The surname of LANIGAN was derived from the Gaelic O'Leannain, a name meaning 'mantle or cloak'. It is the name of several distinct septs located in counties Cork, Fermanagh and Galway. The name is also spelt LENNON, O'LONAIN, O'LANNON, LANIGAN, LANNIGAN and O'LONAGAIN, to name but a few. 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. Lennon families are now widely dispersed. The Irish O'Lonain and O'Luinin were also sometimes rendered in English as Lennon. 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. The Fermanagh branch were of the greatest importance, particularly in the ecclesiastical circles, and there have been many celebrated clergymen of this name. Four of these are mentioned in the Annals of the Four Masters. 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. Two notable members of the name include John Winston Lennon (1940-1980) the songwriter and singer, member of the Beatles, the British pop group which was formed in 1960. He was murdered in New York. John Brown Lennon, was the American Labour leader.
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