Bardic families, such as
the McGraths, claimed that their surname dated from the time of Brian
Boru's rule, who became High King of Ireland in 1005 AD.
The name itself is thought
to have been given to the descendants of Brian Boru's brother, Ahearne, in
the form MacCraith, and meaning 'Son of grace (or prosperity)'
So if the McGraths are
descendants of Ahearne, why did they adopt the surname MacCraith?
In Irish, Magh Rath could
mean 'Sons of the ring fort on the plain', Mc Roth could mean 'Sons of the
Sun, McGra could mean 'Sons of love', McGrath could mean 'Sons of grace'
and Mac Craith might mean 'Sons of the weaver.'
Liam McGrath in his work
'Our Celtic Christian Heritage' thinks the chosen meaning was 'Sons of
grace and prosperity.' From their start, they were bards active in poetry,
writing of history and leadership.
A McGrath fought as a
captain among the Dal Cassian clans at Clontarf. When he returned to
County Clare (Thomond), he was likely asked to write down the account of
Brian Boru's death. To write history or poetry is a kind of weaving of a
tapestry or record of events. The McGraths have been historians ever
Like several other names
beginning with McG, MacGrath is often written Magrath (cf. MacGee - Magee;
MacGennisn- Magennin, etc). In Irish it is Mac Craith, the earlier form of
which is Mac Raith or Mag Raith. Other synonyms still in use, especially
in Ulster, are MacGraw, Magraw, MacGra etc. while the same Gaelic surname
is found in Scotland as MacCrea, MacRae and Rae.