This South Ulster surname derives from the O'Daimhin sept whose territory was in County Fermanagh, which, with County Tyrone, long remained the homeland of its descendants. The branches spread into Leinster and were well established in Dublin before the massive migration towards the capital in this century, as well as in County Monaghan, County Cavan and County Louth. 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. When the sparse Irish population began to increase it became necessary to broaden the base of personal identification by moving from single names to a more definite nomenclature. The prefix MAC was given to the father's christian name, or O to that of a grandfather or even earlier ancestor. 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 draped and flowing garment worn over the armour.
A notable member of the name was George Devine, born in 1910. He was the stage director, administrator, teacher and actor. He began his career during the 1930's as an actor. After World War I he was the director of the Old Vic School, and in 1956 he founded the English Stage Company, which took up residence at the Royal Court Theatre in London. The George Devine award, inaugurated in 1966, gives encouragement to young theatre practitioners. He died in 1965. 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.
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