The Gaelic-Irish sept of Ó Miadhaigh,
first anglicized as O'Miey and later as Mee, Mea and even May, was located
in Teffia where the place-name Clonyveey is a memorial of it. A member of
it was notorious at an early date when Gilla-gan-máthair Ó Miadhaigh
struck off the head of Hugh de Lacy in 1186. As was the case with most of
the Irish septs in that area, they were dispossessed by Norman families
and remained in their homeland in humble positions. Some moved
north-westwards: Conor O'Miey was one of the followers of Rory O'Donnell
in Tirconnell, and today they are mostly found in Sligo and neighbouring
counties, where Mea and Mee are the usual modern forms of the name. Mee is
occasionally found as an abbreviation of MacNamee. The Mays who appeared
often in the Co. Tipperary Hearth Money Rolls of 1666 were Mac Mághe. The
pronunciation of this is not far from MacMawe, and Mawe is a synonym of
May in use in the part of the country associated with the MacMawes. Mac Máighe
is an abbreviation of Mac Máigheog. They were sometimes called MacMawe-Condon
in English. Barnard May and David May were sovereigns of New Ross in 1287
and 1290; and in 1305 a John Mey was an Inquisition juror at Ardmoyle, Co.
Tipperary. Richard May was a tenant of cathedral lands in Co. Waterford in
1427. Possibly not a MacMay for many of the Mays are of English origin.
May is an indigenous English surname and it is also Anglo-Norman. As early
as 1210 Ralph de May was proprietor of lands at Ratoath. John Mey was
Archbishop of Armagh from 1444 to 1456; Sir Algernon May acquired much
land in Co. Kilkenny and appeared in the Kilkenny Book of Survey and
Distribution as a new proprietor in the baronies of Ida and Iverk; and
many of immigrant stock, are often met with in the records of the civic
and commercial life of the city of Dublin from 1500 onwards. George
Augustus May (1815-1892), a Belfastman, was a distinguished Irish judge.
MacMayo, also abbreviated to Mayo, appeared as a surname in the Book of
Survey and Distribution for Co. Mayo and a few years earlier (1647) in the
Ormond MSS. an army officer described both as Mayo and May is found. There
are at least three different origins for the name May in Ireland.
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