This name McCleery was derived from the Gaelic M'a'Chleirich meaning the son of the clerk, i.e. the cleric. The name is found as M'Cleri in 1376, and John Clerici had a remission from James 1 for offences committed by him in 1428. Malcolm M'Cleriche was one of an inquest to determine the rights of pasturage which the Temple lands had over the adjoining town and territory of Letter in 1461. George Makclearie was a tailor in Edinburgh in 1648 and Finlay M'Aclerich appears in Auchlyne in 1638. The form M'Aclerycht was also common in the 16th century, and in Islay in 1733 there was a M'Inclerie recorded. The sept was a small one, and as its heads do not appear to have had any particular holding or lands, the traces of it in document of old date are few. 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 name was taken to Ireland by settlers and are from the O'Cleirigh sept, from which the present day Cleary families descend. They originally held sway in southern County Galway, near the border of County Clare and close to Dun Guarie, the stronghold of the 7th century King of Connacht, Guaire the Hospitable, from whom they claimed lineal descent.
They were dispersed from their territory in the wake of the Anglo-Norman invasion, and branches of the sept established themselves in western Ulster, in County Donegal and County Derry in southern Ulster in County Cavan and County Kilkenny.
The name was originally derived from the Latin 'clericus' meaning a clerk, or scholar, a man of the cloth. In the Middle Age it was virtually only members of religious orders who learned to read and write, so that the term 'clerk' came also to be used of any literate man. In many cases the surname may have referred originally to a professional secretary.
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