A little bit about the Surname Killey

By | July 18, 2011
Welcome to my killey.net website, please have a look around the site where you will find a small amount of information regarding the surname “Killey” In due course I will add as much “Killey” information, photography and genealogy to this site as possible.
If you think you can assist in anyway whatsoever with my Killey Genealogy please feel free to contact me either via the Contact page on this site or by signing the Genealogy Log on the right hand side of this website.
Peter Killey, Isle of Man

Surname – Killey Pronounced kil-yah
KILLEY originally Mac Gilla Ceallagh, anglicised in Ireland into Mac Killey Kelly and Killy Kelly.  The MAC & the KELLY have been dropped, leaving KILLEY, which is identical in meaning with Gale, Gell and Gill. (Gaelic, guilley: Irish Giolla, ‘a servant’) Indeed, in the Isle of Man, formerly, the same person was called Gale, Gell, Gill and Killey indifferently.
Further research has found that the original meaning of Killey would be “son of the servant of Ceallagh” where Ceallagh (pronounced KEL-akh) is an Irish name of uncertain origin, traditionally said to mean “bright-headed”.  Alternatively it could be derived from Old Irish Ceallach (variant of Ceallagh) “war, strife” or ceall “church”.
Killie is known in 1610, Killey in 1651 and Killiah in 1693. This last variation gives a good indication of the now Manx pronunciation of (kil-yah).
In many Isle of Man place names Killey has the meaning “of the church” as in Ballakilley, “the farm of the church”.
Quilliam also adds an interesting snippet from his book – The saying “Having a Killey’s thirst” records a man with a prodigious liquid capacity!
Click here to download Dr. Brian Stowell’s short audio clip, which briefly explains the surname Killey and how it came about. (103KB).

Laa Columb Killey
Another interesting item appertaining to the Surname Killey is “Laa Columb Killey” which is an annual event that takes place in Arbory Parish in the South of the Isle of Man, see below information from Arbory Parish Commissioners website;
LAA COLUMB KILLEY” means ST. COLUMBA’S DAY (or literally) the Day of the Church of St. Columba. In ancient times the Festival was observed on the anniversary of the day on which St. Columba died on the steps of the Altar in the Cathedral of lona, viz. Whit Sunday, 597. It was customary that the service in the Church (Arbory Church being dedicated to St. Columba) should be followed by public games and rejoicings, and when the people were thus gathered together they availed themselves of the opportunity of doing a “bit of business” in the Churchyard. This it is stated, was the origin of our Manx fairs. In the course of time it was forbidden to hold gatherings in the Churchyards and they were afterwards held on the village “Green” (common land). After 1752, when the New Calendar Act came into operation, the old style was observed in keeping the Fairs in the Island, and Columba’s Fair – styled “Ballabeg Fair” in later days – was accordingly held on the 22nd June. In later years, the Festival has been revived, and is now always held on the Thursday nearest the above date.

Chalse-y-Killey  (Circa 1870) An extract from Francis Coakleys Manx Worthies
Charles Gell generally known as Chalse-y-Killey, wandered over the island ” going on the houses.” But, though he begged, he performed many useful offices for his numerous friends and acquaintances, and for this and his power of quaint and humorous anecdote he was welcomed everywhere. He was supposed to be, and no doubt was, in some respects, rather silly but he nevertheless possessed considerable shrewdness. Truly devout, and to this he appears to have owed his nickname, which signifies “Charles of the Church,” he was a fanatic where Roman Catholics were concerned. On one occasion, when asked where he had been, he remarked that he had been at the Union Mills with ” Pazon Drury putting the Romans out.”  Another subject which greatly excited him was the people being deprived of their grazing on the “commons.” At a meeting at Sulby, with regard to: it, he said: ” We muss put down this Popery, we muss hev a big grave made, and we’ll hev the Pope in first, and then we’ll hev Thomas Arthur.  A little later, when Governor Loch, with a possé of police and special constables, perambulated the southern commons to clear them of sheep belonging to the evicted commoners – the battle of Cronk-ny-irree-lhaa as this perambulation was called – Chalse made his appearance early in the day, and walked along  with measured tread and solemn look, carrying aloft a flag extemporised out of a pocket handkerchief. He said very little except that the ‘great ‘Captain’ would in his own good time regulate all things and deal out equal justice to all. (Chalse, it should also be remembered, was a temperance orator In this, as in other respects he has been immortalised by the Rev. T. E. Brown, in the charming poem – To Chalse in Heaven).

One thought on “A little bit about the Surname Killey

  1. Steve Lominac


    I have a close paternal line DNA match with a Gill (my grandfather was either born out of wedlock, adoption etc) whose ancestors possibly come from the Isle of Man. In fact there are a couple of us who believe we may come from the Gill lines and are working together on this. One thing you could do is get a Y-DNA (paternal line) test with Family Tree DNA and see where you shake out. I would be curious to see if you shake out with the M222 NW Irish/Lowland Scot group like myself and a Gill person in my project. Regards, Steve Lominac, Florida, USA


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