This interesting clan surname is of pre-medieval Gaelic origins, and derives from the Scottish and Irish forms of the given name Paul, itself from the Roman (Latin) "Paulus", meaning "small", a term of endearment. "Paul" has always been popular in Christendom, and was originally adopted by the Pharisee Saul of Tarsus after his conversion to Christianity on the road to Damascus (A.D. circa 34). He was a most energetic missionary to the gentiles in the Roman Empire, and perhaps played a more significant role than any other of Christ's followers in establishing Christianity as a major world religion. Gaelic surnames derive from the first chieftain, and it is probable that he was either a crusader or a disciple of the saint. Early examples of the surname recordings include Niven M'Phaill, who was a charter witness at Sonnachan, Argyll in 1488, and Donald M'Pawle who witnessed an indenture between Doncan Makyntosche and Huchone the Rois, baron of Kylraok in 1490. Amongst the later examples of the surname is that of David, the son of David McPhail and Elizabeth McLaren, christened on December 9th 1735 at St. Cuthbert's church, Edinburgh, Scotland. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Gillemore M'Phale, which was dated 1414, in the "Book of the Thanes of Cawdor", Scotland, during the reign of King James 1 of Scotland, knownas "Wee Jamie", 1406 - 1437. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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