History of the name "McColm"

The history of our family name goes back more than 1,400 years to when a young man born in 521 AD in Tara, Ireland decided to become a monk. The Church gave him the name COLUMBA which is Latin for dove. Later in his career, believed to be 563 AD, he moved to the Isle of Iona in Scotland and established a monastery for the purpose of bringing Christianity to the Scots. Although earlier attempts by the Church to do this had failed, his efforts were successful. In time he came to be very revered by the Scots. The monastery continued on after Columba s death in 597 AD and later the Scottish royal family established the tradition of burying their dead monarchs near the monastery. Today, thirty-eight Scottish kings are buried on the Isle of Iona.

In the tenth century one of the Scottish kings decided to name his son in honor of Columba and called him Malcolm. Apparently "Mal" in Gaelic means "follower or believer of" and "Colm" is the Gaelic equivalent of Columba. Should you have the opportunity to look at a Gaelic dictionary you will find that "Colm" also means dove. Eventually, this son became Malcolm I of Scotland in 943 AD. History books tell us that Scotland had four kings so named with Malcolm IV being the last who died in 1165 AD.

At this point you have to try and bridge the gap from the above to our own family. I have been unable to determine whether Columba had any family of his own. The clergy in the Catholic Church were allowed to have a spouse until some time in the eleventh century. Whether monks such as Columba in his time were also so allowed, I do not know. The earliest date that I could find a reference to our family was sometime in the fifteenth century. They lived in Ayr and surrounding areas. The spelling of our name varied and include MacColm, McColme, M'Colm, M'Colme and so on. Mac, Mc and M' of course mean 'son of'.

Because of the significant role that he played in Scottish history, I have always been puzzled as to why St Columba did not become the patron saint of Scotland. As you know, St Andrew has that honour. This may not be very relevant to the history of our name but it may be some thing that a future researcher could keep in mind. My research concerning our name was done before the age of the computer and the internet where so much information is apparently available. For an ardent internet scanner, I think there is probably more information available on the history of our family name waiting to be located. I pass the challenge on to you.

William R. "Bill" McColm
Ottawa, Ontario
June, 2001

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