Sunday, 25 December 2022
Five years ago, almost to the day, I received a very unexpected letter. It was from an Anthony Maxwell, writing on behalf of a Dr George Carruthers. They believed I was the rightful hereditary Chief of Carruthers, and urged me to petition the Lord Lyon accordingly. I knew my ‘Holmains’ line of the family was the senior and that I was the senior survivor of this line. But, that this entitled me to be recognised as Chief was news to me.
Nearly two years later, after two Lyon Court hearings and much encouragement and help from Anthony and George, I was confirmed as Chief of the Name and Arms of Carruthers, and granted chiefly supporters and additaments.
I still look back with immense gratitude for the support and encouragement I received from Anthony (sadly now deceased) and George, and many others, including some other chiefs, who came alongside over those two years, and who have since become friends. The outcome was, of course, important. But the relationships formed in the process are equally as valuable.
Relationships are, of course, at the heart of Christmas, as families gather, friends share greetings, departed loved ones are remembered, and above all as we celebrate the restored relationship between God and humanity made possible by Jesus coming into the world.
At the end of 2019, in my first ‘Chief’s Christmas Message, I wrote confidently that I expected my Letters Patent to be issued within nine months or so, and even expressed the hope that we might have a clan gathering at the end of 2020 or early 2021!
In the same letter, however, I did also comment that there were “dark clouds on the horizon in much of the world”. In the following three years, these clouds darkened and deepened, as we lurched from pandemic, to war in Europe, to the cost of living crisis, along with many other troubles.
It is still difficult to grasp just how different the world is from that of just 5 years ago when I received that letter.
The Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs
In November 2020, I was elected to the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs (SCSC) (via videoconference), but the 2020 and 2021 AGMs were held online. That changed, however, this year. In June, the SCSC met physically for the first time in two years, combining the AGM with a social event, hosted by Andrew Bruce (11th Earl of Elgin) and his heir, Charles (Lord) Bruce, at Broomhall, Dunfermline.
Spouses and heirs were invited, so Judith accompanied me. The event gave me an insight into the current work, the challenges and the potential of the SCSC. The lunch afterwards was a great opportunity to spend some time with chiefs I already knew and to get to know others.
At the lunch, I was asked what had been the most meaningful thing for me about being chief. I did not need to think too hard to reply that it was the new friendships and relationships that come with it – above all with the worldwide family of Carruthers
Covid put the brakes on my (and many other’s) Letters Patent, with the Lyon Court closed for much of ‘covid era’ and now still catching up. However, I am assured that my Letters Patent will be issued fairly early next year.
In the meantime, I commissioned heraldic artist, David Allan, to paint my arms (see above). As I am sure you know, the words of the blazon define the arms’ essential components, arrangement and colours, but the final picture is down to the artist’s interpretation.
We paid special attention to the crest, ‘a seraphim volant proper’. Seraphs (heavenly beings who attend the Lord God in His throne) appear very seldom in heraldic art. It still intrigues me as to why my ancestors chose one, but it is a privilege to have such a being as our symbol, for which I am grateful to my ancestors. Many previous depictions have mis-represented the seraph as a ‘cherub’ (ie a Renaissance putto), and I wanted to correct that.
Heavenly beings are, of course, central to the Christmas story. Indeed, Nahum Tate, in his well-known carol, ‘While Shepherd’s Watched’, decided that the angel who announced Jesus’ birth to the shepherds was, in fact, a seraph!
As Luke records, the angels’ message to the shepherds was one of peace and reconciliation, between heaven and earth and among people – ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men’. Whether or not the angel was a seraph, our crest is a potent reminder to celebrate, proclaim and promote this message of peace and reconciliation.
It took me less than two years from petition to confirmation as chief, thanks in part to my ancestors’ careful record keeping. Some other recently confirmed chiefs have trodden a longer and more tortuous road.
One such is Michael Buchanan of Buchanan, who was confirmed in 2018 as the first Chief of the Name and Arms of Buchanan since 1681, after a process that took more than 20 years and much genealogical research.
In October this year, Michael was inaugurated as chief at an event at Cambusmore, his family estate in Perthshire. I was honoured to be one of ten chiefs invited to join several hundred Buchanans, from across the world, to attend the ceremony.
The Inauguration started with a procession of Buchanan dignitaries and the chiefs (with their banners). The Ceremony was conducted by Clan Buchanan Shenachie, Malcolm Buchanan. The Lord Lyon gave an opening address. Michael was presented with his Letters Patent by Sir Crispin Agnew of Lochnaw, Albany Herald, and then with various insignia of office, and hailed as Chief by the assembled company.
Chiefs and their families then attended a lunch in the house. This was a great time to meet new chiefs and their families. I had a long conversation with Madam Pauline Hunter of Hunterstone, Chief of Hunter. As a long-standing chief, who inherited her chiefship, she had much good advice as to how to be a ‘good chief’ and best serve one’s clan; I hope I can put at least some of this into practice!
This was, of course, a hugely significant event for the Buchanans. But in a smaller way, it marked a watershed for me and my family (all of whom attended), as our first public appearance together as a chiefly family, and, therefore, for Clan Carruthers. And, there was a lot of tartan on display, including our own.
And yes, as you might be thinking, I was asked several times as to when (and where) I would be having my own inauguration. No promises yet, but we are working on the case, so watch this space!
Clan Carruthers Society (International)
Recently, I signed certificates confirming our clan commissioners for the different regions of the world, and was very pleased to welcome Michael Carruthers as our new commissioner for the UK. Thanks are due to all our commissioners for being ‘ready and faithful’ in serving the Clan and advancing the Society in their regions.
Congratulations are due to Gary Carruthers, FSA Scot, our commissioner for Australasia, who was granted arms in July and joins our growing band of Carruthers armigers.
The confirmation and inauguration of ‘lost’ chiefs, clan gatherings and clan societies, and grants of arms all speak of restoration and renewal, and again are small reminders of the message of restoration and renewal that is at the heart of the Christmas message.
The days ahead
Dark clouds are still gathering in the world, and 2023 is looking as uncertain as did the last three years. ‘Western’ society has lost it moorings and is tossing in a stormy sea. I hope and pray that ‘relationships’, ‘reconciliation’ and ‘restoration’, as above, will provide some anchors in the turbulent times to come.
This Christmas, may you and yours know Christ’s peace and joy and be strengthened for the year to come.
A very Happy Christmas and New Year.