The surname of DOWNEY was originally derived from the Gaelic O'Dunadhaigh, a name meaning 'fort'. The Downey families are of two septs, mostly located in counties, Cork, Limerick and Kerry. 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. Variants of the name include Gildowney and Muldowney. 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. The name was taken to Scotland by settlers where it is a habitation name from the Scottish barony of Downie or Duny in the parish of Monilie in the former county of Angus.The surname is still common in the district, and there was also an old Stirling family of the name. The first of the name recorded is Duncan de Dunny who witnessed a composition regarding the boundaries between the land of Tulloch and Conon in 1254. Alexander Downy held land of the abbot of Arbroath in 1330. Thomas Downey was the burgess of Glasgow in 1550. 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. Other records of the name mention James Dewinney who was recorded in the barony of Urie in 1620, and Isabel Dewnie appears in Brechin in the year of 1675. 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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