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The history of Derry surnames: Are you a Campbell, McDaid, Lynch or Brown?

In the latest in a series of articles on the Top 20 most common surnames in Derry, local genealogist Brian Mitchell writes about the history of the Campbell, McDaid, Lynch and Brown families.

Gregory Campbell

Local DUP politician Gregory Campbell.

9 - CAMPBELL

Campbell is an extremely popular and widespread name in Ulster where it is the fifth most common name.

It is the third most numerous name in County Down, fourth in County Armagh, seventh in each of Counties Antrim, Derry and Tyrone and 13th in County Donegal.

The majority of Ulster Campbells are descendants of 17th century Scottish settlers but there are significant local differences.

Most Ulster Campbells descend from Scottish clan Campbell who rose rapidly to power in Argyll in the western Highlands of Scotland in the 17th century at the expense of the MacDonalds, ‘Lords of the Isles.’

Inveraray Castle on the banks of Loch Fyne became the principal seat of the Campbells, the Dukes of Argyll, in the 15th century.

In the 18th century the Campbells were loyal supporters of the English crown in their struggles with the Scottish Jacobites.

Originally known as Clan O’Duibhne, the first to assume the surname Campbell was Gillespic O’Duibhne who, in 1263, was recorded as Gillespic Cambel.

The surname is derived from Scots Gaelic Caimbeul, meaning ‘crooked mouth’

In 1609 the Earl of Salisbury, Lord High Treasurer, suggested to James I a deliberate plantation of Scottish and English colonists on the forfeited estates of the Gaelic chiefs in counties Armagh, Cavan, Donegal, Fermanagh, Londonderry (then known as Coleraine) and Tyrone.

Settlers to Ulster came, by and large, in three waves: with the granting of the initial leases in the period 1605 to 1625; after 1652 and Cromwell’s crushing of the Irish rebellion; and finally in the 15 years after 1690 and the Glorious Revolution. It is estimated by 1715, when migration to Ulster had virtually stopped, the Scottish population of Ulster stood at 200,000.
In Donegal, in particular, many Campbells will have an even earlier connection with Scotland.

In the 15th century a branch of Clan Campbell, known as Mac Ailin, derived from ail, meaning rock, were brought to Donegal by the O’Donnells to fight as galloglasses, i.e. mercenary soldiers.

As well as Campbell their name was also anglicised to McCallion.

As well as numerous Scottish immigrants of the name many Campbells, especially in County Tyrone, will have Irish origins.

The Campbell sept of County Tyrone trace their lineage to Eogan, son of the fifth century High King of Ireland, Niall of the Nine Hostages, who ruled from the Hill of Tara, County Meath. Eogan and his brother Conall Gulban conquered northwest Ireland, ca.425 AD, capturing the great hillfort of Grianan of Aileach in County Donegal which commanded the entrance to the Inishowen peninsula between Lough Swilly and Lough Foyle.

Campbell, in Gaelic Mac Cathmhaoil, is derived from cathmhaol, meaning ‘battle chief’.

This name was initially anglicised as McCawell, and also as McCampbell and McCamphill.

The Campbells of Tyrone were the leading sept of Clan Ferady (tracing their descent from Faredach, son of Muireadach (Murdock), son of Eogan).

At the height of their power in the 12th century, from their base at Clogher, they controlled a large portion of County Tyrone and had penetrated deep into County Fermanagh. They were one of the seven powerful septs supporting O’Neill.

10 – McDAID

The surname McDaid is virtually exclusive to northwest Ireland.

The name is most numerous in County Donegal where over half the McDaids are located; and most of the rest are divided between the adjacent parts of Derry and Tyrone.

The name is particularly associated with Inishowen, County Donegal.

This name, which is among the top ten in the city of Derry, illustrates the very close links between the city of Derry and Inishowen.

As Derry developed an industrial base in the 19th century in shirt making, shipbuilding and distilling it attracted much of its workforce from Inishowen.

The McDaid sept of County Donegal trace their lineage to Conall Gulban, son of the 5th century High King of Ireland, Niall of the Nine Hostages, who ruled from the Hill of Tara, County Meath.

Conall and his brother Eogan conquered northwest Ireland, ca.425 AD, capturing the great hillfort of Grianan of Ailech in Co Donegal which commanded the entrance to Inishowen between Lough Swilly and Lough Foyle.

Conall, styled ‘King of Tir Conaill,’ established his own kingdom in County Donegal called after him Tyrconnel, i.e. the ‘Land of Conall,’ which was the ancient name of Donegal.

His descendants, known as the Cenel Conaill (the race of Conall), formed one of the principal branches of the Northern Ui Neill (descendants of Niall of the Nine Hostages).

The septs of the Cenel Conaill firmly established themselves in County Donegal while those descended from Conal’s brother Eogan expanded to the east and south into Counties Derry and Tyrone.

Ireland was one of the first countries to adopt a system of hereditary surnames which developed from a more ancient system of clan or sept names.

The surname was formed by prefixing either Mac (son of) or O (grandson or descendant of) to the ancestor’s name.

The McDaids, in Gaelic Mac Daibheid, are a branch of the O’Dohertys.

They derive their surname from Daibhidh O Dochartaigh who died, in battle, in 1208 when Hugh O’Neill raided Inishowen.

Thus McDaid literally means ‘son of David O’Doherty.’ The name was further anglicised to McDavitt and McDevitt and sometimes Davison.

In Counties Louth, Monaghan and Down, the name was anglicised to McKevitt. McDaid, however, is by far the most common rendering of the sept name. In Counties Derry, Donegal and Tyrone three-quarters of the Mac Daibheid sept are McDaid and one-quarter McDevitt.

The McDaids were long noted for their loyalty to the O’Dohertys.

In 1608 Sir Cahir O’Doherty’s second-in-com- mand at the capture and burning of Derry city was Phelim Reagh MacDavitt, whose family henceforth became known as the ‘Burn-Derrys.’

The McDevitts are now chiefly located in the western parts of Donegal, and it is only in north west Donegal that McDevitt outnumbers Mc- Daid. There are townlands called Ballydevitt in both Derry and Donegal.

In a few cases in Ulster, McDaid may be a variant of the Scottish clan name Davidson. In Scotland the names McDade and McDaid are found mostly in Glasgow.

11 – LYNCH

Lynch is among the 100 most common names in Ireland.

In Ulster the name is most numerous in County Cavan, where it is among the first five, and in County Derry. Although Lynch in Ireland can be of Norman origin most in Ulster will be of Irish Gaelic descent.

The Norman family of de Lench, anglicised Lynch, were very powerful and prominent in the affairs of Galway city. The Lynch's were the most influential of the ‘Tribes of Galway,’ providing that city with eighty-four mayors between 1484 and 1654. This Norman family first settled in County Meath before a branch of the family migrated to Galway in the early 15th century.

In the rest of Ireland a number of quite distinct and small independent septs adopted the surname Lynch. Septs of this name established themselves in Antrim, Cavan, Clare, Cork, Sligo and Tipperary. Most of these septs declined in importance with the Anglo-Norman invasion but their descendants are still to found in their several places of origin.

Ireland was one of the first countries to adopt a system of hereditary surnames which developed from a more ancient system of clan or sept names.

From the 11th century, each family began to adopt its own distinctive family name generally derived from the first name of an ancestor who lived in or about the 10th century.

The surname was formed by prefixing either Mac (son of) or O (grandson or descendant of) to the ancestor’s name. Surnames in Ireland, therefore, tended to identify membership of a sept.

Lynch is derived from Gaelic O Loingsigh, the root word being loingseach, meaning ‘mariner.’ Two septs of this name were located in Ulster. One of these was based in central County Cavan. The other was based in north Antrim and Derry, and their chief was lord of the ancient kingdom of Dalriada. In the sixth century when the Irish Celts, known as the Scots, established themselves in Kintyre, Argyll and some of the Inner Isles they called their kingdom Dal Riata, after the kingdom they still held in north Antrim.

Furthermore the County Donegal sept of Lynchehan, in Gaelic Mac Loingseachain, was usually abbreviated to Lynch.

The importance of Lynch as a surname in Derry city today, where it is among the top 12 names, is perhaps due to this sept as the top three names in the city, namely Doherty, McLaughlin and Gallagher, have Donegal origins.

As Derry developed an industrial base in the 19th century in shirt making, shipbuilding and distilling it attracted much of its workforce from Donegal.

By contrast, surnames from the city’s eastern hinterlands in County Derry and to the south from Tyrone are not as prominent in Derry city today as those names with Donegal origins.

In some instances, especially where Lynch was anglicised as Lynchey, the name has become Lindsay.

12 – BROWN

Brown is among the 40 most common names in Ireland and among the ten most popular in Ulster.

Its main centres in Ulster are County Derry, where it is one of the five most popular surnames; County Down, where it is one of the first ten; and County Antrim, where it is one of the first 15..

The great majority of the Ulster Browns are of English and Scottish descent.

In England and Lowland Scotland the surname Brown was derived from the Old English personal name Brun, or as a nickname from Old English brun, meaning ‘brown of hair or com- plexion’, or from the Norman name Le Brun, meaning ‘the Brown’.

In the Highlands of Scotland two Scots Gaelic septs anglicised their name to Brown: Mac a Bhriuthainn, meaning ‘son of the judge’ and Mac Ghille Dhuinn, meaning ‘son of the brown lad.’

Brown was also one of the colour names assumed by Clan Lamont after they were outlawed by the Crown in the 17th century.

In 1609 the Earl of Salisbury, Lord High Treasurer, suggested to James I a deliberate plantation of Scottish and English colonists on the forfeited estates of the Gaelic chiefs in counties Armagh, Cavan, Donegal, Fermanagh, Derry (then known as Coleraine) and Tyrone. Settlers to Ulster came, by and large, in three waves: with the granting of the initial leases in the period 1605 to 1625; after 1652 and Cromwell’s crushing of the Irish rebellion; and finally in the 15 years after 1690 and the Glorious Revolution.

It is estimated by 1715, when migration to Ulster had virtually stopped, the Scottish population of Ulster stood at 200,000.
Scottish families entering Ireland through the port of Derry settled in the Foyle Valley which includes much of the fertile lands of counties Donegal, Derry and Tyrone.

The lands along the Firth of Clyde in the county of Ayrshire, the Clyde Valley and the Border Lands consisting of the counties of Wigtown, Kirkcudbright and Dumfries were home to many of these Scottish settlers.

Browne with an ‘e’ is more common in the south of Ireland. The Brownes were one of the ‘Tribes of Galway’.

The Galway Brownes are descended from a Norman, le Brun, who came to Ireland at the time of the Anglo-Norman invasion in the 12th century. They established themselves in Galway by intermarriage with its leading family, the Lynches and by similar alliances with powerful Gaelic septs such as the O’Flahertys and O’Malleys.

The Brownes of Killarney descend from a 16th century English adventurer.

Through intermarriage with influential Gaelic families the Brownes consolidated their position in County Kerry as the Earls of Kenmare.

Other distinguished families of Brownes established themselves in Counties Mayo and Limerick.

In the 19th century in County Mayo, from their seat at Westport, the Brownes, as the Marquis of Sligo, owned an estate of 114,000 acres.

The Brownes of Camus, County Limerick provided a number of famous soldiers, including George Count de Browne, who fought for 30 years, from 1730, in the Russian army.

If you have a story or want to send a photo or video to us please contact the Derry Now editorial team on 028 7129 6600 for Derry City stories Or 028 7774 3970 for County Derry stories. Or you can email editor@derrynews.net or editor@derrypost.com at any time.


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