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Smith, Smyth, Smithe, Smythe, McGowan, O'Gowan, Gowan

Arms of Smith, O'Gowan or Mac an Gabhain. There is a family tradition that the O Gowans fought a major battle at night using torches. Hence the symbolism in the arms.

Arms of Gow of Scotland.

Arms of MacGouan of Scotland.

Arms of Captain Robert Smith of an English family in Dirleton, Haddington who became Athlone Pursuivant of Arms.

Arms of Smith or Smyth of the Baskin in North County Dublin. Similar coats of arms are recorded for other families of the name.

Arms of Alderman John Smith, Lord Mayor of Dublin, 1677. Peacocks are a feature of the Smith-Carrington family.

Arms of Smyth or Smythe of County Down

Arms of Smith of Merrion, Dublin.

Arms of Smith of Damagh, KIlkenny. Descended from an Englishman who was secretary to the Earl of Ormonde.

Arms of Smith of Maine, County Louth; Annsbrook, County Meath; Beabeg, County Meath; Greenhills, County Louth.

Arms of Smith or Smyth of Waterford.

Arms of Smith of Dublin, descended from a Yorkshire family. There are numerous similar arms on record in Ireland.

Arms of Cusack-Smith of Laois / Offaly

Arms of Smith-Prendergast of County Galway

Arms of Smith-Barry of Fota, County Cork

Arms of Smyth formerly Curzon of Drumcree, County Westmeath.

Arms of Chedle alias Smith; Sir Samuel Smith, 1635 and Smith of Violetstown, County Westmeath.

Arms of George Sidney Smith, Fellow of Trinity College Dublin.

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It is difficult to attempt to chronicle such a common name as Smith. Smith [and its variants] is easily the most common surname in Britain and figures in the top ten of surnames in Ireland in various polls over many centuries, being also number one in Ulster. The name, of course, is occupational and may derive from any worker in metal but most commonly from blacksmith, armourer or farrier. Prior to the invention of mechanised travel, the horse was the most important method of carriage for personal, trade and military purposes and wherever there were horses there had to be a "smith". It is not surprising therefore that the trade gave rise to a multitude of surnames which arose independently all across the English speaking world and indeed further afield. At the outset it is important to mention that the spelling of the name as Smith, Smyth, Smithe, Smythe, etc. is of little historical significance. The use of "i" and "y" and the presence or absence of the terminal "e" merely reflect the writing styles of the day.

In an Irish context (which is the self imposed scope of this feature) Smith may be the anglicised form of one of several native septs, the name of Scottish families transplanted into Ulster or simply from English families who settled in the country over the centuries.

Of the native Irish families, that of Mac an Gabhain of Breffny is the most important. Mac an Gabhain literally means "son of the smith" and has been variously anglicised as McGowan (later simply Gowan) as well as Smith and Smyth and also as Smithson. The usual modern gaelic form is MacGabhain. The name is still common in all its forms in county Cavan where the many of Smiths are of this family. On the borders of Breffny, in Co. Leitrim, and to the north west in Counties Donegal and Sligo, the true form in English, MacGowan, is still used in preference to Smith.

A branch of the family known as Cruthnean Dail hAraide of counties Antrim and Down, of which Hugh O Gowan was chief in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, was transplanted to County Cavan because they aided the O Neills. Other families remained in County Down, Anglicizing their name to Smith or Smythe.

In Ballygowan, County Down, an O Gowan sept Anglicized its name to Smith, and a distinguished descendant of this family reintroduced the original O Gowan name, with the full agreement of the Irish Genealogical Office, in 1949. This was Major-General Eric Dorman-Smith, a brilliant military tactician, who was born in 1895 at Bellamont Forest, Cootehill, County Cavan. His youngest brother, Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith, was Governor of Burma at the time of the Japanese invasion during the Second World War. Apart from this family, the form O Gowan is rarely encountered in modern times. It is, however, to be found in the census of 1659 as one of the principal Irish names in the counties of Monaghan and Fermanagh.

In medieval times the Ghabhainn clan families of counties Clare and Tipperary were hereditary historians to the O Loughlins of Burren and the O Kennedys of Ormond.

Among the many alternative forms of the name recorded in the statistical returns of the Registrar-General, the most usual, apart from Smith, are Mageown and Magown. Further confusion arises from the fact that the Gaelic surname MacDhubhiin, a family of Raphoe, Co. Donegal, and also of Co. Clare, where the anglicized form is MacGuane, has become MacGowan in Co. Mayo; while Mac Gamhna (normally Gaffney) is also rendered MacGowan in some places.

Two MacGowans of Irish ancestry have distinguished themselves abroad: in the U.S.A. Samuel MacGowan (1819-1897), a Presbyterian, jurist and Confederate soldier; and in New Zealand, James MacGowan (1841- 1912), statesman. Faelan Mac an Ghabhan was one of the scribes of the Book of Ui Maine (1394).

Numerous Irish Smiths and MacGowans served in the Irish armies in the seventeenth century. They also served with Charles I, and were soldiers of the Commonwealth in Ireland and, later, in the French and American brigades.

In Scotland the name MacGow was, in Gaelic, MacGobha also meaning "son of the smith", was anglicised as both Gow and Smith. There were Gows or MacGowans, a sept of Clan MacPherson, long known as Sliochd an Ghobha Chrom, the "race of the bandy legged smith", from their ancestor Henry Gow of the Wynd. These Smiths became a clan in their own right, being one of the seventeen tribes of the great Clan Chattan federation. The names Gow, Gowan and Smith are also common all over Scotland. MacGobhainn, anglicised as MacGowan and Smith, was the name of a family, which was hereditary smiths to the Clan Donald. Many of the Ulster Smiths descend from one or other of these Scottish families.

Many Smiths of Kilkenny and Tipperary descend from William Smith of Damagh, who was secretary to the Earl of Ormonde. It is recorded that the Earl "was well pleased that William Smith of Damagh, Co. Kilkenny, should bear some parcel of his arms for diligent services done by him to the said Earle". It is also noted that William "was brought out of England to my service". William's son, Lawrence, was slain in the service of King Charles at the siege of Drogheda. The family line continued through Lawrence's son, Valentine.

Many other Smith families of English origin are found, especially in the area around Dublin. These included Smith of Maine, County Louth and Smith of Annsbrook, County Meath (a branch of Maine). In 1646 William Smith started his fifth term as Lord Mayor of Dublin. He was a Colonel in a regiment of foot that protected the city and was of a Yorkshire family that later settled in Suffolk. Several other members of this Yorkshire family are also recorded in Ireland. In 1677, John Smith was Lord Mayor of Dublin. He was of the same family as the Carrington-Smiths, whose ancestor was on the Crusades with King Richard. Captain Robert Smith, who was of an English family in Dirleton, Haddington became Athlone Pursuivant of Arms or assistant to the Ulster King of Arms. His son, Robert Soden-Smith held a position at the South Kensington Museum in London. The Prendergast-Smyth family help the title of Baron Kiltartan and Viscount Gort. This family was originally from county Down and included several clerics - Thomas Smyth was bishop of Limerick 1695-1725 and his son, Arthur, bishop of Dublin in 1766. It was the grandson of the bishop of Limerick, John Prendergast-Smyth, who received the titles. This family claimed to be descended from the O Gowans of county Down, however, they bore a quite different coat of arms. Another prominent English family of the name was centred in Waterford.

Edward Smyth (1662-1720) of Lisburn, who was a fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, and was expelled by James II in 1689. He was Dean of St Patrick's, Chaplain to William III (of Orange) and, in 1699, Bishop of Down and Connor.

Charles Smith (1715-56) of Waterford wrote histories of the countryside and pioneered Irish topography. He took his medical degree at Trinity College, Dublin, in 1738. He devoted most of his time to historical and topographical researches, and was the author of county histories of Waterford, Cork, and Kerry. They were published in 1746, 1750, and 1756, respectively, under the patronage of the Physico-Historical Society of Dublin, which was formed for the purpose of collecting materials for a work on the plan of Camden's Britannia and to be entitled Hibernia, or Ireland Ancient and Modern.

James Smith (c. 1720-1806) emigrated to America with his father and was educated in Philadelphia. He was a lawyer, and also raised the first volunteer company in the state to resist the British. He lost all his money supporting the revolution. He was one of several Irish-Americans who signed the Declaration of Independence.

Henry John Smith (1826-83) of Dublin was educated at Rugby and Oxford. He lectured at Balliol College until 1861. He was made a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and, despite many commitments, came to be acknowledged as "the greatest authority of his day on the theory of numbers".

Vincent Arthur Smith (1848-1920), born in Dublin, entered the Indian Civil Service. He retired early to devote himself to writing and was renowned for his History of India, Ceylon and their Fine Arts.

Brigadier-General Thomas Smyth served under the former Irish patriot, Major-General Thomas Meagher, in the American Civil War of 1861 to 1865.

Smithson is yet another variant of Smith. Harriet Smithson (1800-54) of County Clare, daughter of a theatrical family, had great success on the Paris stage, where she caught the eye of the composer, Berlioz. He fell madly in love with her and pursued her for several years. His Symphonie Fantastique was written for her. Alas, seven years of marriage was as much as their clashing temperaments could endure.

Annie Smithson (1873-1948), born in Dublin, was a district nurse for many years. A republican sympathizer, she nursed the wounded during the 1916 rising. When she retired from nursing to write romantic novels, she produced a series of best sellers including Her Irish Heritage and The Walk of a Queen.

Although the Smiths-Smythes, MacGowans or O Gowans-have not towered in the pages of Irish history, a study of Burke's Guide to Country Houses, reveals a remarkable number of country estates belonging to various wealthy bearers of the name. Like the innumerable Kellys, the Smiths have assumed a variety of extra names to make it simpler to distinguish one family from the other, for example: Cusack-Smith of Bermingham, Tuam; Dorman-Smith; Murray-Smith of Belline; Quan-Smith of Bullock; Holroyd-Smith of Ballynatray; Smith-Barry of Fota - and many more. There was also Smyth, whose eighteenth-century house, Glananea, in County Westmeath, had such a flamboyant triumphal arch at the entrance to his demesne that he became known as "Smyth of the Gates". Growing annoyed with this name, he sold the arch to a neighbour, whereupon he was dubbed "Smyth without the Gates".

According to "The Thompson Manuscripts," the following is a pedigree of "Smith" of Ballinure, County Cavan.
1. Rev. William Smith, for fifty years Rector of Clones, and other parishes died 1717.
2. Roger Smith, of Ballinure: his son; married a Miss Clements, by whom he had issue -

3. James: second son of Roger; married Eleanor St. George (born 1746), and had issue.
4. William, of Ballinure: their son; married Henrietta Snow, and had issue five daughters and three sons:
The sons were: -

the daughters were -