Friday, 9 January 2009

Clan History. Celtic Beginnings

I've called this blog 'McIlhagga Clan'.  The beginnings of a Clan can sometimes be hidden in the name by which that 'extended family' became known, and such is probably the case for the clan in which today the most frequently found spelling of the surname is McIlhagga.  However there are other spellings which we may call 'variations'.  In 2009 the second commonest spelling is McIlhagger and the third is McIlhaga.  And I have on record at least one instance each of MacIlhagga, McElhago and McElhage.  Historically there are many more.  It is generally agreed by scholars that the name has a Scottish Gaelic origin, though the 'originator' of the name is probably Irish!

In Gaelic names giolla (Irish) or gille (Scottish) often appears, and this is where the 'Il' syllable today comes from.  Sometimes it can mean 'youth' and some writers on names have linked it in our name with chairge, 'rock', to give a meaning something like 'Son (Mac) of that rock-like youth'.  This however seems to be the least probable of three suggested Gaelic origins.  We know that G(h)ille today commonly means 'servant', giving us the second possibility, gille sagairt, 'son of the servant of the priest'.  The earliest meaning of ghille however is 'follower' or 'devotee', giving the meaning of McIlhagga, McIlhagger or McIlhaga (etc) as 'Son of the devotee of Mochuda'.  This name is a 'pet' form of Carthach, Gaelic for 'lover/loving'.  So was there a Mochuda?  I'll go into that another time.  

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