McCartney


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Macartney is an anglicized form of the Gaelic MacArtain in Scotland or MacCartaine in Ireland.  The Gaelic prefix mac means "son of" and Artain is a diminutive of the Old Celtic byname Art, meaning “bear” or “hero."  The Macartney spelling has generally given way to McCartney.

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ScotlandMcCartneys have their origin in Scotland, although their earlier roots may have been in Ireland.  These Macartneys were to be found in Galloway in SW Scotland in the 16th century.  The areas where they settled in Kirkudbright were Auchinleck, Blaiket, and a spot known at the time as Macartney:
  • the Macartneys had acquired the farm at Auchinleck, originally part of Dundrennan Abbey, through the grace of the Maxwells in 1587.  These Macartneys were said to be originally from Ayrshire.  Their forebear was George Macartney who had married Mary McCollough in Kirkudbright in 1522.  Captain George Macartney of this family departed for Ulster in 1649 to form a new line there.  But Macartneys remained at Auchinleck, as their gravestones in Dundrennan Abbey reveal.
  • the farm at Blaiket Mains in Urr parish came into Macartney hands a little later.  These Macartneys suffered for their adherence to the Presbyterian religion, being fined and imprisoned and having their estates seized.  
  • the area known at Macartney lay at the junction of Crossmichael and Kirkpatrick.  Possibly the Macartneys of Mickle Leathes lived there.  It is now called Walton Park.
Macartneys began leaving Galloway for Ulster in the 17th century.  The Maxwells seem to have been instrumental in this migration.

"Galloway land was very poor, stony and hilly and was not much good for anything more than cattle raising.  The move to Ulster was prompted by the promise of good productive land in Ireland.  As well, people were escaping from the oppression of the Church of England religion which could dispossess and imprison those who refused to abandon their Presbyterian faith."

The Macartneys reassembled in Antrim.

Today there is a sizeable McCartney population in Glasgow and its environs.  But many of them are probably the descendants of McCartneys in Ireland who had crossed back to Scotland:
  • James McCartney, for instance, had come as a young man in the 1860’s to Glasgow in search of work.  He married there, worked as an onion dealer, and raised his family in the Gorbals.
  • John McCartney was a Glasgow tram driver disabled by work injuries in the 1920’s.  His son Hugh was active as a trade unionist and became a Scottish Labor MP, as did his son Ian who later served in the Blair Cabinet.  Sadly, Ian’s son Hugh was a young man who died of a heroin overdose.
Ireland.   Macartneys settled in Antrim.  Macartney was in fact listed in Petty's Census of 1659 as a principal Irish surname of the barony of Belfast.

Belfast.  Captain George Macartney arrived in Belfast in 1649 at the time of Cromwell.  The family was to remain a force in Belfast and in county Antrim for generations to come.  He was one of three George Macartney merchants active in Belfast in the late 17th century. 

His son George was a Belfast MP for fifty years and bought the Lissanoure estate in Ballymoney in 1733.  The family thus became country gentlemen.  A later George Macartney set off for London, married well, and was a distinguished diplomat, his career culminating in his appointment as the first Ambassador to China in 1792. The Lissanoure estate passed through many Macartney hands after his death in 1806.  But the last of them proved to be reckless with his money and the estate had to be sold in 1943.


Meanwhile William Macartney sat in the Irish House of Commons for Belfast from 1747 to 1760.  His son Sir John also sat in the House and was created a baronet in 1799.

McCartneys have not been immune from the sectarianism in Belfast society.  However, two who have been killed in the Troubles have been on the Catholic divide in society - John McCartney killed by Loyalists in the 1920 Belfast riots and Robert McCartney, also a Catholic, but killed in 2005 apparently by members of the Provisional IRA.

England.  Liverpool followed Glasgow as a destination for Ulstermen.  Paul McCartney’s family history was perhaps typical of many, with his McCartney forebears arriving from Ireland in the 1850’s and both of his parents being of Irish origin.

America.  McCartneys in America have tended to be Scots Irish, with many of them entering via Pennsylvania.  Their numbers included: 
  • James McCartney who arrived from Ireland in 1770 and fought in the Revolutionary War.  He later moved west to Ohio. 
  • Ephraim McCartney who was born in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania in 1772.   His family moved around Pennsylvania in the early 19th century before heading west to Iowa in the 1850’s.
  • and William McCartney, born in Pennsylvania in 1781, who headed west in the early 1800’s to Ohio and then to South Bend, Indiana (where he was a judge and land speculator).  His son Thomas migrated to California at the time of the Gold Rush. 
Australia.  Hussey Macartney, eldest son of Sir John the baronet, came to Melbourne in 1847.  Five years later he was appointed the Dean of Melbourne’s first cathedral, a position he was to hold until his death in 1894.  Hussey’s son John operated sheep stations in Queensland and had a passion for riding. 

"In 1859 John took up the Waveroley run near Rockhampton.  He soon became a legend, both as a horseman and as a collector of runs.  He was said to have regularly ridden the 125 miles from Waverley to Rockhampton in one day, carried out all necessary business, and retraced the 125 miles the next day."

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If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:


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George Macartney was an Irish-born British statesman, colonial administrator and diplomat of the 18th century.
Paul McCartney made his name with John Lennon and the Beatles in the 1960's and has continued as a best-selling recording artist. 

Select McCartneys Today
  • 9,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lancashire)
  • 4,000 in America (most numerous in Pennsylvania) 
  • 4,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)



PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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