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. The surname of GILHESPY was derived from the Gaelic Gilleasbuig, an occupational name, the Bishops servant or Gillie. The name is familiar to both Scotland and Ireland.
Early records of the name mention Ewan filius Gillespie, who witnessed a charter by Alwin, earl of Lennox in 1178. In 1240 Gillescrop de Cletheueys, witnessed a confirmation charter of the lands of Fedale. The surname has invaded Northumberland, appearing there as Gilhespy. The burghs of Scotland owe much of their prosperity to the large immigration of foreigners which went on during the 12th and 13th centuries. The original founders of the towns, were in many cases wanderers from Flanders, who brought with them their habits of industry and knowledge of trade and manufacture. Settlers of this description came in great numbers to England in the reign of Henry 1. (1100-1135) and when Henry II (1154-1189) drove all foreigners out of his dominions they flocked into Scotland, where a more enlightened policy made them welcome.
The associated arms are recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884.
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