French did not shoot and the affair ended, much to the disgust of Malachy who wanted Lord French shot.   Malachy’s grandson James was also a dueler who fought and shot a certain Mr. Bellow.

Malachy Fallon and his descendants were buried at Dysart in Roscommon, three miles from Ballynaghan.

Dr. James O’Fallon in America.  Dr. James O’Fallon left to his descendants a record of his genealogy in Ireland, which stated that he was of Ballina House in Roscommon and that his parents were people of means who could afford to send him to medical school.

He arrived in America after a shipwreck in 1774, just before the outbreak of the Revolutionary War.  Apparently he was very outspoken in his support of the American cause and was imprisoned by the British Governor of North Carolina.  When the war started, he offered his services as a trained surgeon to the Continental Army and took the oath of allegiance under George Washington at Valley Forge.

He had an exemplary war but a murky post-war.  He was apparently involved in shady land title deals along the American’s borders in Spanish Florida and Louisiana. It was said that he was planning an Irish Catholic colony in a land grant he would obtain from Spain along the debatable northern margins of East Florida.

However, respectability came his way when he moved to Kentucky and married Frances, the sister of George Rogers Clark of Kentucky Revolutionary War fame.  They had two sons, John and Benjamin, who were to bring more luster to the O’Fallon name.

Carmel Fallon and the Fallon Building in San Francisco.  Carmel had been married to Army Commander Thomas Fallon who had captured San Jose for the United States in 1846 and later became mayor of that city. But when in 1876 she found her husband in bed with the family maid, she beat the two offenders with an iron poker and promptly divorced her husband.

With her six children Carmel eventually moved to San Francisco and established herself as a single business woman, demonstrating an independence that was rare for a woman of the 19th century.  In 1894, she commissioned the Fallon Building as her new San Francisco family home.  Designed by Edward Goodrich, a San Jose architect, it was trapezoidal in shape to conform to the oddly shaped lot formed by the intersection of Waller, Octavia, and Market streets.

The 1906 earthquake disaster destroyed all but this building on Market Street.   When the smoke had cleared, the Fallon Building marked the edge of the devastation. Family lore has it that Carmel herself had helped keep the flames from taking her home.  She was 79 years old at the time.

The Fallon Building still survives. It was threatened with demolition in 1998, yet managed to find a new life as a community center. 

Reader Feedback – Fallons in Nevada.  I was named for my grandfather Leland Fallon whose father was Michael Fallon. They immigrated from Ireland and settled in Nevada in the late 1800’s. I know Michael had a store, also the post office, on their land (mostly ranches) which was the county seat.  So the town itself was called Fallon and the Naval base NAS Fallon (home of Top Gun, the elite Naval Aerial Combat School) was also named for him.

Leland Fallon (fallon.leland@gmail.com)

Martin Fallon, Dublin Surgeon.  Martin Fallon grew up in Dublin and was appointed Assistant Surgeon at Sir Patrick Dun’s hospital there in the late 1930’s.

He had an adventurous World War Two. He earned an OBE for his part in the Arnhem battle and with partisans in Yugoslavia, becoming Lieutenant-Colonel.   He also had a brief but wide public fame as “the surgeon who removed the bullet from Lord Haw-Haw’s leg.”  Lord Haw-Haw, otherwise known as William Joyce, had a “bullet in the leg” from a gunshot wound incurred while he was resisting arrest in the closing weeks of the War.  He was hanged in early 1946 on the charge of high treason.

After the war Fallon returned to Dublin but later found a career as a chest surgeon in Scotland.  He published a biography of the Dublin surgeon Abraham Colles in 1972.  His son Michael Fallon was a British Conservative MP serving under Cameron as the Secretary of State for Defence.

Reader Feedback – Fallons in Newfoundland.  There is no mention in your website of the Fallons that settled in Newfoundland. All I know is that they lived in Harbour Grace and that my great grandfather was supposedly sheriff (possibly chief constable) of the island for several years. The history of the Newfoundland Fallons is sketchy at best.  I was wondering if you might point me in the right direction that I might discover more about my family history.

Luke Fallon (angryaardvark49@gmail.com)

Fallon Names

  • Padraic Fallon was a 20th century Irish poet and playwright from Athenry in county Galway. 
  • Kieren Fallon from county Clare has been British champion jockey six times. He is widely considered the greatest flat jockey of his generation and perhaps one of the greatest ever. 
  • Jimmy Fallon is an American late-night talk show host who heads up NBC’s Tonight show.

Fallon Numbers Today

  • 5,000 in the UK (most numerous in West Midlands)
  • 5,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 7,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)

Fallon and Like Surnames 

The Irish clan or sept names come through the mists of time until they were found in Irish records such as The Annals of the Four Masters.  The names were Gaelic and this Gaelic order was preserved until it was battered down by the English in the 1600’s.

Some made peace with the English.  “Wild geese” fled to fight abroad.  But most stayed and suffered, losing land and even the use of their language.  Irish names became anglicized, although sometimes in a mishmash of spellings.  Mass emigration happened after the potato famine of the 1840’s.

Some surnames – such as Kelly, Murphy and O’Connor – span all parts of Ireland.  But most will have a territorial focus in one of the four Irish provinces – Leinster, Munster, Ulster, and Connacht.

Connacht in NW Ireland covers the counties of Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim, Galway, and Roscommon.  Here are some of the Connacht surnames that you can check out.



Click here for return to front page

Written by Colin Shelley

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *