The surname Mulligan translates as ‘O Maolagain = bald / tonsured’ and Milligan O Maoileachain = bald / tonsured’. The two names are associated with the area just north and west of Donegal. "Mulligan comes from the Irish O Maolagain, from a diminutive of maol, literally meaning ‘bald’, and referring to the distinctive tonsure of the early Irish monks. Milligan is another common variant, found most frequently in counties Antrim, Down and Derry.
The Mulligans who are the subject of these pages originated in Co. Cavan, Ireland. Descendants of the family live today in the same area, indeed in the same house, from which the brave sallied forth to start their new lives.
The Mulligan family have been in New Zealand since New Year’s Day, 1874. Their arrival here can only be described as ‘inauspicious’. Their ship, the Surat ran aground on rocks on a stretch of the Otago coast.
Despite this beginning, James and his sister, Margaret, stayed in New Zealand, and began their new lives. They established themselves in Dunedin, in New Zealand's Otago province, and from there their families have spread throughout the country.