Clan Carruthers

CLAN CARRUTHERS: What is the inauguration of a Chief ?

It is always interesting to receive questions regarding our postings, especially if it’s based on weak information posted on the net.

The Buchanan

So the question we have received is: ‘did the inauguration of the Buchanan chief include a vote to choose him as chief‘?

The answer is quite simply No!

The question arose based on some inane nonsense found on a webpage run by the usual suspects in the US who brought into question the integrity of the Scottish clan system and the function of the Lord Lyon.

The piece posted by us, which as usual was factual in content, was in regards John Michael Baille-Hamilton Buchanan. He was recognised and confirmed by the Lord Lyon King of Arms of the Lyon Court of Scotland in 2018 as Chief of the Name and Arms of Buchanan. However he also chose to hold an inauguration ceremony as a Clan Chief 4 years later in 2022, which our own chief attended as a special guest


The process to confirm a Scottish Chief, and who has that authority?

So once again here are the facts of the matter and we have stated times many, there are only two ways in which a chief of a Scottish clan or family can be confirmed, irrelevent of the bad and agenda driven information out there .

Both of these paths lead to an individual gaining the right to bear the chief’s arms, which in turn confirms them as a chief in Scots law and both always involving the Lord Lyon and his decision to confirm that right.

The 2 methods of confirming a Scottish Chief

A chief through Proofs, Documents and Genealogy

The first method is preferred to the second ie proof of lineage trumps a derbfine/gathering …..always.

If you have a proven and robustly evidenced member of the Chiefly line he/she will always take priority over any vote at a gathering

An individual petitioning to be confirmed chief must present robust genealogical evidence to the Lord Lyon in Edinburgh who, after satisfactory analysis of the same, will confirm them to legally bear the arms of the chiefly line

Confirmation of that right can only be through the Lord Lyon, whose role in heraldry and as a member of the Scottish judiciary remains paramount. No one else has that authority and although like all legal decisions it can be challenged in the Supreme Court, although that is very seldom the case and very seldom won. It is therefore for the Lord Lyon to determine who has legally succeeded and is entitled to bear the undifferenced arms of a clan or family, no one else.

To be recognised as entitled to bear the undifferenced arms (ie the arms of the chiefs) an individual must establish the right by descent from the original grantee or in some cases from an ancient user of the arms and fall within the destination of the original grant of arms (Maclean of Ardgour v Maclean 1941 SC 613). To do that an individual requires to satisfy the Lord Lyon, on the balance of probabilities, by evidence (commonly, birth, marriage and death certificates, entries from Parish Registers and the like) that the individual descends through each generation from the grantee or ancient user of the arms. The individual must also bear (whether historically or by formal change of name) as sole surname the name of the clan or family.

In the case of both Buchanan and Carruthers this was proved beyond any doubt and in the regarding our own chief, his direct descendency from John Carruthers 9th of Holmains, who registered the chief’s arms as we now recognise them in 1672, and whose own lineage goes back through Carruthers of Mouswald and into the first records of our name in the 1100’s.

This genealogical process, has been followed by many clans to include Buchanan, MacBean and in fact Carruthers. As such and once confirmed these individuals are recognised as the Chief of the Name and Arms of their clan/family.

Therefore no gathering nor vote would be required as the evidence to confirm the chief has already been proven through genealogy.


The choosing of a Chief through a family Gathering

Where a hereditary chief cannot be identified and a clan or family is without a chief there is a process – known as a family convention – by which a commander may be appointed by the Lord Lyon to lead the clan or family. The Lord Lyon may appoint a Commander (not a Chief) at the request of the clan or family.

The purpose of the appointment of a Commander is to allow time and space for the clan or family to raise its profile, build itself up, publicise itself and for a potential candidate to be hereditary chief to be identified. One of the principal responsibilities of a commander is to seek to identify any potential hereditary claimant to the chiefship.

If it is not possible to identify a potential claimant who can prove descent from the chiefly line the commander should seek to encourage suitable candidates who may have wide support from the clan or family to come forward as a candidate for the chiefship

This second route does however require a vote. This only occurs if no direct descendent of the chiefly line can be found and a derbfine ie a gathering, always held in Scotland and always under the auspices of the Lord Lyon, is carried out.

It is during at this gargering/derfine that a Commander is chosen, not a chief. If the Lyon is happy with the outcome and after a period of years the Commander may be confirmed as chief by the Lord Lyon. This again through giving them the right to bear their undifferenced chiefly arms.

This process, followed by such as clan MacEwan, voted at their gathering to choose Sir John Roderick Hugh McEwen 5th Baronet of Marchmont and Bardrochat as their Commander.

NB a Commander of a clan or family is not recognised as a chief and is only commissioned as Commander by the will and permission of the Lord Lyon.

However, hopefully he will in time become the first MacEwan Chief to be recognised by the Lord Lyon since 1493.

To Summarise

Flag of the Chief of Carruthers

It is the Lord Lyon who, in all cases, confirms the right of an individual to bear the chiefs arms, irrelevant of which method is used. As the only person who can bear those arms is the chief, bearing those arms confirms the individual as Chief of the Name and Arms of his clan/family as soon as the Lord Lyon makes that decision. As such an inauguration is not really necessary to confirm a chief as the chief remains the chief with or without one. However it is certainly a nice occasion, which allows the members of the clan and invited guests to be part of these historic celebrations.

We are advised that our own chief will follow suit and hold his own inauguration in Scotland in the next few years.


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