If ever a surname was liable to cause dissension it is this one! It is generally accepted that "Conway" is of pure Irish origins and an angisiation of the ancient O'Conbhuidhe, which tranlates as "The descendant of the head smasher". Given such a ferocious description it is perhaps not surprising to find that the clan was originally prominent in Mayo and Sligo and that they were amongst the first to rally to the standard of O'Brien at the 1317 uprising against the Anglo-Norman rule. So far so good. The tribe flourished despite its rebellious nature and after the English reformation provided at least two Bishops to the Catholic faith in the 16th century, and many prominent men of letters in addition to several outstanding soldiers in the French armies. In 1690 the former King James 11 of England, who was then King James of Ireland recruited mercenary soldiers from several countries including a group from Wales called Conway. It seems that in error these nameholders were given the prefix "Mac" hence creating another surname form. This seems far fetched, but then in Ireland it is often difficult to detach reality from myth. What is certain is that Martin McConway was recorded on February 23rd 1783 at Arboe, Co Tyrone, and later Michael McConway, the son of Owen and Ann (nee McVeigh) was christened at Montiarghs, Co Armagh, on June 24th 1864. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Gillananer O'Connhaigh, which was dated Circa 1290 - 1351, Master of Music at Thomond, Ireland, during the reign of King Edward 111 of England, 1327 - 1377. 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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