turned out to be Scotland�s heraldic event of the year took
place in Glencoe in June when a Macdonald clan herald was
installed into office for the first time for 510 years.
In a splendid
re-creation of ancient Highland history, Adam Bruce (37), an
Edinburgh solicitor and younger son of the Earl of Elgin &
Kincardine, was sworn in as Finlaggan Pursuivant in front of
a gathering of 100 Macdonald clansfolk and their supporters,
headed by Lord Macdonald, high chief of Clan Donald,
assisted by three other Macdonald chiefs.
This was a
day rightly given over to joyous outpouring by assorted
Macdonaldry from around the globe, but the clan was generous
enough to admit among its ranks for the day any
non-Macdonalds who wanted to be present. Which gave me the
privilege of marching as an honorary banner-bearer behind
the various chiefs.
was conducted in front of the monument to the 1692 massacre
of the Glencoe Macdonalds by Charles Burnett, Ross Herald of
Arms, and noted Portsoy resident. Turned out in full
heraldic dress � �Gee, he looks like a playing card come to
life,� breathed one appreciative North American lady �
Charles administered the oath of office to Adam, and Adam in
turn promised to �bear fealty and true service to the high
chief of clan Donald, and the chiefs and high council of the
chiefs � Lord Macdonald, Ranald Macdonald of Clanranald,
MacDonell of Glengarry, and Sir Ian Macdonald of Sleat �
ceremonially anointed the new pursuivant by sprinkling wine
on his head, and Scotland�s first new pursuivant for over
half a millennium was presented to the assembled clansfolk
to joyous shouts of �Largesse!�.
was presented with a baton of office, and donned a �6,000
gold tabard displaying the arms of Lord Macdonald � a red
spread-eagle with a black galley on the breast � and crafted
of velvet, silk and damask embroidered in gold and silver,
and mounted on cloth-of-gold.
advocate and heraldist Mark Dennis had the task of creating
ceremonial for the occasion, a task made difficult since no
records exist of exactly how a pursuivant may have been
appointed. He also designed the splendid new tabard for the
installation as Finlaggan marks a long-awaited revival of
the ancient practice of senior clan chiefs having their own
private pursuivants to look after matters of clan heraldry
and genealogy. He now joins a select group of private
heralds: Slains Pursuivant to the Earl of Errol, Garioch
Pursuivant to the Countess of Mar and Endure Pursuivant of
the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres.
stems from Finlaggan, near Port Askaig in Islay, once centre
of the realm of the Macdonald Lords of the Isles until they
lost power in 1493. Descended from the 12th-century
Somerled, the Lords of the Isles ruled Scotland from Kintyre
to Lewis, and were effectively independent of the control of
the Scottish Crown. The title Lord of the Isles is nowadays
borne by Prince Charles.
100 years of history, Scotland�s private pursuivants have
never met together. This may change next year, with plans
that all four parade together along with the six heralds
from the Lord Lyon�s office, plus foreign heralds, when the
International Heraldic & Genealogical Congress opens in St
Andrews in August next year (2006), the first time the
congress has met in Scotland since 1964.
also hopes that two more long-forgotten pursuivancies may be
revived. Criteria for restoration are that there is a
medieval precedent for their offices, and that the revival
of the office meets with the approval of the Lord Lyon.
Gordon Casely enjoys being involved in the
practical 21st-century application of heraldry. He never
tires of pointing out that heraldry in Scotland is for us
all, rather than the few that some folk seem to imagine.
Macdonalds make history: The August 2005 Cover of
Photo: Anthony MacMillan.
Clanranald, Sleat, Ross, Finlaggan and the High Chief.