This famous Scottish clan surname is also popular in Northern Ireland. It derives from a personal name "Ailpean" from the Gaelic elements "alp" meaning hill and "ean or ain", small or little, the small hill. Recorded in the main spellings of MacAlpine, MacAlpin and the shortened version McAlpine, this is one of the most prolific and earliest recorded of traditional Gaelic surnames. These early recordings include Monauche Macalpin, a charter witness in 1285, and in the spelling of Monach mac Alpy, this landowner rendered homage to the government of Scotland in the year 1296. In 1395 Malcolm Macalpyne witnessed a charter by Duncan, earl of Levenax, whilst in 1405, Mordac Makcalpy was granted permission by the king of England (Henry 1V) to attend the university of Oxford. Alternate spellings of the surname, which are now obsolete, have included Makcalpyn (1421); Makalpe (1511) and M'Kalpie (1663). A number of Scottish clans including Grant, MacKinnon, and MacGregor, all form part of "Clan Alpine", and claim descent from a common ancestor, Kenneth MacAlpine, supposedly an ancestor of the original line of Scottish Kings. The coat of arms granted to James Mac Alpine has the blazon of a silver field, on a green mount, a fir tree proper surmounted by a claymore, on the dexter point a royal crown of Scotland. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John MacAlpyne, which was dated 1260, a charter witness to the earl of Stratherne, during the reign of King Alexander III, of Scotland, 1249 - 1286. 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.