• mcdermott surname history

    mcdermott surname history

    The surname MacDermot (and its variants McDermot/ MacDermott etc.) comes from the Irish Mac Dhiarmada, "son of Dermot". The meaning of the personal name Diarmuid, on which the surname is based, remains uncertain. Two separate derivations have been argued, one from dia, meaning "god" and armaid "of arms", the other from di-fhormaid, meaning "unenvious". The individual from whom the surname is taken lived in the twelfth century, and was himself a direct descendant of Maelruanaidh Mor, brother of Conor, King of Connacht, the ancestor of the O'Connors, who ruled in the tenth century. Tradition has it that the two brothers came to an agreement that in return for surrendering any claim to the kingship of Connacht Maelruanaidh and his descendants would receive the territory of Moylurg, an area in the north of the modern Co. Roscommon taking in the catchment areas of the modern towns of Boyle and Frenchpark. Certainly this is the area with which the descendants of Maelruanaidh, the MacDermots, have been closely associated down to modern times. For many centuries, their seat was a large castle on MacDermot's Island, in Lough Key just outside Boyle.

    The Moylurg branch remained powerful and influential in their homeland down to the final post-Cromwellian confiscations, when, in common with virtually all of the old Gaelic aristocracy, they were dispossessed of their ancestral lands. Unlike most of the others, however, the MacDermots of Moylurg did manage to salvage some of their old possessions. In the seventeenth century they moved to Coolavin, beside Lough Gara in the neighbouring Co. Sligo, where the line of descent from the original MacDermot chiefs remains unbroken. The current head of the family, known as "The MacDermot, Prince of Coolavin", and recognised as Chief of his Name by the Chief Herald of Ireland is Niall Mac Dermot.

    Inevitably, as well as the main branch, the MacDermots of Moylurg, a number of other branches also formed over the centuries. The earliest and most prominent of these were the MacDermot Roe ("red") based around Kilronan in Co. Galway, and the MacDermot Gall ("foreign") who usurped the chieftainship for a time from their base in the east Roscommon. In addition, of course, many other families of the name established themselves over the centuries; the surname is now one of the most common in Ireland, still most frequent in Roscommon, but to be found throughout the island.

    The arms illustrated are those of the MacDermots of Coolavin. The presence of the boar's-head motif may be related to the well-known Irish romance Toraigheacht Dhiarmada agus Ghrainne, "The pursuit of Dermot and Grainne", in which Grainne, betrothed to the hero Fionn mac Cumhaill, elopes instead with Dermot. Fionn's pursuit of the lovers through the country ends when Dermot is killed by the great boar of Ben Bulben in Co. Sligo.

    Hugh MacDermot (1834-1904), head of the Moylurg family was Solicitor General and Attorney-General for Ireland. His son Frank MacDermot (1886-1975) was a barrister and politician in his early life, but disillusioned with life and politics in De Valera?s Ireland, emigrated to the U.S. and, later, France, where he became well-known as a journalist and author.