I’m Irish! (but what’s in a name?

Truthfully, there’s only a part of me that’s Irish, but I’ve embraced it for as long as I can remember. My maiden name was McGuire, and I always thought my Grandfather Henry McGuire was born in Ireland. One of the things I remember best about him is all the Irish stories, true and otherwise, he would tell us grandchildren. Our official family tree, however, places his birth in West Arthurlie, Barrhead, Neilston, RFW Scotland.

Henry & Winnifred McGuire

Henry and a brother came to Canada and settled in an area just north and west of Edmonton, Alberta where a group of farmers set up the Paddle River and District Coop. A central point in the area was chosen for a store, and when an application was made to have a post office in it, a name had to be submitted. The McGuire brothers suggested Barrhead in recognition of their home in Scotland, and this was adopted.*

However, the McGuires (or Maguires) really did originate in Ireland.

“The Irish family of Maguire, the chiefs of Fermanagh since the year 1302, derive their name and descent from Odhar, the eleventh in descent from Colla-da-chrich, great-grandson of Cormac Mac Art, monarch of Ireland about the middle of the third century.”**

Maguiresbridge in County Fermanagh (Gaelic: Droichead Mhig Uidhir), takes its name from the family.

How did these Irish end up in Scotland?

John & Edith Aconit

“Irish immigration to Scotland was part of a well- established feature of early 19th century life in Ireland: the annual harvest migration. Scotland was Ireland’s closest neighbour (only 13 miles separate the two countries at one point)…

In the 1820s, up to 8,000 economic migrants crossed back and forth across the Irish Sea every year, bound for seasonal agricultural work or other temporary contractual work in northern England, Wales and Scotland….

While most of the temporary migrants and probably a small proportion of the skilled workers eventually returned home to Ireland, some chose to settle permanently….

In Girvan, Ayrshire, for instance, some three-quarters of the 6,000 population was Irish-born in 1831. By 1841, when the earliest Scottish census was taken, some 125,321 (4.8%) of the 2.6 million population was Ireland-born.

For my purposes today, it’s adequate to know they did, and some subsequently came to Canada.

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I married a Garvin, Scottish in name, but with an Irish connection I didn’t know about at the time. In a family history compiled by my brother-in-law, Murray Garvin, I learned…

“According to my father’s account, three Girvans migrated from the town of Girvan, Scotland [to Ireland]. One located in Carrickfergus, one in Stoneyford, County Down, and one at Glencoe, County Antrim, and it was from the Glencoe settler that we have our origin.”

Girvan was the original spelling of our name. That Glencoe settler was one David Girvan who had been born in Scotland in 1586. Traced through his lineage, two brothers, Robert and another David, emigrated from Ireland to the United States and then came to Canada in 1831.

“Robert Girvan, on reaching Canada, settled on the 4th line of Golburne (sic) Township, Richmond County, Ontario, taking up land and also opening a blacksmith shop.”

Robert married in 1836/38 and he and his wife Sarah Vaughan had fourteen children. Yes, fourteen! Seven of the girls were baptized, but apparently none of the boys. In baptismal records, spelling of the family name takes various forms, possibly because they were written phonetically, and, as the account suggests, “perhaps the Irish accent added to the confusion.” Two of the girls’ names were recorded as Girvin, one was Girvan, and four were Garvin, as were the parents. However, on his gravestone the father’s name is inscribed as Girvin. Our line carried on as Garvin, although we have relatives in Ontario who use Girvan. Ackk! What confusion!

Enough about names! It’s time to celebrate all things Irish. I’m ready to indulge in a little wearing’ o’ the green, and maybe have a slice of the chocolate brownies I’ve topped with green peppermint icing. It would go down nicely with a mug of Irish coffee … but I’m not sure I have the makings on hand. I suppose I shouldn’t admit to that, being Irish and all. 😉

Oh, and the photos here? They’re of my paternal and maternal grandparents. I was fortunate to know all four of them for many years, unlike my hubby who had only one of his grandparents and was very young when that one died. There are fewer photos of them but perhaps I’ll hunt them up for a future post.

~  ~  ~

*TRAILS NORTHWEST
Barrhead and District Historical Society

**THE MAGUIRES OF FERMANAGH
By John O’Donovan

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