The house of HAMILTON was known to be represented by Walter Fitz Gilbert from about 1294 to about 1346, from whom is descended the Dukes of Hamilton. Walter witnessed a charter in 1294 conferring on the monastery of Paisley the privilege of herring fishing in the Clyde. He was governor of Bothwell Castle for the English during part of the time of the Scottish War of Independence, but later joined Robert the Bruce from which he received the Barony of Cadzow. This was one of the forty commonest surnames in Scotland, and was taken to Ulster in considerable numbers by settlers during the seventeenth century plantation of that province. It is now among the twenty most common surnames in County Antrim and among the fifteen most common in both County Down and County Tyrone. They are numerous and influential giving their name to the town of Manorhamilton in County Leitrim, which indicates how far from their original place of settlement the family influence has spread. A few families so called are really Hamill. 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 William Hamilton (1704-54) who was the Scottish poet born in Bangour, West Lothian. He was educated at the High School of Edinburgh, and Edinburgh University. He joined in the Jacobite Rising of 1745, and on its collapse escaped to Rouen, but was permitted to return in 1749, and to succeed to the family estate of Bangour. The first collection of his poems was edited in 1748, but he is best remembered for his ballad 'The Braes of Yarrow'.
The arms are recorded in Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884. Registered in Ireland, at Killyleagh, County Down.
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