Recorded in many forms including MacKay, McKay, Mackey, MacHugh, Makee, and Makey, this is a surname which can be either Irish or Scottish. It derives from the pre 10th century Old Gaelic name MacAodh, with the prefix "Mac" indicating "son of", plus the personal name "Aodh" meaning "fire". It was originally the name of an early pagan god. Traditionally Gaelic family names are taken from the heads of tribes or from some illustrious warrior, and are usually prefixed. Sometimes in Ireland this is by O', meaning grandson or male descendant of, or in both Scotland and Ireland Mac, as above. The surname is however first recorded in Scotland in the early half of the 14th century (see below). Other early examples taken from early surviving charters include Malachy MacHugh, archbishop of Tuam who is recorded in the Irish Annals of Clonmacnois in 1313. Other later recordings taken from the registers of the diocese of Greater London include Lasabell Maky who married Edmund Harrison at Lincolns Inn Chapel on September 28th 1701, and Richard Makey, a witness at St Mary Whitechapel, Stepney, on April 27th 1836. An interesting namebearer was Archibald McKay (1801 - 1883), poet and topographer, who published "My First Bawbee", a popular poem, in 1828. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Gilchrist M'ay, made payment to the constable of Tarbert, dated 1326. This is in the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, during the reign of King David 11 of Scotland, 1329 - 1371. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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