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According to Farrell McElgunn, M.A. (Summerhill, Carrick on Shannon, Co. Leitrim, Ireland)©:
'"'McElgunn is but one English version of the Irish/Gaelic surname Mac Giolla Ghunna/ Mac Giolla Dhuinn. Other modern English versions are Gillgunn, Gunn, Gunne."
"Historically the Mac Giolla Ghunna family were a sept (minor clan) in Fermanagh. They were not a ruling family, but there is some evidence to suggest that they were a minor branch of the Maguires who ruled Fernanagh for nearly a thousand years. Following the the Elizabethan conquest of Fermanagh in the Nine Years War (1594-1603) and the Plantation of Ulster (1609), the Mac Giolla Ghunna sept became tenants of the Planter Landlords. According to the historical records referred to above, in the early 17th century the family was to be found only in County Fermanagh. During the 18th century they spread to the adjoining counties, especially Leithrim, Cavan, and Monaghan. In the 19th and 20th centuries, they were part of the great Irish diaspora to the USA, Australia, Scotland, England and other part of the world. Because of the lack of both state and church official records, it is difficult to trace family roots further back than the early 19th century."
"Most names starting with McEl, McIl, McAl, Gil (Mac Giolla) are easy to explain to explain, but unfortunately this is not the case with McElgunn (Mac Giolla Ghunna).
Mac means 'son'. Giolla has several meanings: 'client, servant, young man'. Most names beginning with Mac Giolla refer either to
(a) a saint's patronage: e.g. Mac Giolla Bhride / McBride 'son of client of St. Bridget'; Mac Giolla Iosa / McAleese (President of Republic of Ireland), 'son of client of Jesus'
(b) descripttive: e.g. Mac Giolla Bhui / McElwee 'son of blond young man'; Mac Giolla Dhuibh / McElduff 'son of black-hair young man'.
Mac Giolla Gunna
In Mac Giolla Ghunna, the third element Gunna presents some difficulty. If we accept the Mac Giolla Dhuinn version it could mean 'son of brown-haired young man'. Petty's reference in 1659 to 'McDunn' would support this. On the other hand, Gunna could refer to the Norse goddess of war Gunna / Gunnhildr! Thus Mac Giolla Ghunna could mean 'son of, client of war-goddess'!
The Norse had great influence in Ireland 800 - 1000 A.D., and at later date mercenaries of Norse/Gaelic origin came to Ulster from the Western Isles of Scotland and served chiefs such as the Mcguire's. The Gunna element in the name may point to a possible Scottish or Norse origin of the family, but this is pure speculation.
There is a Clann Gunn in north east Scotland. Some of those who came from England and Scotland in the Plantations (1609, 1650, 1692), were called Gunn(e).
As a general rule Catholics of the name Gunn are decended from McElgunn / Mac Giolla Ghunna, while Protestants of the name Gunn are descended from the English and Scots settlers. Of course in the U.S.A., there would have been converts from one faith to the other."