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The Scottish Nation

MACGEORGE. – Additional account of the origin of the family of Macgeorge, partly derived from a MS. Account by the late Sir William Betham of the Herald’s college.

The family of Macgeorge, for some time settled in Galloway, is a branch of the ancient and noble family of Bermingham, originally lords of Bermingham, in the county of Warwick, and afterwards barons of Athenry, in Ireland. In the reign of Edward III., Bermingham, baron of Athenry, assumed the Irish surname of Macioris, which signifies the ‘son of Pierce,’ from Pierce, the 2d baron of Athenry, according to Lodge, or, according to Dr. Petrie, from Pierce, the first baron, in the reign of Henry II. They were premier barons of Ireland. The title is at present dormant. Of this family a branch passed over to Scotland, and settled in Galloway, probably towards the middle of the 17th century. There the name Macioris, by an easy transition, became Maciore or Macjore, and in that form it was preserved till so late as the end of the 17th century, when the family adopted the name as it is now spelled and pronounced.

The following interesting account of the assumption by the lords of Athenry, of their Irish surname, is by Harris, the editor of Sir James Ware’s Antiquities of Ireland: -- “Upon the murder of William de Burgo or Bourke, third earl of Ulster, in 1333, and the confusion that followed thereupon, many of the English degenerated into the Irish customs and manners, and assumed Irish surnames instead of their own. Thus the Bourkes in Connaught took the name of MacWilliam; the Berminghams took the name of MacIoris from Pierce the son of Meiler Bermingham, who was one of the principal heads of the family in Ireland.” Referring to the same event, Sir John Davis, in his Historical Researches, says: “About this time, viz., the latter part of the reign of Edward II. and the beginning of Edward III., the general defection of the old English into the Irish customs happened; for about that time they did not only forget the English language, and scorn the use thereof, but grew to be ashamed of their very English names, though they are noble and of great antiquity, and took Irish surnames and nicknames. Namely, the two most potent families of the Bourks in Connaught, -- after the house of the Red Earl failed of heirs male, -- called their chiefs MacWilliam Eighter and MacWilliam Oughter. And in the same province Bermingham, baron of Athenry, called himself MacYoris or MacIoris.”

The curious and valuable Irish chronicle, known as the ‘Annals of the Four Masters,’ contains numerous historic notices of this once powerful family, and in all the lords of Athenry are mentioned only by their Irish surname of MacIoris.

The date of the settlement of the branch of the Berminghams in Scotland cannot be precisely fixed. According to Sir William Betham they passed over to the Western Highlands of Scotland, along with a branch of another noble family, -- that of Macartny, and thereafter removed to the stewartry of Kirkcudbright, where, says Sir William, their Irish name of Horis or MacIoris was changed to Macgeorge. From this branch was descended John Macgeorge of Auchenreoch, who fought at Bothwell Bridge, the ancestor of the family of Macgeorge settled in the west of Scotland. A grand-daughter of this John Macgeorge married Joseph Macgeorge of Culloch, from whim is descended Colonel William Macgeorge, residing in London, who is the representative of the Culloch branch of the family.

The arms of Macgeorge are those adopted by a particular branch. But the proper arms of the family are Parti per pale indented, or and gules; and the crest, an antelope head erased, argent, attired, or – being the armorial bearings of Bermingham, baron of Athenry, the head of the family. These are the arms borne by one of the families in the west of Scotland (of the Auchenreoch branch), as registered and confirmed in the books of Ulster King of Arms, with the following for a difference, viz, in the centre point of the shield, a crescent, ermine, and the antelope’s head in the crest, gorged with a collar indented, gules.

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