The Mac Diarmada septs sprang from a branch of the royal O'Connors of Connacht. The most prominent of these held a vast territory covering much of the modern county of Roscommon, with its sept centre at Coolavin, another held sway in the north of that county in the barony of Boyle. The surname MacDERMOT has survived in such numbers in its homeland that it ranks as the second commonest surname in County Roscommon. Due to the dispersal of the descendants of the Mac Diarmada septs, however, less than half of the MacDERMOTS in Ireland today are still in the province of Connacht. The second heaviest distribution is in Ulster and the next heaviest in Leinster. 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 definate 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. The surnames in Ireland originally signified membership of a clan, but with the passage of time, the clan system became less distinct, and surnames came to identify membership of what is called a 'sept'; a group of people all living in the same locality, all bearing the same surname, but not necessarily descended from a common ancestor. Adoption of the name by people who did not otherwise have a surname and by dependents was not uncommon. Just over one hundred years after the Norman Conquest of England, the first Normans arrived in Ireland. Richard de Clare, Second Earl of Pembroke (died 1176), was known as Strongbow. He was invited to Ireland by Dermot MacMurrough, King of Leinster, whose daughter he married, to help him in his wars with his neighbours. He was accompanied by several retainers whose name, like his own, have become well established as surnames in Ireland. The Normans established themselves in Leinster and paid homage to Henry 11 of England. Some of the Norman settlers acquired surnames derived from the Irish.
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