Maguire, with its variants MacGuire, McGwire etc., comes from the Irish Mag Uidhir, meaning "son of the brown(-haired) one". The surname is now extremely common throughout Ireland, with particular concentrations in Cavan, Monaghan and Fermanagh; in Fermanagh it is the single most numerous name in the county. The reason is not far to seek. From the time of their first firm establishment, in Lisnaskea around the start of the thirteenth century, all the associations of the family have been with Fermanagh. By the start of the fourteenth century, the chief of the family, Donn Carrach Maguire, was ruler of the entire county, and for the following three hundred years there were no fewer than fifteen Maguire chieftains of the territory. By the year 1600, what is now Co. Fermanagh quite simply belonged to the family.
As for so many other Gaelic families, however, the seventeenth century was catastrophic. for the Maguires. First, a junior branch, based around the area of the modern town of Enniskillen, were dispossessed and their lands parcelled out in the Plantation of Ulster. Then, as a result of their participation in the rebellions of the Cromwellian and Williamite periods, virtually all the remainder of their possessions in Fermanagh were taken. Subsequently, many Maguires took part in the great migration of the native aristocracy to mainland Europe in the early eighteenth century; bearers of the name were especially prominent in the armies of France and Austria.
Unlike the bulk of the native Irish aristocracy, the descent of the Maguires has remained intact. The current bearer of the title "Maguire of Fermanagh" is Terence Maguire, officially recognised by the Chief Herald of Ireland in 1991 as the senior male descendant of the last inaugurated Maguire chief.
The illustration shows the arms of Maguire of Fermanagh. The most likely explanation for the horse on the shield is that the arms are "canting", that is to say based on a pun. The Old Irish for war-horse, gadhar, may have been taken as the (incorrect) root of the surname, Mac Gadhair rather than Mag Uidhir. The process, making an often fanciful phonetic similarity the basis of a symbol, is quite common in heraldry. The stag in the crest is a very common Irish symbol of sovereignity, with its origin in the stag hunt which traditionally formed part of the inauguration rites of king
. Among the many famous Maguires in Irish history, one of the most interesting was John Francis Maguire (1815 - 1872), founder of the Cork Examiner, still the most important provincial newspaper in the country. As well as a journalist, he was also a successful politician, Lord Mayor and M.P. for Cork for many years, and published numerous books, including The Irish in America, the first examination of the position of his fellow countrymen in Canada and the U.S.