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Though the surname Lawless is formed from the Old English word laghles meaning an outlaw, it may, as far as Ireland is concerned, be regarded as falling in the Anglo Norman category. Outlawe was itself a not uncommon surname in Ireland in the middle ages, e.g. Roger Outlawe, prior of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem in 1337, and Henry Outlawe, sovereign of Kilkenny in 1312. The best known family of Lawless is that of Cloncurry, Co. Kildare, originally of Herts., England. Nicholas Lawless, who conformed in 1770, was created Lord Cloncurry in 1789. Hon. Emily Lawless (1845-1913), Irish novelist and poet, was his great-great-grand-daughter. some families of the name were established near Dublin soon after the Anglo-Norman invasion, branches of which migrated to Counties Galway and Mayo. From soon after the invasion the name (written Laweles, Laghles, Lachles, Laules, etc). appears frequently in mediaeval records up to the end of the sixteenth century throughout Leinster and Munster, particularly in Co. Kilkenny. One branch settled in the city of Kilkenny in the fourteenth century: Walter Lawless was mayor of Dublin, his family being landowners at Cabra and elsewhere near the city. Petty's "census" of 1659 indicates that in the seventeenth century they were fairly numerous in Co. Kilkenny and the Dublin area. They were nearly all staunch Jacobites and among the exiles after 1691 was Patrick Lawless who became Spanish Ambassador to London in 17136 and afterwards to Louis XIV of France. Dublin is one of the places where the name is chiefly found today. The other is Co. Mayo. As early as 1285 Thomas Laghles was Constable of Connacht, and about the that time Sir William Lawless obtained from the Barrets a considerable tract of country in and near the parish of Killala (Co. Mayo). William Lawless (1772-1824), a professor of Anatomy, was outlawed as a member of the United Irishmen organization and later became a distinguished general in Napoleon's army. Mention should also be made of Valentine Lawless, 2nd Baron Cloncurry (1773-1852) who was a member of the United Irishmen in 1798 and a protagonist of Catholic Emancipation.
Mount Lawless in Australia is named after the Irish family which was one of the great pastoral pioneers of Queensland in the 1840's
The name Lillis, of Counties Cork and Limerick is the same in origin as Lawless, of which it is a local variant.