O'TOOLE were a sept that possessed a territory in the southern half of County Kildare. The great O'Tuathail sept. They were driven out after the invasion of 1172 into Imail, in the present County Wicklow. The descendants of the sept took the name Toal or Toole, although the name is now rare without the prefix 'O'. The tradition of surnames in Ireland developed spontaneously, as the population increased and the former practice, first of single names and then of ephemeral patronymics or agnomina of the nickname type proved insufficiently definitive. At first the surname was formed by prefixing 'Mac' to the father's Christian name or 'O 'to that of a grandfather or earlier ancestor. A notable member of the name was John Lawrence O'Toole (1832-1906) the comedian, born in London. He went to the City of London School, and in 1853 gave up his desk in a wine merchants to become an actor. He first played at Ipswich and in London at the St. James's Theatre in 1854. In 1874-75 he played in the United States, and in 1890 in Australia. In 1879 he became lessee of the Folly Theatre, which he enlarged, changing the name to 'Toole's Theatre'. 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. 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 flowing and draped garment worn over the armour. The associated arms are recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884.
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