McGuinness surname history

MacGuinness, together with its variants Guinness, Magennis, MacNeice, MacCreesh and others, comes from the Irish Mac Aonghusa, from the personal name Aonghus ("Angus"), made up of aon "one" and ghus "choice", which was borne by a famous eighth-century Pictish king of Scotland, said to be a son of the Irish god Daghda and Boann, the goddess who gave her name to the river Boyne. The surname originated in Iveagh, in what is now Co. Down; legend has it that Iveagh (Ui Eachaigh) took its name from one Eocha Cobha, a semi-mythical ancestor of Aonghus.

The McGuinnesses displaced the O'Haugheys in the twelfth century, ruling over virtually all of Co. Down for the following four centuries, down to the end of the old order in 1690. Like many other families of the old Gaelic aristocracy, they had an elaborate inauguration ceremony for their leader, the chief of their name, with strong pre-Christian elements. The ceremony centred on the Coiseach Aonghuis, Aongus?s footstone, with the imprint of a foot in the rock; if a true McGuinness placed his foot in it, a "pleasant humming sound" would result. Needless to say, impostors, and their fraudulent feet, met unspeakable ends. The stone is still in existence outside Warrenpoint in Co. Down.

Louis MacNeice (1907-63) was born in Belfast and educated in England. In the 1930s he was associated with the group of young poets which included Auden, Spender and Day-Lewis. The better-known Northern Irish poets of the 1970s and 1980s have claimed his mordant, witty and well-crafted poems as poetic forebears.

The centre of the family power was at Rathfriland, ten miles from Newry. In the sixteenth century they accepted the Reformation and but joined in the later wars against the English, and were dispossessed of all their lands. The castle at Rathfriland was completely destroyed in 1641. The name is now common in Connacht and Leinster, as well as its original homeland of Ulster.

A southern offshoot of the family adopted the variant MacCreesh, and in Monaghan, Fermanagh and south Down that name was used as an equivalent of McGuinness. North of the original homeland, in Co. Antrim, a similar process occurred, with MacNiece or MacNeice the variant adopted there.

The arms illustrated are those of the ancient lords of Iveagh and reflect their rule in Ulster, incorporating both the red hand of the province and the principal heraldic symbol of royal power, the lion rampant.

. The most famous instance of the surname is of course in the name of the black beer brewed at St. James?s Gate in Dublin. The founder of the brewery, Arthur Guinness, came from a family long settled in Celbridge in Co. Kildare, but with roots in Co. Down. Although Guinness is now a multi-national company, the descendants of the founder are still prominent in its management. The family awareness of the antiquity of its ancestral connections is reflected in the choice of title when Edward Cecil Guinness was created First Earl of Iveagh in 1909. This was in fact the second creation. The first Viscounts Iveagh were supporters of King James in the Williamite wars; after his defeat Brian Magennis, second Viscount Iveagh, fought and died with the Austrian Imperial Army as the head of Iveagh?s regiment, while his brother Roger, third Viscount Iveagh, fought in the armies of both France and Spain.


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