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Archiver > KEOUGH > 2003-02 > 1045074041

Subject: [KEOUGH-L] Re: Keough History
Date: Wed, 12 Feb 2003 13:20:41 EST

In a message dated 2/12/03 11:11:36 AM Eastern Standard Time, TCrow95798

> Hi Bill:
> Can't help you with the list but wondered if you Dec. offer for the
> family history is still open? If so, I would love a copy. Congrats on the
> good job you have done with the list.
> Slán, Tom

Tom that was Bill Kehoe Who is a big poster on the list who wrote up
the history as he see's it but here is a copy

Bill Keough

A History Of the Keough Surname
By Bill Kehoe , Reposted By Bill Keough

To those with surnames derived from MacEochaidh:

At Christmas, in my 70th year, I'd like to clear up a lot of questions about
the family originally known in the Irish language as MacEochadha, roughly
translated into English as "descended from those who raised horses" (even,
amusingly, "son of the rancher", among those of us who lived west of the
Mississippi River in the US). Actually, though, when the first person of our
family assumed MacEochadha (the possessive or genitive form of Eochaidh,
required by the Mac prefix) as a surname, he, Niall "Mac Eochaidh" (as
English speakers wrote it) no doubt thought of it as meaning "son of
Eochaidh", which was his father's name. Patronymics were normally the
accepted surnames of 1014.

The name Eochaidh, the first part of which comes from 'eoch' (old form, later
'each'), 'horse' and a verb some say has failed to survive into modern Irish,
was a common first name in medieval Ireland. The name was especially common
in the north of Ireland, especially among families grouped together as the
Dal Riada and Dal n 'Araidha, who occupied the eastern half of what we now
call Ulster, especially counties Antrim, Down, and Armagh. As one can see
from looking at any map of what ethnocentric speakers of English used to
refer to as "the British Isles", this part of Ireland is, in one place, only
about twenty miles from the coast of what we now call 'Scotland'. (The name
Scot, of course, was originally given by the Romans to the Celtic tribes of
Ireland, thought to be descended from Queen Scota.) Emmanuel Kehoe of Co.
Wicklow has a wry explanation of why, "in this episode of self conscious
nativism" in which Irish parents and their overseas relatives have sought out
ever more exotic and unfamiliar old Irish names for their children, Eochaidh
has not regained its former popularity. In modern Irish it has come to sound
like Uckie, Yucky, or Okie (the latter having a negative connotation mainly
to Americans who recall the migrations out of the "Dust Bowl" in the 1930s).

I need to apologize for the probable misspelling of many Irish names. Unlike
most Irish people who attended Irish schools, I know almost nothing about
written or spoken Irish. I've seen enough variation in Irish sources,
however, even in the Annals of Ulster and the Annals of the Four Masters, to
know that spelling in Irish, like spelling in the English colonies and even
England itself between 1500 and the late 1800s, is rather varied. Partly it
has to do with dialectal variation, but a lot more seems to reflect the
squabbles that continue to this day about how the language should be written.
The Irish, the Japanese, and the Hindi speakers of India should all take a
few lessons from Spanish speakers/writers on what reform of written language
ought to mean. I leave it to our oldest grandchild, Siobhan, who has tried to
make sense of the divergence of Irish Gaelic and Scots Gallic, to correct my
many errors.

Obviously, there were a lot of fathers named Eochaidh In 1013, 1014 (or
thereabouts) when Brian Boru, as High King of Ireland, decreed that surnames
would henceforth be passed down. He made this clear to all of the many lesser
kings and leaders in his camp near Clontarf, assembled from all over Ireland
to help break Viking power in Dublin. But there must have been more than one
family for whom the patronymic (Mac + father's first name) became the surname
MacEochaidh (or, more grammatically, MacEochadha). Most Irish people know
that many McKeoghs/Keoghs of Roscommon and adjoining counties are descended
from Eochaidh O'Kelly. Very few, however, seem to be aware of the more widely
distributed families, with much more variety in the current spelling of the
surname, who are descended from Niall MacEochaidh, King of Ulaidh (Uladh,
Ulidia) from 1016 {1012?}until Nov. 13, 1063. Here we encounter a great
leader who tends to be overlooked by most Irish historians, despite his
success in following up on Brian's gains and ending Viking power in Europe
for all time.

>From 935 until 1016, the northeast of Ireland was engaged almost continually
in a massive internecine struggle for control of Ulster and the west of
Scotland. Kings of Ulaidh, the northeastern kingdom, and ancestors of Niall
(Madudhan, Ardghal, and Niall's father Eochaidh Mac Ardghair) were also
contenders for the throne of Scotland. Niall's father died in the battle of
Craeb Tulcha opposing the forces of the Cenel Eogain in 1004. Many of the
best warriors of Ulaidh died with him, including his brother Dubh Tuinne and
his sons Cu Duiligh and Domhnall and, according to the annals, "there
followed a great slaughter of the army, both the nobles and the common folk,
king and lords and the elite of the kingdom of Ulaidh, and the combat ranged
as far as Dun Eachach and Druim Bo".

With such a widespread loss of leadership, there followed many years of
bloody competition, from the deaths of Eochaidh and many of his relatives in
1004 until 1016. (Some sources say Eochaidh died in 1003; there is often a
one year discrepancy between the Annals of Ulster and the Annals of the Four
Masters, but they agree on names and major facts and events.) Niall defeated
his cousin, also named Niall, son of Dubh Tuinne, his father's brother, and
proclaimed himself king, though he was not able to consolidate the kingdom
until 1016. During much of that intervening time he led his troops alongside
Brian Boru. When Brian died at the end of the Battle of Clontarf, though
Viking power had been broken in their largest settlement, Dublin, they
continued to control much of the Irish coast, to hold virtually all of the
major ports, and to take hostages all over Ireland and Scotland. A huge fleet
was assembled, from every Viking settlement in Europe, but especially Norway
and Denmark, to sail to Ireland and punish the Irish for their resistance to
Viking power.

Rumors of the huge Viking invasion fleet that was said to be gathering
reached most of the Irish and terrified many of them. Such stories merely
inspired Niall Mac Eochaidh to greater efforts and greater daring. "Taking a
leaf out of Julius Caesar's book", according to one of my aunts, recalling
the antecedents to Caesar's invasion of Britain, Niall convinced his Ulidians
that the Vikings of the invading fleet were "over-fed, overloaded, and
overconfident". He ordered and oversaw the building of a stronger, better
designed fleet in Belfast harbor, then, in 1022, quickly sailed out to meet
the Vikings on the open sea. The Vikings were surprised and totally
overpowered. Taking no time to celebrate, Niall and his followers pursued the
stragglers into every port in Ireland, and a few even in Europe, where he
burned their ships. Messages were sent to Viking survivors all over Ireland
to the effect that they had a choice between living in peace with their Irish
neighbors, or sudden death. This was the end of Viking power throughout

Between 1022 and 1052 Niall, still allied with Brian's sons (I've written
earlier about the alliances between the O'Briens and the McKeoghs that lasted
over 1000 years), Niall's forces continued to be involved in putting out
brush fire wars and trying to substitute a system of fosterage (exchange
students?) for the widespread taking of hostages. Some say he was a penitent
for the rest of his life for mistreatment of hostages that occurred among his
own people. Niall's heir designate, Eochaidh Mac Eochaidh, as well as his
cousin of the same name, died in 1062. The king himself, Niall Mac Eochaidh,
"died on Thursday, the ides of November, the 18th of the Moon", in 1063 in
the 51st year of his reign.

None of Niall's successors was able to attain an uncontested hold on
authority over Ulaidh. The prevailing name MacEochaidh became, often, ua
(O')Eochadha, now (O')Haughey, Hoey, Hoy, etc., in what was once called
Ulaidh. There had been a terrible winter in 1047, as a result of which many
people died in the famine that followed. The snow was said to have lasted
from Dec. 8 until March 17, and this was followed by a terrible drought. Both
caused the people of Ulidia to seek peace with their long time enemies in
Leinster and even, in many cases, to move south into their territories. After
a great plague in Leinster spread throughout Ireland, Donsleibhe O'Eochada
and his hardened surviving warriors were said in the Annals to have gone into
Munster "to seek hire". These events may explain, more than differing lines
of descent, the prevalence of those surnames derived from MacEochaidh in
Limerick and Tipperary as well as in Wexford, Wicklow, and Carlow. With this
great warrior family all but gone from the north, Henry II's huge invading
force met much less resistance there in the 12th century than they had come
to expect.

'Mac Eochaidh' is one of many long Irish names that became simplified and
shortened in a variety of ways as English gradually replaced the Irish
language in most of Ireland. Many of the full explanations suggested require
an understanding of phonetics, historical linguistics, or changes in the
Irish language to become really clear, so you'll have to take my word (or
MacLysaght's) for many of them. Some are obvious, such as those requiring
simplification of a three syllable name into two, or even one, or a more
phonetic spelling. Thus you get Mack, Mackey, Mac/Mc(K)eogh, or even Hayes
from the last syllable of MacEochaidh.

"Voiceless" consonants (e.g. p,t,k) become voiced (e.g. b,d,g) between vowel
elements, hence the simplified McKeoch becomes McGeoch. The occasional
pronunciation of the latter as McCue is harder to understand, and has old
time political (i.e. Dal Riada Scots) overtones. McCoo might be a variation,
but that more likely came from McHugh. McKeough, in and near Limerick, also
often gets a McCue pronunciation. In the same way, (K'eoch becoming Geogh),
you can even get Kough becoming Gough, when the Mac prefix is dropped, and
then,after getting the -gh>f sound change, the spelling may occasionally
change to 'Goff'.

Sometimes, especially for our ancestors who couldn't read or write (largely
because the English made it illegal to teach Irish children to read) the
sound of MacEochaidh in modern Irish was written according to what the writer
heard. MacOkey, McGokie, or, with the complete loss of the old ch fricative
:[ Mc]Goey.

In the north of Ireland and in part of Scotland, where the older 'eoch'
(horse) became 'each' (compare the 2 common pronunciations of 'orange' here),
the MacOkey sound of MacEochaidh you get in modern Irish is more like
MacAhkey. When the 'k' sound becomes voiced, MacCaughey becomes MacGaughey.
As these changes are going on, the ch/gh reflexes of the old Indo-European
laryngeal (voiced and voiceless) consonants are also disappearing, as they
have in almost all IE languages, not just Irish. Thus, especially in the old
Dal Riada homelands in Northern Ireland, you get M(a)cGahy, M(a)cGahie, and
MacGahee rather than 'MacOkie', finally even McKay and McGay. All over Europe
consonants that used to have the sound of people clearing their throats are
now either replaced by an 'h' sound or are totally "silent". It's no great
surprise, then, that the most common written representations of the older
MacEochaidh in Irish Gaelic and Scots Gallic, whether written Kehoe, Keough,
or Keogh, are, in Ireland, Scotland, even in Wales, almost always spoken in a
single syllable: Kyoh.

We should be glad the final 'k' sound from the longer Mac-/Mag- prefixed form
was kept. We might not be able to hear Oh! or Yo! [or Ah?] as an
approximation of our ancient surname against the backdrop of general
linguistic chaos.

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