Recorded in several forms including Sherlaw, Shirlaw and Sheirlaw, this is apparently a Scottish locational surname, although it may have English ancestry from ancient times. According to Professor George Black's famous 1946 book called the 'Surnames of Scotland', the name derives from the village of Shirley in the English county of Derbyshire. However he does not quote any supporting source material, and it is unclear as to how he arrived at such a decision. The first recording of the surname is believed to be that of the year 1370, when in Bains 'History of Scotland', one Walter de Skirlawe, who apparently commanded a party of soldiers, received safe conduct into England for one year. As to what should have lead to such an arrangement and who benefitted as a result, is unclear. At this time the spelling of the surname would suggest that the derivation is from the Olde English or Norse-Viking pre 7th century 'sker' meaning rocky and 'hlaw', a hill, an indicating that such a place once existed as a village or hamlet. No such place appears to exist anywhere in the United Kingdom in the 20th century, unless it be the village of Skirlaugh in the East Riding of Yorkshire.
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