In County Leitrim KENNY has to some extent absorbed the name Keeney, and also spelt as Keany, Keaney and Keeny, is fairly numerous in County Leitrim and south-west Donegal. The Irish form of the name is OCIANAIGH, or perhaps more correctly O'CAOINNIGH. It is the name of some English immigrant families, one of these by coincidence, settled in the homeland of O'Kenny of Ui Maine. 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. Early records of the name mention Nicholas de Keny, 1273 County Somerset. Peter de Kenneye, 1300 ibid. 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. This is also the name of a Scottish family. They are recorded in Dumfries and Kirkcudbright until the late seventeenth century, and one of the first bearers of the name recorded in Ireland was Andrew Kenny, who obtained lands in Dublin in the 18th century. A notable member of the name was Elizabeth KENNY (1886-1952), the Australian nurse, renowned as 'Sister Kenny'. She began practising as a nurse in the bush-country in Australia in 1912, and then joined the Australian army nursing corps (1915-19). She developed a new technique for treating polio, and eventually established clinics in Australia, Britain and America, and travelled widely to demonstrate her methods. She published her autobiography 'And They Shall Walk' in 1943.
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