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Irish Surname - McGreal / MacGreal

The surname McGreal is one of a group which are Scottish in origin, but generally accepted today as being purely Irish. The McGrail sept of Ireland is a branch of the MacNeill clan of the Western Isles of Scotland, who settled in Ireland before the 15th century. They were employed for centuries as mercenary soldiers and seem to have been a mix of catholic and protestant.

The surnames 'McGrail' or 'McGreal', were interchangeable in Ireland up until the early 20th century; both being anglicised versions of the Gaelic name "Mag Reill", which in turn was the Irish variant of the Scottish "MacNeill" or "McNeill" (the Son of Neill). This change from MacNeill to Mag Reill, and then on to the 'modern' versions may well have been as a result of dialect or poor spelling.

From the 17th century onwards the surname became popular in Counties Mayo and Leitrim, and it is said the clan members were substantial freeholders in those areas.

Famous People

Eoin MacNeill (1867 - 1945) was an Irish scholar, nationalist and politician, regarded as the father of the modern study of early Irish medieval history. He was a co-founder of the Gaelic League, to preserve Irish language and culture.

In modern times, Mayo native Fr Micheal Mac Greil SJ is a respected sociologist, author, lecturer and ardent campaigner for justice and many worthy causes. Amongst other things he has been actively associated with the West on Track campaign in the west of Ireland for the past number of years.

Coat of Arms

The coat of arms associated with the surname has the blazon of a red field, a silver wolf rampant and a gold chief.

Motto

Per Virtutem Scientamque - By Virtue Knowledge

Alternate Surname Spellings

McGrayle, McGrail and MacGréill

Researching Irish Surnames

We have researched many sources for the origins of Irish surnames and extracted a fair representation of the origins of each. As there are many variations we have compiled a representative, but by no means exhaustive, selection.

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