[From ManxNoteBook vol i,1885]

in Douglas Bay
In Douglas Bay




T IS NOW GENERALLY RECOGNISED THAT THE STUDY OF PERSONAL NOMENCLATURE OCCUPIES AN IMPORTANT PLACE AMONGST the subsidary sources of historical illustrations. In Modern Europe, it is to the surnames, rather than to what we call the Christian names, that this illustrative value principally belongs. A complete and accurate account of the family nomenclature of any European country-an account including the etymology of each individual surname, and the locality and approximate date of its first appearance -would tell us not a little respecting the ethnological elements existing in the population of the country, the proportions in which those elements were represented in different districts, and the habits and occupations of the inhabitants during the period in which surnames came into existence. In the case of any of the larger countries of Europe, however, it is scarcely necessary to state that no complete history of family names has ever been written; indeed, we may venture to regard the accomplishment of such a task as an impossibility. Many writers have attempted to treat partially of the origin of the surnames of England and of other lands; but, from the want of documentary evidence, or the difficulty of consulting it, their statements are inevitably in great part conjectural; and the incomplete character of these attempts necessarily renders the general inferences which may be based upon them more or less insecure. The surnames of the Isle of Mann have not, as yet, been systematically studied, but the small extent of the Island, its isolated position, the comparatively stationary character of its population (before the present century), and the abundance of documentary material, are all circumstances which are favourable to the investigation of the subject. In the following chapters it is proposed, as completely as the means at the writer's disposal permit, to examine the surnames which are, or have been, in use in the Isle of Mann; to determine their etymology, when practicable, by the aid of documentary forms; and to indicate the districts in which the names appear to have had their origin.

The general results yielded by the analysis of Manx family nomenclature are such as might be anticipated from a consideration of the history of the Island and of its geographical position. The history of the Isle of Mann falls naturally into three periods. In the first of these the Island was inhabited exclusively by a Celtic people, identical in race and language with the population of Ireland. The next period is marked by the Viking invasions, and the establishment of Scandinavian mle. The third period is that of the English dominion, when the Island became open to immigration from Great Britain. Each of these three historical periods has left its traces in our surnames. As might be expected, the names of Irish derivation form the largest class. The Scandinavian epoch is represented by a considerable number of names inherited from the Vikings. It is noteworthy, however, that in nearly every case these Scandinavian names are Celticised in form-that is to say they have received the Irish prefix Mac, and have undergone the kind of phonetic corruption which was inevitable, when they had to pass through Celtic-speaking lips. The English rule introduced into the Island many surnames from Great Britain, and this process is still going on. Some of the older of these imported names underwent translation into the native language. On the other hand, the use of the English language in the Island has led to the translation of certain native names into English; and it appears that (as was the case also in Ireland) some families have been known both by their native Celtic surname and by its supposed English equivalent, the one or the other being adopted according as the language used was English or Manx. Amongst the indirect consequences of the English connexion may be reckoned the partial colonisation of the Isle of Mann by the Anglo-Norman settlers in Ireland, which has given us the Hibernicised Norman surnames common in certain districts. The geographical separation of the Isle of Mann from the mother country, Ireland, caused the Manx dialect to become, in course of time, materially differentiated from the Irish speech with which it was originally identical. From the same cause many of the originally Irish surnames of the Island have undergone a degree of phonetic corruption that covers them with a disguise which can only be penetrated by a recourse to early documents. The prefix Mac has, in many cases, fallen away altogether; in other cases it is represented only by its final consonant. This is the explanation of the many names beginning with C, K, or Q. such as CALLISTER, CLAGUE, COOLE, KELLY, KILLIP, KEIG, QUIGGIN, QUILLIAM, QUALTROUGH, &c., the frequency of which is so striking to any visitor to the Island.

Where the syllable Mac was prefixed to personal names beginning with Giolla (" servant of"), the initial syllables have been frequently contracted into .Myl, the surname MAC GILCHRIST, for instance, becoming MYLCHREEST. Early in the 16th Century the prefix Mac was almost universal; a hundred years later it had almost disappeared. The old distich says:

'. Per Sac untrue O, tu veros cognoscis Hibernos,
His duobus demptis, nullus Hibernus adest."
" By Mac and O
You'll always know
True Irishmen they say,
But if they lack
Both O and Mac
No Irishmen are they."

O never took root in the Isle of Mann, but Mac has left numerous traces of its existence.

Women had the curious prefix ine, a shortened form of Inney ("daughter"): before their names. Thus, in 1511, we find LEOPOLD MAC COWLEY and KATHRIN INE COWLEY. After the middle of the 17th Century ine is not found, though Inney survived as a Christian name till about a century later.

In Europe generally surnames may be divided, with regard to their derivation, into four classes: (1) Those derived from the personal name of an ancestor; (2) Those derived from trades and occupations; (3) Those which originally indicated place of birth or residence; and (4) Those which were originally nicknames descriptive of a person's appearance or character, or containing an allusion to some fact in his history. The Celtic and Celto-Scandinavian surnames of the Isle of Mann, however, belong almost exclusively to the first and second of these classes. The evidence of early documents shows that nearly all of them at one time contained the prefix Mac followed either by a Christian name or by a word denoting a trade or calling. We have, however, some surnames, though only very few, which are derived from an ancestor's descriptive nickname, like [Mac] KINVIG, 'son of small head," or from the designation of his nationality, like MAC BRETNEE (now Cretney), "son of the Briton or Welshman."

The native portion of the nomenclature will, therefore, here be discussed under two heads: surnames derived from Christian names, and surnames derived from words significant of occupations, nationality, and other personal characteristics. Although in the Isle of Mann descriptive nicknames scarcely ever became hereditary, and therefore have contributed in very slight degree to our list of surnames, they have been and still are quite as largely used as in other countries as a means of distinguishing between namesakes. A considerable number of these distinguishing epithets may be found in our Parish Registers and other early documents, and as these may be fairly regarded as so much unused raw material of family nomenclature, they will be given in an appendix.

It has already been stated that an attempt will be made in these pages to assign the etymology, so far as it can be ascertained, of the Celtic or Scandinavian names discussed. Many of these are derived from Biblical or Hagiological Christian names which are the common property of Europe. In these cases it will be sufficient to give the ordinary English form of the Christian names in question. When surnames are derived from personal names of purely Celtic or Scandinavian formation, the original forms of the personal names will be quoted from Irish or Icelandic documents. To translate a compound name as if it formed a significant whole is generally a mistake; but the meaning of the roots from which the names are formed will usually be stated.

It remains to give an account of the documentary aids which have been employed in the present inquiry.

The earliest of the Manx records is the Chronicon Manniae (A.D. 1017-1376), kept by the Monks of Rushen Abbey. It contains but few names, and is, consequently, of but little use for our purpose. There is no record of names worth mentioning till A.D. 1408, the date of the "Declaration of the Bishop, Abbot, and Clergy against the claim of Sir Stephen Lestrop. From 1417-1511 our chief authority is the Statute Law Book of the Isle of Mann, wherein "ensueth diverse ordinances, statutes, and customes, presented, reputed, and used for Laws in the Land of Mann, that were rattifyed, approved, and confirmed, as well by the honourable Sir John Stanley, Knight, King and Lord of the same Land, and diverse others his Predecessors, as by all Barrons, Deemsters, Officers, Tennants, Inhabitants, and Commons, of the same Land."+ The Libri Assedationis, and Libri Vastarum, or Manorial Rolls, which commence in 1511 and have been continued at intervals since that time to the present day, form the chief source of our information till the beginning of the 17th Century, when we have the Parish Registers to refer to. The earliest Parish Register, that of Ballaugh, commences in 1598. Our Registers are especially interesting from the way they show the distribution of the various names. Thus, on the low sandy coast of Bride, Jurby, Ballaugh, and Michael, where the Vikings of old could easily run their flat-bottomed ships on shore, Scandinavian names are most common. On the southwest coast, adjacent to Ireland, we find a predominance of the Hibernicised Anglo-Norman names, borne by the descendants of the MAC WALTERS and the MAC WILLIAMS; while in the centre and on the east coast the names which came from Ireland at an earlier date and those of purely native formation are most frequent. It is remarkable how very seldom people moved from parish to parish before the present century. Names quite common in one parish were hardly known in the next.

For the original forms of the Scandinavian names our principal authority has been the Land namabok,which is a record of the colonisation of Iceland. Reference has occasionally been made to other Icelandic works. and to Cleasby and Vigfusson's great Icelandic-English Dictionary.*

Our information respecting old Irish personal names has been chiefly derived from the following sources,
(1) " The Annals of the Four Masters,"+ which were mainly compiled by Michael O'Clery, a Franciscan Friar, between A.D. 1632-6, from the then existing Irish MSS. They extend from fabulous antiquity to A.D. 1616.
(2) "The Chronicon Scotorum,",a Chronicle of Irish affairs from the earliest times to A.D. 1150.
(3) " The Topographical Poems of Sean O'Dubhagain and Gilla-na-naomh O'Huidhrin."§



*: cf. Irish nI, :~ contraction inghen
. + Oliver's Monumenta, Vol. II. p. 247.-Manx Society, Vol. VII.

++ The Statutes of the Isle of Mann, edited by J. Frederick Gill, 1883, p. 3. the spelling of the personal names in this edition has been adhered to, except that the names in 1417, have been taken from the facsimile of the copy in the Rolls Office, given as frontispiece to Vol. III. of the Manx Society's publications. the full lists of the " Commons of Mann " in 1429 and 1430, and the nannies of the numbers of the " Quest taken at the Castell of Rushene " in 1521, and of the Jury in two, as they are not given in the Statute Law Book, have also been taken from the Acts in this Volume, which have been printed from the MS. copy in the British Museum.

~ It must be remembered that the earlier records in the Isle of Mann are written in Latin, and that, consequently, many of the proper names are corrupted by being Latinised. In the Registers the different forms of a name frequently arise from careless spelling, as correct orthography is quite of a late date.

~ Oxford, at the Clarendon Press, 1874.

+ Edited, with a translation and notes, by John O'Donovan, LL.D., M.R.I.A. (2nd Edition, Dublin, 1856).

* Edited, with a translation, by W. M. Hennessy, M.R.I.A. (London 1866).

§ Edited, with translation, notes, and introductory dissertations, by John O'Donovan, LL.D., M.R.I.A. (Dublin, printed for the Irish and Celtic society, 1862.)

(To be continued.)


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