The Gaelic for this name is MacAsgaill, and was derived from the Old Norman personal name Askell. The name was brought into Scotland in the wake of the Norman Invasion of 1066. It was a William MacAskill, probably a member of the family of MacCaskill of Ebost, who led the Clan Macleod against the fleet of Clanranald at Eynot, west of Skye in the sixteenth century. Donald M'Askle was a corporal in the Reay Fencibles in 1795, and Calum MacAsguill was the author of 'Bearnaraidh na-h-Earradh' written in the eighteenth century. Angul McAskill, born in Lewis, died in Cape Breton on August 8th 1863 in his thirty-eighth year. He was 7 feet 9 inches in height and was known as the Cape Breton Giant. (One of his boots, 16 inches in length, is preserved in the Provincial Museum in Halifax). The Macasgills are known as Clann t-Asgaill. The use of fixed surnames or descriptive names appears to have commenced in France about the year 1000, and such names were introduced into Scotland through the Normans a little over one hundred years later, although the custom of using them was by no means common for many years afterwards. During the reign of Malcolm Ceannmor (1057-1093) the latter directed his chief subjects, after the custom of other nations, to adopt surnames from their territorial possessions, and there created 'The first erlis that euir was in Scotland'. The rise of surnames, according to the accepted theory, was due to the Norman Conquest of 1066 when Old English personal-names were rapidly superseded by the new christian names introduced by the Normans. Of these, only a few were really popular and in the 12th century this scarcity of christian names led to the increasing use of surnames to distinguish the numerous individuals of the same name. Some Normans had hereditary surnames before they came to England, but there is evidence that surnames would have developed in England even had there been no Norman Conquest. The development of the feudal system made it essential that the king should know exactly what service each person owed. Payments to and by the exchequer required that debtors and creditors should be particularized, and it became official that each individual acquired exact identification.
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