Scots Heraldry -The Heraldry
Society of Scotland
||An Heraldic Hierarchy
by John and Eilean Malden
(son of) Alan, and grandson of Flaad (Fleance) of Doi in
Brittany, came to Scotland around 1140. He was a nephew of the
Count of Hesden who bore Azure three scallops Or. He was
created Hereditary Steward by David I and was granted large
tracts of land in Renfrewshire, together with a toft and 20
acres in each Burgh in Scotland; these were confirmed to him
in 1161. He chose what is now the town of Renfrew as the site
for his base; there he and his descendants built the Castle of
Renfrew, with its drawbridge and rock cut moat. His family
became powerful landowners and officers of State; about 1315
Marjorie, only daughter of King Robert the Bruce, married
Walter Stewart and bore the descendant of Walter Fitzalan who
would be crowned as Robert II.
Stewart arms, Or, a fess chequy Azure and Argent, seem
to originate from Flanders, using the blue and gold of
Vermandois. Is it co-incidence that eleven of the ancient
families in Renfrewshire have arms incorporating the fess
chequy and a further four incorporate a chevron chequy? Do the
additional charges on the other arms perhaps refer to
positions held within the Steward's household? And what about
colour variations, as with the Lindsays' Gules, a fess
chequy Argent and Azure between three mullets Argent?
'Stewart' coats stand in sharp contrast to the other early
coats showing the Flemish infuence throughout the county which
is clearly shown by the use of stark black and white of Alost;
the coats of Erskine, Argent, a pale Sable; Maxwell,
Argent, a saltire Sable; Cunningham, Argent,
a shakefork Sable, and Danielston, Argent, a bend Sable.
Ironically, the Flemings of Barochan, near Bishopton, chose to
bear Or, a fess chequy Azure and Argent, overall a bend
travelling west, lie the lands of Fulbar (near Inchinnan),
Bargarran, Erskine, Barrochan and Finlayston. The Halls of
Fulbar bear Azure, a fess chequy Argent and Gules between
three herons' heads erased Argent — their lands abutted on
to the Rivers Cart and Gryffe, close to where they meet and
enter the River Clyde, where there would have been extensive
wildfowling, as it would have been a favourite area for
migrating birds of all descriptions.
mile further west, the Shaws of Bargarran bore Azure, a
fess chequy Argent and Gules between three covered cups Or
— the charge normally signifying a cup bearer. The family is
said to be descended from the Shaws of Sauchie, whose coat was
plain Azure, three covered cups Or
As might be
expected, branches of the Stewart family bear the basic coat
with suitable difference. Thus Stewart of Barscube, near
Barrochan, bears Or, a fess chequy Azure and Argent between
three buckles Gules, whilst Stewart of Blackhall,
descended from an illegitimate son of Robert III, bears Or,
a fess chequy Azure and Argent, overall a lion rampant Gules.
of Cowdon, who occupied lands which controlled the road south
to Ayrshire, bear Or, a fess chequy Azure and Argent
between three bags Gules. Bags are normally associated
with Saint Matthew, the tax-gatherer, and are often used to
denote a treasurer. Were they perhaps guardians and
The family of
Park, which seems to have originated in the Inchinnan and
Bishopton area, near Bargarran and Fulbar, bears Or, a fess
Chequy Azure and Argent between three stags' heads couped Gules.
Their name 'park' implies a manmade hunting enclosure into which
game could go, but from which it could not escape. Did the family
then take their name from their employment as guardians of the
Steward's game? The Forest of Paisley, a large tract of wild land
to the south west of Paisley, was used by the Stewards as a
private hunting preserve, using as a base their 'hunting lodge' at
Blackhall, perhaps dating back as early as the 1140's. Stringent
rules were enforced relating to to hunting within this area. Such
a hunting preserve would require a Keeper, and who better than the
The Semples of
Elliston were appointed Hereditary Sheriffs of Renfrewshire and
Hereditary Baillies of Paisley, and later created Lords Semple.
Their lands of Castle Semple and Elliston guarded another land
route south. The family bore Argent, a chevron chequy Gules and
Argent between three hunting horns Sable stringed Gules. The
Semples steadily grew in power to become the Steward's hereditary
Baillies of Renfrewshire and their extensive land holdings were
around Lochwinnoch, where the High Steward had jealously preserved
fishing rights - to the extent that Paisley Abbey could only take
fish from that Loch when the High Steward himself was fishing. The
Semples were a tenacious family, and the only piece of 16th
century heraldry in the town of Paisley is a stone showing the
Semple arms, dated 1580, with initials A S for Andrew Semple who
married in 1565 Margaret Stirling of Craigbarnet. This stone was
placed in the gable of the Semple town house in the High Street.
When this building was demolished in 1864 the stone was placed in
the newly-built replacement. When that, in its turn, was
demolished in the 1880s the stone was placed once again in the
replacement building, where it remains, at a very high level, to
this day. Hunting continued on the estate of Castle Semple until
the early twentieth century.
The Houstons of
Houston, south of Finlayston, used two coats: Or, a fess chequy
Sable and Argent between three martlets Sable and Or, a
chevron chequy Sable and Argent between three martlets Sable.
As well as being a traditional mark of cadency for the fourth son,
martlets have a religious significance in connection with Thomas à
Becket, a friend of Malcolm IV, who was martyred in 1170 and
canonised almost immediately thereafter. A cult rapidly grew
around him and his tomb in Canterbury became one of the main
pilgrimage sites in Europe. It may be coincidence, but within
Renfrew parish church, the first home church of the Stewards,
there was an altar to Thomas à Becket.
hierarchy is perhaps more clearly suggested by those arms
incorporating a chevron chequy, such as the Semples mentioned
above. The Brisbanes of Bishopton, west of Erskine and Bargarran,
bore Sable, a chevron chequy Or and Gules between three
cushions Or — usually the sign of a steward or almoner.
family, who were appointed Hereditary Constables of Renfrew
Castle in the 1400's, and who held the lands of Hawkhead near
Paisley as their main seat, and King's Inch in Renfrew as one
of their lesser seats, bore Or, a chevron chequy Sable and
Argent between three water bougets Sable, the water
bougets being an ancient charge for those of the name of Ross
or Roos. Their lands of Hawkhead straddled the River Cart
One crucial coat
of arms that seems to follow the habit of imitating those of the
Stewarts, but whose origins still remain uncertain, eventually
came to be used by the Burgh of Paisley. Within Paisley Abbey is a
monument known as the 'tomb of Marjorie Bruce'. We will omit the
arguments which prove that it is not a tomb and has nothing to do
with Marjorie Bruce. The west end of it shows three coats of arms.
The northern coat is suspended from a crozier, denoting that the
owner was an abbot or archbishop. The coat has been later blazoned
as Or, a fess chequy Azure and Argent between three roses Gules,
though there is no evidence for this blazon on the original. The
supposition must be that this coat refers to an Abbot. Between the
years 1472 and 1525 the uncle and nephew abbacies of George and
Robert Shaw left several examples of their heraldry, Azure, three
covered cups Or. We are therefore left with the arms of a major
figure in the completion of the building of the Abbey, Thomas de
Tervas, Abbot from 1445 to 1459, or his predecessor Thomas Morrow.
surviving representation of the arms appears in 1586 on the
re-dedication stone of Paisley Grammar School.
The link of
an educational establishment with the Monastery would be
normal and what more natural than use the arms of the Abbot
who might have formalised or even founded the institution?
The arms next
appear in 1620 on the Silver Bells horse race prize, along with
the initials, as used on the Grammar School stone, of 0 P, for
Oppidum Pasleti - the Town of Paisley. The arms next appear on the
dedication stone for the Meal Market, built in 1635. When they
appear on 18th century burgess tickets, the arms are in colour for
the first time.
the arms are not used on the Burgh seal at any time, but were
incorporated into the Burgh arms matriculated in 1912. When
so many families were determined to boast their links with the
Stewards, why does this one coat still remain shrouded in mystery?
This article has
been written to encourage debate and comment rather than to make
specific statements about the relationship of all these similar
coats of arms to those of the feudal Lord. The use of different
charges to represent differing professions and occupations is not
a clear or exact science and it would be interesting to know of
any other major landowners in other parts of Scotland where a
preponderance of the coats of arms of the ancient families are
based on the superior coat.
Tressure. No.16, 1994.
© The Heraldry Society of
Scotland last Update
27 Oct 2021