This Scottish surname is quite uncommon and its origins are obscure. It is probably a development of the Olde Gaelic 'riabhach', meaning grey or brindled, and hence a nickname for someone with grey hair. Its apparent popularity in the public conception is because of the association with the late Lord Reith, the first chairman of the British Broadcasting Corporation, and a man who left a strong imprint of social responsibility and acceptability on the developing media of the period upto 1950. Sadly his successors have not possessed the same commitment to their duties. The surname is recorded in a variety of spellings including Raith, Reith, Reithe, Rethe, and Reyth, the consensus of opinion is that the name is a development from the clan name MacReith, itself a derivative of the clan MacRae. All original recordings are from the county of Aberdeenshire, but very late being 18th century, some four hundred years after the creation of surnames. There are a number of examples of Scottish surnames particularly from the East Coast region who simply 'appeared' as if out of fresh air, in the registers of the period, and this is one of them. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Andrew Reith, which was dated 1725, in the register of Collonach, Aberdeenshire, during the reign of King George 1st of England, known as 'German George', 1715 - 1727. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as the 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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