Origin of the name Mathers

The names Mather and Mathers are not uncommon in Ireland and are thought to derive from two separate sources. The name MATHER (also MATHUR) originated in Yorkshire, England, as an occupational surname originally denoting a mower (from the Old English: Maedere ‘mower, reaper’)1. The earliest recorded instance of this surname dates from 1249 in Nottingham. This name is fairly common in England and Ireland, though in Ulster for instance it has become MATHERS. Mather is the more numerous in the other provinces and it is on record in Dublin since the first half of the seventeenth century. By the end of that century it was well established in Co. Armaugh2 where my Scottish Mathers ancestors migrated in the 1700s. Mathers has to some extent been changed to Mathews in Co. Down.

However, the Scottish name Mathers, of separate origin, was also brought to Ireland by Scottish migrants. Scotland, during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, was ravaged by religious conflict and many Scots migrated to Australia and Ireland. Families migrated from Scotland to Ireland with promises of cheap Irish land, and many settled in Armagh, including my Scottish ancestors (probably around the mid-1700s). There is always much debate about the pronunciation of the surname Mathers, by other people. It is accepted by all members of the Scottish Mathers that Mathers is pronounced as if there was a Y in it, MA(Y)THERS.

1. Reaney PH. A Dictionary of English Surnames. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 1997.

2. Edward MacLysaght. The Surnames of Ireland. Dublin: Irish Academic Press; 1980.

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