MacDermott is an Irish name that originated in Co Roscommon around the 12th century. It is said to come from a former High King of Ireland.
There are several variations including Dermott, Kermode, MacDermot, McDermot and McDermott. It is derived from the old Gaelic name MacDiarmuid. The ‘Mac’ prefix means ‘son of’ while Diarmuid was a personal name that meant ‘free man’. So the name means ‘son of the free man’.
The clan were descendants or followers of Dermott who was king of Connacht in the 12th century.
Descended from kings
However, it is possible that Dermot was a descendent of another king – Diarmuid. Diarmuid lived in the 7th century AD. He ruled jointly with Blathmac as High Kings of Ireland.
One branch of the MacDermotts were originally chiefs of Airtech. However, they lost much of their power and moved to Sligo.
There were two powerful branches of the MacDermott family. One was in Coolavin, Co Sligo and the other in Kilronan, Co Roscommon. The chief of the clan had the title of Prince of Coolavin.
They ruled over their territories which were known as ‘MacDermot’s County’. They had an impressive fortress in the Island of Lough Cé.
The name develops
As the centuries passed, the English took a greater control over Ireland. This led to the systematic eradication of Irish culture as the English sought to impose their own culture on the country.
Many Irish lords and landowners lost their power and their properties. The people became more likely to speak English and their names became angliscised. The clerks that took people’s names for tax purposes would be English and write down names in a spelling they understood.
Many families would also drop the Gaelic prefixes to their surname, such as Mac, as it became easier to find work with an English sounding name.
While many Irish noblemen went abroad, the MacDermotts stayed in Ireland. They reached high office in the 19th century.
The name travels across the world
The potato famine that struck Ireland in the mid-19th century devastated the country. Millions died through starvation and disease and millions more had to leave to escape the horror.
It is at this time that Irish people spread around the globe in vast numbers. Most headed for Britain, America, Canada and Australia. All of these countries have a large population of Irish heritage and names such as MacDermott are common.
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