DUP : The Gaelic Party?

Posted this somewhat in jest over on me wee blogeen a while back. Must admit, it is not exactly an academic paper and more about just pointing out something interesting, whatever the deficiencies, our surnames tell us something about ourselves, and certainly make talk of the ‘planter and the Gael’ somewhat more complicated.Now, a health warning, your surname is simply one ancestor of many, it is not who you are, it is a part of who you are, who you are is your choice, or at least it is in my book, and as Nelson McCausland has pointed out if you say you are an ‘Ulster-Scot’ then you are an Ulster-Scot.

All these surnames could be described therefore as ‘Ulster-Scots’, that is a cultural label however, nothing to do with the linguistics of the matter.

Lets hae a wee luck at thems a’ tha DUP whas up in tha big hoose.

Key : * (Gaelic surname), ** (possible Gaelic surname), *** (Gaelic place-name as a surname, note these are not considered Gaelic and do not necessarily indicate any Gaelic speaking ancestors).

Allan Bresland* (Ó Breasláin)
Wallace Browne** (Reasonable chance of being from Mac a’ Bhriuthainn or Mac ‘ille Dhuinn)
Thomas Buchanan* (from the place-name Both a’ Chanáin ‘Canán’s hut’ but it is believed that they were once MacAusaláin)
Gregory Campbell* (Caimbeul ‘twisted mouth’)
Trevor Clarke** (good chance of being Ó Cleirigh or Mac a’ Chleirich é)
Jonathan Craig*** (form Gaelic Creag ‘a rock’)
Alastair Ian Ross* (Rosach ‘from Ros’)
Nigel Dodds
Alex Easton
Jeffrey Donaldson* (Mac Domhnaill)
Arlene Foster
Simon Hamilton
William Hay (Not a Gaelic name but it has a Gaelic form, MacGaraidh)
David Hilditch
William Irwin** (there is a small chance it is from Ó hEireamhóin)
Nelson McCausland* (Mac Ausaláin, this one is may favourite)
Ian McCrea* (Mac Rath ‘son of grace’)
William McCrea* (Mac Rath)
Michelle McIlveen*(Mac Giolla Mhín)
Adrian McQuillan* (Mac Uighilín, this is a Gaelicised family)
Maurice Morrow** (small chance Mac Murchaidh)
Stephen Moutray (?)
Robin Newton
Ian Paisley*** (from the Gaelic Páislig, a place-name originally Latin)
Ian Paisley Jr*** (from the Gaelic Páislig, a place-name originally Latin)
Edwin Poots
George Robinson
Iris Robinson
Peter Robinson
Jim Shannon* (Ó Seanáin)
David Simpson
Jimmy Spratt
Mervyn Storey
Peter Weir** (good chance it is from Mac a’ Mhaoir)
Jim Wells
Sammy Wilson

So, 10/36 of the DUP assembly team have Gaelic surnames, more than a quarter. There are a further five possibles and there are three with a Gaelic place-name as a surname.

Interesting at least. I make no further comment. I will not be able to hang about but will call in tomorrow.

Update : Well one more thing, having done quite alot of ‘cross-community’ work, I have always found that the pupils I have met have always been more interested in their surnames than in any other subject I am asked to talk about.

  • HeadTheBall


    “me wee blogeen”

    This is a tautology. Please withdraw it immediately.

  • HeadTheBall

    Despite that solecism, beautiful piece of observation.

    The English have frequently prided themselves on being a “mongrel” race and seen it as a source of strength and renewal. Why are we so hooked on racial/cultural purity? Because we all need to get lives?

  • Tochais Si­orai­

    I remember Danny Morrison once claiming that his surname was evidence he had planter ancestry (probably to keep up with the Adamses). It seeemed churlish to point out that it was more likely he was a O Muirgheasain from Inis Eoin.

  • fair_deal

    The name’s thing came up in a debate at one of the nationalist festivals in North Belfast. IIRC Mitchel McLaughlinn was asked “Is it true Adams is an Ulster-Scot name?” He replied “No it’s a Scotch-Irish name.”

  • dunreavynomore


    And of course over at s.f we will find those most Gaelic of names like Hartly, Maskey, Sands, Adams,Anderson,De Brun,

    The Unionists, meanwhile have good British names like Danny Kennedy.

  • Gael gan Náire


    Actually, all of those mentioned could be Gaelic names, including Adams.

  • Gael gan Náire

    Self-correction, Adams is a Scots / English name but it could well be an anglicisation of Mac Adhaimh / McGaw.

  • Exilio

    Perhaps you should do your analysis again with this.


  • Glencoppagagh

    Gael gan Náire
    Can’t even gaelicise Wilson (Mac Liam or somethings similar, surely?)or Newton (Baile Nua?). You’re not much good. And surely you could think of something for Foster or Wells. There’s surely an Irish word for well.
    It wouldn’t be a problem for West Belfast miscegenates wishing to conceal their shameful ancestry.

  • Dewi
  • Gael gan Náire


    One can do what one likes. Gaelicisation was not the intention, a glance at the origin of a set of names was.

    Dewi, thanks.

  • dunreavynomore


    Certainly ‘all of those mentioned could be gaelic names’ in the sense that someone had changed an earlier gaelic name into an English or other one like Adams, Anderson, etc; Some may have had a Gaelic origin, I don’t know. As they stand, though, they are not Gaelic names.
    Many Gaelic names are of Norman or old English origin also. They are also names, Martin, for example, which can be of either English or Irish origin. Hughes, Irish or Welsh; Welsh as a family name, Norman!!

    Many ‘Johnsons’ were originally MsShanes, a sept of the O’Neil, especially in sth Armagh but equally, Johnson is an old planters names.

    I agree 100% with you that names, per se, do not tell all that much about an individual or family without major research. Even with that research, without blood tests, who knows who anyone really is? Bottom line, we are who we are NOW, not who some ancestor was. It is an interesting subject, though, almost as interesting as place names!

  • Gael gan Náire


    I did correct myself.

    ‘Many Gaelic names are of Norman or old English origin also’

    Of course, but these are Gaelicised rather than Gaelic.

    I have had the chance to reply though I thought I wouldnt be able to, as someone said, this is just an observation.

  • dunreavynomore

    “This is just an observation’, same here, it’s a subject which takes some unexpected turns, eg, according to MacLysaght ‘Stritch and Studdert’ are Irish names fro Co Clare as are ‘Nix’ from West Limerick and ‘Horaho’ from Sligo! Who’d have ‘thunk’ it? No idea what the original gaelic would be.

  • Elle

    Mc Camp Beal is thw Ulster form of the name whereas ó Camp Beal is the Scottish form of the name.

  • Billy Fish

    GGN, you Shameless Irishman, you’re just taking the pi** out of all those shinners who now sport makey-uppy Irish names simply to avoid using their real (slave) names.

    Liam O Iasc

  • Gael gan Náire

    Par example?

  • Billy Fish

    Now, now I’m sure you’re being disingenuous asking. Have a trawl back a few years in SF archives then visit something more modern and count all the new monikers. You seem to have the time on your hands.

    In the spirit of things I’ll now proceed only under my gaelic nom de plume.


    Liam Ó Iasc

  • Pancho’s Horse

    Elle post 15. Campbell is Cam-béal = crooked mouth and is a nick name. The Irish Campbells are Mac Cathmhaoil = McCawell Also a lot of Rogers are McRory and McGuigan is sometimes Goodwin. Another beauty is O Gormaile anglicised to Bloomer.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    Did Daithi McKay gaelicise his name? I’m nearly sure I remember talking to people who knew him at school and said he was David back them.

    Anyone see Harry Hill on Sunday night? couldn’t stop laughing at him calling young Owen Quigg, E-og-han Quigg.

  • picador

    The strangest surname I have ever encountered would have to be Sex. I was at college with a guy in Galway who had this surname. I believe that he hailed originally from Kildare and was related to the footballer Brian Sex.

  • Glencoppagagh

    Perhaps Bily Fish was thinking of someone called Martin Millar who had the good fortune to have an Anglo name that could easily be translated into Irish and became O Muilleoir. Was he not a SF councillor at one stage?
    A senior SF figure like Adams, even though an Irish speaker, obviously realises that attempting to gaelicise his planter name would only expose him to ridicule.

  • Liam Ó Iasc

    I thought E-Og-Han was a Jedi warrior?

    Come to think of it so is Qui-G-Gee.

  • Gael gan Náire


    No one ever fails to call him Mac Adhaimh when speaking in Irish, how do you know that that is not the original, especially given the fact that there are no shortage of McAdam and McGaw.

  • dunreavynomore

    Liam ó Iasc,

    Personally I see nothing wrong with people reverting to the gaelic form of their name, I don’t like people who do it simply for electoral reasons such as ‘Sean’ Crowe in dublin who was plain ‘Jack’ Crowe before he stood for election.
    I have serious problems, though, when people take a good name like ‘Camloch’ (sth armagh) and turn it into ‘The Crooked Lake’ to publicise a race.These people were republican/nationalists!

  • Liam Ó Iasc

    Update! Sorry folks I’ve just consulted the runes and my true name origins are in fact Elvish.

    I’ll have to bin Liam Ó Iasc and will be henceforth known as Beriothien Lim.

    quel andue

    Beriothien Lim

  • dunreavynomore

    Liam Iasc

    Maith go leor, a Liam! so, elf a ta ann? Bheul, tamuid in ar gconai ‘san tir ceart, na se condae, ait aisteac, ait in a bhfuill sidhe, elvish ‘gus tu fhein. An bhfuill to i’mo gairdin?

    Maith thu ar do chuid gaelige, a h’elf.
    o an puca.

  • 阿拉斯泰尔

    他媽的 狗日的 胡說八道 笨蛋 王八蛋 干你媽

  • Paul O’Toole

    I think it is one of the great shames of the religious bigotry that has blighted Ireland, that so many unionists in the north decry all things Irish. There is so much good (and some bad as well) about Irish culture that it seem a shame to eshew it for political / ideological reasons.

    I can see no reason for instance why it is not possible to believe in the status of the six counties as part of the UK and still enjoy a game of Hurling.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    Great piece Gael gan Náire. It’s get’s us thinking about where we reallly did come from. good Job.

  • Seimi

    The study of surnames and placenames is fascinating, and appeals to everyone, no matter what age or from whatever background.
    Aodan Mac Póilín gives a great lecture on surnames. He starts off by getting everyone to write down their surnames, then tells them all where theirs derives from. I remember he talked abuout his own name, and how he originally thought it might be of French origin. He then found that it could be Irish, meaning ‘a small pony’, and how proud he felt. It wasn’t until it was pointed out that he was now reffering to himself as ‘My Little Pony’ that he had to rethink his previous pride…

  • Beriothien Lim

    Just back from chillin with the Halflings at the Prancing Pony.

    dunreavynomore, you’ve been hanging about too much with the dwarves of the Misty Mountains.

    mo nåire thu.

  • dunreavynomore

    Beriothien Lim

    is tusa an fear, taimse ag gaire!!
    My real name is O’Bannassa and I have just noticed the ducks in the nettles and it’s a terrible time that we’ll be havin’ before the winter’s out.

  • frustrated democrat

    P O’T

    Quite right, although a unionist and rugby fan, I often watch both Gaelic games on TV although I have never seen one live, I still support the Northern teams though – maybe someday I will get an invite to a North Antrim hurling derby I hear they are ‘competitive’.

  • ersehole

    Well it’s a welcome surprise that there are signs of a thaw in the attitude of Unionists to Gaelic. The identification of ‘republican’ ideology, or inded any political ideology with a language was always on dodgy ground.

    I hope the good folk of Camlough, or better still Cam Loch, sleep easily knowing Cam (crooked) also names the river whose bridge names Cambridge.

    Though I suspect it causes an odd tug at the quilt.

  • Danny

    Personally, I think it’s incredibly tacky when people whip out the Irish form of their surname when they are in Irish speaking environments, for example. Why have an Anglicised surname for certain situations and an Irish/gaelicised surname in others? It just perpetuates the divide between the two languages that exists for most people.

    The worst was when Biffo Cowen was introducing his cabinet. He read through the whole list…introducing each TD using both versions.

    “Máire Ní Áirne….Mary Harney….”
    “Liam Ó Deaghaidh…Willie O’Dea…”
    “Máirtín Ó Cuilinn…Martin Cullen…”

    etc etc etc

    Then he came to Éamon Ó Cuív.

    “Éamon Ó Cuív………..er….Éamon Ó Cuív.”

    Ó Cuív (the letter v is not native to Irish) is a modified version of Ó Caoimh which was adopted by his grandfather Shán a century or so ago who tried to introduce a simplified spelling system with little success.

    There seems to be this idea amongst some Irish speakers that if you’re “unfortunate” enough to have been born with either an anglicised surname (like O’Sullivan instead of Ó Súilleabháin) or a non-gaelic surname, that you have to revert back to the original form, or invent one. Why?

    Although, I’ve occasionally seen the opposite occur with native speakers, some of who will trot out the English version in English language environments even though most have retained the original Irish forms and nothing but.

  • Tochais Si­orai­

    In some cases,Danny it may simply be that they sound better (your ó suilleabháin v o’sullivan is a good example).

  • Glencoppagagh

    “I can see no reason for instance why it is not possible to believe in the status of the six counties as part of the UK and still enjoy a game of Hurling”
    You’d have a problem finding one outside the Glens of Antrim and the Ards Peninsula. It’s a foreign game for most of the proud natives up here.

  • Danny

    A matter of personal opinion I suppose. I prefer the former.

    Also, O’Sullivan has no inherent meaning. It’s merely a phonetic approximation of Ó Súilleabháin…which, if I recall correctly, means grandson/descendant of the small dark-eyed one.

    It’s the same with placenames, for the most part. We’ve all these thousands and thousands of Irish placenames which have never ceased to exist, but which are now largely unknown to the general population. So we’re left with absurd names like “Coolboy” (found in Donegal and Wicklow) for An Cúl Buí (Yellow Hill)….and “Tang” in Westmeath (An Teanga…) etc

  • eranu

    what is the origin of muff? which i think is in donnegal?

  • dunreavynomore

    MacLysaght says there is dispute over Ó Súileabháin whether it refers to one-eyed or hawk-eyed.
    The ongoing loss of townland names is serious. Many hundreds of very small ones have gone simply through lack of use and the post code system is putting pressure on the rest. Less and less people nowadays know where the boundaries of townlands are; road names are replacing townland names and the history which went with those townlands is going with them.
    Likewise, there were many spots name such as the casach cám (near Cullaville) which have dissapeared and are known only to a few older people.
    ERSEHOLE, there’s that cám again! You will, of course, find many place names in England with Celtic roots, Avon, for instance being another.

    Does anyone know why in republican/nationalist we are geting housing estates named ‘cherry grove’ and suchlike, especially when divil a cherry ever grew there?

  • Dewi

    “You will, of course, find many place names in England with Celtic roots, Avon, for instance being another.”

    Always found River Avon funny – it means “River River” – early bilingualism on the Welsh borders I suppose.

  • Billy Fish

    dunreavynomore, in truth I’m not Elvish. In reality its just affectation and foolishness. It probably says more about adolescent narcissism than anything else.

    You see one of the things that has defined people from the beginning of our time is travel and settlement of different lands. I can’t now look back into pre history and trace my lineage to a pure stock living in a mythical age.

    Of course as the Shameless Irishman himself has said a person can be who they say they are, and thats fine. However there is a dark side. My Eleven claims may lead to a position of cultural superiority. I may even demand a right to use Elvish in my everyday interactions with official bodies and claim, as of right, that the state supports me in my efforts.

    At worst I may claim that my name’s perceived history bequeaths me more legitamacy to be in a certain place than others who share it with me. That way leads to marginalisation, or in extremis a desire to clense my land on the basis of ethnic ‘origins’.

    So Beriothien Lim is no more. I proclaim myself as Billy Fish, and not in some Spartacus in-your-face way but simply as who I am. I desire no special treatment, or distain, based on an interpretation of the roots of my name and expect as much baggage as is attached to the colour of my eyes is attached to my name. In return I’ll do the same for you.

  • Ibrahim O’Diallo

    “I may even demand a right to use Elvish in my everyday interactions with official bodies and claim, as of right, that the state supports me in my efforts.”
    Well Bill if the native population of your country spoke elvish and a colonising power then outlawed the speaking and teaching of your language and imprisoned those who dared break the law, I think you’d have a fair case to have your own language one day recognised, and a legitimate right to demand some kind of reompense of the state that tried to kill it off.
    But off course those things only happen in fairy tales. What kind of uncivilised nation would try and kill off an entire language…

  • Dewi

    Intersting place in Cumbria called Torpenhow Hill.

    Each of the elements Tor (Old Brythonic), Pen (Cumbric), How (Old English) and Hill (Modern English)…mean “Hill” – Wonderful.

  • jiber

    thought it was culloville , dunreavey

  • dunreavynomore


    Muff is simply a very bad rendition in English of ‘magh’ which means a plain. Brian Friel’s play, Translations has the act of changing the place names of donegal to English, and the coming of the English language as it’s background.

    Billy Fish
    Have you Read ‘At Swim Two birds’? I think you’d enjoy it.

    That’s great stuff,’Torpenhow Hill’.

  • eranu

    ta dunreavy.

  • dunreavynomore


    It’s both! Culloville on one side of the border and Cullaville on the other. I will let you consider why that may be.

  • Paul O’Toole


    “You’d have a problem finding one outside the Glens of Antrim and the Ards Peninsula. It’s a foreign game for most of the proud natives up here.”

    OK, maybe not the best example, but the principal is the same, when I was growing up most protestants / unionists seemed to link all things Irish with republicanism / popery and as such would not have attended a GAA game if the beer was free. I think that attitude has changed somewhat in the last few years, but I think an acceptance of the good bits of Irish culture by unionists would go a long way to building bridges between the two communities.

    I would say the same of Catholics accepting Ulster Scots culture, but I think that to a great extent that has already happened.

  • Billy Fish

    Ibrahim, just let it go. I promise you’ll feel better.

    dunreavynomore, yes, and yes. I’m embarrassed to admit that my nickname at uni was ‘Pooka’. I was part of a group with massive literary pretentions, God was I ever so young and such a t**t. It was a pathetic “Dead Poets’ Society” kind of thing.

    My sobriquet derived from an old girlfriend who had issues with my rampant ‘Good Fairy’.

    But we’ll not go there.

  • problem

    Galbraith means “foreign foreigner”

  • RG Cuan

    Píosa maith GGN.

    Why have an Anglicised surname for certain situations and an Irish/gaelicised surname in others?

    Most Irish speakers who were given a non-Gaelic version of their surname at birth will revert back to the original form later in life. That’s what i’ve done and just think it’s confusing for people to use both forms. Using both versions according to the situation is the norm in Scotland however.

  • PaddyReilly

    In Scotland Robinson is felt to be the translation of the Gaelic surname MacDhonnchadh. A Highlander once said to me “Nach bochd gun do dh’éag Seumas McDhonnchadh Justice.” But in Donegal the name is believed to be English and irished as “an Robastanach.”

  • dunreavynomore

    Billy Fish,
    I thought so! You’d be the man to hide behind a spaer with 50 fosterlings in the seat of your drawers while the Men of Erin passed by overlooked by mad Sweeny!
    Now, if we could get hold of a box of omnium we could sort out who is who, was what and why there is a restaurant at the end of the universe where the toast may not fall butter side down. These are the kind of questions that weigh hey heavy on me at this time of the sainted p.m.
    Adh mor agat, agus barnbrack

  • Billy Fish

    dunreavynomore, the answer to all your questions is, as you probably already know, 42.

  • dunreavynomore

    Indeed but how many ro , ah that’s enough.

  • Dewi

    “Using both versions according to the situation is the norm in Scotland however. ”

    Really didn’t know that – I thought you were christened / baptised / whatever with your Gaelic name in the isles.

  • NP

    Always found River Avon funny – it means “River River” –

    thats abit like the travel journalist in the Guardian who said the best beach in Ireland was “Tra Strand”

  • Glencoppagagh

    Paddy Reilly
    A small error. I think he was referring to James RobERTson Justice.
    Robinson is not a common name in Scotland but Robertson is, I believe, among the most common. Though rare in Ulster.
    Why would anyone want to translate MacDhonnchadh into English when it could be simply rendered phonetically as McDonagh or McDonachie.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    “[i]I would say the same of Catholics accepting Ulster Scots culture, but I think that to a great extent that has already happened.”[/i]

    Paul O’Toole, Catholics aren’t necessarily Ulster or Irish Gaels.

  • Ms Wiz

    Paul O’Toole

    ‘I think it is one of the great shames of the religious bigotry that has blighted Ireland, that so many unionists in the north decry all things Irish.’

    Not necessarily old boy. I remember being at a history lecture during my time at QUB with Jonathan Bardon relating one of his many anecdotes, this one in particular a story of how Harold McCusker of the UUP took great pride and delight in ribbing one of his opposite fellows from the Irish Republic’s side during or after a secretariat meeting of the Anglo-Irish Agreement circa mid to late 80’s. Anyhow, McCusker was ridiculing said chap (can’t remember name) about the fact that although their surnames were the same by origin, said chap’s ancestors had obviously anglicised theirs somewhere along the way.

    If you walked up to Paisley and said he’s wasn’t Irish, I’m pretty sure he’d set you straight.

  • darth rumsfeld

    “I can see no reason for instance why it is not possible to believe in the status of the six counties as part of the UK and still enjoy a game of Hurling.”

    Indeed. It’s not the game, tho- it’s the naming of clubs, grounds , trophies etc after those who opposed Unionism- often violently.
    If the English quite rightly recognise that the Black and White Minstrel show and the Robertson’s Jam golliwog had to go because they were regarded as offensive by a section of the population, then ought not a similar revisionism be applied? Or are the English more comfortable with a multicultural take on identity?

    Harold McCusker was a complex figure- deeply loved by his constituents, but often exasperating to his colleagues. If he’d been spared to lead Unionism history would have been very different. He never denied his irish identity, but never stopped fighting for respect for his Britishness

  • RG Cuan

    We are wandering slightly from the thread but Irish identity today is very much multifaceted.

    Just like there are Irish Americans, German Americans etc, I’m sure many people on our island describe themselves in different ways, and this should be more widely recognised:

    Gaelic Irish, Scots Irish, British Irish, Indian Irish, Chinese Irish, Irish Traveller etc… and that’s leaving out any religious references!