The majority of MacKay and MacKey families derived their name from the O'Macda sept of County Tipperary where Ballymackey was their sept centre. In that region this surname has survived as well as in the neighbouring county of Cork and in the capital. Families living in Ulster, however, are liable to bear the name of McKea. Early records note the name as MacAedha circa. 1098. Ireland was one of the earliest countries to evolve a system of hereditary surnames. They came into being fairly generally in the 11th century, and indeed a few were formed before the year 1000. Robert Mackay (1714-1778) was the Gaelic poet, born in Strathmore, Sunderland. He became a herdsman for the Mackay chief, Lord Reay, and was known as Rob Donn, as an oral bard, describing rural life in his area and the disintegration of Clan society. It seems likely that the expression 'the real McCoy' originated with an American boxer, Norman Selby (1873-1940) who adopted the name 'Kid McCoy' as his professional name and wished to distinguish himself from another fighter of the name. The earliest hereditary surnames in England are found shortly after the Norman Conquest of 1066 and are of Norman French origin rather than native English. On the arrival of the Normans they identified themselves by references to the estates from which they came from in northern France. These names moved rapidly on with their bearers into Scotland and Ireland. Others of the Norman Invaders took names from the estates in England which they had newly acquired. Alba, the country which became Scotland, was once shared by four races; the Picts who controlled most of the land north of the Central Belt; the Britons, who had their capital at Dumbarton and held sway over the south west, including modern Cumbria; the Angles, who were Germanic in origin and annexed much of the Eastern Borders in the seventh century, and the Scots. The latter came to Alba from the north of Ireland late in the 5th century to establish a colony in present day Argyll, which they named Dalriada, after their homeland. The Latin name SCOTTI simply means a Gaelic speaker. The associated coat of arms is recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884.
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