On the Origins of the McGee Name
"The Surnames of Scotland, Their Origin, Meaning, and History" by
George F. Black, Ph.D., p. 496:
MACGHIE, MACGHEE, MACGEE. Ir. Mag-Aoidh, "son of Aodh," and so same as MACKay.
Gilmighel Mac Ethe of Dumfries rendered homage, 1296 (Bain, II, p. 198).
In the following year, as Gille Michel MacGethe, he was thanked by Edward
I for putting down evildoers and for other services (Hist. Docs.,
II, p. 197; Bain, II, p. 324).
Gilbert McGeth was
custumar or collector of customs in the burgh of Kirkcudbrith, 1331 (ER., I,
p. 374), and Michael Macge or Mageth, landholder in Galloway was
admitted to the king's peace by Edward III in 1339 (Rot. Scot.),
Gilbert M'Gy is styled lord of Balmage in 1426 (RMS., II). Robert Macgye
(M'Gy, Macge, or Magy) was the king's mime, 1444-49 (ER., III, p. 150, 274,
378). John Makke made oblation by procurator in 1463 for the vicarage of St.
Michael's, Dumfries (Edgar, p.135).
The Galwegian family of Macghie
gave name to Balmaghie ("Macghie's town"). M'Ge 1555, M'Gey 1473,
M'Ghye 1648, M'Gye 1482, Machgie 1684, Makge 1550, Makgee 1527,
Makghie 1617; M'Eth, McGie, McGhie, Mackghie, Makgie. In old Galloway
documents M'Ghie and M'Kie are used indiscriminately
From "Irish Families, Their Names, Arms and Origins" by Eward MacLysaght (1972)
MacGee is an Ulster name which is more usually written Magee (ct. MacGuire -
Maguire; MacGuinness - Magennis, etc.). In Irish it is Mag Aodha, i.e. son of
Aodh or Hugh, the Mac, as is often the case when the prefix is folloed by a vowel,
becoming Mag. It has been stated that our Ulster MacGees are of Scottish extraction,
having come to Ireland during the Plantation of Ulster in the early seventeenth
century. There certainly is a numerous Scottish family so called, who are akin to the
MacDonnells and claim descent from Colla Uais and so an Irish origin. There are
Gaelic Irish MacGees also. They belong to the country on the borders of Counties
Donegal and Tyrone. The name is more usually associated with Co. Antrim because
the large isthmus on the east coast of Lough Larne is called Island Magee and this territory
was at one time in the possession of the Magees. In early mediaeval times a MacGee
was chief of a sept in Co. Westmeath but these were dispersed after the Anglo-Norman
invasion. The early history of the MacGees is thus rather obscure, but people of the
name were prominent in various phases of Irish life in the eighteenth and nineteenth
centruy. Most of these were northern Protestants, among whom were Most Rev.
William Magee (1766-1831), Archbishop of Dublin and mathematician, his grandson
William Connor Magee (1821-1891), strong opponent of Gladstone's Irish policy,
rector of Enniskillen, Dean of Cork and finally Archbishop of York. Martha Magee
(c.1755-1846), was the founder of Magee University College at Derry; two John
Magees (1750-1809 and 1780-1814), father and son made history by their fearless
journalism in their paper "The Dublin Evening Post." Two others (Catholics) the
brothers Thomas D'Arcy MacGee (1825-1868), and James E. MacGee (1830-1880)
were associated with the Young Ireland movement and wrote many patriotic works;
both went to America and the former was shot by one of the Fenians whose activities
he had denounced. Three prominent American citizens whose names illustrate various
spellings thereof, vis. William John McGee (1853-1912), geologist, Charles McClung
McGhee (1828-1907), financier, and Christopher Lyman Magee (1848-1901), politician
and philanthropist, were all of Irish extraction.
From "The Book of Ulster Surnames" by Robert Bell (1988)
MAGEE (also MacGee)
Taken together these names are among the 100 most common names in Ireland and among
the twenty-five most common in Ulster. Magee is found mainly in counties Antrim,
Armagh and Down, and MacGee in counties Donegal and Tyrone. The names can be of
Scottish or Irish origin. In both countries the Gaelic form is Mag Aoidh, 'son of
Hugh'. With names like Magee and Magill the Mag- form is more common in east
Ulster and the Mac- from in the west.
Islandmagee on the Antrim coast was once the seat of the Magees, a
prominent Irish Gaelic sept. There were also MacGees, recorded as
Muintear Mhaoil Ghaoithe, an important ruling sept in medieval Tirhorky
in the barony of Kilmacrenan.
Among from these, the majority of Ulster Magees or MacGees will be of Scottish
origin, descendants of settlers who came to the province at the time of the
Plantation. The name is found in Scotland as MacGee, MacGhee, and MacGhie and
was first recorded in Dumfries in 1296. There, and in Ayrshire and Galloway, the
name is most common. These were kin to the MacDonald MacHughs or MacKees (see
MacHugh and MacKay).
The name Magee is most concentrated in Antrim around Crumlin, and in Down in
Lecale and on the adjacent Upper Ards. MacGees and Magees in Fermanagh are mainly
a branch of the Maguires, descendants of Aodh, great-grandson of Donn Carrach
Maguire. In Co. Cavan Magee has become Wynne and Wynn because of the -gee ending,
which sounds like the Gaelic gaoithe, meaning 'of wind'.
From The Dictionary of Irish Family Names by Ida Grehan (1997)
Mag Aoidh means son of Hugh. It can be of Scottish or Irish origin and today
it is numerous in Ulster, particularly spelled Magee, with MacGee
coming second in popularity. In the Republic, both Magee and MacGee are equally
Their Irish lineage descends from Colla Uais, whose territory bordered Donegal
and Tyrone. At Lough Larne, the peninsula of Islandmagee marks their early
Ulster territory. Until the arrival of the Normans, there was also a MacGee
chief of his sept in County Westmeath.
There were a number of Ulster Protestant Magee archbishops, one of whom accused
the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh of placing a calf's head on the altar of
a chapel in Ardee!
In Dublin's National Library there are letters written by James Maighee
describing his activities in 1717 at Dunkirk, where he was spying for King James II.
Early in the nineteenth century, a father and son both called John Magee
fearlessly exposed political and legal corruption in their newspapers, "Magee's
Weekly Packet" and "Dublin Evening Post." They suffered frequent court cases
and heavy fines. John Magee the elder was so incensed at the harsh treatment
meted out to him by the Chief Justice, Lord Clonmel, that he organized a
hugely popular pig hunt around Clonmel's County Dublin home. The pigs caused
considerabel destruction when they broke into his grounds. Magee was eventually
imprisoned in Newgate, but his newspapers did expose many scandals.
Martha Maria Magee (d. 1846), nee Stewart, was married to a Presbyterian
minister called William Magee. Both he and their two sons died prematurely and
she moved to Dublin, where her two brothers lived. They left her a fortune which,
after much legal wrangling, went to the founding of Magee College in Derry city,
later an important part of the new University of Ulster.
Thomas D'Arcy Magee (1825-68) of Carlingford in County Louth emigrated to
Boston, where he became editor of the "Boston Pilot." A fervent Irish nationalist,
he believed in constitutional rather than violent methods. However, in Ottawa where
he was an MP, he was shot dead by the Fenians, of whom he had written very
From "A genealogical History of Irish Families with their Crests and Armorial Bearings" by John Rooney (1895).
Thanks to cousin James C. McGee for providing this reference.
The McGee Family Crest No. 214, Plate 5,
Honestum Praetulit Utili
"He has preferred honesty to advantage"
The McGee family is descended from Milesius, King of Spain, through the line
of Heremon, eighth son of that monarch. The founder of the family was
Colla Meann, son of Eocha Dubhlien, or Doivlen, King of Ireland, A.D. 285.
The ancient name was Gaid, signifying "Father." The title of the chief of
the sept was Prince of Orgiel, and the possessions of the Clan were located
in the present counties of Lietrim, Down, and Antrim.
In the Eastern portion of the latter county the peninsula called
Island Magee juts out into the ocean. In this locality the McGee family
were extremely numerous. Island Magee is noted in Irish History as the
scene of one of the bloodiest and most atrocious massacres ever perpetrated by
the English in Ireland. On the 8th of January 1642, Monroe, the Covenanter,
Governor of Carricfergus, sallied forth from that town with the Scotch
garrison and a number of English "Undertakers," and massacred the
entire population of Island Magee, to the number of three thousand. Many
of these were persons who had taken temporary refuge of the island.
There have been many eminent members of this family within the
current century. The famous Dr. William Magee, Protestant Archbishop
of Dublin, was one of the ables intellects of his day, and the
late Archbishop Magee of York, England, grandson of the former, was
no less distinguished for his eloquence and ability.
Two of the name, Captain James McGee and Captain Bernard
McGee, served on the sea during the war of the American Revolution.
The former was for many years a member of the Irish Charitable
Society of Boston, and in 1810 was President of that organization. The
latter was also a member of that body.
In 1812 a young man of this name who had been a Lieutenant
in the United States service, resigned for the purpose of
joining in the movement of revolutionizing the Spanish colonies
bordering the Gulf of Mexico. Having raised the standard of
independence on the Sabine and Trinity Rivers, in the present State
of Texas, he crossed the Sabine with about eight hundred men,
one-half of whom were American riflemen, and the rest Spanish,
under the command of one Bernardo. McGee captured Nacogdoches,
and afterward La Bahia, and with his four hundred Americans he withstood
the siege of the Spanish forces for three months, meantime
creating so much havoc in their ranks by his sorties that they were finally
comelled to raise the siege and withdraw to San Antonio. At the
close of the siege McGee died, in the twenty-second year of his age.
Thomas D'Arcy McGee, orator, poet, historian, statesman and
journalist, one of the most versatile geniuses that Ireland ever
produced, is too well known to the general reader to need more than
a passing mention. While yet a mere youth he was one of the most
prominent of that brilliant band who led the Forty-eight movement in
Ireland. Having escaped to the United States, where he remained
some years, he removed to Canada. He was the original author of the
Confederation of the Canadian Provinces, and was a member of the
Cabinet of the New Dominion. He was assassinated by a "crank" in
the forty-third year of his age. His works, in prose and poetry, are
among the most valuable in modern Irish literature.
Colonel James E. McGee, brother of the former, was an officer in
Meagher's Irish Brigade, during the late Civil War, and was noted for
his bravery. During one of the bloodiest engagements of the Peninsula
he picked up the Irish flag, after three color-bearers had been shot down
in succession, and carried it forward. He is the author of several
excellent volumes, chiefly on Irish historical subjects.
Ireland: History, Culture, People by Paul Brewer (Editor), p.342;
Dean's note: This book has nearly as many quality color photos as it
does pages. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in a
photo-journey to historic Ireland. Unbelievably reasonable price!
Magee, and its variants McGee, MacGee, etc., come from the Gaelic
Mac or Mag Aodha, from Aodh (anglicized "Hugh"), a very popular
personal name meaning "fire," which also gave rise to a large
number of other surnames, including Hays, Hughes, McHugh, and
McCoy. The form "Magee" reflects the pronunciation of Ulster and
Scottish Gaelic, with "Mag-" most common in the east of the
province, and "Mac-" in the west; Ulster is the area where the name
is most common by far. It can be of either Scottish or Irish origin.
Three Irish families of the name are recorded: in the area now on
the borders of counties Donegal and Tyrone, in the territory
around Islandmagee on the coast of Antrim, and in Fermanagh,
where they descend from Aodh, great-grandson of Donn Carrach
Maguire, the first Maguire ruler of that region. The remainder of
the Ulster Magees are descended from seventeenth-century settlers
from Scotland, where the surname is most common in Dumfries, in
Ayrshire, and in Galloway. In County Cavan, Mag Aodha has also
sometimes, strangely, been anglicized as "Wynne," from a mistaken
resemblance to gaoth, "wind".
It has been stated that our Ulster MacGees are of Scottish extraction, having come to Ireland during the Plantation of Ulster in the early seventeenth century. There certainly is a numerous Scottish family so called, who are akin to the MacDonnells and claim descent from Colla Uais and so an Irish origin. There are Gaelic Irish MacGees also. They belong to the country on the borders of Counties Donegal and Tyrone. The name is more usually associated with Co. Antrim because the large isthmus on the east of Lough Larne is called Island Magee and this territory was at one time in the possession of the Magees. In early mediaeval times a MacGee was chief of a sept in Co. Westmeath but these were dispersed after the Anglo-Norman invasion.
Antrim.net | Islandmagee
Over the generations, immigration has carried Islandmagee's progeny to distant parts of the globe.
Vikings made use of Larne Lough or "Wulfric's Fjord". In the late middle ages members of the clan Magee moved from the Hebrides to the peninsula inspiring the modern name.
The Dictionary of Irish Family Names
Their Irish lineage descends from Colla Uais, whose territory bordered
Donegal and Tyrone. At Lough Larne, the peninsula of Islandmagee
marks their early Ulster territory. Until the arrival of the Normans, there
was also a MacGee chief of his sept in County Westmeath.