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Scots Heraldry - The Heraldry Society of Scotland

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Some Distinctive Characteristics of Scots Arms - By Alex Maxwell Findlater

 

We should also note the occurrence of geographical families of arms, so that in the south west we often find the saltire combined with a chief, a combination which is peculiarly Scottish and rarely occurs elsewhere in European arms, derived from the famous arms of Annandale, which the Bruces adopted.  Alongside Bruce we find Kirkpatrick, Johnstone, Jardine, Boyes, Murray of Cockpool and Moffat.

Bruce

Kirkpatrick
Johnstone

Jardine

Boyes

Murray of Cockpool

Moffat

 

In the north east lowlands, we see many sets of three stars, as in Innes, Murray, Sutherland, Brodie, Kirkcaldy. From these may derive arms no longer associated with that area, such as Douglas, Mure, Weir, Kerr, in each of which the stars are placed on an ordinary, also Arbuthnott.

 

Sutherland

Innes

Murray

Arbuthnott

Douglas

Mure

Kerr

Weir

Kirkcaldy

 

Then again in the Celtic arms, mentioned above, which are almost all found in Argyll and the western isles, we find four quarters combined, not to show dynastic inheritance, but rather symbolic associations. These quarters usually include a rampant lion, a lymphad (or galley), a hand holding a cross, a salmon swimming, and a castle. The symbolism is usually said to be as follows.  The lion represents the royal house of Dalriada, from which the Scottish and British royal houses descend;  the lymphad is associated with the lordships of the Isles and of Lorne (and thus adopted by the Hamiltons);  the cross held in a hand represents the kindred of St Columba;  the salmon is symbolic in Irish and Scottish mythology of the wisdom of the king. In Irish prehistory the salmon pools of a defeated king were ritually destroyed. These Celtic arms often have more than one charge in a quarter, as eg in Farquharson. They are treated as indivisible, thus the four quarters can only be transmitted as a unity.

McDougal
Macintyre
Macintosh
MacNeil
 

Another Scottish characteristic is the comparative rarity of furs, so that we see ermine only occasionally, as in Hamilton, Douglas of Hawthornden, Crawfurd, Fotheringham, McCulloch, and in the famous chief of Moncrieff. Vair, so common in English mediaeval arms, hardly appears at all, and other less common furs even less so.

 

Hamilton

Douglas of Hawthornden

Crawfurd

Fotheringham

 

McCulloch

Moncrieffe

 
 

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ę The Heraldry Society of Scotland   last Update 05 Jun 2017