Currie/Curry Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Currie Surname Meaning

There are two spelling variants, Currie and Curry, of approximate equal numbers today.  Currie has Scottish origins, from place-names. There was a Currie in Midlothian, thought to have derived from the Gaelic word curraigh meaning a wet plain or marsh, and a Corrie in Dumfriesshire, after the Gaelic coire or cauldron.

Then again Currie was an anglicization form of the Gaelic MacMhuirrich clan which first began to appear as Currie in the 18th century.  The Irish Curry form was an anglicized form of the Gaelic Comhraidhe, a personal name of uncertain meaning. As a surname this became O’Corraidh and O’Corra before Curry.

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Currie and Curry Surname Ancestry

Scotland. A Corrie or Curry family originated from the place-name Corrie at Annandale in Dumfriesshire. An early Corrie here was Walter de Corrie, aka de Curry, who was recorded in the 1296 Ragman Rolls.

This family lost their seat at Corrie in the 16th century, but a branch established themselves as Currie at Duns in Berwickshire. William Currie held lands called Currie Parks in the early 1600’s. From his son William who died in 1681 came:

  • James Currie, the biographer of the poet Robert Burns
  • and William Currie, a distiller and banker who had settled in London.

William’s line though his eldest son Mark produced Captain Mark Currie, an early Australian explorer, Sir Frederick Currie, a diplomat in India, and the Currie baronets which followed. The line through his younger son Isaac produced Raikes Currie, an early promoter of the South Australia colony.

The Currie name at Greenock on the mouth of the Clyde dates from the late 1600’s. Later Curries from Greenock were:

  • James Currie who was born there in 1724. His descendant Daniel Currie emigrated to Canada in 1820.
  • Sir Donald Currie, born there in 1825, who became a famous ship-owner. He founded the Castle Line in 1868 and later, through amalgamation with his rivals, the Union Castle line to South Africa in 1900.
  • Alexander Currie who operated a sugar refinery there in the mid/late 1800’s.
  • while G.H. Currie blacksmiths, founded in 1851, is now run by the fifth and sixth generations of Curries.

Highland Curries. The origin of the Highland Curries was the MacMhuirrich clan which first surfaced on the western isles of Scotland in the early 13th century. For almost five hundred years they were the Gaelic bards and warriors that served the MacDonalds of the Isles. Their story was recounted in William Currie’s 1977 book With Sword and Harp.

However, after the Jacobite defeat at Culloden in 1746, Gaelic names became discredited. The name MacMhuirrich could then be seen in a variety of forms, such as McMurich and McVurrich, before adopting the anglicized Currie name.

This name was to be found in particular in the Kilcalmonell and Killean parishes of North Kintyre in Argyllshire. John Currie was a merchant at Clachan in 1817, according to a tombstone erected at that time. James Currie of Balilone and Garrachoran near Clachan was granted leadership of these Curries in 1822.  

“There was a beautiful and much-loved Gaelic song Clachan Glendaruel written by a schoolmaster Angus Fletcher in praise of Jean Currie, a lass of great beauty who lived in neighboring Glen Lean.”


Other Curries were on the isle of Islay and South Uist. Archibald Currie was an excise officer on Islay but was drowned around the year 1805 while en-route from Islay to Colonsay. Alexander Currie of South Uist departed for Cape Breton in Canada in the 1820’s. He too had an unfortunate ending, also from drowning
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Ireland. There has been a rule of thumb that says that the Curry name is Irish in origin; while Currie comes from Scotland. However, this is not strictly true as the spellings have been so interchanged over the years that the rule does not necessarily apply.

Irish. The Gaelic O’Comhraidhe has been the root of many Irish Currys. The most numerous and well-known sept of O’Comhraidhe was that of Thomond with their centre in county Clare, recorded there as early as 1317. Eugene O’Curry from Dunaha in Clare was a noted 19th century scholar of Irish history.

From Clare the name may have spread southward into Cork (as Corr or Corry) and into Kerry. There was also a smaller O’Comhraidhe sept in Westmeath where they were the chiefs of Moygoish.

O’Corras were to be found on the Tyrone-Fermanagh border, for instance at Lissan parish in Tyrone in the 17th century. The name, often subsequently Curry, became numerous in central Ulster. Dr. John Curry, the 18th century physician, was a descendant of an O’Corra family in Cavan.

Scottish. In Ulster many of the Currys were of Scottish ancestry. Antrim had the largest numbers. In the 19th century there was a concentration to the north of Ballymoney in the barony of Carey.

America.  The main spelling in America has been Curry, possibly because the earlier arrivals were Scots Irish and spelt themselves Curry.

Scots Irish. William Curry and his family came to Pennsylvania from Antrim in 1736 and made their home in Augusta county, Virginia. Son Robert acquired land in the 1750’s on Naked Creek and his home there remained with the Curry family until 1946. The line from James Curry who arrived from Antrim in 1762 and was a colonel in the Revolutionary War moved to Kentucky after the war’s conclusion.

Thomas Curry, probably of Scots Irish origin, was born in Philadelphia in 1745. His son William, also a colonel in the Revolutionary War, was later a prosperous plantation owner in Georgia and Alabama. William’s son JLM Curry was an Alabama political leader who prior to the Civil War was a zealous secessionist. After the war he repositioned himself as a proponent of public education.

George Curry had migrated by that time from Kentucky to Louisiana where he was a plantation manager. After the Civil War George was an early leader of the Klu Klux Klan until he was killed by carpet-baggers in 1871. From these unpromising beginnings, his son George migrated west to New Mexico three years later.  

“At the age of just thirteen George Curry accepted an invitation to go to New Mexico with a wagon train. Returning he fell in love with a beautiful Indian maid named Moon Eyes. But she soon died. Curry later reminisced: “Had Moon Eyes lived, it might have changed the course of my life.’”

George fought with Roosevelt’s Rough Riders in the Spanish American War and was appointed the Governor of New Mexico territory in 1907. Curry county in New Mexico was named in his honor.

Scots. There were also Scots Curries who came during the colonial era:

  • John and Marion Currie from Dumfries, for instance, came to Cumberland county, Pennsylvania in the 1730’s. Their descendants moved to North Carolina in the 1750’s and later to Tennessee.
  • the Rev. William Currie from Glasgow married Margaret Ross in Philadelphia in 1738. He died in Valley Forge in 1803 at the grand age of ninety four.
  • while James Currie from Edinburgh arrived in Rockbridge county, Virginia around 1774 and moved onto Ohio in 1808.

Curries from Argyllshire and the western isles of Scotland started migrating to North Carolina in the 1770’s:

  • Murdoch Currie from Colonsay had arrived possibly in the 1770’s, but was recorded as dying in North Carolina in 1775.
  • Angus Currie from Colonsay came to Robeson county in 1791. John Currie came to the same county in 1805.
  • while Laughlen Currie from Kintyre arrived in Moore county, also in 1791.

One factor behind this migration was the clearances being undertaken at Colonsay in 1791. Those evicted boarded the George Washington which transported them directly to Wilmington, North Carolina.

African American.  Curry has, for whatever reason, become an African American surname. One early record was that of James Curry of Person county, North Carolina. He was runaway slave who recounted his story in 1838. Stephen Curry the basketball player is a famous African American Curry of today.

Canada.  Many early Curries were to be found in the Maritime provinces.

Maritime Provinces. Joshua Currey was a Loyalist from Westchester county, New York who crossed into New Brunswick in 1783. Granted land in Gagetown, he settled there to farm. There is a family Bible, kept by his son Zebulon Currie, whose entries began with his own birth in 1795.

There were also early Curries on Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland. The 1798 census recorded a Donald and Angus Currie from Scotland living there. Malcolm Currie arrived from Colonsay around 1805; William Currie came to Freetown, PEI in 1815. John Currie arrived in Newfoundland from Argyllshire also around 1815 and was the keeper of the Harbour Grace jail. His family was plagued with deaths, most of his children having died before his own death in 1844.



Elsewhere. A Curry Loyalist family,
originally from Ireland, came to Glengarry county, Ontario around the year 1790. They left their name there to Curry Hill. Another of this family, Ephraim Curry, moved to Westmeath township in Grenville county.


Sir Arthur Currie
was a Canadian general on the Western Front during World War One. His grandfather had come to Canada from Mayo in Ireland in 1838 as John Corrigan. On arrival he converted from Catholicism to Methodism, the religion of his wife, and changed his name to Curry. Arthur Currie modified this name further to Currie in 1897, thereby taking out the Irish connection.

Australia.  Archibald Currie from Dunoon in Argyllshire was a pioneer of the town of Lismore along the Richmond river in northern NSW. He had arrived in Australia in 1853 as crew on a sailing vessel, having apparently deserted. He was to live in Lismore 63 years, mainly working in the timber business, until his death in 1916. His brother Duncan had joined him in 1860 and took up farming. Duncan’s home at Dunoon became known as the macadamia capital of Australia. He lived until 1924.

Curry in Australia would normally be Irish in origin. Some early arrivals were convicts, such as Patrick Curry from county Clare who was transported to Australia in 1825. After his release in 1830 he settled to farm in Camden, NSW. He lived to be eighty and was married three times.

John Curry from Tyrone came freely with his family on the Oriental in 1850. A later John Curry was from England, a Durham coalminer. He arrived with his family in 1870, but had a troublesome voyage across.

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Currie and Curry Surname Miscellany

Currie and Curry Today

Numbers (000’s) Currie Curry Total
UK    17    10    27
America     6    23    29
Elsewhere    18    10    28
Total    41    43    84

Jean Currie and Clachan Glandurel.  The bard who composed this Gaelic love song is sad, because he has parted from the girl he loved.  The song (in translation) began:

  • “My girl of the smooth fair complexion and the beguiling eyes
  • Who has grown healthy and active,
  • Sad were my steps when we parted
  • At the village of Glendaruel.”

He then thinks of the time they spent together, and says that even if King George gave him a place among the nobility, he would prefer to be near her.  He knows that the kirk session might not approve of him, but says that no matter what happens he will be true to the girl.

The words of the song were composed by a young unmarried minister, Angus Fletcher of Dunoon.  The woman who was the subject of the song – Jean Currie – owned the farm of Coire-Chathaidh near Dunoon.  She later married and became Mrs Black.

Dr. John Curry of Dublin.  John Curry was a distinguished Catholic physician and writer born in Ireland early in the 18th century.  He was descended from the O’Corra family of Cavan who lost their estates in the wars of 1641-1652, and 1689-1691. His grandfather, a cavalry officer in James’s army, fell at the battle of Aughrim.

Disqualified by his religion from obtaining a degree in Ireland (on account of the stringency of the Penal Laws against Catholics), John Curry went to Paris where he studied medicine for several years.  Returning to practice in Ireland, he rose to eminence as a physician; and he took up his pen in defense of his co-religionists.

The incident that impelled him to do so was thus related by his editor, Charles O’Connor:

“In October 1746, as he passed through the castle yard on the memorial day of the Irish rebellion of 1641, he met two ladies and a girl of about eight years of age. Stepping on a little before them, she turned about suddenly and, with uplifted hands and horror in her countenance, exclaimed:

‘Are there any of those bloody Papists in Dublin?‘

This incident, which to a different hearer would be laughable, filled the Doctor with anxious reflections.  He immediately inferred that the child’s terror proceeded from the impression made on her mind by the sermon preached on that day in Christ Church, from whence these ladies had proceeded.  Having procured a copy of the sermon, he found that his surmise was well founded.”

He combated such bitter prejudices in a Dialogue, the publication of which created a great sensation.  It was replied to by Walter Harris.  Dr. Curry rejoined in his Historical Memoirs.  In 1775 he published anonymously An Historical and Critical Review of the Civil Wars in Ireland.

With Mr. Wyse, Mr. O’Conor, and a few more, Dr. Curry was one of the founders of the first Catholic Committee, which in 1760 met privately at the Elephant Tavern on Essex Street in Dublin.  This was the forerunner of the powerful Catholic Associations which seventy years afterwards, under O’Connell, achieved Emancipation.

He died in 1780. Two of his sons were army officers in the Austrian service.

James Curry’s Voyage to America.  The Curry family embarked at Belfast for America on board the ship Good Return sometime in 1762. A large colony accompanied, including several brothers with their families and other relatives.

The ship was a fast sailer which had once made the voyage in five weeks.  But this trip the vessel had been overloaded so that, what with head winds and counter-currents, her passage across the Atlantic was prolonged to fifteen weeks.

Disease, starvation and death meanwhile made sad havoc among the passengers and crew. The greater part died and were buried at sea, among them the four youngest children of James Curry. The ship finally made Philadelphia and the James Curry family stepped ashore with but three, where seven should have been in number.

The family seems then to have at once started with other relatives for Virginia.  One of the brothers went to Pennsylvania and another, from which the Methodist divine the Rev. Daniel Curry was reportedly descended, settled in New York.

Reader Feedback – Sir Arthur Currie.  I have a book Arthur Currie, giving details of his forebear’s early life.

Sir Arthur was the Commander of the Canadian forces general on the Western Front in France during World War One.  The book reveals that, had the war lasted another year, he would have been made Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in France.  When Prime Minister Lloyd George visited the troops in 1918, he said that Arthur was the biggest man physically, intellectually and spiritually that he had ever come in contact with.  

I’m in the process of scanning selected material from this for my family archives.  Included also is his time as Principal of McGill University.  I’m his namesake – Lloyd Arthur Currie.

All of this if I continue to be blessed with good health.  I’m 91 and continuing to publish scientific articles.  Lloyd Currie (lacdq59@gmail.com)

John Curry’s Voyage to Australia.  John Curry was a Durham coalminer.  At the age of 39, he departed in 1870 with his wife Margaret and young family on the Percy for a new life in Australia.

The Percy sailed from England to Pernambuco, Brazil before heading southeast past the Cape of Good Hope and, assisted by the Roaring Forties, the vessel arrived in Melbourne after 104 days.

However, not all was well onboard.  There had been nine deaths on the voyage from suspected typhus, fever and the effects of overcrowding.   The ship was placed in quarantine at the sanitary station on arrival in Melbourne for a period of eight days.  Margaret Curry in fact gave birth to a baby boy during this period and was held there for another week after the rest of the passengers had been towed on board the Percy to Hobson’s Bay.

Family legend has it that John Curry tried his luck at the Victoria goldfields. But he then moved onto the coal mining in Newcastle, NSW.

Reader Feedback – Curry and Currey.  My grandfather was Walter Elmo Curry. My father was also Walter Emo Curry but added and “e” to become Walter Elmo Currey. There appear to be many spellings of the Curry name all around the world and while many claim England as the origin, there are also those who claim Ireland and Scotland. I wish there was a way to finally determine which branch of the family one actually comes from.

Lonnie Currey (loncurrey1@frontier.com)

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Currie and Curry Names
  • Muiredach the bard was the founder in the early 13th century of the MacMhuirrich later Currie clan in the western isles of Scotland. 
  • Dr. John Curry was an eminent Dublin physician and organizer of the first Irish Catholic Committee during the penal code period of the 18th century. 
  • Sir Donald Currie was the Scottish ship-owner who successfully amalgamated shipping companies to form the Union Castle line in 1900.  
  • Sir Arthur Currie, of Irish extraction, was a prominent Canadian general on the Western Front during World War One.   
  • Stephen Curry is a star basketball player for the Golden State Warriors, considered one of the best basketball shooters ever.
Currie and Curry Numbers Today
  • 27,000 in the UK (most numerous in Glasgow)
  • 29,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 28,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

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