For those of us in traditional clan societies, the celebration of our Scottish heritage, culture and history remains very important to us. We believe that in order to be recognised and respected as a clan in general and a society in particular, following proper protocol is an important part of who and what we are. As such, recognition and an understanding of the important visual signatures of a clan is necessary.
In the structure of a Scottish clan, of the five main and individualised visual signatures, two are general for all clansmen, two signify the position within the clan or its Grand Council, and one belongs only to the chief.
A) the clan tartan, in our case is the Red Carruthers if we see ourselves as a clan in our own right. However, if we wish to continue to see still see ourselves as a sept of Bruce, the Bruce tartan is there for our use, but not our ownership.
B) the clan badge, which is taken from the crest of the Clan Chief, in our case the Seraphim, always and historically portrayed with a face. This is enclosed in a belt and buckle on which is inscribed the Chiefs motto: Promptus et Fidelis.
These two items identify us as a member or a supporter of the Border Reiver Clan Carruthers and show fealty to our Chief.
C) The use of banners which are flown by the chieftains or Armigers, usually at gatherings or above their residences if they so wish. Each one is identifiable to an individual and taken directly from the chief’s arms but with two differences. The chiefs flag can only be flown if he is in attendance in person.
D) A Chief, Chieftain and Armiger are permitted to wear eagle feathers, although these days some chose to have the feather/s incorporated in their cap badge, which is just as valid.
A Chieftain, who can only be appointed by a Chief and recognised by the Lord Lyon, can wear two eagle feathers in their bonnet, and an Armiger, may wear one, while the Chief themselves would signify their position by wearing three.
E) Last but not least, the Arms of the Clan Chief, from which everything except the tartan is derived. This is the property of the chief alone and therefore belongs to an individual not a family.
The Chief of any Scottish clan is confirmed in their use by the Lord Lyon in Edinburgh. This is based on their genealogical right to do so, either historically or after an evidenced petition is presented and accepted.
Most certainly within countries with recognised heralds from the Crown, to include Canada, registration of arms which inappropriately use the arms of others, would be refused. In countries where there are no government bodies for the registering of arms, all private Heraldic bodies will follow Heraldic Law and would again voice concerns.
Misuse and does it matter?
Anyone can wear any tartan and any clan badge and most clans would be flattered by you doing so. The self appointment of clan titles and the wearing of the accoutrements associated with them is harmless if kept within the club in which they are used. However, if used within the wider cultural population, they are more likely to offend and probably won’t be supported.
For those who are hereditary chiefs or those who have chosen to follow the long and often arduous path of attaining confirmation of title through the Lyon Court, then one has to assume that offence is guaranteed. Their personal signatures and that of their clan are important to them as well as to their clansmen. These include such families as the Buchanans, the Bells, the Carruthers, the Glendinnings, the Irvings and the MacKinnons. Some of whom have achieved their gaol after many years and some, who like us are still working through the process.
Therefore, for those who fully embrace our heritage and culture, to include the many clan or Scottish gatherings being held annually, are inclined to recognise the authority of the Lyon in such matters. Outwith the embarrassment of being prevented from wearing visual signatures beyond their right to do so, one has to question whether the disdain by those who know, is worth it. It does however remain a personal choice as does the acceptance of that choice by others, but as a society we chosen to do things right and to in an attempt that we can hold our heads high by ensuring any claims we make are valid and evidenced.