The area was a haven for smugglers and pirates whose hunting ground was the trade from the Continent and North America. The name Portmagee has several variations, Port Mhig Aoidh in Gaelic or An Caladh meaning harbour or Magee’s Port as it was formerly known. This derives from Captain Theobald Magee, a notorious 18th Century smuggler and his family.
Having served in the army of the English King James as an officer, Magee ‘retired’ to a life of merchant shipping between France, Portugal and Ireland. Thanks to the intricately chisled coast around the South West, his trade in contraband spirits, textiles and tea and tobacco was extremely hard to police and therefore extremely profitable.
He married Mrs. Bridget Morgell, the widow of a rich Dingle merchant and also the daughter of the then MP for County Kerry, Mr. Thomas Crosby. Being related to the best smuggler in Ireland can’t have sat too easily on Crosby’s shoulders and there is some suspicion that Magee’s death in a Lisbon monastery was due to some exile imposed by the powerful MP. However, his wife, and his sons continued the family business of smuggling.