MacIntyre/McAteer – descended from a Scottish carpenter

History of the Irish name McAteer. Image copyright Ireland Calling

The surnames MacIntyre and McAteer are popular in Ireland, particularly in Ulster, but they actually originated in Scotland.

Back to Irish surnames

There are a number of variations to the name including MacAteer, McInteer and McIntyre.
History of the Irish name MacAteer. Image copyright Ireland CallingIt comes from the old Scottish Gaelic name Mac an t-Saoir. The ‘Mac’ prefix means ‘son of’, while Saoir comes from the word ‘Saor’ which meant ‘craftsman’ or ‘carpenter’. So the surname meant ‘son of the carpenter’. It is the Gaelic equivalent of the English surname ‘Wright’.

King Somerled

There have been no documents discovered that have recorded the history of the MacIntyre clan. However, many people believe the clan descended from a carpenter of the 12th century warrior king Somerled.
The story goes that the King Somerled wished to marry the daughter of King Olav the Red, who was King of the Hebrides islands.
Olav refused Somerled’s request but invited him on a sailing expedition to raid Skye, the largest of the Hebrides islands. Somerled’s carpenter, who may also have been his nephew, was named Maurice MacNeil. MacNeil drilled holes in the bottom of Olav’s boat and filled them with butter.
When the kings sailed to Skye, the butter washed away in the sea and water started to fill Olav’s boat. Somerled refused to help until Olav would agree to the wedding. He then sent MacNeil to repair Olav’s boat with wooden plugs that he had brought especially. It was MacNeil’s family that became the MacIntyre clan.

The name spreads across the world

It is believed that the clan originated in the Hebrides islands but there are no official documents. They eventually migrated to mainland Scotland and settled in Lorne, which is now Argyll and Bute.
For centuries, the MacIntyres were foresters to the Lords of Lorne. They retained their position under a succession of clans, from the MacDougals, to the Stewarts and then the Campbells.

Michael McIntyre. Photo copyright Damien Everett CC2
Michael McIntyre
Many MacIntyres crossed the Irish Sea over the years and settled in Ireland. The majority of them settled in Ulster, but many also headed for Co Sligo.
The names became anglicised and numerous variations developed after the British took control of Ireland in the 17th century.
In the 19th century, the names would spread across the world as Irish people travelled to countries such as the USA, Canada, Britain and Australia after the potato famine had devastated the country.

Famous MacIntyres/McAteers

Michael McIntyre is an English comedian. He is one of the most popular and successful comedians of his era and has completed several huge sell out tours. In 2012 he was reported to have been the highest grossing comedian in the world.
Jason McAteer was an Irish international soccer player. He was born in England but represented Ireland due to his Irish roots. He played 50 games for his country, including the 1-0 victory over Italy at the USA ’94 World Cup – one of the finest results in Ireland’s soccer history.
He also scored the winning goal against Holland to help Ireland qualify for the 2002 World Cup.

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