This surname BEHAN was derived from the Gaelic O'Beachain. It is the name of a Leinster sept, found also in Kerry in later times. Tralee is the chief town of the county and was a borough, the only other market towns were Dingle, Cahirciveen and Killarney. Before the Anglo-Invasion of Ireland the principal families in County Kerry were the O'Connors, O'Sullivan, O'Moriartys, O'Mahonys and O'Donoghues. Soon after the invasion, as the newcommers pushed into western Munster, the McCarthy's retreated into Kerry. The Geraldine FitzMaurices and FitzGeralds gained a foothold in the county by the 13th century and eventually extended their power there at the expense of the earlier overlords. 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. The name is also spelt Beaghan. 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. A notable member of the name was Brendan Behan (1923-64) the Irish author, born in a slum district of Dublin. He left school at 14 to become a house-painter. He spent some years in prison for his beliefs, but it was there that he learnt to speak Irish and read voraciously. His first play 'The Quare Fellow' was published in 1956, and he wrote 'The Borstal Boy' in 1958. The associated arms are recorded in Rietstaps Armorial General.
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