Thursday, 17 November 2011

Surnames, Beatty & McVitty

Bia, meaning food, is the root of many words in Gaelic and several surnames.  In ancient and mediaeval Ulster strangers and travellers were granted hospitality.  Each district would have a 'biatach' who was the man intrusted by the clan's taoiseach with the responsibility of providing this hospitality.  This was done at the Brú, which was a hostel located at a road crossing on a major slí, or road. The position of biatach was important and he would be provided with land and goods so that he could execute his work.  In short, it was a good gig.

The word biatach is used in several traditional family surnames: Ó Beataigh (descendant of the Biatach) which is anglicised as Beatty, Beattie.  Another surname from Biatach is Mac an Bhiataigh (son of the Biatach) and anglicised as MacVitty, McVitie, etc. (so there is some connected between those lovely tea biscuits and their name!). 

2 comments:

Jordan said...

Interesting. Those biscuits are fairly popular here in Malaysia; since my last name is similar (MacVay) people sometimes confuse it with the name of the biscuits. There aren't too many Mac/Mc names over here besides my family, the biscuits, and McDonald's so it happens more often than one might think. Anyway, at least now I can give people some more background on the McVitie name. Moran taing.

BR McCain said...

tá failte romhat mo chara.