The surname of ESPY was a locational name 'of Espley' a spot near Mitford in County Northumberland. Local names usually denoted where a man held his land, and indicated where he actually lived. Scottish surnames fall into two quite distinct groups; those of Gaelic origin and those of English origin. The Gaelic language was brought to Scotland from Ireland around the 5th century AD, displacing the British language (an early form of Welsh) previously spoken there as well as elsewhere. Gaelic was the main language of that part of Scotland not subject to English influence, a rather more extensive area than the present day Highlands and Islands, where Gaelic is still spoken in places. It is from these northwestern and western area of Scotland that surnames of Gaelic origin, now almost universally Anglicized in form, have been disseminated around the world. Early records of the name mention Johne Espy who was accused of a part in the slaughter of Maister Hector Sinclare, a parsone of Kilbryde in 1541. John Esplene, burgess of Stirling in 1564. Grisel Hespley of Perth was accused of seeking help from a witch in the year 1623. Henry Esplin was a brewer in Cannogait, Edinburgh in 1678. The name has many variants including ESPLEY and ESPLIN. Surnames as we know them today were first assumed in Europe from the 11th to the 15th Century. 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. 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.
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