THE SCOTTISH CHIEF -CEANN FEADHA
THE HEART OF THE CLAN
It is the fundamental urge of all living creatures to re-produce, to seek protection in the safety of numbers and to seek order through some form of social harmony. As human beings differ little from this, all over the world from the beginning of recorded time societies have existed, which have bound it’s population together in such a way. Whereas many Empires have been formed, flourished and died out at the hand or in the name of imperialism and dictatorship one system has remained. It is as strong today as it ever was, binding together millions across the globe, not with fanatical religious dogma but with the spirit and belonging of an extended family. One that is both socialist in principle and patriarchal in structure – the Scottish clan system.
The Clan societies operate much as they always have, as guardians of the traditions and welfare of their people. No other society springing from such a prehistoric source can be said to hold this modern age together with such a sense of compassion, such pride and unfathomable brotherhood with the chief holding the responsibility of representing and leading his respective clan.
Historically the principal function of the chief was to lead his clan in battle on land and sea. The chief and the chieftain were at one time in the Scottish Highlands influential political characters, who wielded a large and often arbitrary authority. The chiefs many attributes were often proved on the battlefield thus becoming the most honored but humble position in the clan. They respond to the needs of the clan as family by example and loyalty, sometimes fighting to the death for their beliefs, as was the fate of William Wallace who suffered a horrendous public execution by the English;
“And with the extinction of that breath, Kirkpatrick,” cried Wallace, “let your fell revenge perish also. For your own honor, commit no indignities on the body you have slain.”
Unwilling to compromise, William Wallace refused to submit to English rule, and Edward’s men pursued him until August 5, 1305, when they captured and arrested him near Glasgow. He was taken to London and condemned as a traitor to the king and was hanged, disemboweled, beheaded and quartered as an example .
History and Structure of the Clan, its Chiefs and Chieftains
The word clan actually derives from the Gaelic form ‘Clann’, meaning ‘children’ or ‘stock’. However it’s meaning in Scots can be a tribe or race or can represent a family unit.
It is quite possible however that the origins of the clan system outdate even the name itself.
The heart of the structure of the Clan was a contradiction. Two distinct concepts of Clan heritage existed together and functioned as one: Firstly there was the ‘Duthcas’, this was the fundamental right of a Clan member to settle in Clan territory and find protection there. Alongside this was the heritage of the individual Chief. This was called ‘Dighreachd’ and placed the Chief as the head of the Clan and as overall owner of its lands.
The Chief’s succession in the Celtic tradition was decided and governed by a system known as ‘Tanistry’; this was the ancient law of succession whereby an heir was chosen from a group of individuals with hereditary claims. This group would typically consist of males whose great grandfathers had, themselves been Chiefs. It was the existing Chief’s task to choose an heir or ‘Tanist’ from this group who was regarded as the person most suited to succession.
This system ensured that a strong leader was always chosen. Indeed, throughout the lifetime of the Chief the Tanist would be second in command, taking full responsibility for the Clan during the Chiefs absence.
Beneath the Chief were the Chieftains, from which the Tanist had been selected; these were the heads of the individual houses from which the Clan was formed. The eldest of these was called the ‘Toiseach’ and in most cases he became the Tanist. The Captain of the Clan was selected from any of the above. The ‘Daoin-Uaisle’ were the gentlemen of the clan, beneath them existing the main body of the clan itself.
In the Highlands which had been the homeland of the Picts there were 7 main tribal districts or provinces: Caith (Caithness & Sutherland), Fidach (Ross & Moray), Fodhla (Atholl), Fortrenn (W. Perthshire), Ce, (Mar & Buchan), Ciric or Ciricinn (Mearns) and Fibh (Fife)
A tribal unit was called a ‘Tuath’, several of these together was called a ‘Mortuadh’ or ‘great tribe’ and two or more of these made up the ‘Coicidh’ or province. Where several of these provinces joined each donated some land and this became a central district in which was located the capital. Where the four Perthshire provinces joined lies the palace of Scone.
Each province had a King or ‘Ri’ and from these the Sovereign or ‘Ard Ri’ was selected, however as the Scots from the Kingdom of Dalriada emigrated into the Highlands the title of ‘Ri’ became less common and was abandoned around the 12th century.
The difference between the Scottish and Pictish Clan systems were clear. At the heart of the Pictish system was a Celtic patriarchy. The land belonged to the tribe and they were responsible for its well being, the chief acting as the father of the Clan. Influences from south of the border had made the Scottish Clan system more feudal with the Chief or King being the sole owner. These two systems fused together and became the Clan system we know now.
Both ideas co-existed in a peculiar way: The relationship between the King and the Clan Chiefs was feudal, whereas the Chiefs themselves practiced a more traditional Clan system. In times of war (which was frequent), The Clan took on the form of a military regiment. Each Clan had its distinctive badge and war cry and its own pipe tunes to rally to. No Clan would enter into a war until its people were consulted. Only after full consent was given was the Clan put on a wartime footing.
The Law of the Clan
The laws and traditions of the Clan were its most sacred possession – next to its people. As the chief was inducted into his position he stood on a ceremonial stone with a sword in one hand and a white wand in the other he swore an oath to uphold these. He was the overall arbiter of Clan disputes and dispensed the law, as he dispensed the tenancy of land, Fairly and each according to his rights and needs. The Tanist as his second held the Clan lands in trust for posterity, swearing also to uphold tradition.
The dispensation of the law was assisted by the ‘Brieve’ a form of judge who’s position was hereditary and who’s salary came directly from imposed fines. A council of between 12 and 14 men who met on ‘moothills’ or mounds, coming together in a circle, helped him in the undertaking.
Payments to the Chief were regular and fair. ‘Calpich’ was a one time payment made to the Chief on the death of the head of a family. This was usually the families most prized possession, though rarely so prized as to force hardship on the family. ‘Cain’ was the presentation of the first fruits of the land to the Chief, land, which had most likely been given, or dispensed by that same Chief. The practice of ‘Manrent’ was a system of payment coming from the Septs which was offered in exchange for their continued protection. Arbitration was the most common way to settle any disputes – even between Clans. Only as a last resort and with the full support of the Clan was war considered. Nevertheless the frequency of disputes has left many a Clan with a bloody and violent history.
The New World
The Highland Clearances in the 18th and 19th Century seemed to be the final blow in the destruction of the Clan system. However, what became clear as the Highlanders were forced from their native land was that a system so rooted in the traditions of kinship and the family unit would never be wiped out so easily. If anything the Highland Clearances brought a regeneration to the clan system.
As the settlers spread throughout the ‘New World’ the clan became the cement that bonded them together, The formation of the Highland and Islands Immigration Society in 1846 helped open up areas in Australia and New Zealand. The great spread of ‘Jock Tampson’s Bairns’ had begun. The very which had threatened to destroy the clan system turned it into a World-wide phenomena.
Revival: The Clan in Scotland
The 19th Century also saw a romantic revival in Scotland. Publications of Gaelic poetry became popular and the state visit of George IV was an event totally stage managed by Sir Walter Scott. Clan gatherings and parades were organised for the visit with every clan in its own tartan. An almost fanatical resurgence in interest in all things Scottish left Weavers and Kiltmakers exhausted. Hundreds of new clan tartans suddenly appeared and were distributed to the Clans on an arbitrary basis.
The Lord Lyon, an appointed officer of state and member of the Royal Household holds authority in all matters heraldic, Genealogical and armoric but only in Scotland. Peace between the clans is assured by the Standing Council of Scottish Chief.
The Clans Outside of Scotland
It cannot be said too often or stressed too strongly that there is no international law that controls the use of heraldry as there is, for example , for copyrights of trademarks. Each sovereign state has its own rules, customs and laws which extend only as far as the boundaries of its jurisdiction. So for any Carruthers or other people of Scottish descent it is futile to apply to the Lord Lyon for granting of arms.
In the United States we have our very large and enthusiastic Clan Carruthers with a strong heraldic tradition which goes back to the days of Independence, so much so that the military has its own Institute of Heraldry that regulates badges, flags and insignia within the U.S. Armed forces. For civilians there is no regulatory authority but several organizations which exist to promote heraldry and the importance of clan heritage, with each having its own chief and chieftains. The U.S. Heraldic Registry contains hundreds of arms that have been registered by that organization and for the most part have been designed and assumed by individuals across the US who are citizens and as long as the individual does not infringe on someone else’s designs. The arms and chieftainship are regarded as an honor and contribution to the community and an upstanding ability to lead is expected.
In Canada: Derived mainly from heraldic traditions in France and the United Kingdom, Canadian heraldry also incorporates distinctly Canadian symbols, especially native flora and fauna, references to the First Nations and other aboriginal peoples of Canada, and uniquely Canadian elements such as the Canadian pale, derived from the Canadian flag. A unique system of cadency is used for daughters inheriting arms, and a special symbol for United Empire Loyalists.
In 1988, governance of both personal and corporate heraldry in Canada was patriated from the heraldic authorities in England and Scotland, with the formation of the Canadian Heraldic Authority, which now has exclusive jurisdiction over granting awards of arms in Canada.
Coats of arms are used throughout Canada by all levels of government, in many cases including royal insignia as a mark of authority, as in the recently granted arms of the House of Commons and the Senate, and of Parliament as a combined body.
Use of armorial bearings is not limited to governmental bodies. All citizens of Canada have the right to petition for an award of arms, as do other entities including businesses and religious institutions. The granting of arms is regarded as an honor from the monarch, via the governor general, and thus are bestowed only on those whom the Chief Herald has deemed worthy of receiving a grant of arms.
In Ireland: Ireland – Applying for Arms / Matriculation of Arms
An application for a grant of arms should be made to the Chief Herald, on a prescribed form, setting out, in the case of a personal application, basic personal information and accompanied by supporting certificates or other appropriate documents. For a grant of arms to a corporate body or other entity, the application should include information about the legal status (if any) of the organization, its structure, its activities and business, the length of time during which it has operated and, if relevant, information about membership. Where appropriate, a certified copy of the resolution of the Council, Board, or other controlling body should be submitted.
If an application appears to be in order the matter is considered in detail by a herald of arms who will consult with the applicant about possible designs. A preliminary painting is then made for the approval of the applicant who will also be shown a draft of the Letters Patent. The final document is issued on vellum and includes a hand-painted exemplification of the arms. The grant of arms is recorded in the Register of Arms and is a matter of public record.
A grant of arms constitutes a license to use the arms, which allows the grantee, according to the traditional formula, to display the arms “on shield or banner or otherwise according to the Laws of Arms”. The copyright in a grant of arms resides with the Board of the National Library of Ireland. A grant of arms does not confer any rank or title or have any effect on the right of the person concerned to any property, real or personal. A grant of arms made to an individual extends to his or her descendants of the name, not to a family as such.
In New Zealand: The New Zealand Herald of Arms Extraordinary is the officer of arms responsible for the regulation of heraldry in New Zealand. Although affiliated with the College of Arms in London, the New Zealand Herald lives and works in New Zealand and is not a member of the College Chapter.
In Conclusion , the tenacity of the clan, its Chiefs and Chieftains and the memories of its people have survived the ages, with continued pride in the history and tenacity of the forefathers. A consistent thread running through the various clans objectives is the encouragement of the study of Scottish culture and in organizing bodies for sporting events and social gatherings. Many of the north American organisations have a long and illustrious history. The Illinois St Andrew Society is a good example: “Organized in 1854 to sustain the Scottish heritage in music, literature, history, cultural exchanges and dance, and to assist fellow Scottish immigrants in adjusting to the rugged pioneer mid west. The clan is alive and well, long may it continue !
Preserving Our Past, Recording Our Present, Informing Our Future
Ancient and Honorable Carruthers Clan Society Int. LLC
DR GAIL CARUTHERS BOHANNON GRAY TEXAS USA
CLAN CARRUTHERS INT SOCIETY HISTORIAN AND GENEALOGIST