Recorded as McAvey, McAviy, McAvoy, McEvoy, McEabuoy, MacGilloway, McElwee, MacVeagh and others, this is an Irish surname of great antiquity. It derives from the pre 10th century Gaelic Mac giolla Bhuidhe meaning the son of the follower of the fair haired one! The faired haired one being almost certainly a Norseman, is clear evidence that this was a clan which if not Norse in origin, were supporters of the Norse -Vikings during their occupation of Ireland in the 9th to 11th centuries. However it is also claimed that at least some nameholders had a different origin arising from Mac Fhiodhbhuidhe. This means the son of the woodman. Traditionally Irish family names are taken from some illustrious warrior, and it seems odd that some of them preferred to be lead by a woodman! The clan together with the Lawlors, O' Dowlings, O' Dorans, O' Dempseys, O' Brophys, and the O' Deegans were one of the principal septs of County Laois, and their chiefs were the lords of Mountrath and Raheen in that county. They also held the barony of Moygish in County Westmeath. In 1609 several leading members of the sept migrated to County Kerry where the name is widespread today. Francis MacEvoy (1751 - 1804) was a distinguished president of the Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Conn Mac Giolla Bhuidhe, Abbot of Mungret, and dated 1100, in Ancient Irish Annals. This was during the reign of the High Kings of Ireland, 1022 - 1166. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes 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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