Recorded in several forms including Noonan, Nunan, and Neenan, this is an Irish surname of great antiquity. Originally recorded as O'Nuanain, it is said to belong almost exclusively to the province of Munster, and particularly County Cork. The name means the "descendant of the beloved one" which was a reference to the original chief of the clan, since almost all Gaelic surnames are closely associated with the perceived attributes of the founder. Some proof of the original meaning is given by the fact that in their early history the clan were "erenaghs" or hereditary minor lords, who had a specific responsibility for maintaining and managing church property and lands in their particular area. In this case the clan were responsible for the church of St. Beretchard at the village of Tullylease in the barony of Dulhallow. Unfortunately after the Reformation and the rise of Protestantism in England and Scotland, the Catholic Church in Ireland and its supporters found themselves under increasing pressure, and many old institutions such as the erenaghs were largely lost by the 17th century. The first recorded name holder was William O' Noonan who was the kings surgeon in England in 1340. He saved the life of the Duke of Clarence, the son of King Edward 111rd, and received high honours. A more recent notable was James Noonan, who was one of the leaders of the American labour movement in the early pasrt of the 20th century.
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