GREGORY

This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 27th October 1997, reproduced by kind permission of the author, Desmond Holden.

The "What's in a Name" series has been a regular feature in the Advertiser.
Articles are confined to the origins and meanings of surnames and Desmond regrets he is unable to undertake research into the genealogy, descent or family history of individuals.

Editor's Note: Articles are provided for general interest and background only. They are not intended to provide an exhaustive treatise for any individual family history - investigations of which may yield quite different results. Or, in Desmond's own words:

"In the end it must remain with individual bearers of the names to draw upon family traditions and to seek out such documentary evidence as is available to decide the matter for themselves."

WHAT'S IN A NAME … Are you called GREGORY?

Gregory is a personal name which has generated many surnames. It is derived from a Greek expression "gregorios" signifying "on the alert" or "wide awake". However when taken into Latin, the early Christians confused it with their own word "gregis" which they knew referred to a "flock" or "herd", and identified it with the concept of a loving tender shepherd as in for example in John, Ch. 10. verses 11-18. The first celebrated bearer was St. Gregory of Nazianzus (325-389). His profound learning led him to being formally designated as a "Doctor of the Church". He is commemorated on 9th May. A contemporary was St. Gregory of Nyssa who is especially venerated in the Greek Orthodox Church. (His day is 9th March). It would be tedious to catalogue all the remaining Saints called "Gregory" and who are included in Butler's "Lives". There is nearly a dozen. Still: mention ought to be made of Pope Gregory the Great (540-604). He standardised church music (i.e. The Gregorian Chant). He is of special interest to Britain because he dispatched St. Augustine here in 596 to re-introduce the Christian Faith. The name is borne also by another fifteen Popes who followed him, of whom Gregory XIII (1572-1585) is distinguished for his reform of the Calendar.

In this Island (the name doesn't ever seem to have taken in Ireland), all the evidence shows that our ancestors at first preferred their native names to any foreign imports. Outside religious institutions "Gregory" was rarely conferred. It seems frequently to have been assumed by Bishops who deemed it appropriate with regard to their status as "Guardian of their Diocesan Flock" thus "Gregorius Duncheldensis episcopus" (1150) and "Gregorius episcopus de Ros" (1171) are found in Scotland. Otherwise there is no mention an any "Gregory" before the Conquest. The earliest record dates from 1143, where, in Lincolnshire reference is made to a "Gregory" as the father of "William". But after the 11th Century, and especially during the 13th and 14th Centuries it enjoyed widespread popularity, especially in the North. This fact is demonstrated through the innumerable surnames it generated - and of course, the "family" or "pet" versions such as "Greg" and "Grigg" went on to create forms such as "Gregson" and "Griggs". According to a Victorian clergyman who researched the name, "Gregson" was so prolific in north Lancashire as almost to become a regional name. In Scotland was found "Greig" as well as (naturally) "MacGregor" and an extreme form of spelling occurs with "Grix" - of which there is a listing locally for Brailsford,

Then the name simply fell out of favour and has never recovered. It all began with Henry VIII (1509-1547) who severed England from Rome and began the religious upheavals which followed. The name "Gregory" had such strong Papal associations that it was most decidedly avoided. Furthermore it had attracted to itself certain incidentals which rendered it rather unacceptable. For example, from the beginning of the 1600's to 1649 Gregory Brandon and his son were the public Hangmen and Executioners. It was "Young Brandon" who executed Charles I. The expression "the Gregory Tree" was for a long while a current euphemism for the Gallows!

Since then the name has never found itself in the "Top Fifty" listings. It had a vogue in the States during the 1950's on account of the film actor Gregory Peck, but it has completely dropped out. By a sort of perverse contrast the Scots "Gregorys" were remarkably tenacious of their name which took the form "MacGregor". The Clan controlled most of Argyll and Perth.

They were relentlessly harassed by the Campbells and in retaliation they created so much mayhem that they were held to be nothing but outlaws. In 1603 the name "MacGregor" was proscribed but without much success that in 1635 a Law was enacted proclaiming that to kill anybody who answered to the name was not murder! The ban was finally lifted in 1784. Rob Roy (1671-1734) is among the heroes of the Clan MacGregor. Variations in the spelling of the surname "Gregory" are not significant in themselves but some have interesting backgrounds. For example one Scots rendering is "Grigor". Bearers of this name may be among the descendants of 300 MacGregors whom the Earl of Moray transported wholesale from Monteith (near Aberfoyle: S.W. Perth) and into the north. His idea was that they would create a sort of bulwark against the ravages of the Clan Mackintosh. This form of the name is frequently encountered in Scotland and locally it is identified with our friends who run the Lathkill Hotel.

So, although "Gregory" disappeared as a baptismal name by the beginning of the 16th Century, its original popularity still survives through the countless surnames it bequeathed to succeeding generations. Examples can be garnered from around the country; in the North in Cumberland there was William Griggersson (1327) and down South, in Somerset was John Grigory (1286). Locally there was a Gregory at Eyam who is remembered in Gregory's Plantation (1324).

Strange to say, although the Standard Biographies refer to over 40 personalities called "Gregory", none is really a "head-liner". Older readers however might recall their elders talking about that curious character called "Maundy Gregory" who flitted across the social scene in the 1920's and brought discredit on the "Honours" system.

There are over 400 people called "Gregory" listed in the local directory, out of whom we select young Steven Gregory who has come among us to assist in the running of the new "Spar" supermarket.

Site Index Site Index © Desmond Holden
From "The Peak Advertiser", 12th October 1998.

URL of this page: http://names.gukutils.org.uk/Gregory.shtml
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