Murray – origins in Scotland, Ireland and England

History of the Irish name Murray. Image copyright Ireland Calling

The surname Murray has numerous origins. The most common is from Scotland and is thought to be directly named after a region called Moray Firth in North East Scotland.

There are also Irish and English origins to the name. In Ireland the name derived from Mac giolla Mhuire which means ‘son of the follower of the Virgin Mary’.

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The surname was particularly popular in Roscommon.

The name was anglicised in the 17th century when under British rule it became extremely difficult to find work for people with Irish sounding names.

Murray’s settled in Ireland

There are several variations of the name including MacMurray, McMurray, Morrow and Moray. Although Murray is predominantly thought of as a Scottish name it is the 18th most popular surname in Ireland.

The motto of the Scottish clan reads ‘Furth, Fortune, and Fill the Fetters’ which translates as ‘go forth against your enemies, have good fortune, and return with captives’.

To add to the confusion about the origins of the name, several Scottish Murrays left their country and settled in Ireland.

Scottish and English Murray’s

In England Murray derived from the surname ‘Merry’. This unsurprisingly was a surname given to people with a happy nature and comes from a 6th century Olde English word ‘Myrige’ which means ‘pleasant’.

The Scottish Murrays derive from Hugh Freskin. Freskin was a Flemish settler who obtained extensive rights to the land of Morayshire.

Freskin was likely to have been a knight who was placed in Morayshire by the Normans to keep the people under control following the Norman invasion of England.

Lord George Murray

Lord George Murray was a descendant of Freskin. He was a general in the Jacobite Uprising in 1745.

The Uprising was an attempt to reclaim the thrown for the Stewart family and install Charles Edward Stewart, often known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, as monarch of the whole of Great Britain.

Andy Murray. Photo copyright Christopher Johnson CC2

The rising proved unsuccessful as the British called on reinforcements from Europe and the Jacobites retreated back to Scotland.

However, many historians believe that if Murray had been in sole command, the outcome could have been different and Charles could have gained the throne.

As it was, the would-be king had to flee to France while Murray died in exile in the Netherlands.

Famous Murrays around the world

Andy Murray is a Scottish tennis player who spent several years ranked in the top four in the world.

After reaching several major finals and just falling short he finally won an Olympic gold medal in 2012.

This was followed by his first major tennis title, the US Open in 2012 and then Wimbledon in 2013. In 2015, he also helped Great Britain win their first Davis Cup in 79 years.

Bill Murray is an American actor who is most well-known for his roles in comedy films.

He has starred in Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, Kingpin and The Darjeeling Limited. He won several awards including a BAFTA for his role in Lost in Translation and was also nominated for an Oscar.

Donald Murray was an American writer. He was a journalist for the Boston Globe and also wrote several books.

He won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing in 1954. He had written a series of articles that analysed changes in American military policy.

Video histories of popular Irish names

Irish names and their meanings