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McGough Coat of Arms

With the exception of a coat of arms granted in 1824 to Walter McGeough of Drumsill, county Armagh, the closest thing I have found to an authentic McGough coat of arms is the cattle brand GUE used by W.C. "Billy" McGough on his ranch in McGough Springs, Texas. Cattle brands are sometimes called The American Coat of Arms. See the entry for McGough Springs, Texas on my web page, Odds and Ends. Ann McGeough Harney, on her comprehensive McGeough web page, publishes the McGeough coat of Arms granted to Walter McGeough. She also quotes from an article published by Eddie Geoghegan, the guru of Irish coats of arms:

"Great care needs to be exercised when identifying with a particular coat of arms. Arms and the right to bear them are granted to individuals by the Chief Herald of Ireland (or his equivalent in other countries) and only those arms registered with his office can be truly claimed by descendants, if indeed the original bearer extended the right to bear the arms to his family members. Many of the arms depicted here are not officially registered but through the activities of commercial 'heraldic' companies, have become generally accepted as relating to particular families."

Eddie Geoghegan's website, Coats of Arms from Ireland and around the World, is the most reliable source on the web on Irish coats of arms, and contains many many good articles on the history of Irish names and coats of arms. Irish Ancestors has published a page on the History of heraldry in Ireland. For an article that goes into greater depth, see Gaelic Heraldry and Practice by Pat Brennan.

A proper spirit of suspicion about commercially created coats of arms will be gained from Eddie Geoghegan's article: Spurious Arms. Especially of interest is his paragraph on Haughey and others.

"Haughey and others

"There is a whole series of Irish names derived from the personal names Eochaigh, Eochaidh, Eachaigh and Eachaidh. A number of erroneous coats of arms have been produced on the false assumption that all of these names are basically the same and therefore should have the same coat of arms. I use Haughey as a typical example. In Irish this name is Ó hEachaidh and as well as Haughey it is also found as Haffey or Haffy in English. Based on the Irish form, the following coats of arms have been incorrectly used as those of Haughey - Hoey (Ó hEochaidh - see left), Keogh (Mac Eochaidh - see left), Geoghegan (Mac Eochagáin - see above) and, I am sure, others. When Henry Haffey of Bath, formerly of Armagh, Ireland had his arms confirmed as per the graphic on the right, he employed the ancient symbol of the sept as confirmed by the Office of the Chief Herald."

In the same article, see his paragraph on McGuigan, McGuckian, McGeehan, McGahan, Gavaghan and others. Geoghegan points out that this is his own sept and the surname stems from Mac (or Mag) Eochagain, which has been "anglicised as MacGeoghegan, Mageoghegan, Geoghegan, Gehegan, Gahagan, Geagan, Gagin and so on."

Many commercial operations will sell a "McGough Family Coat of Arms." As a technical matter, there is no such thing as a "family" coat of arms. They were granted only to individuals, although Irish custom allows display of the device by descendants of the grantee who are members of the same sept. See Proto-Heraldry in Early Christian Ireland: The Battle Standards of Gaelic Irish Chieftains by Patrick M. O'Shea. Many coats of arms on websites have been produced modernly and lack historical basis. For a price, the vendors will create a product. The Heraldry Lecture by Joseph C. Wolf, on the Heraldry on the Internet website, makes the point:

"There have been, unfortunately, a great many people who insisted upon having a coat of arms, whether they had any right to them or not; and there are also a number of pretenders calling themselves heraldic artists who were willing to supply anything for a price. As a consequence, many people today cherish and use coats of arms that were fabricated for themselves or for their ancestors generations ago. Both buyers and sellers are to blame, and each lures the other. The delusion of one, that money will buy anything, and the deplorable thought of the other, that it is proper to do anything for money, may have resulted in more decorative living rooms, but they also have perpetrated many frauds."

Many of these operations are also fonts of spurious information on the origin of surnames. For one I consider particularly egregious (at least as to McGeough and McGeogh), see: Gough and McGeough, McGeogh, McGoff on the Crown Guild of Master Woodcarvers Website. Contrast my page: Origins of the Surname McGough.

The National Genealogical Society's Consumer Protection Committee warns about "mass-produced coats of arms and surname books, consisting mainly of lists of surnames but masquerading as family history":

"Most of these products have very little genealogical substance and consumers are warned to expect little from such a purchase."

For some complaints about specific companies, see the web page: Genealogy scams in general. See also Cyndi's List—Myths, Hoaxes & Scams.

Coats of arms produced for the same family by different vendors will not necessarily be the same. If you enter McGough (or McGeough or McGoff) in Genealogyweb, you will find a shield with a red lion on a silver background between three red hands, a crest with a golden greyhound, and a motto: "Semper patria." Buncombe! This is a MacGeoghegan coat of arms. Genealogyweb displays the same coat of arms for the MacGeoghegans. Some sellers of coats of arms say—I believe mistakenly—that both the McGeoghegans and the McGoughs came from county Westmeath, and that the names are variants of each other. An example will be found in Your Irish Roots.

Eddie Geoghegan's website, Coats of Arms from Ireland and Around the World, is a good website on which to find coats of arms and related materials. Geoghegan displays an almost identical device as the (Mac) Geoghegan coat of arms, but an entirely different device for McGough. It is unlikely that the McGough (MacGeough) septs and the MacGeoghegan septs are related, and there certainly is no relationship that would allow a McGough to use a MacGeoghegan coat of arms, or vice versa. See my web page Origin of the Surname McGough.

The "Frequently Asked Questions" section of the UK website, College of Arms, is a source of authentic information. A good background article is Gaelic Irish Heraldry and Heraldic Practice by Pat Brennan. See also Heraldry in Ireland and A Glossary of Terms Used in Heraldry by James Parker.

Edward McGough's website, Clan McGough, displays a coat of arms for McGough/McGeough—the faces of three leopards, two in yellow on a black background and one in black on a yellow background. The same coat of arms will be found on My Irish And Polish Genealogy Page under McGeogh (indexed under G) with the motto "Nemo me impune lacessit"— No one provokes me with impunity. (See also Gough, which is said in this table to derive from Mac Eocaid.) You can pay $7.00 for the same information on Heraldry 2001. The same coat of arms will be found on the My Irish And Polish Genealogy Page under McGeogh (indexed under G) with the same motto. This coat of arms was issued in 1824 to Walter McGeough of Drumsill, county Armagh. Included with it was a crest, a naked arm embowed with the hand holding a scimitar, similar to the crest displayed below. Great Britain & Ireland Crests, Vol. I, Part I, Index to Crests, A-B, page 62, on, lists:

"Bond, M'Geough-, Joshua Walter, of Drumsill, co. Armagh, Ireland : (1) a lion sejent arg., charged on the shoulder with an annulet su. (for Bond). cf. S. S. (2) A dexter arm embowed, the hand grasping a scimitar in the act of striking all ppr. (for M'Geough). Nemo me impune lacessit. 201 .1"

arg=argent. ppr.=proper.

Here is an entry from The General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, BAA-Bywater, page 98, by Sir Bernard Burke, Ulster King of Arms (2d ed with supplement, 1884), reprinted by Genealogical Publishing Company in 1967 (available by subscription on

"Bond (McGEOUGH BOND, Drumsill co. Armagh, exemplified to WALTER McGEOUGH, Esq., on his taking the additional name and arms of Bond, by Royal License 2nd Dec. 1824) Quarterly 1st and 4th, or, on a chev gu. three annulets ar. for BOND: 2nd and 3rd per bend ar. and or, three leopards' faces. two and one, counterchanged, for McGEOUGH. Crests—1st : A lion sejant ar. charged on the shoulder with an annulet sa.; 2nd: a dexter embowed arm, the hand grasping a scymater in the act of striking, all ppr. Motto—Nemo me impune lacessit."

Here is an explanation of the abbreviations: gu.=gules, or red; ar.=argent, or silver, or white; ppr.=proper. Quarterly means that the filed is divided into four equal parts by two lines, one perpendicular, the other horizontal. An annulet is a ring. Counterchanged means that the field is of two tinctures, one of color and one of metal (metal is never placed on metal, nor color on color). Sejant means "sitting." Per bend means that the field is divided into two equal parts by a diagonal from the dexter (left) chief to the sinister (left) base.

The motto Nemo Me Impune Lacessit has been explained this way:

"This latin term, often associated with mourning bands and Police Memorial Day, means literally; 'No one injures (attacks) me with impunity'. The motto of the Order of the Thistle. It was first used on the coins of James VI. of Scotland (James I. of England). How it became associated with the badge mourning band is unclear, however, those of Scottish and Irish descent, who held positions in the ranks of police departments over the years, may well have been the influence."

The phrase is the national motto of Scotland, is the motto of the Order of the Thistle, the Scots Guards, and is used on the edge of the 1984, 1994, and 1999 Scottish pound. See Legends & Inscriptions on British Coins. The motto is inscribed above the gate of Edinburgh Castle. In Edgar Allan Poe's The Cask of Amontillado, Montressor's family motto was Nemo me impune lacessit ("No one assails me with impunity.") and this motto plays a part in the awful revenge Montressor inflicts upon Fortunato for his insults.

The McGeough Bond family was Presbyterian and acquired much land and wealth in county Armagh at a time when my predecessors, Catholics, were prohibited by law from owning land, and their high rents prevented them from accumulating much of anything. Walter McGeough inherited or acquired much of his family property from his father, Joshua, and added to the holdings. Walter McGeough became a barrister after graduating from Trinity College in 1811. He was High Sheriff of county Armagh in 1819, which is probably where he performed the service that earned him a coat of arms. He built The Argory in county Armagh between 1819 and 1824 and, upon completion of the house, assumed the additional name of Bond in "affectionate regard to the family of his deceased grandmother." For more on the McGough Bonds, see my page on the McGoughs, McGeoughs, and McGeoghs in County Armagh.

The MacGee or Magee coat of arms also uses yellow faces of a leopard on a black background. Whoever put these coats of arms together may have assumed that there is some connection between the names McGough and McGee, which I don't believe is the case.

As far as I know, leopards are not native to Ireland, although the Encyclopaedia Britannica says that the remains of lynxes and European wildcats have been found there. Bones of spotted hyena dating back to the Drumlin Phase of the Ice Age (34,000 - 26,000 years ago) have been found in county Monaghan. Local Ireland on Monaghan. (For an interesting diversion, see Ireland's Exotic Felids by Neil Arnold.) Lions are not native to Ireland either, but the lion is a common heraldic beast on Irish coats of arms. For example, see the (Mac) Geoghegan, Gough, McGarry, McGawley (Westmeath), McGovern, and McGuiness coats of arms on the same page of Eddie Geoghegan's site as McGeough. See also Keogh (MacEocaid). (Ostriches are not native to Ireland, but an ostrich is the main feature of the McMahon coat of arms. See: Clan McMahon of the Kingdom of Oriel.)

House cats, incidentally, are respected but not universally loved in Ireland; a saying upon entering a house is "God bless all here except the cat." See A Touch of the Irish—Wit and Wisdom (page 138) by Sean Desmond. Desmond's book is a pleasant one to browse. He quotes an Irish proverb (page 102): "Never trust anyone who doesn't like cats." Another Irish proverb is: "Three things a man ought not to be without; a cat, a chimney, and a housewife." From Proverbs and Sayings of Ireland by Sean Gaffney and Seamus Cashman (Dublin 1974), page 107.

The Atlas and Cyclopedia of Ireland, by P. W. Joyce, published in 1905 by Murphy and McCarthy, Publisher, New York, includes at the beginning forty plates of Coats of Arms—Leading Irish Families, copyright 1901 by P. Murphy. The index shows a McGough coat of arms as number 275 on plate 32. No coat of arms is shown for McGeough or McGeogh.

coat of armsThe same coat of arms was inserted in volume I of the 1923 "Limited American Edition" of John O'Hart's Irish Pedigrees or the Origin and Stem of the Irish Nation. On plate 32 of both publications, there is a McGough coat of arms with a crest. As does the coat of arms of Walter McGeough of Armagh, discussed above, it also contains the faces of three leopards in yellow on a black background. The arrangement is different, however, from that usually shown for the McGeough Bond coat of arms. A shield is divided by a diagonal line running from the upper right to the lower left. The upper left of the shield, about 60% of the area, is black, and the lower right, about 40% of the area, is yellow or gold. Along the upper part of the dividing line are three yellow faces of leopards on a black background, evenly spaced and differing in detail.

At the top of the shield is a crest showing a muscular right arm with the hand gripping a blue or purple sword. On the right is an enlargement of the small illustration in O'Hart's book. I subdued the black to keep it from overwhelming the small leopard's faces; hence the faded look. There is no banner beneath this shield. If there were a name under the banner, a common practice, it could read "Mac Eochaidh," "Mag Eochadha," or "Mag Eocada." I have found no coat of arms that was officially issued to any McGough/McGeough other than that issued to Walter McGeough Bond in 1824 and described above.

Edward Mac Lysaght, in his introduction to Irish Families: Their Names, Arms and Origins (1957), points out that the coats of arms were not part of O'Hart's original publication in 1878, but were included only in later editions of his work:

"It is surely an injustice to him that his well-known name should be used as a cover for the publication of false and often ludicrous heraldic statements. ...

"The publication presenting colour plates of Irish arms ... is no less than seventy per cent inaccurate, not only in mere detail, but often in points of primary importance and of an elementary kind. Apart from their many grotesque heraldic blunders the compilers of this work seem to have had a sort of rule of thumb; if they could not find arms for one Irish sept they looked for the name of another somewhat resembling it in sound: thus, for example, they cooly assigned the arms of Boylan to Boland. This frequently resulted in the arms of some purely English family being inserted in their book of 'Irish Arms', the Saxon Huggins being equated with O'Higgins and so on. When this arbitrary method failed them they fell back on the arms of some great Irish sept. To quote one instance of this: Gleeson, Downey, Noonan and MacFadden are all given the arms of O'Brien, though none of these septs had any connexion whatever with the O'Briens, or with each other. Consequently, many Americans of Irish descent are in good faith using erroneous and often English arms derived from the spurious source in question."

For an explanation of the colors and symbols (charges) used in the McGeough coat of arms, go to the website Irish Surnames—Coat of arms from Ireland and Worldwide. The black (or satin) means constancy or grief. The yellow (or gold or "or" means generosity.) The leopard (under heraldic beasts) means "valiant and enduring warrior." Other meanings can be found for the cat, lion, panther, and tiger.

To fill up an idle hour, you might find it enjoyable to browse in the International Civic Arms website for Ireland and Scotland. To learn more, go to The Points of Heraldry—The Basics of Heraldic Design and Terminology or Simply Heraldry—A beginner's guide. There you will learn, among other things, that the upper right to lower left line dividing the McGough shield illustrated above is "per bend sinister," that is, "extending from the sinister chief to the dexter base." "According to Nisbet, bends sinister were formerly much borne in Scotland, but have generally been changed to dexter bends of late, from a mistaken notion that they always betokened illegitimacy."

The Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland has a website. For more links to Internet articles, go to Heraldry Links, Fianna's Heraldry, and UK, Ireland, & Scotland.

McGough Coat of Arms
Updated November 18, 2009  
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