Clan Carruthers, Lord Lyon

Clan Carruthers: The Chief, the Clan and the Lyon – A Hearing of the Lyon Court in Edinburgh.

The Lord Lyon, in session with the former Lyon Clerk,  Mrs E. Roads on her feet.

A hearing of the Lyon Court.

The authority of the Lyon Court, established in 1532 in Scotland, comes directly from the Crown. Therefore today, Wednesday 31st October, the CCSI had the great privilege of attending and witnessing a hearing of the Lyon Court, held in George Street, Edinburgh. It was presided over by the Lord Lyon himself, Dr Joseph Morrow and ably assisted by the new Lyon Clerk and Keeper of Records, Mr Russell Hunter. The proceedings were conducted in an open, friendly but very robust manner, with the depth of information and detail being presented and asked for, being particularly impressive. The interesting part, although there was a suspicion this would happen, is that another and final hearing has been called in three months, as even more detailed genealogical information and proofs are requested. An interlocutor is being issued by the Lyon Clerk to cover the proceedings.

Having observed it first hand, it is easy to understand the reason that the Lyon retains the authority in clan matters, to include that of the recognition of a Chief, and that he is both respected and recognised throughout the world. The fact that it is sought after by all those who wish official recognition in Scottish clan society internationally, is quite simply due to the robustness of the process. It is this process, albeit not for the feint hearted, which firmly rules out the possibility of any false claims of an unworthy individual of the title Chief and through them, Chieftain of a Scottish Clan. In the Case of Carruthers, it became pretty obvious quite quickly that any person being confirmed by the Lord Lyon through permission to matriculate the Holmains arms (Carruthers Chiefs Arms), really would be worthy of the title ‘Chief of our Name.’ (UPDATE: A Chief was confirmed by the Lord Lyon on 19/08/19. Dr Simon Peter Carruthers of Holmains, was recognised as Chief of the Name and Arms of Carruthers.)

What is required in the next 3 months?

The information being analysed goes back as far as the 1500’s and the time of John Carruthers, 5th of Holmains and 1st Baron, and although presented, subtle tweaking is still required. During the research process for this current hearing, some fascinating information regarding our family has been uncovered and may need presenting, this new hearing could allow for that. Publicised information regarding this exciting find is for a later date and only after the confirmation of our Chief.

It has been a long hard slog and sometimes it really feels that having struggled to follow due process and do the right thing for the family, there is a deep frustration at the many false claims being made in ‘our’ name by those with a personal or commercial agenda to do so. However, soon it seems, our family and clan may after all these years, receive the best New Year’s gift we could wish for. This gift will outlast any silliness, false claims and skulduggery and hopefully will present itself in the form a legally recognised and hereditary Chief of Clan Carruthers.

We are assured, based on what was said at the hearing that this will be the last hurdle. However, it may allow time to bring into play any new information that may well assist the proceedings. Either way, I am extremely hopeful for a very positive outcome at the beginning of 2019.


All evidenced proofs and substantiating information had to be in with the Lyon by February 6th, which has been achieved. The date for the final hearing is set for mid March, after which the Lyon will deliberate before making a decision. Legal councel has been arranged as requested by the Lyon and we are very hopeful based on the information presented, for a positive outcome.

Chief Confirmed

On the 19th of August, 2019, Dr Simon Peter Carruthers of Holmains was confirmed Chief of the Name and Arms of Carruthers

IMG_1292Questions on the Lyon’s right to determine the ‘status’ of a Scottish Clan Chief ?

Questions have been raised and circulated by those with an agenda to do so, offering only small snippets of Scottish case law, which have been pieced together in an attempt to undermine the legal role of the Lord Lyon in the recognition of a Chief. The comment they have attempted to make is that the Lyon ‘cannot determine the status of a Chief’.

The simple fact of the matter is the Lyon’s role is to deal, within a legal framework as a member of the Scottish Judiciary and within the confines of Clan and Heraldic law with; the granting and matriculation of Arms, the maintaining of a Register of all Arms and Bearings in Scotland and be responsible for all ceremonial state visits to Scotland.

His authority and that of the Lyon Court, along with their sister body in England; the College of Arms, and since 1988 in Canada; The Canadian Heraldic Authority, all come directly through a Letters Patent issued by the Crown and they are governed by strict rules and protocols, which are adhered to. An obvious case is that they do not involve themselves in each other’s business or jurisdiction e.g. in the case of the College of Arms; Scottish matters and arms, remain Scottish matters and arms and therefore stay under the jurisdiction of the Lyon Court. To be advised otherwise is grossly incorrect.

With regards statements by a business (LLC) based in Minnesota in the US formed in 2017, claiming to represent us as a clan and of being accepted on a ‘Nobility Roll’ held by the College of Arms in London or its alleged superiority over either the Lyon Court or the Canadian Heraldic Authority, these again are all inaccurate. Firstly, because they have no jurisdiction or official capacity within the clan and secondly, no Nobility Roll exists and as each agency, by virtue of issuance of Letters Patent by the Crown, they are individually distinct and legal heraldic entities, within their own jurisdictions and in their own right.

LLC logo

To clarify, any attempt to have a ‘logo’ legally registered as a coat of arms, which contains the registered arms of another, would simply not be allowed by any of the above, nor in fact through any respected heraldic body anywhere, at any time. Any claims that for instance the College of Arms would breeched these rules, are clearly and simply false.

Therefore, what role does the Lyon Court have, if any, in the recognition of a Chief of a Scottish Clan?

Carruthers Arms 2The Coat of Arms of any one person belong only to that individual and do not belong to a family, although it is wrongly sold commercially as such. In the case of our Clan, the chiefs arms, which haven’t changed since 1672, are as above: A red shield, on which rests in the centre, two wavy chevrons in gold, with two gold fleur de lis above and one fleur de lis below also in gold. In heraldic terms this is described as; Gules, two chevrons engrailed, betwixt three fleur de lis Or.

Therefore, as is the case of all clans, only an individual with the proven right to do so may legally bear the arms of a chief. In order to legally use them as one’s own, a process in law has to be in place. This is the function of the Lord Lyon, the only legal authority in the world who can ‘confirm‘ a clan Chief.

The question is, how ‘can‘ and how ‘does‘ the Lyon do this?

He ‘can‘, as that is his legal role, and ‘does‘ by checking and analysing the genealogical evidence and other information presented to him by any individual wishing to claim the right to bear the chiefly arms. Only after rigorous process and deliberation and only once fully satisfied, will he finally ‘confirm‘ their right to do so. Legally therefore the Lyon has the jurisdiction to act judicially to determine who is entitled to the undifferenced Arms of the Chief. In that there is no question and the outcome based on the authority of the Lord Lyon to do so is quite simply; the recognition of a Chief.

In the past, although questions have been raised about jurisdiction of the Lyon being only in Scotland, both he and his predecessors have confirmed those who are evidenced individuals as Chief from both inside and outside of the country to include individuals from the US, Canada and Australia.  It is therefore not necessarily nationality that is important, but birthright and proof of genealogy. This in itself shows that in all things pertaining to a Scottish Clan and therefore again in the confirmation of a Scottish Clan Chief, the Lyon Court is the only recognised authority.

Having observed today’s proceedings, it is also fair to state that the rigour and confirmation of information required in such a process is designed to eliminate charlatans. One therefore has to assume that is why individuals without any evidence fail to follow due process and set themselves up with claims that sadly do not withstand even the simplest of scrutiny.

To summarise the confirmation of a Chief through the Lyon Court; those that are evidenced and can, do, and those that cannot, do not and more importantly, cannot.

cropped-image11.pngClan Carruthers Society International

The work to unite and educate our family has been going on behind the scenes since 2007. Our Society’s purpose has been to build the support and follow due process to have a clan chief recognised by the Lord Lyon for al the reasons stated above. Once achieved, this will allow the family to move from being armigerous (without Chief) to recognition as an officially recognised Clan.

Looking back over around 12 years of research, networking and consultations with many experts in their fields pertinent to our task, other clan chiefs to include discussions with the Family of Bruce and members of the Lyon Court and although it does seem a long time, in order to appreciate what is actually necessary to achieve these things, we only need to look at the case of Clan Buchanan.

Clan Buchanan

Having gone through the same due process as we currently are following, the Buchanan’s have only recently had a Clan chief confirmed by the Lyon. This occured in September of this year (2018).  It was such a momentous occasion that it hit the national press, and was then reported internationally to the world of Scottish Clans.

However, their success ‘only’ took them around 20 years of research and detective work to achieve their goal. Thankfully their tenacity led to that achievment and they are now a legally recognised clan for the first time in well over 300 years.

iu-2One interesting point that came out of the Buchanan case was that some had been considering the use of a derbhfine (election at a gathering). In Scottish heraldic and clan law, the case for a derbfine is always superseded by the proven genealogy of a chief’s bloodline to their descendants. This situation was again clarified only today.

Like Buchanan, Carruthers have living seniors of our line and therefore a debfine was never going to be an option. What that means in simple terms is that if there are living descendants of a Chief, we just can’t simply decide to have a meet and pick someone from the crowd.

Of course that would have been a far easier and less time consuming route for us as a society to take, rather than going through due process via the Lyon Court. However, after many conversations over time with many experts in their field, we were advised that not having a chief confirmed officially would have left us a clan without any real respect or credibility with the outside world. As we are now fully aware, history would surely reflect that and any claims not backed by evidenced facts or authority, ridiculed.

Derbhfine (pronounced Der-finn-ah)

As we speak however, a derbfine is actually being planned through a gathering being organised by the Clan Bell Society (US). It is to be held we believe next year and as they are historically close neighbours of ours coming from Middlebie Parish, Annandale, Dumfriesshire, their gathering I believe will take place there.

Clan Bell

Importantly, Clan Bell themselves have also taken to follow due process by going through the authority of the Lord Lyon. In their case, no living person with evidenced genealogy from the chiefly line has been located. It is my understanding that their last Chief died in the early 17th century and in the same vein as ourselves, they strongly believe it is time for them to take their rightful place as an officially recognised clan in Scottish Clan society.

In situations of this nature, a derbfine is both valid and acceptable. This is held at a gathering to choose by monitored election, an individual to lead the clan. The chosen individual is then appointed a Commander rather than Chief, for a period of time set by the Lyon Court.

This process is designed to allow the possibility of those from a senior line to come forward. If no challenge occurs, the Commander is then named Chief, which is in itself a hereditary title. Currently the individual heading the planning committee for Clan Bell is Robert Bell from Colorado.

However, in order to validate and monitor the legality of the process, a Derbfine is always supervised by the Lyon Court and is held in Scotland. In this instance the former Lyon Clerk and current Snawdoun Herald, Mrs Elizabeth Roads as a member of the Lyon Court, will be representing the Lord Lyon.

Once the process is resolved this will take Clan Bell from armigerous status to that of an officially recognised clan, albeit by a different though just as legally recognised route and we congratulate them on their course of action.

Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs

A Clan Chief wearing his three feathers.

Once a Chief is confirmed by the Lyon Court, a clan may be invited to join the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs, who had as a past Convenor none other than the Earl of Elgin and Kincardine, Andrew Bruce, Chief of that Name. The current Convenor is Sir Malcolm MacGregor, Chief of the Clan MacGregor.

The Objects of the Council, which is non-political, are to consider matters affecting Scottish Chiefs and the Clans and Names which they represent and to submit their views and interests to HM Government, to Departments of State, the Scottish Government, to Local Authorities, to Press and Public, to Associations connected with Clan and Family in Britain and overseas; also to educate the general public in matters connected with the rights, functions and historical position of Scottish Chiefs, together with the Clans and Names which they represent and to take such steps as may seem expedient to protect the titles, armorial bearings or other insignia of Chiefs from exploitation or misuse in trade or otherwise.

Membership of this organisation, only open to those Chiefs recognised by the Lyon Court or their representative, offers a strong forum and network from which to represent their clansmen and clanswomen, both at home and abroad.

We are excited at the prospect that Carruthers should have representation in this organisation in the new year.

Hopefully the reader can see from this information piece that, as a society we had no real option but to follow our goal through the office of the Lord Lyon, and although arduous and sometimes frustrating and in fact impeded on occasions by the actions and claims of others, we feel all the hard work and effort will be worth while in the end and more importantly, be a source of deep pride for all Carruthers and derivatives of our name for time immemorial.

Clan Carruthers Society WP footnote grey

6 thoughts on “Clan Carruthers: The Chief, the Clan and the Lyon – A Hearing of the Lyon Court in Edinburgh.”

  1. What a good in depth report. Clearly answers all questions and clarifies points raised by ‘others’ in the legal processing of both the Clan and the naming of a Chief. Thank you for this detailed report on our progress in the legal search for both Clan and Chief.

  2. This is great to hear. I would love to have that announcement to rub in the face of anold x-girlfriend who using an old Book of the Gael told me that Carruthers were not a clan and that that kind of posing was bad. Al because she was a McKeen, whatever that translates to as a Scottish surname.

    1. Carruthers were one of only 17 Border clans mentioned by James VI in the suppression of Unruly Clans in the Act of the Scottish Parliament of 1587.

      Most borderers see themselves as a family, Carruthers has the option of being called a clan.

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