The surname of COLLUMS and its variant Cullum were derived from the Gaelic Mac Coluim, a name meaning 'dove'. With the prefix Max this is an Ulster name: without the prefix the name is mainly found in County Longford. The earliest of the name on record appears to be Mac Gil Colum, prior of Ardstraw, County Tyrone in 1179. In the 17th century the name occurs as a synonym of the English name Colme. Ireland was one of the earliest countries to evolve a system of hereditary surnames. They came into being fairly generally in the 11th century, and indeed a few were formed before the year 1000. The best known of the name is a County Longford man, the poet Padraig Colum (1882-1972). The Irish prefixes of Mac (son of) and O (grandson or descendant of) gave rise at an early date, to a set of fixed hereditary names in which the literal patronymic meaning was lost or obscured. These surnames originally signified membership of a clan, but with the passage of time, the clan system became less distinct, and surnames came to identify membership of what is called a 'sept' of people all living in the same locality, all bearing the same surname, but not necessarily descended from a common ancestor. Adoption of the name by people who did not otherwise have a surname and by their dependants was not uncommon. Later, nicknames were in some cases to supersede the original clan names. The name was originally derived from the Old French word COLOMB, meaning a keeper of doves, or one with a mild disposition. The name in its Latin form of Columbus and Columba was popular among early Christians because the dove was considered to be the symbol of the Holy Spirit. It has long been a matter of doubt when the bearing of coats of arms first became hereditary and it was not until the Crusades that Heraldry came into general use. Men went into battle heavily armed and were difficult to recognise. It became the custom for them to adorn their helmets with distinctive crests, and to paint their shields with animals and the like. Coats of arms accompanied the development of surnames, becoming hereditary in the same way.
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