This interesting Gaelic surname recorded in the spellings of Garvey, Garvin, Garvine, Garven, Garavin, Garvan, Girvin and Girwin, and with both Mac and O prefixs is of Irish and Scottish origins. It is an anglicized form of the "Gairbhith", a personal name with the elements "garbh", meaning rough or cruel, and a second element "bith", meaning fate or possibly (ill)fortune. Such a translation would suggest that the first nameholder started from a very poor beginning, (cruel fate), but this is probably not so as traditionally Gaelic family names are taken from the heads of tribes, or from some illustrious warrior. In this case we probably have a successful person who came to an unfortunate end! The surname (as Garvie or Garvey) was prominent in the Midlothian area of Scotland, whilst in Ireland it is recorded in the north in the same spellings, but in the south, and particularly Counties Cork and Kerry, as Garvin, Garven, etc. Early recordings include John Garvey (1527 - 1595), the Protestant Archbishop of Armagh, though born in County Kilkenny, whilst Janet Garvie was recorded in Haunchhead of Guthrie, Scotland, in 1613. Dr.Callaghan Garvan or Garvin, was the physician to King James 11 in 1688, and present at the battle of the Boyne in 1690. The surname also became prominent in England, James Garwin (1868 - 1947) being editor of the Observer newspaper, in London. A Coat of Arms granted to the nameholders in 1674, has the blazon of a blue field, three silver garvie fish naissant, the Crest being a hand holding a fish proper, the Motto reads as "Always helping". The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Garwy, which was dated 1512, in the "Rentale Dunkeldense", accounts of the bishopric Edinburgh, during the reign of King James 1V of Scotland, 1488 - 1513. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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