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The Stories Behind
THE SYMBOLS OF SCOTLAND
AND
Of THE MACGREGORS

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SCOTLAND

  Christianity Brings A Sense of Purpose To Alba

Much of Scotland became Christian long before England. Due initially to a Monk named Ninian. He was born around 350 A.D., a Briton, he went to the Continent where he was ordained a priest, came back to Scotland, and evangelized Galloway and the Southern Picts at Fife and Perthshire.  Ninian's followers took the new faith as far north as the Shetland Islands, and as far south as Northumbria, which at time encompassed south-east Scotland (Lothian) and northern England.
 
The Scots of Dalriada had Irish missionaries of their own.  Saint Oran probably established the first monastery at Iona.  But St. Columba from Donegal, was the missionary who made the Scots a dominate tribe.  Saint Columba arrived in Scotland, from Ireland, in about 563 A.D. with twelve followers.  He was a skilled politician and helped the Scots, who owed allegiance to an Irish King, become independent from mainland Ireland.

Columba had Royal blood on both sides and this no doubt helped his influence.  By by using his new faith and royal connections he helped the Scots to establish Argyll in western Scotland as an independent Kingdom.  The Irish Celtic Church was Monastic, unlike the great religious houses that were to come to Scotland in the middle ages.  Strict, it demanded poverty and obedience from its clergy, who were Monks, not Priests.   Lonely islands were sought after sights for new monasteries.

Conversion to Christianity brought a flowering of Christian and Celtic art, notably from the Picts.  Irish monasticism and traditional Celtic lore, became the new faith.  This independence, of course, would not be tolerated by the Holy Roman Church, which claimed its universality in western Europe.

Oswald, King of Northumbria was converted to the Celtic Church while at Iona. He invited Aiden, (one of St. Columba's disciples), to set up a Monastery at Lindesfairne off the coast of Northumbria.  However, Oswald's Anglo-Saxon Queen was a follower  of the Church of Rome, not Ireland.  In 663, King Oswald invited  representatives of the two church's to  Yorkshire to resolve the dilemma.

Oswald's succeeding decision to go with the  Roman Church over the Celtic one  changed not only Northumbria, (northern England), but  also Scotland.  Roman  Orthodoxy replaced Celtic Monasticism after the Papal envoy, Boniface visited King Necton.  Christianity was a new and powerful magic to the people, Holy Relics of Columba and his disciples were  venerated.


The Bones of Saint Andrew Are Brought To Caledonia

Saint Andrew was one of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ.  Like Jesus, he was crucified for spreading dangerous ideas.  Andrew asked that he be crucified on a cross different than that of Jesus as he considered he was not worthy of the cross of Jesus.  His body was interred in Patrae, Greece.

Four hundred years later, the Christian ruler of the Eastern Roman Empire ordered Saint Andrew's bones be brought to Constantinople.  The keeper of the saint's remains was a man called Regulus.

Regulus had a strange dream where he was visited by an Angel who told him to take the remains to the edge of the known world and build a church there.

Regulus obeyed the saint and carried the bones across Europe to a far off land called Caledonia.  He landed at a place called Mucros in AD732, where he and his companions set up a church, eventually becoming a magnificent stone Cathedral, called Saint Andrews.


The Picts were already Christians so they readily accepted these holy relics and became very proud to claim custody of the remains of Saint Andrews.

It was a proud and very unusual boast for a small country on the edge of Europe to claim it was the resting place of one of the twelve Apostles.  Soon, Saint Andrew took on a special meaning to the Picts and he became their patron saint.

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The Saltire Cross Becomes the Symbol of the Picts. 


Elsewhere in Scotland, around Glasgow, the Gospel was brought independently by Kentigern. Kentigern was a Briton (of Strathclyde), and there was very little contact among the Christian streams, British and Irish or Celtic. At this time, there were three main cultural strains in Scotland: the Picts, the Scots and the Angles, and the new religion did little to bring them together.

The Britons were already being chased out by the Angles and Saxons and sought  refuge in Brittany and to a lesser extent, in Wales.  In future centuries, religion was to become a Scottish, and English, bloody battlefield. 

In AD761, the Picts were fighting the northward expanding Saxons of Northumbria in a life or death struggle.  On the eve of battle, the Pict king, Angus, had a dream  where he had a vision of Saint Andrew carrying his Saltire cross.

The next day, near the village of Athelstaneford in East Lothian,  the Picts won a great victory.  From then on, the Saltire cross became the symbol of the Picts.

Even when the Pictish Kingdom ended and Scotland became a Scottish/Pict Kingdom, the fame of Saint Andrew was such that he became the patron saint of the entire country.

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There were other saints who might have become the patron saint of Scotland. 

 Saint Columba brought Christianity to the Dalriadic Scots and set up the famous abbey at Iona where he first taught Christianity to the Picts. 

The story of Regulus and Saint Andrew must have seemed very real for the people of Scotland to have embraced Saint Andrew as their protector.

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The Lion Rampant Becomes The Symbol Of Scottish Royalty

TheLion rampant ws origiinally the symbol of the Anjou nobility in France

It is thought that David I used a Lion as his personal sign during the Battle of the Standard in 1138.  Later, in the 12th century, King William "the Lion" used it, and his son Alexander II, used it on the Great Seal of Scotland.  The Lion was and still is considered the King of Beasts, so it seemed a perfect symbol of Scotland, a poor and rather small country when compared to England and France.  Scotland's heralds devised a fine motto to go with the rampant lion.  It reads, Nemo me impune lacessit, which means in English, "No one attacks me with impunity".

It was under the banner of the Lion, King James IV one of Scotland's most able kings, who died fighting the English at the disastrous Battle of Flodden in 1513.

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The Thistle and the Vikings

Early in the 11th century a raiding party of Vikings attacked a Scottish castle.  They came by night and took off their shoes to be as quiet as possible.  Reaching the castle moat, they jumped in to swim across.  To their surprise, the moat held not water, but thistles.  Their shouts of pain awoke the defenders of the castle, who rushed out, and the Vikings fled.

Despite this old tale, the thistle is not as old a sign as is the Saltire or the lion.  The first time a thistle was used as a special emblem of Scotland was in the time of King James III, in the 15th century.  The Saltire had already been in use for more than five hundred years.

Now the thistle is not a useful plant.  Only donkeys eat it.   But it is tough and you cannot simply grasp it and pull it out of the ground like a common weed.  It was the prickliness that the Scottish heralds admired.  In this way it was like the lion with its claws out, and it fitted Scotland's proud motto perfectly.  (Perhaps they had an eye on England).

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The MacGREGORS

 
The Armorial Bearings
 
 
 

The ancient coat-of-arms of the MacGregors is thus described heraldically: - Argent, an oak tree eradicate in bend sinister proper, surmounted by a sword in bend azure, hilted gules, on its point an antique crown gules: Crest: - a lion's head erased proper, langued gules and crowned or: Motto: -"E'en do, bait spair nocht."  In more recent times have been added these Supporters: Dexter, an unicorn argent, crowned and horned or; sinister, a deer proper, tyned azure.

MALCOLM Laird of Glenorchy during the reign of David 1 (1124-1153)  led his clan in his sovereign's army which invaded England 1135-1138 to assist Matilda, Countess of Anjou, in her unsuccessful effort to win the crown of England. 

In the ancient chronicles, Malcolm is called "Morair Callum nan Caistel" (Lord Malcolm of the Castles), because of several castles occupied by him. The traditions described him as a man of Herculean size and strength.  It is related of him that while in the royal retinue at a great hunting party, the young King Malcolm IV (reigned 1153-1165) became in dire peril from the attack of a wild boar; Malcolm offered his assistance, whereupon the King assented, saying. "E'en do, bait spair nocht".

Thereupon, Malcolm tore out an oak tree from the ground and rushing between his sovereign and the infuriated boar, with the oak in one hand he kept the animal at bay, while wielding his sword with the other, until he succeeded in running it through the beast's heart. In memory of this exploit the King conferred on Malcolm for a coat-of-arms; a sword with a crown on its point, crossed with an oak tree. From this circumstance were derived the MacGregor arms, crest and motto, as already heraldically described and emblazoned.  These or similar arms appear on MacGregor seals of the fifteenth century, and also in an illuminated manuscript, now in the Lyon Herald's Office, Edinburgh, compiled about 1565, in which this emblazon is assigned to "Lord Mak Gregour of Ould"

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The Arms of the Chief of Clan Gregor
 
 
 
Badge of Clan Gregor

 

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The MacGregors of Roro became a distinct family branch in 1415 when they first settled in Roro.  They originated in Glen Orchy and later branched out from the GlenLyon MacGregors.   They eventually become the sole surviving branch of the original GlenOrchy MacGregors and inherited the prerogatives of the MacGregors of GlenLyon when that branch became extinct due to the predations of the Campbells.

Arms.

Argent a sword azure in band dexter, a Fir Tree eradicated proper in bend Sinister an antique Crown with points, gules in chief and supported by the point of the sword - alluding to the constant loyalty of the MacGregors..

Mottoes above the crest "'S Rioghal Mo Dhream"  i.e., "My Blood is Royal,"  on the Scroll below the Shield " Ard Choille,"  the war cry alluding to a place of that name, the rendezvous of the MacGregors in Glen Dochart.

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