The surname Ruane comes from the old Gaelic Ó Ruadain, meaning the descendant of the red one, originally derived from the Gaelic ruadh. The pre-medieval clan stems from Ui Maine, an ancient territory that was made up of mid-Galway and South Roscommon, and Ui FIachrach, an ancient area of Mayo, Sligo, and Southern Galway. The name, variously recorded as Rowan, Ruan, O’Rowan, O’Ruan, Rogan, O’Rogan, Ryan, and Rouine, is eminent in the West of Ireland, specifically of Counties Cork, Kerry, Galway, Clare, and Limerick. Those of the O Ruadhain name range from notable mathematicians and officers to emigrants from the Famine.

The first recorded spelling was that of Felix O’Ruadhain, the Archbishop of Tuam, County Galway in the “Register of the Irish Prelates in the Vatican” during the reign of King John of England in 1215.
The O’Rowans of County Mayo are described in the Irish Annals as “People of property and importance in the barony of Gallen,” and in Petty’s 1659 “Census” of all Ireland the name is prominent among the nobility of Bunratty and East Carbery of Clare and Cork.

Many Rowans have been recognized for their dedication to Ireland and their contributions to the country. Archibald Hamilton Rowan (1751-1834) is famous for his advocacy for Irish liberty as the founding Secretary of The Dublin Society of United Irishmen. Rowan was arrested and fined during his life due to his political activities. His speeches and autobiography have been published.

A relative of Archibald Hamilton Rowan was Sir William Rowan Hamilton (1805-1855). Sir William dedicated his life to studying and mastering the sciences. He was a mathematician, astronomer, and physicist, and made important offerings in the fields of algebra, mechanics, and optics. One of his most notable contributions was the reformulation of Newtonian mechanics, now known as Hamiltonian mechanics. His studies centered around modern theories of electromagnetism and the development of quantum mechanics. 

Another famous Rowan was Arthur Blennerhasset (1800-1861), an antiquarian writer from Tralee, Kerry. He received his B.A., M.A., B.D., and D.D. at Trinity College. He toured the continent of Europe and published records of his travels. He dedicated much of his time to the antiquaries of the South of Ireland and founded and edited the Kerry Magazine, which dealt with local history and antiquities.

Other Rowans have made their mark through the military. Charles Rowan (1782-1852) was born in County Antrim and served in many wars before he was appointed Commanding Officer and Commissioner of Police of Metropolis, head of the London Metropolitan Police. Charles and the other commissioner were able to recruit, train, and deploy a force of nearly one thousand men in twelve weeks. His military expertise and dedication was acknowledged when he was made a Knight Commander of Bath.

Caitríona Ruane was born in County Mayo in 1962 and has been a Sinn Fein politician and a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly for South Down. She is a former professional tennis player, and once represented Ireland in the Fed Cup.

Frances P. Ruane is the director of the Economic and Social Research Institute in Dublin. Frances has contributed to the understanding of international economics and industrial development, and is on numerous boards and committees focusing on higher education and economics.

Martin Ruane’s (1946-1998) family originated from County Mayo before moving to London. Ruane, a professional wrestler, was best known by his ring name of Giant Haystacks and his impressive height of 6 ft. 11.

William J. Ruane (1925-2005) was a notable Wall Street investment manager and philanthropist. He founded his own investment firm, Ruane Cunniff, and launched their flagship, Sequoia Fund, which has been one of the top performing mutual funds. He adopted a block in Harlem, NY, committed to making it a better community. 

Another important figure in the world of finance is Brian Ruane. CEO of BNY Mellon’s Alternative and Broker-Dealer Services, he has played a major role in managing BNY Mellon’s outstanding growth and is a driving force in the continuing expansion of the Alternative Investments industry. He is a member of The Advisory Board of the UCD Smurfit Graduate School of Business in Dublin. This year he is Irish America’s keynote speaker for the Wall Street 50.

The Ruane family crest is green and yellow with a center of crosses representing the strength and power of this important clan. The elaborate intertwining of the two colors shows unity. The motto of “creso per crucem” means “I grow through the cross.”