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From: Malcolm McClure <>
Subject: Re: [R-M222] Surname Sample
Date: Tue, 17 Apr 2012 20:48:41 +0100
References: <CA+JvTNgb4dYZdwSoszPXmJJaRvtv=Ca+mpjb+8zTYyymnoTpgw@mail.gmail.com>
In-Reply-To: <CA+JvTNgb4dYZdwSoszPXmJJaRvtv=Ca+mpjb+8zTYyymnoTpgw@mail.gmail.com>


Discussions about the origin and components of Irish and Scottish surnames are always interesting because everyone can have an opinion but seldom can prove a general case.

For example, it seems likely that many surnames beginning with Mul- and Mal- get that syllable from the gaelic 'Maol' meaning a tonsured member of a monastic community. e.g. Mulligan, Mullan, Mulholland, Mulgrew, Mulrine, Mulrennie, Mulroney, Mulcreevy, Muldoon, Mulvenna, Malcolm, Malley, Malone, etc.

Surnames of Scottish or Irish origin, beginning with Gil- or McGil- are followers of the saint named in the suffix. This is derived from an Anglicized version of the Gaelic Mac Gille (the Scottish version) or Mac Giolla (Irish), as an occupational name for the servent, or ghoill was a Highland reference to the English-speaking lowlander.
e.g. McBride comes from the Irish Mac Giolla Bhridge 'son of the follower of (St) Bridget'; Also Gildea, Gillespie, Gilfedder, Gilmore etc.

There is a suggestion is that McClure stems from the Gaelic words "Mac gille‑leabhair " — "son of the servant of the book. The syllable ‘clure’ has other meanings in Scottish and Northern dialect. Clowre and cloor means the sluice of a dam. Clour means a knock or lump on the head but those roots seem unlikely.

The Gaelic alternative, that McClure derives from "son of Giolla odhar" (the pale youth) has been around for a long time but also seems unlikely. Firstly because the McClure connection with County Armagh is very weak compared with other counties, particularly with Donegal, and secondly because the o sound in odar is less likely to elide into the u in McClure than the ee in McCleery via McClear etc. The 'ie' or 'y' sound at the end of McCleery, Donaghy etc may have been a diminutive that was dropped when inappropriate. There will never be a definitive answer to puzzles like this.


WhenOn 17 Apr 2012, at 12:15, Paul Ó Duḃṫaiġ <> wrote:

> Ó Cléirigh is pronunced very close to it's anglication O'Cleary.
> "aigh"/"igh" at the end of the name are not pronunced with a slender gh
> sound. Instead they tend to sound like a long i (í -- like ee in english),
> though in munster you would see it pronunced as an -ig (contrast Doohey and
> Duhig)
> This special pronunciation is present in specific verbal conditions as well
> What it shows in case of name is that Cléirigh is the genitive case of the
> name Cléireach (Clerk/Cleric). A related name in Irish context is: Mac an
> With regards to McClure Woulfe has the following in his 1923 book
> ----
> Mac GIOLLA UIDHIR—IV<http://www.libraryireland.com/names/synopsis-types-surnames.php>;
> —*M'Elyre*, MacAleer, MacLear, MacLure, MacClure; 'son of Giolla odhar'
> (the pale youth; odhar, dun, pale); a rare Armagh surname. Eachdonn Mac
> Giolla uidhir was Primate of Armagh early in the 13th century. It is also a
> Scottish surname.
> ----
> -Paul
> (L21+/DF41+)
> *From:*
> *Subject:* Re: [R-M222] Surname Sample
> *Date:* Mon, 16 Apr 2012 17:12:42 -0400 (EDT)
> Malcolm
> Thank you. I haven't come across the 1486 reference in Kirkcudbright. This
> is interesting. What is your source? O'Cleirigh - maybe - if 'gh' is silent
> at the end of name. If you are thinking O'Cleriigh, McCleirigh evolved
> independently of Ireland in SW Scotland. Black suggests McClure Gaelic
> Mcilluidhir, 'son of Odhar's servant', and then under another section for
> Maclure
> in Glenlg and in Skye, he says it is supposed to be Mac a leora, sometimes
> of Mac an leabhair, 'devote of the book'. He doesn't really add much to
> it.
> Alan
> R1b1c7 Research and Links:
> http://clanmaclochlainn.com/R1b1c7/
> -------------------------------
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