A McGuire family in America

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

McGuire Surname History

Mag-Uidhir” - McGuire - a distinguished and truly Irish Gaelic clan that ruled over the county of Fermanagh in Ireland for over 400 years. The Maguires were known for their courage, great leadership and for their resistance during attacks, and thus the Maguire clan was particularly targeted during the English conquest for Ireland.

The Sil-Uidhir, or race of Odhar, took on the name of Mag-Uidhir and was first mentioned in 956 A.D. The word Uidhir, meaning “pale coloured one”, is the possessive form of the proper name Odhar. The modern spelling of the surname comes from the Gaelic Mag-Uidhir or MacUidhir, which was later anglicized to Maguire and MacGuire. According to local beliefs, Odhar was St. Patrick's servant and chariot driver around 452 A.D. Odhar was also eleventh in descent from "Colla da Croich", the first King of Ulster, from whom many Irish noble families are said to descend. 

Some early Irish genealogists believe the first origins of the Maguire clan may have started out in the province of Leinster in Westmeath County.  From Leinster the Maguire clan is believed to have moved to the county of Fermanagh in the province of Ulster.  In Fermanagh their stronghold (Maguire’s castle) was in Enniskillen, located in the middle of the county. The present-day town of Enniskillen developed around the castle, which dates back to the 15th century.


The strategic location of Maguire’s castle on an island between the upper and lower Erne allowed the Maguires to control the passage of all ships between the lakes and the flow of goods into the surrounding areas. The Maguire chieftains’ navy of 1,500 boats patrolled the waterways of the lake system that extended about forty miles.


The first Maguire to become prince of Fermanagh was Donn Carragh Maguire, who died in the year 1302. By the end of the 16th Century, the Maguires controlled almost all of the land within the present day boundaries of Fermanagh, and the territory was known as “McGuire’s Country”.


The seat of the senior branch was the original stronghold at Lisnaskea, and that of the junior branch was at Enniskillen Castle. The kingship was by election agreement and they alternated regularly between both branches. Many of the Maguire chieftains were buried at the Franciscan Friary in Donegal while others were interred at the monastery at Cavan. During the English conquest of Ireland most of the land was confiscated, resulting in many of the Maguire families moving into other neighboring counties. Some McGuire families fled Ireland to other countries during the “Flight of the Earls” in 1607. One McGuire family went to France, while others made their way to the colonies in the “New World”.


Today, those with the spelling Maguire are largely associated with Fermanagh. And those who use the spelling MacGuire or McGuire, may have their origins from Mayo or Roscommon. Maguire is still a common name not only in Fermanagh, but also in Donegal, Tyrone, Sligo, Leitrim, Derry, Cavan, Monaghan; and through all of Ireland... and indeed throughout the entire world.

Copyright © 2008
Josiah J. McGuire

See also: Ancient traditional history - (McGuire family tree)

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