Family speaks louder than any research, and as a 7th Generation McCaughey I know this very well, yet it was the research which led me to my Gaelic past; with a surname testament to the rich history that lay within.
The most distinguished surname is one of the native Irish surnames that come from the Irish Gaelic language. The original Gaelic form of my family's surname McCaughey is "Mac Eachaidh," from the personal name Eachaidh, which is Anglicized as Aghy and pronounced Ockee. There are many written and phonetic derivations of the name McCaughey/McAughey, M'Aughey, McAghy, McCaghey, McCahy. McCahon, McCaughlin, McGahey, McGaughey, Mulcahy, Caughey, but there are more.
Research has suggested that the family name McCaughey was first found in the county of Cork (Irish: Corcaigh); and the ancient Kingdom of Deis Muin (Desmond), located on the southwest coast of Ireland in the province of Munster, where they held a family seat from ancient times. The McCaughey's are reputedly descended from people called the Dál Fiatach¹. From early times right up to the 11th century the Dál Fiatach provided Kings for Ulaid (Ancient Ulster). The McCaughey family proper and their ancestors have been indigenous in County Down and Antrim for over 1600 years. It is possible the Irish family have Scottish descendants who colonised part of Scotland over 1000 years ago; even the first High King of Scotland was an ancestor of the MacCaughey's, however bearers of the name are few in Scotland and these may be recent kin of Irish who went as labourers to the Scottish Hiring Fairs in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It may be an explanation of the Presbyterian Caughey families in East Down (this brief background to the name is from internet sources of other McCaughey researchers). Legend states King Milesius of Spain² travelled through Scotland on his way to Ireland with his new bride Scotia³, and named the country after her before moving into Ireland. It is also believed that through King Milessius and his bride came the origins of the black Irish.
The Anglicisation of names from Gaelic was a major cause of spelling variations of the name that were found in the archives researched. This is in addition to variations of the Gaelic itself, and spelling changes were frequently made by church officials and clerks. The name, McCaughey, occurred in many references but variations included Caughey, McCaughey, McGaughey, Coffee, Coffey, Coffy, O'Coffey, O'Coffy, Mulcahy, McGahey and Megahey, and others. Any preference for a certain spelling was often due to loyalty to a certain branch of the family or for religious or political reasons.
My surname of McEchaidh was deliberately changed from its original Gaelic spelling to pay hommage to the original Gaelic surname of Mac Eachaidh. The only difference is I dropped both "a's" from the original spelling so it would also pay hommage to the prefix "Mc" in my family's chosen Anglicised name of McCaughey, a name my grandmother always hated for its pronunciation Ockey/Cockey but only has her father to blame for it..
Speaking of father and family, the records I searched for date back to the early 1700's. Prior records cannot be retrieved due to a blaze in the records building in Ireland so what I did find I was most grateful for. Adam M'Caughey was the first person found, and although there is not much information about him, he was listed on his son's marriage certificate so at least that's something! His son, James M'Caughey fled Ireland aboard the Abyssinian bound for Australia's Northern NSW coast line and was later married to an Irish girl by the name of Mary Ann Luttrell along the Clarence River. He was 20 and she was 24. His father was in attendance, yet moved back to Ballymena once the wedding celebrations were over and that's where Adam M'Caughey lived out his days.. however; it was a different story for his son as that's where the M'Caughey dynasty began and is still going strong along the Northern Rivers today, albeit under the new name of McCaughey.
I don't possess Irish citizenship; I'm guessing my grandmother didn't know she could so didn't bother with it! But what's citizenship anyway? It's a piece of paper not what's in your heart. The blood of an Irishman; the values and morals instilled in us lies in the family ties, food and stories passed down from generation to generation; along with each burst of fun the Irish are known for. Naturally, I love Irish food and my grandmother used to cook it each week for my mother growing up; then giving me the knowledge and skills which I now pass on to my own children who cook for me. From soda farls to colcannon and Irish stew, family and food, music and laughter bind us.
It's just not Irish not to!