Clan Carruthers: The Wearing of Feathers.

The bonnet badge of the Convenor of the CCSI, reflecting his crest.

With the decision on a Carruthers Chief having been made by the Lord Lyon, a decision our society fully supports, it is important to be aware of certain protocols when representing the family either at home or abroad. This will ensure neither the representative, nor the clan are left open to ridicule and thus our reputation through lack of understanding become tainted. As we are currently working hard in the background and preparing for the Lyons announcement, todays blog is small in words but large on importance. NB (addendum) A Chief of the Arms and Name of Carruthers was confirmed on the 19th August 2019. Dr Peter Carruthers of Holmains is now Chief.

The piece below was taken directly from the website electricscotand.com. By W. Neil Fraser.

Displaying Feathers

‘The origin of the Scottish custom of displaying a Golden Eagle feather, or feathers, is not clear; however, the Court of the Lord Lyon provides guidelines for the entitlement to display on a bonnet of one or more Golden Eagle feather(s) at:  http://www.lyon-court.com/lordlyon/242.html and, at least in Scotland, that protocol is respected.  Real Golden Eagle feathers are displayed tucked behind a crest badge on a Balmoral or Glengarry cap so that the large pointed end of the feather projects above, with the quill is tucked behind the badge, as a mark of rank in a clan/family.  The custom is not exactly heraldic, but it is observed and respected in Scotland.

Sadly, not all descendants of expatriate Scots understand the meaning of the display of feathers, as evidenced by those often seen at overseas Highland Games events around the world.  At some such events there are so many feathers being displayed it must terrify the remaining population of the Golden Eagle, now considered an endangered species in Scotland. (However, these days most reputable and respectable gatherings and games, will ensure those wearing feathers are entitled to do so. Ed.)

Bonnet badge of the Chief of the Name  and Arms of Carruthers

In practice, most hereditary Clan Chiefs, subsidiary Chiefs (and heirs of Chiefs, Ed.) and Scots Armigers (those who have the right to bear personal arms) now choose to display feathers as part of a Silver crest badge with a plain circlet surrounding the crest from their personal arms and embossed with their personal motto.  Genuine Golden Eagle feathers are usually displayed only on ceremonial occasions.

(A clan Chief will have his crest encircled in a circlet on which is his motto, with three feathers. The clans men and women, have the Chief’s crest encircled in a belt and buckle on which is the Chief’s motto, with no feathers as seen on the Carruthers tartan below. Ed.)

Piper of the Kings Own Scottish Borderers.

While customs associated with Scottish clans and heraldry are governed by the laws of Scotland, I have always considered that those of us who seek to celebrate our membership in a clan should follow the rules anywhere in the world. What we are celebrating is, after all, a Scottish tradition.

Pipers in pipe band uniform also display a device made from Cock feathers splayed, usually behind the badge on a Glengarry.  Side drummers and rank and file soldiers in Highland Regiments, when wearing the full dress uniform, wear a Feather Bonnet made with black Ostrich feathers and a feather hackle in White (or Red for The Black Watch Unit.

1992, Scottish World Festival, Montreal.

During the 1992 Scottish World Festival in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, there was a Highland Games event held adjacent to the fort on St. Helen’s Island, home of the re-raised 78th Fraser Highlanders. Clan Fraser Society of Canada shared a large tent with the 78 Frasers and had an information table where I was on duty to recruit new members.

There was a large crowd in attendance that day with visitors from all over Canada and the U.S.  Most men wore the kilt and many were sporting feathers in their bonnets so that the field was a sea of various feathers, large and small.

The late Sir Torquil Matheson of Matheson with three feathered bonnet badge.

I was standing at the Clan Fraser desk when a large gentleman wearing three feathers on his Balmoral, accompanied by his wife, ducked under the opening to the tent and came up to the desk.  Having seen so many people displaying all manner of feathers, I looked at him and asked: “Do you understand the meaning of the feathers you are wearing?”  He looked sternly at me and said: “I bloody well should, I am Sir Torquil Matheson of Matheson, Chief of Clan Matheson” (and so he was).

To make up for my rudeness, I invited Sir Torquil to join me in the private area at the rear of the tent where I had a litre bottle of Glenfiddich single malt (for emergency purposes only).  Lady Matheson and my wife Marie, who had witnessed the exchange, thought it was hilarious.  After a few drams, Sir Torquil had forgiven me and we had a lively discussion about how many feathers were being displayed, inappropriately, on the field.  We parted fast friends and kept in touch until Sir Torquil passed away a few years later and was succeeded by his younger brother.’


tartan and crest and tartan fb profile pic
Clan Carruthers tartan on which is the clan and society badge.

As an organisation, Clan Carruthers Society International (CCSI) has always tried to follow protocol, which includes anything we publish being based on available evidence and current fact.  This initially was to ensure that our many years of hard work and research did not go to waste through false claims or weak genealogy. Now that we have succeeded in our goal of having a Chief officially and legally recognised through the Lyon Court in Edinburgh it is time to build on the solid foundation the society has laid over more than 12 years. However, our blogs will remain fact based.

Red Carruthers Tartan

The above piece on something as simple as the incorrect wearing of feathers, is meant not to criticise but simply to inform and educate. As a Carruthers, we are proud of our culture, proud of our history and heritage and proud of the hard work we have put in to achieve our goals for the benefit of the whole clan and family, not just a few. With this in mind, we wish to always try to follow our Sottish tradition and etiquette and mirroring that, ensure that our family and Society members are always viewed in a good light.

Scottish festivals, gatherings and celebrations are there to enjoy and they allow us to wear the clan tartan and bonnet badge with pride. These in themselves will show who and what you are; a Carruthers, and therefore originating from Annandale in the West March of Dumfriesshire, south west Scotland. Those visual identifications will be ‘the only feather in the cap’ our clansmen and clanswomen really need, which in turn will tell the world; “we are Carruthers, we were Reivers and we are here”. Enjoy.

NEWS just in


We have it on very good authority that the Red Carruthers tartan registered in 2017, which is currently the official tartan of the Clan Carruthers Society, will also become the official tartan of Clan Carruthers. This will be clarified by the new chief in writing to the Scottish Tartan Register after he/she is officially announced. The Blue Carruthers, awaiting its official title, will also be made available through the society website once a chief has settled in.

Official Clan Carruthers bonnet badges, pin badges, ties, sashes etc will also be made available, again through our website and we are speaking to suppliers as we speak.

Clan Carruthers Society WP footnote grey


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