Scully Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Scully Meaning
The Irish surname Scully is an
anglicized version of the Old Gaelic patronym O’Scolaidhe.  This name was derived
from either s
colaide, meaning “town crier,” or from scolaire meaning “student.

Scully Resources on

Scully Ancestry

IrelandThe Scullys were originally
a Leinster sept first found in Westmeath.  The first recorded
spelling of
family name was O’ Scolaidhe, dated
around 1100 in the Ancient Records of

However, at the time of the Anglo-Norman invasion in 1172, they
had their lands confiscated and they were driven south and west into
Munster.  A branch of the family did
manage to retain its lands near Dublin until 1256 when the property of
O’Scully passed into church hands.

The four main counties where they went,
according to Griffith’s
in the mid-19th century, were:

  • Offaly
  • Laois (15%)
  • Tipperary (11%)
  • and Cork (17%).

One Scully branch settled at Lorrha in north
Tipperary where they became erenaghs of the church at St. Ruan.  It was no doubt an offshoot which gave its
name to Ballyscully, a place on the other side of the Shannon. Another branch settled near Cashel in south
Tipperary in the 17th century. 
This family gave their name to Scully’s Cross, an
memorial near the Rock of Cashel where the Scullys had the privilege of

The most notable Scully family in Tipperary was
descended from two Scully brothers, Darby and Roger, who arrived there
Offaly in the 1660’s after the Restoration of Charles II.

Based in their family
home at Kilfeacle, they became major Catholic landowners in the area.  A later Darby Scully who died in 1807 was
described as “a
man of the purest integrity
and most unblemished character.”  He
like others in his family was buried by the Rock of Cashel.

James Scully founded
the Bank of Tipperary in the early 1800’s.
His son Denis was a political writer and Catholic advocate and
son Vincent a well-known Irish politician and writer.
Another son William became a big landowner in
the American Midwest.  However, Denis’s eldest son James Scully was murdered in
1843, probably by a tenant he had

England.  Scullys left Ireland for
England because
there were jobs there.  Their main
destinations were Liverpool and other towns in Lancashire, followed by

James Scully from Dublin came to London as a young man in 1925 and
work as a laborer.  At the outbreak of
war he joined the Pioneer Corps.  In 1941
he was awarded the George Cross for
the valor he
displayed in Liverpool
in rescuing people from a bomb-damaged building.

in Liverpool had generally got submerged in the
working-class culture there.  Scully
was an early work from the 1970’s
of the writer Alan Bleasdale.  Scully
here was a 15 year-old Scouser named Franny
Scully who dreamt of becoming a football striker for Liverpool.

America.  Some early
Scullys may not have been Scullys.  John
and Denis Sullivan left Cork for America in 1803 and, for some reason,
the Scully surname.  The two brothers
settled in Pennsylvania, John farming in Allegheny county and Denis
himself in iron and glassworks in Pittsburgh.

  • John’s
    grandson John became President of the Diamond National Bank and
    his great grandson Cornelius was mayor of Pittsburgh from 1938 to 1946.
  • while
    Denis’s great grand-daughter Margaret
    a published poet, local historian, and an active participant in many
    organizations during the 1930’s. 

was without doubt a
Scully.  Indeed he came from the Scully
landowners in Tipperary.  In 1850 he set
off for the Midwest with the objective of buying land there.  From his base in Logan county, Illinois, he
ended up by 1900 owning more than 200,000 acres in Illinois, Kansas,
and Nebraska.

Although William himself was generally an absentee landlord (he
never became a US citizen), his descendants – his son Michael and
Peter – based themselves in Illinois and were noted for their

Scullys who came were escaping the potato famine in Ireland, such as:

  • James and Catherine Scully who came with
    their six children in 1852.  They settled
    in Brooklyn.
  • Martin and Jane Scully from Laois who arrived with their
    children in 1854.  They made their home
    in Middletown, Connecticut.
  • while Patrick and
    Julia Scully arrived in South Amboy, New Jersey sometime in the 1860’s.  Their son Thomas, who lived all his life
    there, rose to be the mayor of South Amboy and a US Congressman.

Canada.  Denys Scully left Tipperary for Canada in 1899, making his home in Calgary in the West.

South Africa.  John Scully from Cashel in Tipperary brought
his family to South Africa in 1867 and they
settled on a farm near King William’s Town.
Their son William tried his luck in the goldfields, but without
success.  In
1876 he began a long career with the civil service in Cape
Colony.  During this time he made his
mark as a writer. He
is one of South Africa’s best-known authors, if little
known outside
South Africa.

Australia and New ZealandPatrick Scully from Kilkenny came to Victoria with his
family on the Matoaka in 1854 as assisted
passengers.  They made their home in
the Galway emigrants to South Island, New Zealand was William Scully who made the
journey to Otago in 1861.  He and his wife
Annie started their farm on
the Southland plains near Invercargill.


Scully Miscellany


Scully Irish Distribution in Griffith’s Valuation

County Numbers
Offaly (King’s)    104
Laios (Qieen’s)    120
Tipperary     88
Cork    134
Elsewhere    334
Total    780

The Murder of James Scully.  James was the eldest son of Denis Scully of Kilfeacle in Tipperary.  On one
day in November 1843 James, thirty-three at the time, was out shooting
with his younger brother Rody in a field a quarter mile from his home.  As rain was falling Rody returned to the

However, there was no sign of James.
After the elapse of several hours, the alarm was raised.  On a search being made, James Scully was
discovered lying quite dead.  There was a
large orifice in his left side where some slugs had entered and his
head had
been terribly beaten and mutilated with stones.

It was supposed that when he had
fired at the ducks, the assassins – watching their opportunity – had
rushed at
him and committed the murder.

A disgruntled tenant was suspected.  Eighteen
months earlier, after James Scully
had evicted thirty tenants, he was fired at and wounded in the jaw.  Two men were arrested, but were then released
there was no evidence against them.    In
this case suspicion fell on Philip Griffith – whose family was being
from their Little Mantlehill farm – and he was arrested.
But again evidence against him was lacking.

William Scully in the American Midwest.  William Scully
was from an Irish land-owning dynasty in Tipperary.
According to a story published in the Chicago
in 1990, he had
inherited some land in Ireland.  However,
not being the first son, he set out for Illinois in 1850 at the age of
twenty-nine in order to seek his fortune.  He planned to do so by
acquiring land that was then regarded as
untillable swampland.

Trained in Ireland’s marshy farm fields, he knew that
American lands could be drained and tamed.
His initial purchases were for military land warrants that were
issued to Mexican war veterans and were assignable.
By mid-1851 he owned about 28,000 acres in Logan county,
Illinois.  And he continued buying, large parcels of up to 4,000 acres between St.
Louis and Chicago, figuring that someday the railroad would go through
land and bring wealth with it.

With teams of rugged field hands, he drained what
others derided as ‘the Scully swamp,’ fashioning an elaborate system of
and tiles still in place.  The railroad
followed and his fortune was made.

William eventually owned more than 200,000
acres in Illinois, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.  That
was almost a hundred times his family’s
landholdings in his native Tipperary!  He
would rent his property out to Scandinavian and German tenants.  He liked them because
they drank little and were cooperative with each other – these being
two of his
“rules” for his tenants.

By 1900 some fifteen hundred tenants farmed
his holdings.  Was he a good
landlord?  One historian thinks not.

frontier landlord in the entire country caused as much unrest among his
and was the object of as much ill-feeling as William Scully.”

His story was recounted in Paul Beaver’s 1964
book William Scully and the Scully

Reader Feedback – Scullys in Canada.  My ancestry is as follows:   Vincent James Scully (1810-1871) who had the Scully cross on the Rock of Cashel erected begat Vincent Scully (1846-1927).  Vincent Scully (1846-1927) begat Denys Vincent Arthur Scully (1873-1958).   Denys Vincent Arthur Scully (1873-1958) begat Denys Gilbert St. John Scully (1906-1992).  Denys Gilbert St. John Scully begat Arthur Vincent Scully (1930-2006).

Our branch in Canada began when my great grandfather – Denys Vincent Arthur Scully – moved to the Calgary, Alberta area in 1899.  I have done quite a bit of research and would be pleased to pass on further information about our Canadian family as I have come to know it.

On another note, I have recently begun spearheading a project to restore the broken “Scully Cross” on the famed Rock of Cashel.  Fund raising is my main hurdle at this point.

Denys A. Scully (

William Scully from Galway to New Zealand.  In 1856 William Cavanagh from Galway was probably
the first Irish Catholic to arrive in Otago on South Island under the
of the provincially-funded immigration.
Once in Otago he wasted little time in nominating his friends
relatives back in Galway for similar assistance.  In
1857 five young immigrants from Galway
arrived in Port Chalmers on the George
and every year thereafter their numbers steadily increased.

This was
the point at which Otago’s de facto discrimination against Irish
broke down.  To save money on recruitment
efforts the authorities had always allowed migrants already in Otago
(who were
assumed to pass all the character requirements since they were actually
in the
place) to recommend or ‘nominate’ people they knew at home for

William Scully had come to Otago from Galway by 1861.  In August of that year his name was listed
among the first 6,000 men to take up miners’ rights at Gabriel’s Gully
in the
new Tuapeka goldfield.

Like many of the
early Galway arrivals William moved southwards after his stint at the
goldfields ended.  There was cheap land
available on the Southland plains around Invercargill for those
prepared to
take on the swamps and bush that covered it.
Galway men were active pioneers, combining sawmilling and
laboring with
the back-breaking work of felling the trees and draining the land to
small farms.

The year 1864 saw the arrival of William’s younger
brother Thomas
and of Annie Finnerty from Galway whom William was to marry later that
year.  Neither William nor Annie nor
their witnesses were able to sign their names on the marriage register.  Annie in fact was known to have been a Gaelic
speaker all her life.

Dana Scully’s History.  Mulder and
Scully were the hero and heroine of the American TV series The
which dealt with the supernatural.  This
aired between 1993 and 2002 and was
followed by a subsequent feature film and a revival of the series in
2016.  The fictional character Dana Scully
played by Gillian Anderson.  In contrast
to Mulder’s credulous “believer” character, Scully was the skeptic,
choosing to base her beliefs on what science could prove.

fictional Dana Scully was given a history.
She was born in 1964 in Annapolis, Maryland to William and
Scully and into a close-knit Catholic family with Irish
ancestry.  She
had an older brother Bill, an older sister Melissa, and a younger

Dana’s father was a navy captain who died of a heart
attack in
1994.  Dana grew up in Annapolis and
later in San Diego.   She
the University of Maryland and in 1986 received a degree in
physics.  Just out of medical school at
University, she was recruited by the FBI.

In 2002 Scully left government employment and in
2008 she began working as a surgeon in Our Lady of Sorrows,
private Catholic hospital.  She stayed there for seven years, before rejoining the FBI.


Scully Names

  • Darby and Roger Scully were the progenitors
    of the Scully landowning family in Tipperary. 
  • William Scully became the largest private landowner in the
    American West, owning more than 200,000 acres in Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska by the year 1900. 
  • Vincent Scully, Professor at Yale University, has been called “the most influential architecture teacher ever.“  He died in
    2017 at the age of ninety-seven. 
  • Vin Scully was the broadcaster for the Dodgers baseball team, first in Brooklyn and then in Los Angeles, for a record sixty-seven years between 1950 and 2016. 
  • John Sculley is an American businessman and high-tech entrepreneur who has held
    senior positions in Pepsi-Cola and in Apple.   
  • Dana Scully was the fictional heroine of
    the American TV series about the supernatural which was called The X-Files and ran in the 1990’s

Select Scully Numbers Today

  • 4,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lancashire)
  • 4,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 7,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Ireland)


Select Scully 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.

Leinster in SE Ireland covers the counties of Carlow, Dublin, Kilkenny, Offaly, Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, West Meath, Wexford, and Wicklow.  Here are some of the Leinster surnames that you can check out.



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