Maguire – Barons of Enniskillen

History of the Irish name Maguire. Image copyright Ireland Calling

The Maguires were one of the most prominent clans in Ulster during the 14th century. They ruled the area which is now Co Fermanagh.

The name comes from the ancient Gaelic name MagUidhir. The prefix ‘Mag’ was the equivalent of the more common ‘Mac’ and means’ son of’, while Uidhir comes from the word ‘odhar’ which meant ‘dunn coloured’ or ‘brown’. So MagUidhir was the son of a brown haired person.

There are several variations including MacGuire, McGuire and Macquire. People with these variations of the name are more likely to have descended from families in Connacht rather than Ulster.

The motto on the Maguire coat of arms is ‘Justia et Fortitudo Invincibilia Sunt’ which means ‘Justice and Fortitude are invincible’.

History of Irish surnames

Links to powerful families

The Maguires had close links with the Connells and the O’Neills which meant they were a powerful family in Ulster. They ruled the area around Lough Erne and were Barons of Enniskillen.

During the Middle Ages, the area now known as Co Fermanagh was known as Maguire County.

In 1598 Hugh Maguire, a Chieftain of the Maguire clan, was one of the leaders of the Irish Alliance at the Battle of the Yellow Ford. The Battle was part of the Nine Year War and saw the Irish defeat the English.

The English had been travelling to Armagh with supplies for their men when they were ambushed by the Irish near the River Blackwater in Ulster.

The Maguires lost their power

The Maguire’s land was confiscated by the Lord Deputy of Ireland, Sir Arthur Chichester, in the early 17th century following the Nine Year War. They were unable to maintain their prestige and many fled abroad.

Tobey Maguire. Photo copyright Eva Rinaldi CC2
Tobey Maguire

Following the 1641 Rebellion, Conor Maguire was executed in the Tower of London. He was part of a group of Gaelic landowners in Ulster who had planned to seize Dublin Castle. However, a protestant informer named Owen O’Connelly told the British of the plan and Maguire was captured and killed.

Maguires have flourished in many occupations. Nicholas Maguire was born in 1460 and became the Bishope of Leighlin. Thomas Maguire was a professor of classical composition at Trinity College Dublin in the early 20th century.

Famous Maguires

Several modern Maguires have excelled in their chosen fields.

Tobey Maguire is an American actor. He is famous for playing Spiderman in the Spiderman trilogy. He has also starred in hit movies such as The Great Gatsby, Seabiscuit, Wonder Boys and Brothers.

Stephen Maguire is a Scottish snooker player. He is nick named ‘live wire Maguire’ or ‘On fire Maguire’ and is a former world number two. He won the UK championships in 2005.

Cathy Maguire is a singer songwriter from Co Louth, Ireland. She was a child sensation and recorded her first album when she was 12 years old. She has released several albums and has also worked as a model and a TV presenter.

Sean Maguire is a British actor. He has appeared in several films such as Meet the Spartans and The Dukes. He has also appeared in several TV series such as CSI: NY, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, Criminal Minds and the British soap EastEnders.

History of Irish surnames