NOLEN families are descendants of the O'Nuallain sept whose territory was in the barony of Forth in Count Carlow. This name ranks amongst the fifty most common names in all Ireland. Almost all descend from a small sept which was located in West Cork. About two thirds of the family still live in their ancient home province of Leinster, but there is a fair representation of the name in Connacht, where some of the Leinster sept immigrated in the 16th century. 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. 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.
An interesting member of the name is Sir Sidney Robert Nolan, born in 1917, the Australian painter. He took up painting full time in 1938, and held his first exhibition in Melbourne in 1940. He made his name with 'Ned Kelly' paintings. He first went to Europe in 1950, and he is also a theatrical designer, having worked on the Covent Garden productions 'The Rite of Spring' and 'Sampson and Delilah'. He also published a volume of poems, drawings and paintings in 1972.
The associated coat of arms is recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884. Registered in County Galway, and granted at the Ulster Office. They were descended from the ancient Irish sept of O'Nowlan. Patrick Nolan had several grants of land in counties Mayo and Galway during the reign of Charles 11. (1660-1685).
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