At first the coat of arms was a practical matter which served a function on the battlefield and in tournaments. With his helmet covering his face, and armour encasing the knight from head to foot, the only means of identification for his followers, was the insignia painted on his shield and embroidered on his surcoat, the flowing and draped garment worn over the armour. CONNOLLY is among the thirty most common surnames in Ireland, and is most heavily distributed in Ulster. The Connolly families have three different septs, O'Conhalaigh from Connacht. O'Congaile which was established in Ulster and O'Coingheallaigh from West Cork in Munster. 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 name is also rendered as O'Connolly. Patrick O'Connley of Dublin, merchant, acquired lands in County Donegal in 1626, and Thomas Conley was one of the signatories of the 'thanksgiving'manifesto issued at the conclusion of the Seige of Derry in 1688. John Conly obtained grants of lands in Counties Donegal and Fermanagh. James Connolly (1868-1916) the Irish Labour leader. He joined the British army at the age of 14, and was stationed at Curragh and Dublin. He deserted to get married to an Irish girl in Scotland. Returning to Ireland in 1896, he organized the Irish Socialist Republican party, and founded The Worker's Republic, the first Irish socialist paper. He was arrested and executed on May 12th for his part in the Easter rebellion of 1916. Most of the European surnames in countries such as England, Scotland and France were formed in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The process had started somewhat earlier and had continued in some places into the 19th century, but the norm is that in the tenth and eleventh centuries people did not have surnames, whereas by the fifteenth century most of the population had acquired a second name.
The associated arms are recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884.
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