Origin, Meaning and Family History of the Egan Name
Egan is a very old Irish name, which is pronounced EE-guh-n. The original Irish spelling of the name is Mac Aodhagain. The ‘Mac’ portion is the original spelling of “Son of.” as well as “O” sometimes seen in other Irish names. The actual surname of Aodhagain can be broken down into two parts, Aodh is the Irish word for Fire. Again is a diminutive suffix. Added all together the name translates into English as Son of Fire. It is alluded this is the name of an ancient Celtic demigod.
The Mac Egan family of Tipperary County, Ireland are the inheritors of an ancient tradition. In a culture which predates Christianity, and can trace its roots back to the late Bronze age, one of the unifying principals which kept ancient Ireland and its people together were the Bardic traditions. These traditions and the men and women who practiced them were trained to an extent which pushed the creative capacity of the human mind. Some were musical bards, trained to remember ever song they had ever heard, let alone had learned from their teacher. The could recite contemporaneous poetry, accompanied by some form of musical instrument. There were historians who kept the history of their clan and people all the way back to the earliest antecedent. Then there were the law givers and judges, and these people were called Brehon(s.)
The Egan family come from a long line of Brehons. In Irish culture from the late bronze age to the mid 1600’s they were the lawyers, jury and judge. They could recite hundreds of years worth of cases that might apply to any given situation from memory. They were walking, talking breathing human encyclopedias of legal knowledge. It was the Brehon tradition which allowed Ireland to function. The Brehon lawyer or judge was not determined by sex. The position was open to both men and women. It was their ability to remember precedents set in earlier cases and the ability to remain aloof and dispassionate which counted the most.
The Egan family still holds with this tradition today. They still continue to practice law in Ireland, and the Egan family members have lived in the County Tipperary region since before the 13th century. Along the river Shannon, a Norman family named De Cougans, built a small two story keep. After the Normans realized they were not going to conquer the west side of the river Shannon they abandoned the castle named Redwoods. The castle was given to the chief of the O’Kelley clan, who in turn gave it over to their court Brehon bards, the Mac Egan family in 1350. The Mac Egans used Redwoods to become a center for studying law and history.
A tradition they maintained for several hundred years. Bards would travel all over the pan-Celtic world, to learn at this school. The law school and historical center continued on until the mid 17th century with coming of Oliver Cromwell. The Castle was never besieged but it was believed to be “slighted” which means it was made unusable for defense. For three centuries the castle slowly fell into disrepair, and eventually became a ruin. The original floors and roof were made out of wood. Once exposed to the elements they quickly rotted away and the castle became a shell.
In 1972 an Egan family descendant named Michael Egan, who following in the ancient traditions of the family was a lawyer from County Mayo, purchased the property. Without governmental assistance he rebuilt the ancient castle. It is now a place where the global members of Clan Egan can come for their annual rallies. Redwoods Castle is opened up to the general public for sixty days a year, to serve as a location for historical learning once more.
The preponderance of Egan surnames are still located in Ireland. Mostly in the midlands, region followed shortly thereafter all along the West of Ireland. The next largest concentration live in Australia and followed by Canada and then New Zealand; all of which have become established locations for the Irish diaspora which begin in the 1840’s with the advent of the Potato Famine. The most common forenames associated with the Egan surname are: David; John; Michael; Thomas and James ( Seamus.)
Notable people with the surname of Egan:
The O’Kelly Clan. Susan Farrell Egan, actress, singer, and voice actress. Best known for her work for Disney as the voice of Megara in Hercules, and the Broadway version of Beauty and the Beast. Daniel Egan, Mayor of Sydney Australia in 1853 and later Postmaster General of New South Wales from 1858 to his death in 1870. Richard Egan, actor best known for his role in Esther and the King playing Ahasuerus and as King Leonidas in The 300 Spartans. Kenneth Egan, 2008 silver medal Olympic medalist and politician from Dublin, Ireland. John Egan, Hurler and Shinty player from County Kerry, Ireland.
Places associated with the surname of Egan:
Castle Redwoods, County Tipperary, Ireland. County Tipperary, County Kilkenny, County Limerick, County Mayo, County Cork, County Clare, County Sligo, and County Donegal Ireland. Shannon River, Ireland. Sydney Australia, Canada, United States of America, and New Zealand.
Egan Coat of Arms Meaning
The three main devices (symbols) in the Egan blazon are the snake, tower and saltire. The two main tinctures (colors) are gules and or.
Gules, the heraldic colour red is very popular, sometimes said to represent “Military Fortitude and Magnanimity”. It is usually abbreviated as gu and in the days before colour printing was shown in a system known as hatching by vertical lines . Although it may look like a French word it is normally pronounced with a hard “g” and may be derived either from the Latin gula (throat) or Arabic gule (rose).
The bright yellow colour frequently found in coats of arms is known to heralds as Or, or sometimes simply as Gold.. Along with, argent, or silver it forms the two “metals” of heraldry – one of the guidelines of heraldic design is that silver objects should not be placed upon gold fields and vice versa . The yellow colour is often associated with the Sun, and the zodiacal sign of Leo..
In the mediaeval period there was no real percieved difference between real and mythical animals, after all, much of the world remained unknown and who was to say what strange and magical creatures existed in distant lands? As heraldry developed a whole menagerie of imagined creatures came into being, and their various representations became more or less standardised in form and appearance. The serpent Is a typical example of a mythical creature, as real to a person of the middle ages as dogs, cats and elephants are to us today.
Architectural items, from individual components to entire buildings feature frequently as charges In a coat of arms. Not surprisingly, considering the times from which many arms date, fortifications are common. The tower Is a typical example of an object from the world of architecture adopted, albeit in a stylised form, for use in heraldry. It can be placed alone, or frequently with three turrets on the top, known as a tower triple towered, and can have doors and windows of a different colour. In continental European heraldry they are often accompanied by pictorial effects such as armoured knights scaling them on ladders.
The saltire is one the major ordinaries, large charges that occupy the whole of the field . Arguably one of the best uses of this device is that of the St. Andrews Cross, a white saltire on a blue background found on the Scottish flag. The saltire is obviously closely related to the Cross, and Wade in his work on Heraldic Symbology suggests additionally that it alludes to “Resolution”, whilst Guillim, an even more ancient writer, somewhat fancifully argues that it is awarded to those who have succesfully scaled the walls of towns!