SURNAMES as we know them today were first assumed in Europe from the 11th to the 15th Century. They were not in use in England or in Scotland before the Norman Conquest, and were first found in the Domesday Book. The employment in the use of a second name was a custom that was first introduced from the Normans. They themselves had not long before adopted them. It became, in course of time, a mark of gentler blood, and it was deemed a disgrace for gentlemen to have but one single name, as the meaner sort had. It was not until the reign of Edward II (1307-1327) it became general practice amongst all people. GILLASPIE was derived from the Gaelic Gilleasbuig, an occupational name, the Bishops servant or Gillie. Early records of the name mention Ewan filius Gillespie, who witnessed a charter by Alwin, earl of Lennox in 1178. In 1240 Gillescrop de Cletheueys, witnessed a confirmation charter of the lands of Fedale. The surname has invaded Northumberland, appearing there as Gilhespy.
A notable member of the name was James Gillespie (1726-1797) a Scottish snuff and tobacco merchant. He bought the estate of Spylaw, and left money to found a hospital (designed by William Bush) in 1801-3, which became a school run by the Merchant Taylor's Company. Alba, the country which became Scotland, was once shared by four races; the Picts who controlled most of the land north of the Central Belt; the Britons, who had their capital at Dumbarton and held sway over the south west, including modern Cumbria; the Angles, who were Germanic in origin and annexed much of the Eastern Borders in the seventh century, and the Scots. The latter came to Alba from the north of Ireland late in the 5th century to establish a colony in present day Argyll, which they named Dalriada, after their homeland. The Latin name SCOTTI simply means a Gaelic speaker.
The associated arms are recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884.
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