This surname TOBIN is found principally in Munster where it is widely dispersed in County Waterford, County Cork, County Limerick and County Tipperary. It is found less frequently in Leinster but mainly in County Kilkenny and in the capital. It is not a native Irish name being a corruption of St. Aubin or St. Aubyn, a name which came to Ireland with the Anglo-Normans at the end of the 12th century. The earliest Irish home of the family was in County Tipperary and County Kilkenny. The townland of Ballytobin (now Ballaghtobin) in the barony of Kells, County Kilkenny, which commemorates their name was an early seat. The inland Leinster county of Kilkenny is bounded on the north by county Leix, on the east by the counties of Carlow and Wexford, on the south by county Waterford and on the west by county Tipperary. The city of Kilkenny with its splendid Gothic cathedral on the hill, built of Kilkenny limestone, and its great castle on the Butlers, overlooking the River Nore, is the chief town of the county and of the towns of Leinster, second only to Dublin. In the 14th century King Edward 111 convened a parliament at Kilkenny and in the 17th century the city briefly enjoyed political importance when the Catholic Confederation met there in 1642. In the first half of the 16th century the 8th Earl of Ormonde and his countess brought Flemish master-weavers to Kilkenny to introduce the manufacture of tapestry, carpets and fine diaper.
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.
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