1762 Michael McCormack

Ancestral Homeland

County of Westmeath, Ireland

Michael was born Michael McCormack in the County of Westmeath, Ireland who married Dunngan also the County of Westmeath, Ireland and they had a least one child also known as Michael. I have been unable to find out any more about Michael so it is now the work of the history books and research to tell us about the life of the McCormacks in this part of Ireland.

What is known is that my own DNA test and family oral history show the Westmeath/Roscommon/Athlone/area in Ireland is where our ancestors in this family line came from. My DNA also matches others with the same ancestry. It is also not far from Monaghan where the principal families include the McCormacks related to the DNA of the Larkins. See DNA Project Peters Pioneers and this DNA evidence links us to The Three Collas, brothers who were nephews to the High King of Ireland but before we get into their history let us look at our name.

McCormicks or McCormacks

Are you a ‘mick’ or a ‘mac’? Having lived in the lowlands of Scotland for a total of 11 years and born and raised in Carlisle and Penrith, Cumbria I was often asked this. Why is this significant you might think. Well, it’s because in the late 1700’s and 1800’s in the Scottish/English borders people are trying to find out if you are Scottish or Irish. I am sure when I was personally asked it was due to historical interest. However, in early times it could be due to prejudice for either being Irish most commonly or even Scottish and Irish if the person asking was English. The odd thing is a person known as a ‘mick’ was attributed to being Irish and a ‘mac’ was Scottish. I always answered that I was a ‘mac’ even though my surname was spelt McCormick, not MacCormick, McCormack or MacCormack but I didn’t know why.

Well as a result of my research from this family line we are definitely ‘mick’ and of Irish descent. Our ancestors were McCormacks from Ireland and changed their name to McCormick when they moved to the historical English city of Carlisle to work as weavers in the cotton industry.

History of the Name

Cormac is translated literally as “Charioteer, Warrior” in old Irish.

The name was a very popular choice of names by parents in medieval times: this was due to the influences of the Saint of the same name. Saint Cormac. Cormac mac Cuilennáin was the first Bishop of Cashel and also the King of Munster and responsible for a famous book of Psalms, the Cashel Psalter. Prior to this period, there had been an Irish Saint Cormac of Armagh at that time McCormack was the name of a powerful Sept (Clan or Family) in the county of Longford. Also Cormac mac Airt, was a semi-historical Irish high king who ruled from Tara ca. 227–266 AD. Cormac, son of Cabhsan, was the first chieftain to be called Cormack, and, of course, MacCormack came later as a direct descendant, Mac or Mc signifying the ‘son of’ when surnames became common/compulsory.

Source: Wikipedia – McCormick Surname  

Crossing the Irish Sea with Saint Columba

Yes, it appears we are also descendants of Cormac Ua Liatháin.

Cormac Ua Liatháin was a 6th-century Irish saint who is only known from Adomnan of Iona’s Vita Columbae.

In Adomnan’s narrative, Cormac gets mentioned three times. Cormac appeared to be a kind of anchorite monk who searched for islands on which to live as a hermit in prayer. It is also said in the narrative that he founded a monastery in Ireland.

In the first occasion, Columba having divine wisdom from God told others that Cormac had just set sail ‘from the district of Erris, beyond the river Moy‘ that day to find a place of retreat but he found none. Columba said that God would not allow him to find one because he was travelling with a monk who was away without his abbot’s permission, although Cormac was unaware of this.

In the second occasion, Cormac made a second attempt to find a place of refuge by sailing off into the sea. Columba prophetically knew all about this, and at the time he was in Pictland with King Bridei I and Columba, knowing that Cormac would find his way to the Orkney islands, which at the time was a sub-kingdom under the Picts, Columba therefore requested the King to make sure that if any of his brethren came to the Orkney islands, that they would be treated well. Bridei obeyed the request and when Cormac actually arrived there, he was protected from harm. According to the narrative, a few months later the monks at Iona were talking about Cormac and whether his voyage had succeeded, and Columba told them that Cormac would arrive at Iona that day, and he then did arrive just as the saint foretold. It is not clear from the narrative whether this meant he only spent a few months in Orkney in total, or if he later went back to Orkney after visiting Iona.

According to the narrative, however, Cormac also made a third journey into the ocean to find a place of refuge. His ship was driven by a steady southerly wind for fourteen days which pushed him very far to the north. Then his boat was attacked by a large swarm of tiny monsters, that were frog-sized, but which had spines on them. Cormac feared they might puncture the skin covering of the boat and he prayed to God. Imparted by God’s Holy Spirit was aware of what was happening and he called his monks to come and pray together for Cormac. In answer to these prayers, God then reversed the wind and made it send them back to the south. Cormac then came to see Columba again.

In the third occasion, Cormac along with three other Irish saints (St Cainnech, St Comgall and St Brendan (moccu Altae)) came to visit Columba and they found him at the island of Hinba. They chose St Columba to be the celebrant at mass and during the mass Brendan saw a ball of radiant fire over Columba’s head.

Source: Wikipedia – Cormac Ua Liatháin

So this is why we find the names McCormick, McCormack, MacCormick and MacCormack on both sides of the Irish sea particularly in the area of the lowlands, Glasgow, Stirlingshire and the Scottish/English border areas including Dumfries and Carlisle because this was the closest place to make the crossing.

The McCormacks and the Maclaines of Lochbuie

An appearance of the surname in the 1500s involves the glens of County Antrim in Ireland and “Moy Castle” on the Scottish Isle of Mull, now a large uninhabited stone structure. In the 1500s, the chieftain “Maclaine of Lochbuie” was evicted by his cousin “McLean of Duart” from “Moy Castle”. Maclaine of Lochbuie is said to have retreated to County Antrim, Ireland and sought the help from the then McDonnell Earl of Antrim to recover his loss. The Earl assembled twelve of his men at arms – all surnamed McCormick, and furnished a boat. With this force, Maclaine of Lochbuie was able to regain Moy Castle. To commemorate the help, this Scottish chieftain had the following carved into the stone lintel over the doorway entering Moy Castle in Gaelic, “Biadh is deoch do MhacGormai” which loosely translates to “food and drink for McCormick” – meaning “McCormick is welcome here”.

It should be noted that the Isle of Mull is only about 30 miles from northern Ireland, and that there has been more or less continuous migration between these two areas as far back as anyone can tell.

Source: Family Tree DNA

Our Clan

So do we have a clan? Well yes and no. In fact, the word clan is not Scottish at all but Irish meaning Sept or Family. The word Sept was later adopted in Scottish culture to mean a sub-set of a clan.

Our Scottish Clan

In the case of the McCormicks’ we are a Sept of the Clan Maclaine of Lochbuie. Our relationship with the Maclaine Clan is best explained by the clan themselves:

Although the first MacCormick on record accompanied St. Columba to Iona in the 500’s, (AD… a St. Cormick) their numbers populating Mull and the nearby west coast islands steadily increased over the years – no doubt due to Mull’s close proximity to Ulster – which as you know was the MacCormick/MacCormack hereditary territory.
Their association with the Maclaine of Lochbuie was cemented when, in 1540 Murdoch, the 6th Lochbuie chief, was supported by a contingent of MacCormick swordsmen in his successful endeavour to recapture Moy Castle. Thereafter the MacCormicks became a loyal sept of the Lochbuies and were the Chief’s leading lieutenants at times of conflict. The spelling of your surname has evolved into many variations over the centuries… But McCormick, MacCormick, Cormick, Cormack all have the same root.

Source: Maclaine Clan Website

They go on to say that we can officially join the clan and wear the tartan of the Clan Maclaine of Lochbuie and use the clan Battle-Axe Crest because “the MacCormicks have been recognised as a senior sept of the Lochbuies since 1540…when the Clan Maclaine of Lochbuie has been considered a Scottish clan.”

Our Irish Clan

Although we are a Sept of the Clan Maclaine of Lochbuie we do have our own Irish Clan.  The Dál Cormaic Luisc Clan.

“The McCormick’s are Irelands oldest Clan and can claim ancestry from several Irish high-kings, most notably Cú Chorb mac Moga Chorb, who ruled Ireland in 50 AD” Among its most celebrated chieftains was ‘…Cormac Gealta Gaoth’ who led an army of Irish, Scottish and Cumbrian warriors against the Roman Army in Britain in 87 AD.” Source: Tomas MacCormaic

  • Clan name (Tuath): Dál Cormaic Luisc
  • Progenitor: Corbmaic m. Con Corb (clan of Cormac Losc)
  • Location – county, barony or townland: Located in the southernmost barony of County Kildare, that is the barony of Kilkea and Moone.
  • Cinéal (Kinship): Laighin
  • Branches: Uí Labrada, Uí Gabla Fini, Uí Gabla Roírenn, Uí Buide, Uí Dega Bic .i. Uí Muiredaig, Uí Chuilind, Uí Labrada Cuthraige .i. Síl
  • Fergusa Cuthig, Uí Chuircc, Uí Librén, Uí Ochrai.

Source: List of Irish Clans

McComacks’ of Westmeath

So are there many McCormacks in the Westmeath are? There sure are!

In one survey it shows that the McCormack name is ranked 3 in the Westmeath area with 1 in 108 with that surname and 91.69% were Catholic in 1901.

Source: Forebears – Westmeath Geneaology 

  The Three Collas

As mentioned at the beginning of this webpage my DNA evidence links us to Clan MacMahon and The Three Collas, brothers who were nephews to the High King of Ireland. The clan’s ancestral lands were Monaghan in Ireland not far from Westmeath. If you would like to read all about the Three Collas and the MacMahon History flowing the link The McMahon Story.  Principal Families include the McCormicks

Michael and Margaret’s children were:

Sources

Michael McCormack 1788-1872

The information on this page has been verified using:

Documentation: Birth, Marriage and Death Records etc. Click this link to view these documents

Family Oral History

The author’s own knowledge

If any family member can add to the facts on this page or thinks a correction needs to be made I would welcome any information.