This notable and long-established clan surname, is an Anglicized form of the Old Gaelic "MacNaois", a shortened form of "MacAonghuis", son of Aonghus, a male given name composed of the elements "aon", one, and "ghus", meaning "choice or enterprise". This ancient name was borne by Aonghus Turimleach, one of three Irish brothers, who invaded Scotland in the 3rd Century B.C. It was also the given name of an 8th Century Pictish king, said to be the son of Daghda, the chief god of the Irish, who gave his name to the county (now part of Tayside) called Angus. This great clan originated in Scotland, where the name is variously Anglicized as MacNish, MacNeish, Macknish, MacNess, Mackness and M(a)cNeice. Early examples of recordings include John Dow MacNeische who witnessed a Grantully charter in 1494, and Jonete Macknes, who was a tenant in Drumgy, Menteith, in 1495. The clan once possessed much of the upper part of Stratheam, Perthshire, until they lost it to the Macnabs in a battle fought in the year 1522. The famous Irish etymologist 'Maclysaght, claimed that the clan were a branch of Clan MacGregor, who were outlawed in 1608 for various acts of violence against the state and the neighbouring clans. This may be so, although the Scottish historian Black merely relates that two clan members Donald McNysche and Jon McNysche, followers of the earl of Cassilis were 'respited' for murder in 1526. Apparently not all the clan were so inclined as another recording shows that one James Mackneis was "a venerable and learned man, deserving well of the city" (Glasgow). The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Gilmore Macnesche, which was dated 1376, in "Ancient Charters of the Earldom of Morton", during the reign of King Robert 11 of Scotland, 1371 - 1390. 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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