The surname of O'BRENAN is among the fifty most common surnames in all Ireland, and is borne by the descendants of six distinct septs, four of which were O'Brainain, one O'Branain and one Mac Branain. The name is now widely distributed in all four provinces, but still found predominantly in Leinster where the principle sept of O'Braonain once held a territory called Idough, a vaguely defined hilly area in the north of Kilkenny. The septs were divided in the 17th Century, each sept having its own centre. One of the most notable members of the name was Christoper John Brennan (1870-1932) an Australian poet and critic, born in Sydney of a Catholic family. Intended for the priesthood, after entering University, he turned to the classics and philosophy. Going to Berlin in 1892, to read philosophy, he was distracted by the exiting social and cultural life, which influenced his future writings. He published only a select number of verse, The Wanderer (1902) suggests the torment of his life. 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. Ireland is one of the earliest sources of the development of patronymic names in northern Europe. Irish Clan or bynames can be traced back to the 4th century B.C. and Mac (son of) and O (grandson or ancestor of) evolved from this base, the original literal meaning of which has been lost due to the absence of written records and linguistic ambivalences which subtly but inexorably became adopted through usage. Genealogists and lexographers accept that the patronymic base does not refer to a location, quite the contrary. The use of the prefix 'Bally' (town of) attaching to the base name, identifying the location. The base root was also adopted by people residing in the demographic area without a common ancestor. These groups called 'Septs' were specially prevalent in Ireland. The first Normans arrived in Ireland in the 12th and 13th centuries to form an alliance with the King of Leinster, against his enemies, merging into the cultural developments. Under Elizabeth 1 in the 16th century, settlers from England established themselves around Dublin, then under English control and Presbyterian Scots emigrated to Ulster, introducing English and Scottish roots.
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