This ancient surname is of early Gaelic origins. Recorded in many spellings as shown below, it is derived from the Scottish 'Macbeth, meaning 'son of life', or 'man of religion', which hardly fits in with Shakespeares interpretation! Today the name is quite numerous in North East Ulster and it is found in a wide variety of spellings which include McVeigh, MacVaugh, MacVagh, McVaugh, McVey, MacBay, MacBey, McBay, McBey and others. However its probable place of origin was in the Scottish Islands of Mull and Islay where in the medieval times it is believed that the Clan were the hereditary physicians to the region. They were also, it is said, great historians, and collectors of ancient manuscripts. The recordings include Father Patrick Macabeath (1541), Bishop of Armagh, Ireland, whilst John McVeigh was a prominent rebel in the 1798 rebellion of Ireland and was executed at Baltinglass. Church recordings include the following examples, Leiticia McVeagh who married Thomas Gordon on the April 1st 1785, at Edinburgh Parish, Edinburgh, whilst Anna McBey, aged 25, is recorded as being a 'Famine Emigrant' who sailed on the ship 'Manchester' from Belfast to New York, on September 25th 1846. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John Macvay, which was dated 1504, in the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, 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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