By E. MacLysaght
Extracts of interest..........
MacGOWAN, O'GOWAN, Smith (MacGuane)
The Irish surname MacGowan (not to be confused with the Scottish MacGoun) is more often than not hidden under the synonym Smith. In Irish it is Mac an Ghabhain, i.e son on the smith, and its translation to Smith (commonest of all surnames in England) was very widespread, particularly in County Cavan where the MacGowan Sept originated. It is included by the chroniclers as one of the principal septs of Breffny. On the borders of Breffny, in County Leitrim, and to the north west in Counties Donegal and Sligo, the true form in English, MacGowan, is still used in preference to Smith. There was too, in east Ulster a distinct sept of O'Gowan, a name which was also anglicised to Smith. A very prominent member of this family, long resident in County Cavan has recently, with the full approval of the Irish Genealogical Office, resumed the name O'Gowan. They came originally from a place called Ballygowan in County Down. O'Gowan is rarely met with in modern times. It is however to be found in the census of 1659 as one of the principal Irish names in County Monaghan and Fermanagh.
Though Mageown is one of the recorded synonyms of MacGowan it should be observed that it is also a surname in its own right - MacEoin or Mag Eoghain in Irish and cognate with MacKeown. It is also found in the abbreviated form Geon.
Faelin Mac an Ghabhan was one of the scribes of the book of Ui Máine (1394). Among the many alternative forms of the name recorded in the statistical returns the most usual apart from Smith are Mageown and Magown.
Further confusion is caused by the fact that the surname MacDhubháin, a family of Raphoe, County Donegal and also of County Clare, where the anglicised form is MacGuane has become MacGowan in County Mayo: while Mac Gamhna is also rendered MacGowan in some places.