History of the Name: Mac Ghobhainn/Mac an Ghabhan/Mac Gowan/McGowan


The name Mac Gowan can be traced to both Ireland and Scotland. Descendants of the Pictish people of eastern Scotland who are first mentioned in the year 297 A.D., the Irish term “Cruithni”, meaning ‘the people of the designs’, who resided in Ulster, could refer to their ability as metalworkers. In Ireland Mac an Ghabhan meaning ‘son of the smith’ or ‘iron worker’ is first noted in Co. Cavan where in medieval times they were regarded as one of the principal septs, or families, of the kingdom of Breffny. In ancient times the ‘smith’ was a very important personage in the clan and was held in high regard. The name may be from a patronymic, being the given name Owen or Ewan. Both names meaning well born, or noble, are associated with the knights of St. John (The Crusaders). DUring the time of English oppression that began in the 12th century, many of this family were forced to Anglicize their name to Smith, or Smythe. In the northern counties of Monahan, Tyronne, and Derry the name Mac Gowan, or McGowan is still used in preference to Smith. The first recorded spelling of the family name anywhere may be that of Waler O’Gawane of Clonmel, Ireland, in the year 1428 and obtained from tax records.

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