This surname of DILLON arrived in Ireland at the end of the 12th century with the Anglo-Norman settlement which accompanied the invasion. These Dillons acquired a vast territory which comprised much of County Westmeath whence they extended westwards into Connacht, branches taking root in County Mayo and County Roscommon. The name is now widely distributed. The name was derived from the Gaelic DIOLUN - a Hiberno-Norman family which has three branches. It has always been prominent in Irish history. 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. An Irish family named Dillon trace their descent from Sir Henry de Leon, who was a member of a noble Breton family. In 1185 he accompanied the Earl of Morton, later King John, into Ireland, and was granted large estates at Longford and Westmeath. His son used the surname Dylon. A number of members of this family were Jacobites who served in European armies in the 18th century, They included Arthur Dillon (1750-94), a French Jacobin general, who was guillotined during the French Revolution. 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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