Islandmagee on the Antrim coast was once the seat of the Magees, a prominent Irish Gaelic sept. There were also MacGees, recorded as Muintear Mhaoil Ghaoithe, an important ruling sept in medieval Tirconnel. A branch of the Cenal Chonaill, they were erenaghs of Clondahorky in the barony of Kilmacrenan.
Apart from these, the majority of Ulster Magees or MacGees will be of Scottish origin, descendants of settlers who came to the province at the time of the Plantations. The name is found in Scotland as MacGee, MacGhee and MacGhie and was first recorded in Dumfries in 1296. There, and in Ayshire and Galloway, the name is most common. These were kin to the MacDonald MacHughs or MacKees.
The name Magee is most concentrated in Antrim around Crumlin, and in Down in Lecale and on the adjacent Upper Ards. MacGees and Magees in Fermanagh are mainly a branch of the Maguires, descendants of Aodh, great-grandson of Donn Carrach Maguire. In Co Cavan Magee has become Wynne and Wynn because of the -gee ending, which sounds like the Gaelic gaoithe, meaning 'of wind'.
The Most Rev William Magee, 1766-1831, Archbishop of Dublin, was also a mathematician. His grandson William Connor Magee, 1821-91, active opponent of Home Rule and rector of Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, became Archbishop of York. John Magee, 1750-1809, printer and journalist, was born in Belfast. As proprietor of the Dublin Evening Post he was popular for his anti-establishment position, but was several times imprisoned for libel. His son John, 1780-1814, also as proprietor, carried on the tradition, with the same results.
Magee College in Derry was founded by Martha Maria Magee, nee Stewart, c. 1755-1846, after a long controversy with the Rev Henry Cooke and the Presbyterian Assembly.