Friday, 8 November 2013

Surnames in the County of Antrim (pt 2)


A very slight inspection of the printed Roll is sufficient to show that the localization of particular surnames takes two distinct forms. In one case, persons of apparently the same family are widely scattered over a parish, or district, or barony; showing probably that the tie of relationship had drawn some kinsmen into the same general neighbourhood two centuries ago, and that they are represented only in larger numbers by their descendants at the present time. Facts of this kind occur in every newly-settled country, such as New Zealand, New Holland, the United States, and the Canadas.

In other instances, and they are not a few, we find persons who seem to be members of a family densely packed upon the same spot; hardly spreading into the adjoining townland, or not crossing the boundary of the parish. The inference is frequently quite irresistible, that several of these are the descendants of one man, who obtained his section of land in the seventeenth century, which was divided and subdivided as its occupants increased and multiplied. Time will bring to light many such cases in North America, when the township which a single settler has purchased, and called by his name, will be divided into component squares, appearing on the map (as the counties and townships now do in the United States) like the checks of a chess-board.

The following are examples of the second principle. There are seven families in the list of the name Gibson, of whom five are found in one townland, Ballynalough, in Templepatrick. The Gilmores amount to but five in all, and, therefore, do not appear on the map; but they occur without exception exclusively in Lower Malone. McKee is found in Templecorran, in the districts of Forthill and Blackhill; and Eslar, a rare and peculiar name, has its centre not only in Ballyclug, but in the large and "hungry" townland of Cross. The Gordons, from Scotland, are all found, not only in Racavan, but in Drumlekney, a constituent part of it; and the Nelsons, from England, all find their homes in Rory's Glen, in the parish of Carncastle. Knowles is found in Feenagh of Ahoghill; and Telford in Ballykennedy, (near Ballymena,) better known, from the Moravian village, as Gracehill. The Loves appear to have named a townland from themselves, a little "Agapomene" of their own; it is Love's Corkey, in the parish of Loughguile. The Cochranes are found in Loughanlinch, a part of Billy, near the Giants' Causeway; and the Forsythes in Rosedernott, a townland of Dunaghy, comprising only thirty families in all. Finally, the rare surname Gaston occurs in considerable numbers in Killycowan, a townland of Rasharkin.

The examples of wider distribution are very numerous, and they present from time to time interesting peculiarities. The names of this class, however, like those of the previous one, have been concentrated in the parishes where they predominate, especially as it would have been both unwise and impossible to follow the more minute subdivisions.

The English name Hull, (or as it is pronounced, "Hool,") lies within very narrow limits, being found almost exclusively in the townland and parish of Magheramesk. The Connors have for their maximum limits the parishes of Magheragall and Ballinderry; and they exist there in such numbers and proximity that distinctive epithets are necessary in conversational intercourse. The following epigram, having reference to them, is well known:--
               "There's tory Tom. and honest Tom,
                    And Tom of Aghalee;
               Yet tory Tom's the honestest
                    Of the whole three."

The name is pronounced Connior or Conyer, probably from the predisposition which Irish speaking gives to the organs; such names as McDonnell being occasionally pronounced McDoniel. The Peels of the same district were fond of the family name Mark. There was therefore red Mark, with white Mark, black Mark, and "cappy" Mark. This last gentleman seldom wore a hat.

The Biggars are Scotch in origin, deriving their name from a well known parish in North Britain. They are found in the barony of Lower Belfast, and also in commercial life in the town of Belfast. But, in the north-west part of the county, another family is found, similarly concentrated, and possibly of the same origin. In the latter case, however, the name is, without exception, spelled Biggart.

There are several distinct colonies of Moores, one apparently a remnant of the English settlement on the north coast, and another in Ballinderry. The ancestors, in the latter case, were connected with the lords Conway; they preserve to this hour the traditions of their former home, near the Severn and Avon; and some of them were extensively occupied, during last century, in the manufacture of cider. One venerable member, Mr. William Moore of Portmore, has now completed his ninetieth year. His grandfather resided with Lord Conway in the Castle; and he still possesses some of the furniture of his ancestor's apartments.

The Turtles form a respectable and numerous body to the south of Upper Massareene. The position which they occupy is not very far removed from that of the old tribe named the Hy Tuirtre, on the mediaeval maps of the district; and it is worth inquiring whether they be not Anglicised in name and religion, from the Irish sept. I have no information on the subject, but the name and locality are suggestive. O'Neill is still a prevalent name in the neighbourhood of Shane's Castle, though the representative of the family name has been called to his long rest.

The McStravicks are found in Derrymore, part of Aghagallon, and nowhere else, a district formerly occupied by the Danes. Irish in lineage and name, they occupied "the great oak wood" in a district of bog. They are too few in number to obtain insertion on the map. So also are the Chisms, evidently cadets of the Highland Chisholms, which a proverb well known round the Murray Firth alleges to be one of the twoi oldest of the Highland clans.

Some of the transformations which names undergo are so peculiar as to require a special notice. From what we know of several English words, which almost make the circuit of all our vowel sounds without losing their identity,k we are prepared for changes of vowels. Thus, Herbison and Harbison are related like merchant and marchand; Backet, Beeket, and Bickett, occur in the same townlands of Upper Dunluce; and Gillan, Gillen, Gillin, are all found. McIvor, and its cognate form, MacKeever, constitute an example of the same kind; and the three forms, Walsh, Welsh, Welch, exemplify changes both in vowels and consonants.

The changes of consonants are extremely interesting, following the labials, dentals, palatals, gutturals, liquids, sibilants, &c.; and frequently dropping the gutturals entirely, which the pure Englishman is unable to utter. Thus, Wodrow, or Woodrow, becomes Withcrow, through the change of d to th; and Lauder becomes Lawther, or Leather. Through the interchange of v and w (with that of vowels, of course, at the same time), Ervin, Erwin, Irvine, Irwin, and Errin, are all the same. Through the delicate sounding of t (a provincialism which in the neighbourhood of Dublin sometimes converts butter into busser) Watson and Wassen are identical. The MacKinnons of Skye, -- one of whom used to relate, about 1800, his embarrassment at donning his first pair of trowsers, in Blaris, after his escape in 1745, -- are found also in Antrim. In addition to their proper name, however, they bear that of McKennan, McCannon, McKenna, and Kenna. The O'Cahan's, formerly very prevalent about Coleraine, have softened their name into O'Kane, Cain, and Kane; while Mahoney becomes Money, and Mooney, just as the duellist of the last century, Lord Mahon, was called Moon. McLagherty becomes McLaverty, McClarty, Laverty, and Lavery; Dod assumes the forms Dodd, Dodds, Douds, Dowds, and perhaps others. Smyrll, or Smirl, becomes Smurl, and in two syllables Smyrrel.

At the southern limit of the county we have a specimen of the origination of surnames. The Laverys, on the Lagan side, near Moira, were separated into the fair and the ruddy, according to complexion, until the distinguishing epithet became the surname, and the original surname was lost. Thus, "red" Hugh Lavery became Hughie Roe; and "fair" Molly was known only as Molly Bawn.l The members of the present generation are known by these second surnames respectively, and by no others. In the process of Anglicising, the word which approximates nearestm in sound is frequently adopted, without much, or indeed any, regard to meaning. It is in this way that the Scotch MacConochie becomes the English McConkey, and the Irish MacGurnahan becomes the Scottish Gordon! The names Dumphy and Granny, occur in the county; but, in all probability, they are nicknames, which, by their general adoption, have resulted in surnames.

It is not necessary at present to track each family back to their primitive haunt, though that would be an operation of great interest. As might be expected, the east Border clans appear in very small numbers; the name Douglas, which took the lead, being scarcely known. Nor do we find those of the west Border in the abundance which we might reasonably expect, namely, the Scotts, Elliots, Armstrongs, &c. The Jamiesons, Jardines, and Christians are also few in number. The border clan Graham, which comprehended Montrose, Dundee, and others among the most brilliant of the Scottish cavaliers, was also celebrated for its propensity to plunder, most impartially, both English and Scotch. A few who were transported after the manner of the olden time, -- before offenders were sent, as Burns says, to "herd the buckskin kye for't in Virginia," -- landed below Bangor in Down; and there their name in an altered form still remains in the name of a village, Grooms-port.

A large number of the townships in England have given origin to family surnames; and the farms and villages of Scotland have produced the same effect. The more prominent of these are well known, as Hull, Preston, Glasgow, Moffat, Peebles, Wakefield, Chester, &c, all of which are surnames; but it is only by examining a list of townships, or inspecting a map on a large scale, that we can see how general this law of formation is. Some names such as Dick or Dickey show that they are Scotch; Emerson is from the County of Durham; Archer is from Berwick-on-Tweed, on the borders of the district where the long-bows flourished; and both Getty and MacAdam are derived from the south-west of Scotland, the former from Wigton, and the latter from Kirkcudbright. Hogshead occurs in the county Roll; but probably it and Hawksett are both only audible varieties of Hawkshead, a village in the north of Lancashire. The many changes and the few coincidences will be seen by comparing a map of the mediaeval period and the era preceding the settlement of Ulster with the one which represents the present time. The three great elements of population not only take their respective districts; but some of the older fragments of the broken up strata are still found in situ.


The following table is designed to facilitate a reference to the Map. Every name which is there laid down will be found here in alphabetical order, with the Baronies indicated in which the name appears. The figure 1 denotes that the name is printed in that Barony in small capitals, and occurs there with the greatest degree of frequency. The figures 2, 3, 4, indicate block type, Roman letter, and Italics respectively, which represent certain distinctions already explained. The numbers prefixed to the names show the order of frequency in the whole County. For example, Adams is 42nd in order, or there are 41 which occur more frequently: Agnew is 73rd, and Aikin 96th.

If the present attempt to elucidate the ethnology of the district be favourably received, I may, at some convenient opportunity, analyse the names in the County of Down in a similar way. But as the operation is in a great degree mechanical, requiring only great patience and absolute accuracy, it might be performed by some other hand, especially as a plan has here been laid down. In like manner, it might be accomplished for other counties; and if we had a complete set of such ethnological maps for Ulster, (or one large one for the whole,) new and beautiful relations would be discovered of which at present we have no idea. A couple of contour lines, showing the bogs and marshes on the one hand, and the elevations of 400 feet on the other, would no doubt enclose between them and within them whole classes of names which could easily be accounted for historically. Whether anything of the kind be ever executed or not, I trust that the present attempt will be found both instructive and suggestive.


42 Adams, 3 4
73 Agnew, 4 4 2
96 Aikin, 4
40 Alexander, 2 4 4
83 Allen, 3 4
25 Anderson, 3 4 4
62 Armstrong, 4 3
116 Barclay, 4
148 Barron, 4
10 Bell, 3 2 3 1 4
176 Belshaw, 4
97 Beggs, 4
117 Biggart, 4
117 Bigger, 4
22 Black, 1 2
32 Blair, 4 2 2
9 Brown, 2 2 4 3 3 3
6 Boyd, 3 3 1 1 3 4 4
99 Bryson, 2
159 Butler 4
171 Bunting, 4
11 Campbell, 2 4 4 3 4
49 Carson, 4 4 3
138 Chestnut, 4
118 Christie, 4
146 Coates, 2
124 Cochrane, 3
131 Connolly, 4
112 Connor, 3
21 Craig, 3 3 3 3
13 Crawford, 4 2 2 4 4
68 Cunningham, 4
160 Cupples, 4
59 Currie, 4 3 4
41 Davidson, 3 3
126 Delargy, 3
164 Donnelly, 4
36 Dunlop, 4 2 4
132 Erskine, 4
93 Eslar, 2
172 Falloon, 4
24 Ferguson, 1 2 4
149 Ferris, 4
140 Forsythe, 4
109 Fullerton, 4
71 Fulton, 4
151 Gait, 4
95 Gaston, 2
88 Getty, 2
177 Given, 4
101 Gibson, 4
141 Gillin, 3
75 Gordon, 3
27 Graham, 3 4 4 4
74 Green, 2
85 Hall, 2
30 Hamill, 3 3
43 Hamilton, 4 3
50 Hanna, 4
69 Henry, 3 4
155 Herbison, 3
107 Higginson, 2
20 Hill, 2 1 4
173 Hopkins, 4
60 Houston, 4
110 Huey, 4 4
153 Hull, 4
15 Hunter, 2 3 2 4 4
44 Jamieson 4 4
7 Johnson, 2 4 2 1 4 4
55 Kane, 4 2
67 Kelly, 4
19 Kennedy, 4 3 4 3
142 Kernahan, 4
37 Kerr, 4 2
23 Kilpatrick, 2 4
174 Kirkwood, 4
120 Knowles, 4
51 Knox, 2
157 Larmour, 3
90 Laverty, 4
133 Lavery, 3
165 Lawther, 4
175 Livingstone, 4
166 Love, 4
119 Magee, 4
70 Magill, 4
161 Mairs, 3
33 Martin, 4 4
181 Megarry, 4
18 Miller, 4 4 2 4
45 Montgomery, 3 4
76 Mooney, 4 4
5 Moore, 3 2 2 2 1 4 4
102 Morrow, 4
91 Mulholland, 4
134 Mulvenna, 3
69 *Murphy, 3
77 Murray, 4
14 McAlister, 1 2 2
16 *McAuley, 2 1
28 McBride, 2 1
63 McCambridge: 2 2
105 McCaw, 4
127 McClelland, 4
80 M'Clure, 2
53 McConaghy, 1 3
86 McConnell, 4 4
38 McCormick, 1
182 McCorry, 4
52 McCullough, 2 4
121 M'Cann, 2
81 McCaughan, 1
33 *McCurdy, 1 3
56 McDonnell, 4
48 McDowell, 1 3
180 McFarland, 4
143 McFerran 4
183 McIlhatton, 4
84 McIlroy, 4
34 McKay, 1 4
98 McKee, 4
39 McKendry, 1 4 4
46 McKeown, 2
82 McKinlay, 2
144 McKinstry, 4
145 McLaine, 3
57 McLaughlin, 3 4
8 McMullan, 1 3 4
167 McMurtry, 3
106 McNeice, 4 4
168 McNeight, 4
12 McNeill, 3 1 2
162 McKinney, 4
129 Neeson, 4
94 Neill, 3
61 Nelson, 4 3 4
128 Nevin, 3
169 McNicholl, 4
150 O'Boyle, 3
78 O'Hara, 4
26 O'Neill, 2 3
47 Orr, 4
89 Owens, 2
35 Patterson, 4 4 3
154 Peel, 3
156 Phillips, 4
123 Pinkerton, 2
137 Price, 4
130 Rabb, 2
111 Rainey, 4
135 Rankin, 4
72 Rea, 4 4
122 Redmond, 3
31 Reid, 2 3
16 Robinson, 4 4 4 3
64 Ross, 4
113 Scally, 3
115 Sharpe, 2
103 Shaw, 4
65 Simpson, 3
92 Sloane, 4
158 Small, 4
4 Smith, 2 4 2 2 4 3 4 4 2
79 Steele, 3
3 Stewart, 1 4 1 2 1 3 2 2
163 Suffern, 4
58 Taylor, 3
147 Telford, 3
136 Templeton, 4
1 Thompson, 1 3 1 2 2 2 1 2
87 Todd, 4
114 Turtle, 2
135 *Tweed, 3
54 Walker, 3
17 Wallace, 3 4 3 2
152 Warwick, 4
170 Watters, 3
108 Watson, 2
100 Weir, 4
29 White, 2 4 3
2 Wilson, 2 1 1 3 4 4 2 1
139 Woods, 4
104 Woodside, 4
125 Wright, 4
66 Young, 4

* P.S. -- In affixing the numbers which indicate the order of frequency, two or three names were overlooked. They were afterwards numbered at their respective places in the series, and an Asterisk was added.

[i] There are only four The's in the Highlands: The Chisholm, The Mackintosh, The Devil, and The Pope. It is like the Irish proverb, "the Pope, the Devil, the O'Connor Don."

[k] As band, bend, bind, bond, bound.

[l] See the ballad preserved in Jamieson's Songs and Ballads, vol. i., p. 194.

[m] A similar change takes place in Geographical names. Thus, when some Welsh ship-owners wished to Anglicise Abermaw, they stepped from the pronunciation "Aber-mow." which formed a sort of middle term, to the English "Bar-mouth."

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