This surname of McAY is found predominantley in Ulster, where in the majority it is a variant of the Scottish settler name McKay, but it is known to have been assumed also by descendants of the Irish sept MacAodha. The name was derived from the Gaelic AODH, meaning 'Fire' and was originally the name of a Pagan God. Early records of the name in Scotland mention John M'Kee who was servant to John de Crauforde in 1460. Patrick Makkee had a grant of lands in Dunguild, Bute in the year 1506. A man named Lang Mcke ' was taken furth of the stokkis wherein he had been placed by the sherif-deute in Wigtoun, Scotland in the year 1513. The 'stokkis ' were a now obsolete instrument of punishment in which the ankles of offenders were confined. When the sparse Irish population began to increase it became necessary to broaden the base of personal identification by moving from single names to a more definate nomenclature. The prefix MAC was given to the father's christian name, or O to that of a grandfather or even earlier ancestor. At first the coat of arms was a practical matter which served a function on the battlefield and in tournaments. With his helmet covering his face and armour encasing the knight from head to foot, the only means of identification for his followers, was the insignia painted on his shield and embroidered on his surcoat, the draped and flowing garment worn over the armour. It has long been a matter of doubt when the bearing of coats of arms first became hereditary and it was not until the Crusades that Heraldry came into general use. Men went into battle heavily armed and were difficult to recognise. It became the custom for them to adorn their helmets with distinctive crests, and to paint their shields with animals and the like. Coats of arms accompanied the development of surnames, becoming hereditary in the same way. 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 name.
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