Recorded in many spelling forms including MacGillivray, MacGillavery, MacGillivrie, MacGillivry, MacGillvary, MacGillvray, MacGilvary, MacGilvra, the short forms begining 'Mc', and sometimes without the prefix at all especially in Ireland, this is an ancient Scottish clan name. It originates from the pre 10th century Gaelic 'Maolbhrath', which translates as 'The son of the prophet of doom' (!) from the word 'brath' meaning judgement or doom. Most Gaelic clan names descend from the first chief, and these were often 'robust' descriptive nicknames, to the point where it is probable that the original meaning was quite different to the later translations. In this case the clan were first recorded in the 15th century, and they were originally from Argyllshire, where most early recordings are to be found. They were also a branch or sept of the MacLeans of Mull. Early recordings include such examples as Archibald Makillewray, the rector of Ewist in 1535. He is believed to have resigned this post in 1542, when in the spelling of Archibald McIlwray he was appointed chaplain of Ellen in Isla. The Rev. Martin Mcillura, also spelt in different registers as McIlvora, M'Ilvra, and M'Ilwra, (so much for post medieval spelling), was a vicar in Argyllshire between 1625 and 1650, whilst Farquar MacGillvray held the lands of Dunmaglas from 1622. The clan took a prominent part in the '45' in support of 'Bonnie Prince Charlie'. They suffered severe losses at Culloden, where in addition it was reported that their chief was killed was killed at the spot known as 'The well of the Dead.
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