This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 27th July 1998, reproduced by kind permission of the author, the late Desmond Holden.

The “What's in a Name” series was a regular feature in the Advertiser over the period 1993‑2004, taking a refreshing look at the derivation of some typically Derbyshire surnames.

Articles are confined to the origins and meanings of surnames, and do not indicate any particular interest on Desmond's part in the genealogy, descent, or family history of individuals bearing the surnames featured.

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 HOYES?

The second unit of this name ("-es") represents the old English way of showing possession. the word "of" now prevails but the older form persists in the use of the apostrophe and especially in surnames. Hence "the child of John" is "Jones". The question is:- If "Hoyes" can be construed as "the kid belonging to Hoy" then how did the original Hoy come by that name?

It would be very convenient to be able immediately to point to a connection with several places in Scotland of the same name. There is the Isle of Hoy in the Orkneys which has certainly produced a localised surname and there is a "Hoy" about 5½ miles south of Thurso, but it is extremely small and there is nothing, so it seems, to follow up. Finally there is a place which is now classed among the "lost villages" of Scotland. The most that can be determined is that it was near the Border.

It survives in a surname of which the oldest example is John Hoye of Colmesliehill (1607) followed by Peter Hoy of Newhouses (1653). As it is, the Scots equivalent for "the son of somebody" would have been expressed as "MacHoy" and no surname which follows this pattern can be traced.

Next there is the possibility of it being an occupational name. The word "hoy" is familiar enough to sea-faring people and describes a small, single-masted vessel designed to carry passengers and goods over short distances along the coast. The origin of the word is obscure but it seems to have been taken from old Dutch expressions - "hoie" and "hoeyen". It also appears in old French as "hen". It would have been possible for the master of such a craft to acquire his surname by reference to his occupation. Hence: John le Hoy (Wiltshire: 1255); Robert le Hoy (Cambridge: 1327) and Adam del Hoye (York: 1379). This explanation would have benefited had the word "hoy" appeared in writings contemporary with this surname: as it is the earliest reference in a shipping context comes much later, in 1494.

An alternative explanation is that it could have Irish connections. In 1066 the Normans not only invaded England but later some of them crossed over to Ireland and settled there so completely that they took to assuming Irish surnames. What the exact circumstances were at the time which would have influenced individual Normans to select particular names can no longer be accounted for, but one such name was "Eachaidh". This is far more easily recognised from its later transliteration into "Haughey". Out of this it is suggested that "Hoy" and its variations were to evolve.

In passing it may be mentioned that "Eachaidh" is derived from the Gaelic word "each" which means "a horse" (c.f. Latin "equus") and that in full it signifies "the accomplished horseman". Attempts to discern some similarity in sound between "Haughey" and "horsey" are imaginative but questionable.

Within 200 years of the Conquest many Anglo-Norman settlers had become so pro-Irish that Edward III (1366) outlawed their adopting of Irish names and directed that all persons of English origin should speak only English and resume English-type surnames. It could very well have been that as a result of this embargo the name "Hoy" was contrived as being something which approximated to the sound of "Eachaidh" - this is to say, "Haughey".

Nevertheless this anti-Irish measure didn't altogether succeed because in 1465 Edward IV followed it up with a Law which suppressed the use of Irish names even amongst the Irish themselves. To prevent evasion still further it was stipulated that every native Irishman in the region of Dublin, Meath, Lough and Kildare was to be able to show that his new name followed established English patterns, as, for example, that it described a recognised occupation. Since "Hoy" was identified with the job of a ship's master, it might very well have been chosen in order to be seen to be complying with the new regulations.

A further incursion from the Mainland took place during the reign of James I (1611). Briefly he sought to relieve the poverty of many of his poorer Scots subjects by "planting" them in settlements in Ulster. All that can be said for certain is that one of the variations of "Hoy" ("Hoey") dates from this event. It was a permutation on "Hughie" or "Hughey" which prevailed in Scotland at the time. It is, of course, a fond form of "Hugh" which, contrary to popular notions, was not exclusively Welsh.

Curiously enough it was not invariably linked with "Mac-" and forms such as "Howeson" (Houston: 1613) and "Houson" (Rothsay: 1648) are recorded. So it could equally well have been that "Hoyes" had also come into use. It is really unfortunate that so many of these Irish suggestions have to rely on indirect evidence in support but nearly all the records were destroyed during the stormy days of the Irish struggle for independence in 1922, Therefore we have to fall back on inspired guess-work. The name "Hoy" and, no doubt the variations such as "Hoye", "Hoyes" and "Hoyson" are particularly associated with Donegal, Armagh and Meath.

As might be expected, the name "Hoy" is quite well-represented in Northern Ireland. Otherwise, except for the London area where there are nearly 100 entries in the directory, and 5 under "Hoyes". The name is fairly evenly distributed across the country. Merseyside can muster about 50 under "Hoy" but only 2 for "Hoyes". In Tyneside there is listed some 30 for "Hoy" but only 1 for "Hoyes". There is a marked increase in "Hoyes" in Leicester as against the references to "Hoy" - the balance is 14 to 6. The only personality mentioned in the Standard Biographies is Thomas Hoy (1659-1718). He was both a medical man and a classical scholar who seemed to move around a bit! He was born in London, taught in Oxford, practised in Warwick then in Surrey and ended up in Jamaica.

Here in Bakewell there are four inclusions of "Hoy" in the local directory and, unusually, five under "Hoyes".

The name is particularly well-known to us on account of our own Michael Hoyes, the Editor of the "Peak Advertiser". Its 16th Anniversary is now occurring and this feature is offered as an appropriate compliment.

Site Index Site Index © Desmond Holden
From "The Peak Advertiser", 27th July 1998.

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